Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Dear Jess,

Today I reached the conclusion that I can't count on Rob. Now I'm feeling some kinda way.

For one thing, I'm not sure if this feeling will last. I'm either PMSing or pregnant. My hormones are jacked up and rolling around, and even though I'm in prime baby-making mode, I'm also cognizant of the fact that Riley really likes being the center of our attention, and he might actually do better as an only child... at least, for a little while longer.

Second, I know for a fact that I reached this conclusion at least partially because of my parents and their drama. Long story short: My mom asked me to confront my dad's girlfriend face-to-face. I declined on the grounds that 1. I have a family now, and I'm not willing to do anything to jeopardize their welfare, and 2. The girl isn't the problem. My dad is the problem.

My mom and I had a really long talk about her two options. Either she decides to stay with dad, thus admitting to herself that he will always be a cheater but that she can deal with it OR she decides that she can't deal with his cheating ways and she files for divorce. I told her that I'll still love her no matter what she does, but if she chooses to stay with my dad, I don't want to hear any complaints about his adulterous ways. I'm sorry if that sounds mean, but no. You do not get to complain about his antics when you've CHOSEN to stay with him. He WON'T change. No one does. Not really. We're all hard-wired and only change within the framework of our permanent personalities.

This brings me to my conclusion about Rob.

Whereas my dad will always be The Man Who Cheats, Rob will always be The Man Who Can't Be Counted On. Serious conversations never feel satisfying. Decent-paying wages can't be held down (not by him anyway). Promises are broken all the time. And yet I stay because there are other things that he does. Like the way he loves me unconditionally and puts up with my shit - because trust, Erykah Badu ain't got nothing on me when she's talking about bag ladies.

Most of all, I know that Rob will never cheat on me. And I know this not just because I love him and not even because I trust Robert, The Boyfriend; I know this because I know and trust Robert, The Son Who Watched His Mom Get Cheated On. I know that he will never do what his dad did. And the fucked up part? I'm pretty sure that that weighs in a lot more in my decision to stay with Rob than I've ever admitted to myself.

I've been cheated on and I've cheated and even though a lot of it (especially the former) sucked, for the most part, it was all kid's games. If I'm honest with myself, I know that Rob's the first guy I hooked up with after I decided I was through with all the childish nonsense. The three people to see my pussy and glimpse at my heart before him were 1. A guy that I dated on and off for several years and has since gotten married and now lives happily ever after, 2. A guy that I clicked great with, but the timing was way off, and 3. The only girl that ever made me question if I would end up with a man. They were all warm ups for the real deal, aka a shot at Real Love. The good stuff. Fairy tales and whatnot. And then Rob came along...

Sometimes I think I rushed it. I did things wrong. I didn't listen to my gut enough. I'm trying too hard to make a broken thing work. I could be so much happier with someone more compatible.

But then, I know that every marriage/coupling/___ is broken. Not broken as in dysfunctional and unhealthy, but broken as in difficult. Relationships take work. Happily ever after only happens after you've made it your mission in life. It's possible, but not just by stepping into it. It takes work, and the work that we've put into it is the same kind of work that it takes. The only difference between us staying together and us breaking up? Us. Both of us have to want it. And there are times, like right now, when I doubt wanting it.

Rob is the father of my kid, and I live in the Philippines and I've decided to stay here until I finish my degree and dammit that's what I'm going to do. But if we break up, what does that mean for him? For Riley? Will Rob move back to the States, and Riley will then be left to deal with the stigma of being a bastard (it's a big deal over here)? Will Riley have deep issues about Rob being away from him? Will I be doing the right thing by staying here? Can I handle going back to NYC without first finishing my nursing degree?

One thing is for certain: It took me five years to realize that I'm carrying all of the heavy weight in this relationship, and now that I know that, I can't just un-know it. I give credit to Rob for stepping up his game and figuring out how to be a grown-up and a dad and a Filipino-American, but I also have to admit that I've had a huge hand at his progress. I've been spoon-feeding him lessons on how to be a good man, and frankly, I'm spent. I need to do this with Riley, not Rob. Rob has to figure out on his own how to be a good man, how to take directions when needed, and when to know to follow his own lead, and what to do if he has to be the leader. He has to learn those skills and I just don't have the patience or willingness to impart those gems onto him. I.just.don't.

So what does this mean?

Either I stay in an unfulfilling relationship for reasons that are altogether pragmatic, realistic and idealistic, OR I end this unfulfilling relationship. Pretty much, this is my mom's dilemma, but not.

And just like my mom, I'm pretty sure I'll pick the former. Just because that's what I'm hard-wired to do.

Because there are times when my needs are met and I feel satisfied, and even though I know those times could be many more with someone else, my fear of fucking up Riley's development keeps me here. At least until we're back in NYC.

Because I know myself well enough to know that I change my mind a million times a day, and don't know which way is up most of the time.

Because I'm my parents' masochistic daughter.

Because even though I understand that I'm not responsible for Rob's emotional health, I'm not sure that I know that.

I'll tell you something, Jess. It's a premonition I had months and months ago, before Rob ever decided to come here. I was here, walking around the house, and doing things on my own. Our nanny was a kick-ass lady who acted as Riley's surrogate parent in Rob's absence. I was kicking ass at all of my classes, etc. And I thought to myself, as I weighed all of the facts, Yes. I'll try to make things work with you, Rob. I'll do my damnedest. I'll pull every trick in the book. I'll be happy because I know how to make myself happy. [Not trick myself to be happy, but make myself happy. There's a difference.] And then, at the end of it all, if I've exhausted my search for our happily ever after and we still don't work the way I need us to work, I'm going to have an affair with a man who appears to be everything I need, and I'll end up leaving you, Rob. I can see it now.

I see it, Jess. That's what scares me. I see myself turning into my dad - not extreme, no. But a cheater, which is something that I now detest. I see myself devolving into this thing and I feel like a train on tracks and I can't change it. I just keep hurdling towards this future that I've already set up in my mind. And it feels like suicide must feel: Like an unsettling and tragic end. Like I'm crashing into a great unknown, and who knows? Maybe it's better than anything I'd ever thought of.

I want to say that I'll end things with Rob, because that's what people of character and integrity would do when faced with these facts. But I might just rationalize it all away. Use my words to construct pretty little mazes. Trap myself in ideas that could be true, if looked at through different perspectives. Wear masks and hide between my thoughts.

I don't know what I'll do. I don't know how to defuse this bomb, get this train off its tracks, end things. I have two ideas of how I want mind and Rob's story to end: Happily ever after or tragically. I'm having a hard time coming up with a third option, where we can live happily ever after while being in relationship with other people. My mind just isn't wrapping around that idea, and I can't decide why that's the case.

I just know that I need to be able to count on him.

This won't work out otherwise...

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Is this the end?

I feel like I should blog about what's going on with me because the personal changes are a dramatic shift away from my norm. And yet this shift almost necessitates silence.

I'm battling it out within the paradox, trying to find a comfortable place because I know I could very well just stop writing, stop blogging, stop telling you and the world about the little treasures of each day, but that's not something I'm ready to do. The way I feel about writing is the same way I feel about my pre-baby wardrobe: Even though I may never use most of those clothes, I just can't bare to banish them from my life. They are just too precious to me, too much a part of the person I want to be (if not the person that I am).

My life has become perfect. Okay, not perfect because perfect doesn't exist, but it's as close to it as humanly possible. Rob's the most attentive/communicative/respectful/romantic/[insert other awesome qualities that a significant other "should" have] that he's ever been, and though I can't help but wonder at that fact - Did I simply stop noticing the bad parts? Has it always been this way, but I was too stubborn and bitchy to notice? Is this temporary? Et al. - those musings are rendered irrelevant by the awesomeness of each day. He has become the partner I've always wanted, and I realize that doubting the good doesn't make me smarter or more realistic. It just makes me intensely negative. So I ask questions, but only while keeping in mind that the answers to all of the important questions only ever unfold in time, and none of us can ever really know them until that happens.

Is this balance? Ignorance? Bliss? I'm not quite sure. There are names for it; friends have told me that I've reached zen, and inner peace, and my optimum level of self actualization, but I prefer not to define it or try to fit it within any specific context. It is what it is. And whatever it is is not truly known to me until it's disproved, and even then I wouldn't know it, but the opposite of it.

We never know if something truly is; we only know if it's not.

Lessons from philosophy classes find their way into my everyday thinking, and it's hard not to couch my thoughts in the hard black and white of academia and bold-faced names, but neither are things I want to do.

Truth: My experiences are far more valuable than polysyllabic words written by people with lots of letters after their last names.

Also: I wish to communicate my thoughts via my voice, and that's what being a writer's all about in the first place, right?

One more thing: Only pretentious jerks think more highly of an idea if it's attached to diplomas.

Recently, the subject of Riley's future has come up and what I say, I realize, cements me as a certain kind of person, a certain kind of mom. This is what I say: I don't care what he does with himself after high school, just as long as he's happy, healthy, and becoming the person he wants to be.

Who am I to say who Riley should be? Whether he should aspire to open up a surf shop in Maui and smoke hash all day while contemplating the universe and sometimes chewing on some peyote, or if he should earn a zillion degrees, know more studies and facts than anyone ever thought possible, and cure some as-of-yet incurable disease? The fact is, my dreams for him involve more of what I should do than what he should do.

I should save money for him, so that when he's ready, he can decide what he wants to do for himself. I should make sure he has the experiences necessary to know himself and his passions, so that when the time comes, he'll know which direction to take with his life. I should be open and honest and communicative with him at all times. I should prepare him for the real world, and yet teach him to be the change he wants to see in the real world.

He just needs to be his beautiful, amazing, compassionate, curious, determined and generous self.

(And, yes, I truly believe these things of my 9-month old son.)

For the first time, I feel like everything is as it should be, and this is an awesome feeling. At the same time, though, I am completely aware of what I'm missing out on by experiencing this wonderfulness. I am aware of the high-drama that no longer fuels my art. I am profoundly aware of the fact that writing has been, up until now, not an end in and of itself. It has been a way to find catharsis, resolution, relaxation, calm, confidence, etc. It has been a way to voice my fears, concerns, issues, victories, opinions, etc. It has not been a way to write just for the sake of writing, to see what I come up with, to give voice to the little things, to make something beautiful. The beauty has always been wrapped up in the brutal honesty of emotion that flows through my words, and the provocative nature of those thoughts. Now that I've reached this new plateau, I'm forced to wonder if there's any point in still writing. I'm forced to ask myself if I still find my writing self beautiful.

If my words are no longer driven by a fierce need to spew out my insides; if I no longer feel the ardent push and pull or life or death at every corner; if my goals are being met with relative ease and my problems are seemingly trivial; if my perspective is skewed by unprecedented happiness, then what do I offer as a writer? Are my words therefore empty? Or are the sheer rhyme and rhythm, syncopation of inspiration with ability, life blood via letters, etc. enough to grant me approval into highly-esteemed literary company?

I don't know, but I'm willing to try my damnedest at my craft and see what happens.

It's unnerving, this latest change. Not just about writing, but about possession. Nothing stirs my spirit more than what's mine, and I'm claiming less and less as my own.

I know that there are certain labels that are inherently mine by no choice of my own, and that these labels carry with them certain baggage of ascribed identity: I am most definitely Asian, and a New Yorker, and Filipina-American, and a woman. But while I can get pretty damn riled up about my personal identity and how it relates to these labels and the many misconceptions of these labels, I don't really feel attached to any of them. Call it being "post": post-racism, post-feminist, post-labels, etc. (That seems to be the popular term.) I just know that I most identify with the labels that I've achieved, the roles that I've taken on by choice and not by birth: as mom, and writer, and student, and traveler. These are the roles that really interest me, the ones that really drive me to do well in life, the ones that speak to me. And while I love that fact, I must also concede that it means (for the most part) shying away from the front lines of controversy.

I no longer feel the need to take up arms, or to shout my criticisms of the world from rooftops, or to personify the big statement (aka the easy target). I simply no longer gravitate towards all of the drama of impersonal debate. Only the truly personal stuff is up for study, and only then by people I deem worthy.

So where does this all lead me? My blog? My writing?

For now, I think I'm going to keep on churning out my words, my perspective, my opinions, and my experiences, regardless of their decidedly more lame and static texture. I'm attempting to finish novels that I started a decade or so ago - if only because I see in them seeds of truth and creativity that I believe deserve to be read.

And the other projects - the ones that started to bud only recently - well, I'm giving them the attention they deserve and I have faith that they'll take me where I ought to go.

That's the trend these days. The shift. The unmistakable difference in my personality and my life: not just a faith in my self, but also an unflinching faith in the world. It is this alteration in my perspective that puts me so dangerously close to a conservative way of thinking (i.e., "Everything is as it should be, and therefore change is unnecessary.") But that's a subject for another post.


Sunday, March 28, 2010


I'm glad you've reached a point to gain your next foothold. You need to do what you need to do and I've got your back if you need it. :)

I wonder if your decision might put our parents affairs, as frustrating as they are, into a stark, more tangible focus. Is this what acceptance is like? Is this what love in real life, with real people, with baggage and all, condenses into? What other choice do you have, if the other refuses to make a decision that goes anywhere except sideways, and in circles? I know you love Rob, and I also know you are tired. Do what you must, ma. Your heart is most important.

May I be a friend in this moment?

I'm going to risk it. I'm sure there is much I don't know behind the spaces in these words, and all the better if I'm wrong; I'd love to hear your perspective from this clean air, that clarity. But there's something in me, elbowing my ribs, urging me to let the marbles fall out of my mouth. Catch them if you want to, or let them roll off the table. Don't think me any less for doing it.

I worry about you.

I'm worried that you are hardening into something irreversible. I'm worried that there is something furiously, proudly building between your temples, something that holds onto walls you regard with suspicion. It's like a faint scent caught between occasional movements, fleeting between visits and post; something that I wasn't so sure was real and something I knew was not my place to say.

Yours is, confusingly, an optimistic post, but something -- I dont know what -- made me pause with worry. Yes, I also hope that you don't burn out. I hope that you don't grit your teeth too hard in your smile for survival.

I'm excited about your writing. I never doubt its strength. I'm mad happy that you are blessed with friends who have been through the fire. Don't forget to breathe, and read, and draw inspiration from the air around you, the thoughts around you. That's why they are there. Sips for you to draw from, and also for you to diffuse your incredible energy into. Push them away and you will live in your own pocket...

Four years is more than you think. Life gave you this time to gather and strengthen whats inside you so that you can give back stronger, harder, thicker, wetter, lovelier. Realer. Something in your words make me imagine a woman tensed at the wheel, leaning forward, gritting her teeth. It makes me feel that life has become a battle.

I really hope I'm wrong.

Love, intensely,

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Big things are happening.

I've been doing a lot of thinking, and I'm pretty sure that if there's ever been a time when I've been balanced, it's now. I've reached a point where I no longer feel antagonized by anything. I have my views on things, and I'm okay with people not agreeing with them - I'm even willing to open myself up for learning that my beliefs are invalid - but I'm just not up for all of the passionate discourse. I have much more tangible fish to fry.

It sounds alarmingly apathetic (and maybe that's what it is), but I no longer have use for unnecessary back-and-forth. I need action. I need things to start rolling.

I guess that's one of the reasons why I've decided that Rob and I will be together for a long time. I mean, yeah, I love him, but it's also this: I've been wondering and conjecturing and planning and hoping for more than four years now; we have a baby; he says he wants to give "us" a real try; and it's time to make a decision. I can't just keep analyzing. I have to actually do something. And as trigger-happy as I usually am, I'm just not up for ending things with Rob. Whether it's because of some mental problem or emotional baggage is beyond me. Fairies and leprechauns could have used my brain as a punching bag last night. My parents' relationship could have done me in from the get-go. It doesn't really matter. Yeah, that's right: my over-analytical mind has decided that the why doesn't matter. All that matters is what's there: my feelings, my loyalty, my love. I'd like to think that Rob's feeling it, too; that, after four years of me messing around with other people and constantly making him adapt to my new personas and facets, he's seen the best and the worst of me and decided that he loves it all. I can't be sure right now (or maybe I am sure, but I'm unwilling to make a straight-forward declaration), but I think that's where I'm at. I've spent a lot of time being in denial about Rob's flaws, but I've finally gotten a good, hard look at them, and decided that I love him, despite them. I have faith in his ability and desire to change, and in my ability and desire to stick through all the changes. And honestly, I imagine that he's had his share of the same irksome phases coming from me.

So there you have it. I've put my faith in love, and if Rob returns it... Well, we'll see.

There are also big things happening on the writing front. Now that I'm on my summer break, I've decided to really work at my writing. I mean, really work at it. Like a full-time job. Seven hours a day. Revising, editing, the whole nine. I have four manuscripts that I'm working on, and none of them have less than 85 pages. Only two of them are finished first drafts. I'm hoping that I can rekindle the voice and the mindset I had when I was writing them, so I can finish them and start looking for an agent. Then I can tackle the projects that are more contemporary: the scripts I'm working on about dom life, the short story collection about 23 intersecting 23-year olds, etc.

The seven-hour workdays aren't just about finishing my long projects; it's also about finding freelancing writing and editing gigs. I've been lucky so far with culling information from writer- and journalist-friends, and I'm just hoping that I don't burn out.

Truthfully, this is the most exhilarating time of my life. I'm doing all of the things that I love, and I have taken out all of the stops. No more doubting. No more second-guessing. No more over-analyzing. It's all just planning and execution. Cut and dry. Black and white. There are no maybes here. Only definitive answers. Yes or no. In or out.

I've noticed that I've become generally impatient. People tell me about their problems with getting started or making decisions, and I have no empathy, no understanding. I can't allow myself to step back into their shoes because I'm afraid this new freedom will leave me if I do so. I'm afraid I'll forget how to be this way, how to lunge forward without fear, how to give everyone the finger and keep on trudging along. It's taken a long time for me to build this kind of confidence, to be able to say, "I've done a lot of soul-searching, and this is what I'm about. Deal with it."

I'm going to be here for four years, and when I used to think about those four years, they felt so long. But in those four years, I plan on earning a degree, forging a *real* writing career, and maybe even adding to my family. I want to return to New York as the woman of my dreams: self-actualized and real. And suddenly, four years seems like a blink of an eye. I have to rush just to meet all of my goals.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

It's a small...

I was procrastinating on Facebook and noticed that one of your old fuck buddies is friends with one of my old fuck buddies! The smallness of their penises---I mean, the world---never ceases to amaze me.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Dear Maria,

A brief update. Like with everything else, my mind is paused at the inhale, and not ready to let anything go. Everything's catching so I'm not gonna force it.

My last day at work is this wednesday (the 20th). I'm not ready, but what's done is done. I always find it interesting, that things go better for me when I'm not so heavily invested in it. Work is a breeze now, my days are filled with laughter, my duties are done with swagger, with that small air of superiority necessary for my position (lacking up until this point). My relationship with my coworkers and supervisor is much better, I speak and make actions and do my job with this deep confidence, intimately tied to an ease of disconnect. I make jokes freely, and take everything less personally. It's hard for me to consider that disconnect as an unhealthy one, when it is quite clearly my comfort zone. There is not so much fear tying my tongue, thus I shine without filters.

It's good to be home. *Throws last year to the wind*

I'm excited about this. I'm hoping I could find time in the next year to work out, eat the way I'm supposed to, etc -- start investing in my much-ignored physical. This seed of insecurity that's borrowed deep a few years ago has done nothing but sprout a leaf here and grow an arm there, steadily drawing nutrients from the small, almost insignificant wafts of mental humidity. It's persistent, this thing. Hmph.

My mind's eye cocks a brow at more and more men nowadays, but this (hopefully closing) era of Delaying Self-Gratification has fucked me up and left me patched with scars. That overbearing, selfish girl Consequence always grounds her heels and interrupts the flow of positive, inviting, sexual energy, advising me to exercise extreme caution. All the time. (Ugh, burly ass cockblocking bitch.) I'm tired of it, but maybe I should just work around her. Looking impatiently past her shoulder is obviously NOT working. There are dustbunnies blowing out of my panties whenever I sneeze.

Entertaining the idea of "proper seduction" -- the more respectable, under-the-radar kind, if there is such thing. As opposed to the throaty-voiced, staring-in-the-eye type that I've never had the desire (or ability) to master.

Meh. Seduction, the slow process of it, the effort of it, was never consciously applied in my world before. Attraction was simply felt, and if undeniable I submitted to it. The games I played were done with the blindfold of defense mechanisms. As the standards I hold myself to have changed - not even raised, just changed significantly - it seems like an interesting path to tread. I'll drop updates if this happens.

Among a lot of other things, catching themselves on the flat of my tongue. This year is going to be an exercise of effort, gritting my teeth through the shit I'd have to break through, hopefully getting closer to being a person I could once again respect, even admire. Those who've never experienced that on a bone-marrow level might call it some extreme form of vanity. We know it better as Swag..

I miss you, I wish you were here; but our paths have taken the shapes they have for a reason. I can't wait to see you, to skype you, or to be beside you in person one day - to fill you in on all the spaces between these letters. There's so much that text cannot capture -- blasphemous, I know, to the eyes of the writer. Forgive me for that.


Saturday, January 9, 2010

What it's like here

A delicious wind is filling my bedroom with smoke, seduction, and sexiness, and that's just what I smell. Next door, someone is burning leaves (Mary J? banana leaves? coconut leaves?); around the corner, a small stand is frying sugared bananas, batter-dipped quail eggs, and meatballs; in the kitchen, my brother is making chicken soup from scratch. The yumminess makes my mouth water for orgasm, food lust, and comfortable familiarity; these desires are all easily fulfilled, but somehow never within reach.

The sunset - hazy indigos blending into deep violets, with a fringe of neon orange and bright pink - is a curtain of smooth velvet behind the satin and leather of thick foliage and swaying palm trees. Tropical flora are camoulflaged as black spikes by dusk and dust. The sooty stain of car exhaust and third-world grit covers- my eyes? my windows? my perspective? I don't know, but they're there, enshrouding everything I see out of my window. It is dark and mysterious, brooding and romantic, elegant and dirty. It is everything I've ever known, exquisitely contained within a place that could not be more foreign or exotic. It is absolutely intoxicating. It is what my world has become.

I lie prone on my king-size bed, the backs of my feet dangling near my head, another Jessica Hagedorn novel beneath my hands. My thin cotton sheets are a pale butter yellow that soften the regal yellow-gold of my curtains and blend in subtly with the khaki-taupe color of my walls. Riley's crib - enormous, made of hearty wood, cherry-finished, decorated with adorable sea creature mobile and matching crib set - sits, solemn and intimidating. It looks like it could be in a boutique's display window, his colorful toys merely carefully-positioned props. My three academic medals hang from the taller side of the crib, a shiny focal point for Riley and a clever reason for me to show off to visitors and say, "This is my trophy case. Riley is my greatest prize."

Outside the largest swatch of yellow-cold brocade curtain, there is a terrace that overlooks the front street. In front of me, there is a walk-in closet. To the right of the walk-in closet is my own private bathroom, complete with a tub that's begging for bubbles, candles, and a glass of wine.

Riley and I spent the day at my grandma's, where I ate well, took a nap, and played and laughed and exercised with Riley. Riley got to spend quality time with his great-aunts and great-grandmother, bask in the glow of love and attention, and nap next to me. Now he's with his nanny, I am pouring out my brain onto the computer screen, and a stack of academic books are positioned at my side, awaiting my attention. Later on, I will study (midterms are coming up), do assignments, write fiction for a few hours, and look for more ways to make money on-line.

Rob's paid my debt to Brooklyn College, and my transcript should arrive in about 10 days. My mom's got her travel agent scouting tickets for Rob. My dad is the antagonist of a now-canceled TV show. I am poised to have a 95 average this semester. And I made enough this month via writing to afford Riley's day-to-day stuff and new clothes, and a couple of choice closet jewels for myself.

Life really can't get any better than this.


I feel like there were tangible strings that I wanted to tie-in from the email I sent you, but I can't seem to find them. I just know that I want to continue blogging, and I figure the subject will make itself known as I continue doing my thing. I don't have any grand designs for internet conquest or anything, though I would appreciate making some money from every single word that finds its way out of my head. Maybe you're right: this is a good opportunity for me to figure out how to write about the simple things - because that's when the writing has to be good, right?

I'm getting my head wrapped around this idea of "no conflict." I feel like all those years of being Stephanie-esque should be enough prep for manipulating my stories and my characters. We'll see... All I know is, this is definitely a new challenge. And that's what I'm craving above all else.