In mid 2019, I experienced one of the biggest life changes anyone can go through----I went through a divorce after almost 20 years of marriage. Despite the parting being amicable, I have to admit that the aftermath was tough. I felt lost, scared, and anxious, as I have never been truly alone in my entire adult life. Though I am an introvert by nature, the thought of actual solitude was terrifying and I equated being alone with being lonely, in a way only a recovering codependent will ever truly understand.
I would have overwhelming episodes of sadness, feelings of loss, and I would be gripped by incapacitating feelings of anxiety because I felt like I was losing control. Even worse, I could not recognize nor process these feelings. All of these difficult emotions would be masked by a huge smile, denial, and protected by impenetrable walls.
Ever since I can remember, I have always dreamed of being a novelist. I started reading at 2 years old and thus, my love affair with books began. When I was 8, I started devouring books daily. I started with the Bobbsey Twins, then Nancy Drew, to Sweet Valley, R.L. Stine, then Stephen King. For years, in elementary school, I would be at the library every morning even before the librarian opens the door. At 10, I would write a daily short story that was circulated among the children and adults who were part of my daily commute to and from school. By the time I was 14, I had already read Gone with the Wind (over 1,000 pages) at least 3 times. I was a published author at 16, when an op-ed I wrote about colonialism made it to the leading English language newspaper in the Philippines. It was my ultimate dream to get my novel published by the time I was 25 years old.
That seems so long ago now.
A few days ago, I was chatting with my aquarium maintenance guy about something really interesting. He witnessed me take a video of a mediocre painting job, send it to my contractor, voice my disapproval, and get him to come back to fix the work. He told me that his wife would never even conceive of doing something like that. He said that whenever his wife wants to get something redone or has a complaint about something, she always delegates it to him because she is unable to voice her opinion or disapproval.
When I was married, I used to (unconsciously) adhere to this atavistic belief that my body belonged to my now ex-husband. I would get uncomfortable if another man found me attractive. I did not want to invite the male gaze. I didn't want to dress provocatively. Not that I dress that way now, but interestingly, as I was going through my closet the other day, I noticed a stark difference in my wardrobe before divorce and post-divorce.
In 1997, psychologist Arthur Aron wanted to see if he can make two strangers fall in love in a laboratory setting. As it turns out, asking these 36 questions while making eye contact can accelerate intimacy between strangers and make it possible for them fall in love with each other.
I really love this idea. These are questions that most people don't really ask when they are dating (but they should). It made me realize how unintentional I was in the 9 month period that I was dating after my divorce. It also made me realize that I genuinely only want to date guys who would be into answering these questions. Because if I learned anything from the past year, it's that I really only want to have meaningful relationships in my life and I don't want to waste time and energy in anything else.
And since I am (almost) ready to start dating again, I thought it might be good to list these. But also want to keep in mind that this is not just for romantic relationships. It could also ignite closeness and intimacy between friends.
I was going over my old writing and memorabilia the other day and I came across a short story that I had printed from an email. I do not remember who the email was from, nor the author of the story, but I thought I would share it, as I feel like it would resonate with a lot of people.
So I took a long social media hiatus during the last two weeks of the infamous, disastrous, harrowing, perplexing, the-year-that-must-not-be-named, 20th year of the 21st century. I wanted to spend time with my family, friends, my cat, and have some much needed ME time. It was energizing, liberating, empowering, and I felt like I truly lived in the moment and made these last few weeks truly special.
As if 2020 could not be more challenging, a few weeks ago, my mother got diagnosed with Stage 4 Cholangiocarcinoma, also known as cancer of the bile ducts.
She is 68 years old. She has Type 2 diabetes, but apart from that, is relatively healthy. She very rarely drinks, does not smoke, or partake in recreational drugs.
In November 2019, before thoughts of the pandemic were even in our consciousness, my therapist suggested I take a break from dating and having sex. She thought this would help me grow and find out what I truly want as I was vacillating between having casual sex and wanting a relationship at the time (which was just mere months after my divorce, by the way). I was aghast and indignant, feeling betrayed, as if she had no idea who I was after months of seeing each other on a regular basis.
2020 has been a challenging year for everyone. But despite the chaos, uncertainty, and anxiety brought about by 2020, I see myself looking back at the past year and I realize that I truly have a lot to be grateful for.
I AM THANKFUL FOR...
MY HEALTH. I am embarrassed to admit it, but I often take it for granted. However, now more than ever, I wake up thankful that my body is healthy and it allows me to do the things I love and be able to expand on them. I have been better at self care and making more effort to nourish both my body and my soul. This year, I fell in love with paddleboarding, climbed Half Dome, ventured out on my bike again after my accident, went snowboarding after more than 10 years, and I jumped off an airplane. I am so excited to see what is next in store for me!