E had a tarot reading.

Okay. More like I fired up the tarot app in my iPhone and did an impromptu reading.

But first, I guess I should mention how it came about to that.

I think it all goes back to this mutual friend my elder brother and I share, though more his friend than mine. She got married earlier this month, at the age of 25/26.

Now just to put things into context, she’s brilliant. She works in the army now because she is a Mindef/SAF scholar, went to school in UChic and Cambridge, was from S’s alma mater, a dancer, violinist, simply, put a driven, outstanding young woman for someone her age. And her husband, equally brilliant and awe-inspiring.

Needless to say, it came as a surprise when we learnt that she was getting married so soon.

And it got me thinking, would I do the same if I were in their position? If I had a stable job, someone I loved, would I take the next step, and say my vows at 25 years old?

I can’t say for certain what I’d do to be honest. It could be that I was always some sort of a marriage skeptic. Or that I think I’m way too much of a commitment-phobe. But these days, I’m not so sure anymore, I’m not so sure about one too many things.

It’s not that I’m longing to be a relationship or anything. I still do enjoy going out on my own, and doing my own thing at my own time. But increasingly, I’ve been experiencing this sense of meaninglessness to everything. That there’s really no point in life if there’s no one to share your joy with, or talk to when you’re down or upset.

But anyhow, that’s how I finally decided to do something about it, I took out my iPhone and the results are below (don’t judge).

pents10

So this is what the future holds for my relationship woes. What do you see?

After a quick search on google, apparently the ten of pentacles mean:

Interpretations for love and relationships

Ten of Pentacles shows a woman staring at a man in a satisfied manner. Meanwhile, both of them are surrounded with ten coins, two dogs, a child and an old man. All this can be taken as a very good omen for a relationship. Just take a look at the indirect terms associated with all that is described earlier.

· Man and woman staring at each other- Attraction
· Ten coins- Wealth
· Two Dogs- Strong guards
· Child- What every couple wants in the end
· Old man- Wisdom
For a relationship, such terms represent a wise investment because they are linked to love, happiness, security, vision about the future and thoughtfulness. In other words, they show that the two people are together because they just know that they are fit for each other. Another meaning associated with the card is growing bond. This can be used for a relationship which is reaching the maturity stage. But the good news is that although the honeymoon period is over the two lovers do not hesitate to dream about having a future together. Consider yourself lucky if you receive this tarot card for your relationship.
Unfortunately, that was not what I saw.
· Man and woman staring at each other- Attraction
· Ten coins- Wealth
· Two Dogs- Strong guards
· Child- What every couple wants in the end
· Old man- Me, old, lonely, looking at a young family in love with everything going for them.
Does it not look like that? Or is it just me?

What is love?

what-is-love

With S and I trying to make sense of what love means, I thought it’d be interesting to find out how others feel on the matter.

So I googled “What is love?”

This came up, and I reproduce below,

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The physicist: ‘Love is chemistry’

Biologicallylove is a powerful neurological condition like hunger or thirst, only more permanent. We talk about love being blind or unconditional, in the sense that we have no control over it. But then, that is not so surprising since love is basically chemistry. While lust is a temporary passionate sexual desire involving the increased release of chemicals such as testosterone and oestrogen, in true love, or attachment and bonding, the brain can release a whole set of chemicals: pheromones, dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin, oxytocin and vasopressin. However, from an evolutionary perspective, love can be viewed as a survival tool – a mechanism we have evolved to promote long-term relationships, mutual defence and parental support of children and to promote feelings of safety and security.

The psychotherapist: ‘Love has many guises’

Unlike us, the ancients did not lump all the various emotions that we label “love” under the one word. They had several variations, including:

Philia which they saw as a deep but usually non-sexual intimacy between close friends and family members or as a deep bond forged by soldiers as they fought alongside each other in battle. Ludus describes a more playful affection found in fooling around or flirting. Pragma is the mature love that develops over a long period of time between long-term couples and involves actively practising goodwill, commitment, compromise and understanding. Agape is a more generalised love, it’s not about exclusivity but about love for all of humanity. Philautia is self love, which isn’t as selfish as it sounds. As Aristotle discovered and as any psychotherapist will tell you, in order to care for others you need to be able to care about yourself. Last, and probably least even though it causes the most trouble, eros is about sexual passion and desire. Unless it morphs into philia and/or pragma, eros will burn itself out.

Love is all of the above. But is it possibly unrealistic to expect to experience all six types with only one person. This is why family and community are important.

The philosopher: ‘Love is a passionate commitment’

The answer remains elusive in part because love is not one thing. Love for parents, partners, children, country, neighbour, God and so on all have different qualities. Each has its variants – blind, one-sided, tragic, steadfast, fickle, reciprocated, misguided, unconditional. At its best, however, all love is a kind a passionate commitment that we nurture and develop, even though it usually arrives in our lives unbidden. That’s why it is more than just a powerful feeling. Without the commitment, it is mere infatuation. Without the passion, it is mere dedication. Without nurturing, even the best can wither and die.

The romantic novelist: ‘Love drives all great stories’

What love is depends on where you are in relation to it. Secure in it, it can feel as mundane and necessary as air – you exist within it, almost unnoticing. Deprived of it, it can feel like an obsession; all consuming, a physical pain. Love is the driver for all great stories: not just romantic love, but the love of parent for child, for family, for country. It is the point before consummation of it that fascinates: what separates you from love, the obstacles that stand in its way. It is usually at those points that love is everything.

The nun: ‘Love is free yet binds us’

Love is more easily experienced than defined. As a theological virtue, by which we love God above all things and our neighbours as ourselves for his sake, it seems remote until we encounter it enfleshed, so to say, in the life of another – in acts of kindness, generosity and self-sacrifice. Love’s the one thing that can never hurt anyone, although it may cost dearly. The paradox of love is that it is supremely free yet attaches us with bonds stronger than death. It cannot be bought or sold; there is nothing it cannot face; love is life’s greatest blessing.

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I think the psychotherapist pretty much summed up what both S and I have been trying to say. Love has many guises, and there is really no one definition. We have the English language to blame for causing all the confusion. It’s just not precise enough sometimes.

But back to the topic, borrowing the words from the psychotherapist and S’ point about being deficient, “in order to care for others you need to be able to care about yourself”. Is our commitment phobia a result of us  still trying to mend ourselves? Or are we really just afraid? Afraid of how all our beliefs and conceptions about love and relationships would be disproved leaving us in a totally new territory, somewhere with love, but somewhere new, somewhere unfamiliar?

The physicist claims that love is chemistry (and I note with interest how it’s a physicist and not a chemist or a biologist that is saying this). I can’t help but to try to recall the last time I had felt strongly for someone. My first instinct is that no, I can’t recall a time, any time where I had felt this way. But on closer examination, I wonder if it’s really my head that is getting in the way, repressing all my emotions, and pulling me back from all the could have beens?

I have a good friend who has been ever green for a long while now, and recently he told me that because his elder brother has found a girlfriend, his parents are now on his case. Being the good friend that I am, I told him that he should go out there and meet people. and I gave him a lot of advice thereafter.

In retrospect, I guess I wasn’t really in any position to say anything. I have never dated anyone before.

With all the thought that both S and I have put on the matter over the past months, years, I wonder if the reason I have never dated anyone is because I don’t want to, or like mentioned above, I am really just afraid. I am frightened to take the first step because I don’t want to know what will happen. What if it’s not like what I have observed from my parents growing up? I mean it’ll be great if that’s the case, but it’ll just go to show how dysfunctional and broken my family was like, and I don’t know how that will make me feel.

I remember telling my friend just to “go out there and 狠狠地爱一场!” Maybe that’s the advice that I should heed myself. Like S said, grate your youth while you’re still young. So maybe it’s time to go out and meet people? Blind dates? Match making? Maybe only then, will I know for a fact, what love truly means to me.

All about sex

I quote from S’ last post.

“The dreadful truth is that you don’t just end up with a love that is passionate and mutual at the same time. You’re never lead straight to the ones who could love you back, the ones with no buts, and the ones with whom you can actually be happy.

~Hazel Venida

All the talk about relationships and family have gotten me interested to find out how my peers view marriage and love. So over the past weeks, whenever I am out with friends, the topic has been dominating our conversations and it has proven to be quite entertaining.

How I always start the ball rolling, is that I ask how they would react if they found out their husband (boyfriend) or wife (girlfriend) had cheated on them. I think one of the most insightful thing that came up was when my guy friend replied, what kind of cheating?

I immediately responded getting in bed with another person without actually thinking more about the question. On hindsight, I think my friend did bring up a point that I had missed entirely at the point in time. While we all instinctively think of cheating in the physical sense, a.k.a. sex, my friend had thought about cheating in the emotional sense as well. Most of my friends, male and female won’t stand for cheating in the physical sense, but would they react in the same way if it is cheating in the emotional sense? Does it make a difference?

My position on the matter is that love and sex are two distinct concepts. That would lead to the logical conclusion that I think it is okay for my significant other to sleep with another person and I will be cool with it as along as my significant other remains devoted to me. But I think it is a no brainer that no one in the right mind will be cool with it. Even if they say they are, they won’t feel comfortable on the inside. How do I reconcile the conundrum?

I am not sure to be honest. They can certainly overlap, and it would be a wonderful thing, but I think it’s really two concepts altogether. You can be with someone who gives you all the attention and love that fills you  up emotionally, yet he or she simply cannot satisfy you in bed. Where does that leave you? Deprived certainly. Is the problem with you, or with your other half? Is it love if there is no physical attraction?

This brings me to the point and quote in S’ last post which is so poignant, albeit perhaps a little too superficial in my interpretation here. Are relationships about the people or about the love or about the sex? Maybe it is everything?

I remember one thing that came up from all the discussions I had with my friends was whether love in the family context and in the relationship context are the same. My friends seem to think so, I beg to differ. I think love for our family (in the mom, dad, siblings sense) is far more complexed. For one you don’t get to choose your parents and siblings. And that is why I think in a family, one tends to be more tolerant. No matter how your mom, dad or brother or sister have failed you time and again, there’s always a sense that you are not going to give up on them just yet, and that there is always hope (but of course, there is a limit).

With sex, things get complicated. In the relationship sense, I think the love resembles more closely to a commitment. Hence, marriage is a commitment. It is far easier to break up or divorce your husband and wife then to say you are quitting on your mom, dad, brother or sister.

And I think perhaps this is the difference. That relationships are never really about love. It’s all about the people. It’s about wanting companionship – wanting someone to grow old with; it is about sex – satisfying your physical, sexual needs; it’s about being able to tell your relatives during Chinese New Year that you are finally attached; it is about doing what is expected of you by your family and by society – to settle down and form your own family.

That doesn’t sound very much like love to me.

Opening Pandora’s Box

Can we just pause for a second and admire how beautifully S writes? You have gotten so eloquent, S. I am humbled to be a co-author of this blog.

I think S opened the pandora’s box of sorts with the last post, and the right thing to do, I suppose, is for me to 敞开我的心房, and explore a corner of my heart that I have never attempted before.

“I am too busy with school to get attached. 

The starting premise I reckon, is how very much like S, I don’t really believe in the institution of marriage. Now don’t get me wrong, I am happy for those who find their soul mates and decide to live with their significant other for the rest of their lives. I think it is wonderful and beautiful. When I say I don’t believe in the institution of marriage, I mean I don’t think it is for me. Although I should add sometimes I do feel like a hypocrite. Much as I say I don’t see myself getting married, I do look forward to meeting that “one” person that will make my heart go 小鹿乱撞 and fall head over heels. I still dream of that fairy tale ending. But alas, perhaps fairy tales are just fairy tales.

A lot of my friends are shocked when they hear that I don’t want to get married. They are also perplexed when I tell them I have never gotten involved with another person before. Ever green! On hindsight, it seems I always took the easy way out. When pressed with such questions, I simply gave the answer that I was too busy with school to be bothered with relationships. But we all know if there’s a will, there’s a way. If there is no will, then of course, there’s no way. And that, in all honesty is probably the real reason for my ever green status.

I think S got it absolutely right. Family has got everything to do with it. But I do have my reservations. And here’s why.

“I don’t want my kids to go through the same childhood as I did. 

I attended my friend’s church service last weekend (and no I am not Christian in case you were wondering). I was speaking with this lady that recently got married. We were talking about my less than enthusiastic response towards marriage. The lady soon revealed that she came from a single parent family. Instead of being skeptical and adversed towards getting married, she told me that (before meeting her husband) she had always looked forward to getting attached and starting a family of her own. And her lesson from her own broken family was that she had to be careful selecting the right partner so as to make sure that her children will grow up in a loving family. Does it make any difference whether a dysfunctional family remains together, or if the parents get divorced eventually?

I don’t know. But the fact is that people from broken families do still find themselves getting married and setting up their own families. Some unfortunately reliving and re-enacting what they experienced years ago, some fortunately, leading a much happier live with their new loved ones.

Regardless, here’s my side of the story which hopefully can elucidate why I view marriages the way I do.

“My father is a gambler.

I guess I am fortunate than most. My family is relatively sound. No violence, no abuse. No drugs. But the skeleton that lies in my family’s closet is my father’s gambling antics. And that alone is sufficient to wreak some havoc.

I wouldn’t dwell into the details, but I guess I am lucky that my dad never turned to the loan sharks. He never gambled beyond what he had. But what that also means is that he gambled away all of his CPF savings, and my parents at one point had to sell our 5 room flat to move into a 3 room flat to pay off his bank debts.

Needless to say, money has always been a topic my parents argued and quarrelled over. And the arguments also ranged from how my mom was the sole breadwinner (my dad stopped working in my secondary school days) to how my mom was the only one concerned about their children’s education.

Vulgarities often flew across the room, and there were lots of shouting and screaming. But you know what’s the funny thing? Every now and then, they would still go to the nearby market and have breakfast together and buy breakfast back home for my brother and I. This is also the reason why I do think  they still very much care for each other and treasure each other’s companionship. And this is also perhaps why I still believe in my fairy tale ending one day. But the fact is that the quarrels and the shoutings and the screaming did happen, and that had an impact on me. And I don’t want that to happen again. And it seems the best way to achieve that is simply not to get involved.

I guess you could say this is also one of the reasons why I have always studied really hard, and that I am now in law school on a scholarship. I wanted to make my mother proud, and I never want my parents, my family to worry about money ever again. Sometimes, when I look back, this makes me sad, because I don’t know if I am living my life, or if I am living in my family’s shadow. But I digress.

So yeah. That’s the backstory.

“I think I have sky high walls all around me.

My closer friends always told me how when they first got to know me, they thought I was very “dao“. Cold, smug, arrogant, whatever you prefer. And I think it’s true. It’s probably because I have built around me walls to protect myself from all the craziness at home, for fear of getting involved in confrontations, and for fear of my friends finding out about my family.

And I think over the years, how it has evolved is that I take a really long time to open up to another person. And I do suspect it has gotten to a point where I no longer look at a person how others would. Which explains my single hood.

Does that make any sense?

Days after 40 days

Is it any surprise that the two of them did not get together in the end?

I don’t know.

I was at a Christmas dinner for the practice group (in a law firm) that I was interning at just last week. The conversation that was going across the table ran from adultery, cheating, divorce, marriage, love and the like. One thing that came up was how it was impossible for a man and a woman to maintain a purely platonic relationship. Or at least the theory (according to them, adult men and women in their late 20s) is that men only have one thing in their mind, and that it is in their nature to cheat.

But I digress.

I kinda want to talk about my thoughts on whether it is possible for friends, best friends to become lovers, but I think I want to leave that discussion for another time. Instead, I want to talk about the one thing that stuck with me throughout the experiment.

I remember there was this diary entry for one of the 40 days, Jessica talked about how her parents’ relationship had affected her views on love, as well as her own expectations and aspirations.

I think I can identify with that.

I wonder if the reason why I am so utterly disinterested (turned off) in dating and relationships is because my parents have gotten to a point in their relationship where they are no longer affectionate (and for as long as I can remember). No hugs, no kisses, lots of bickering, lots of quarrelling. Sure, I know they care for each other, but are they still in love?

That also raises the issue of how I think love and marriage are two different things. Marriage is a commitment. What happens why you stop loving your other half? I digress again.

Perhaps growing up in such an environment is the reason why I don’t look forward to being in a relationship myself; I am afraid of how my relationship with another person would turn out the same way. This would also explain why I am so non confrontational because I can’t stand drama in my life.