Crack open the Can of Worms

Whenever I think about the ugly dregs of one’s unpleasant history, no matter how much time passes and how much one may think one has already gotten over it, I always have this imagery in my mind of a can of worms. Of course, the inspiration for that imagery no doubt originates from the saying, but I like it especially because it is able to convey certain connotations of dirt and squirm, which translate into my feelings about the ugly dregs of one’s unpalatable past.

I suppose now that we are really about to ride past the cusp of young adulthood and venture forth into the valley of good old adulthood, it is high time to face ugly truths and learn how to be comfortable talking about dreadful things so that we can all be critically mindful of what we could be susceptible to when dealing with issues that we would all rather not deal with. But I suppose if we are serious about being seriously responsible about taking hold of our lives as decent adults, it is inadequate to merely store some hope in our hearts and wait passively for luck in life to grace us with the possibilities of happiness.

I think that it’s not only important but responsible to sort yourself out before you get another person involved in the turmoil mix of your life.

Open the box and crack open the can. (As E has done in the previous post.)

It might be a good thing that this year has just gotten started.

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?

40 Days Postmortem

So, the exciting project that was 40 Days of Dating.

Lots of food for thought, because, let’s face it, there’s not that many people out there who are willing to try out literally in a social experiment the very trying notion of platonic friendships. Many people are willing to just accept the alleged impossibility of it. And some people use it as a basis for establishing romantic relationships. You know, the whole my-spouse-is-my-best-friend business.

I was very glad to read that they did not ruin their friendship by the end of the forty days, though in the long run, I’m not so sure if their previously untainted-by-the-experiment friendship would show signs of having been affected somewhat. I was also very glad to read that they did not end up together, because that just would have been incredibly cliche and might become unwholesome fodder for more pairs of good friends to try the experiment out themselves.

But, just like the adage goes, the most important point of the 40 Days is not about the ending.

It’s about the process. It’s about the wealth of self-affirmative knowledge, self-analysis and introspection that is drawn out throughout the days of reflecting upon the days. It’s about being serious and taking the time to deliberate an issue that by its very nature involves someone else, but oddly enough most of the time explodes out of proportion singlehandedly by one party. If you get what I mean.

Many of the issues that were raised through their daily reflections are typical ones that we hear about all the time and they certainly reflect the crazy complex of stressors in everyday life itself that exerts inescapable pressure on relationships.

I think the most crucial issue though, as raised by E in the previous post, is one’s family background.

Just like how people are always saying, the past will always come back to haunt us.

It is just like how people always talk about the way many kids, who were abused in their childhood, grow up to become abusers themselves or get trapped as resigned silent victims in another vicious cycle of abuse. When you grow up in an environment of abuse, an environment with abuse is all you know about. Comfort comes from a sense of familiarity, and if abuse is familiar, then that would be comfort. I suppose it is part of human nature that when we encounter something new, we always try to, consciously or not, source for something familiar to ground ourselves in, before we can feel alright enough to venture forth and drive the new and exciting unfamiliarity by its reins. In trying to make decisions about our future, we fall back on knowledge we’ve gained in the past.

I have always wondered if my family background is the reason why I am extremely opposed to wanting to start a family of my own. Growing up, every other day was spent listening to crazy ass arguments and heated bickering, all dripping generously with my father’s blatant disrespect for my mother. (Which I think might be the reason why I really hated guys when I was younger, but that’s another point for another day.) I didn’t understand (still don’t) why two people would want to stay together, for the sake of kids, if they were filling each other with so much resentment and unhappiness. To me, our own individual selves should always, always, always come first. Kids follow you, for goodness’ sake. How happy can your children be when they see you behaving miserably all the time?! (I also think this might be a reason why I definitely shouldn’t have kids of my own, but that’s also another point.)

I was the kid (still am) who wished everyday that her parents would get a fucking divorce to end everyone’s misery once and for all. But it never happened, though not because there were no threats made or no attempts made to do so. I honestly think it was because they got to a point where they are so filled with fucking indifference that they can’t care less about doing something about it. So they just left it as it is, like people leave dead leaves on a pile of dirt to disintegrate into compost and reintegrate as earth and morph into the nothing that they never were. I think this is perhaps one of my greatest fears of relationships. Not just for myself, but for everyone. I’m sure no one, except perhaps extreme pessimists, starts out their relationship with the belief that one day it would all fizzle out and die miserably. People begin with the yearning faith that their love will last and persist, even if it may get less intense and impassioned over the years, but that it would always be there – that’s what got the whole thing started in the first place, right? But to have witnessed so many failures of others and one very close to home, the depths of bitter resentment and wretched unhappiness that plagues many marriages just hollow out any wells of belief or faith that I have, not just in the institution of marriage, but also the notion of romantic love.

It is a fact of life that beauty in nature does not last, because part of the beauty that forms life is its transience. That’s cool with me, go ahead and die. Immortal beauty is not as precious anyway. What terrifies me is the very real prospect of relationships that could have appeared to be as promising as it could get, end up spurting jet black streams of toxic sentiments. It’s not the dying, but the breeding of hateful apathy, which I think is worse than dying.

It makes no sense to me why some people are so up for constantly seeking for the one and throwing themselves into relationships over and over again and still do it even after getting hurt or disappointed repeatedly.

I’m aware that asshole-ness is not genetically inheritable, but I believe that asshole behavior can be acquired and learned through environmental exposure. A part of me is perhaps fearful that I might end up like my parents – an abusive jerk or a gutless chump. I guess a part of my psyche is retrospectively fatalistic, that I don’t know how this whole hopeful-for-relationship thing works because I haven’t grown up knowing it.

Many people think that having an awareness of such a possible pitfall is one of the best ways to prevent falling in. Sure, it could be. But I don’t think it teaches you how to get out should you fall.

And what if you don’t even survive the fall in the first place?

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.

Not alone in this – this is how we should live

This is in essence what I have been trying to describe.

Mr. Roman Krznaric has put things so much more eloquently:

We can navigate these difficulties of love — and enhance its joys — by grasping the significance of two great tragedies in the history of the emotions. The first is that we have lost knowledge of the different varieties of love that existed in the past, especially those familiar to the ancient Greeks, who knew love could be discovered not just with a sexual partner, but also in friendships, amongst strangers, and with themselves. The second tragedy is that over the last thousand years, these varieties have been incorporated into a mythical notion of romantic love, which compels us to believe that they can all be found in one person, a unique soulmate. We can escape the confines of this inheritance by looking for love outside the realm of romantic attachments, and cultivating its many forms.

– How We Should Live: History’s Forgotten Wisdom on Love, Time, Family, Empathy, and Other Aspects of the Art of Living

One of the most affecting articles I’ve read this year.

Realised that the very vital bits in our humanity rest on their hinges with our past, our history, the forgotten, those who were older than we, and our (in)sanity.

Make some sense of it before it’s too late after joining ranks with them and having no crap significant enough to contribute meaningfully.

What is but all a congealed mess of bright and shine fizzling out following the illumination of the night.

The Annual Splendid Snow

It’s the time of the year again, when WordPress seizes my blogging soul with the scattering of snow down my laptop screen in the realm of virtual logs.

I hope that made sense.

Watching the snow drift down the image of the cityscape that is the background of Sky Singularity now, I feel a profound sense of peace – and saying that makes me feel incredibly aged, but I have to go with it anyhow, because it is the closest I can get to expressing how I feel.

I sometimes think of people as balls of snow. After being borne out of the clouds high, high in the sky, sky, it’s just all the way down, till you hit the ground and rest on the cold, cold streets, until you melt and evaporate.

People are born, they grow, fall, fly, and then die.

I think the contemporary notion of urban solitude is overly romanticized.

To me, genuine solitude of the most enriching and peaceful kind is in one’s heart.

You can lie in the most densely populated city or in an unknown tiny, tiny village in a remote corner of the world, and it’s no guarantee that either could offer you genuine solitude more easily than the other.

What matters the most is the nature of your human spirit.

I find it incredibly difficult to express the solitary spirit of living that I think, believe and have faith in, because most people do not subscribe to such a school of thought. In fact, most of them find it unfathomable that such a school of thought exists. They think life is either as majority of the population lives it or it is not the life to have at all.

I have no problems with people and their socially conventional template lives. I think it’s great if they do good, find a life partner that they’re happy with and whom makes them happy, have 2.1 kids, raise them to be able beings, wrinkle and shrivel up in old age together and then grow old till they die happy campers of this planet. I think that’s great and I absolutely agree that it could be a fulfilling and meaningful way to live life.

But just because I think that’s a good thing doesn’t mean I want it for myself.

It is inexplicable to a person other than myself, the wealth of contentment with my own life that I feel to be my own ball of snow, able to drift wherever I want to fall and melt wherever and whenever I want to be gone.