Beta

Yesterday I had lunch with some random people from school and spent the entire hour laughing with – or rather, laughing about – a girl who was with us who reeked of naivete. Said girl talked about taking all sorts of measures to “better” herself: quitting cigarettes, turning down drugs and alcohol, actually attending her classes, skipping the late night Mcdo binge temptation – all this, so that she can be a better version of herself for The One.

We were all incredulous, of course. In an age that prides itself in its cynicism, her innocence, her frank optimism and yearning for love in its purest, best form, sent us all into fits of laughter. This poor girl, we thought, still believed in mythical creatures, and even more so, declared herself unsuitable, at least for the time being, for this elusive figure.

The two boys who were with us then sought control of themselves and proceeded to give the girl a lecture about self-confidence and how love should mean accepting the other person for who he or she is the moment you meet, since deeming yourself a yet-to-be-improved version only means that the would-be Beloved is esteemed higher, lionized even. I suppose the other guy we were with was on something, but he then set his hands on the table, slid them apart, and then moved them forward together at the same speed. “Look, see? No one is going faster, no one is being left behind. You are both moving in the same pace. That’s the way it should be.” The girl gave him a blank stare.

He continued, smiling at me and one of my friends. “Tignan mo si Bea at Jem, feeling nila hindi na nila kailangan maging better version of themselves just for The One.”

Of course that sent us over the edge again, and we high-fived each other the moment his sentence broke free from his lips. “Kasi nga, sobrang conceited namin.” Laughter again.

“Nah, I don’t mean that in a conceited manner naman,” the guy replied. “It’s just..”

He did not finish for the other girl cut him off with an explanation of her diet plans.

 

 

Later that night, a couple of hours past midnight, I was ranting to my boyfriend about these recurrent feelings of inadequacy, of emptiness. I have been struggling with depression – because hey, aren’t we all using this term very loosely these days anyway – for years now, and I felt like I was stuck in a vicious cycle which entailed me feeling like my regular, happy self then spiraling downward into a blackhole, and then recovering and stabilizing, then back again, ad infinitum. Perhaps it is PMS, but it did not help that I felt utterly useless on finals week. He has been sleeping over more than usual lately, supposedly helping me get back on track my academics, but he usually catches me asleep on the couch the moment he does something else while I “study.”

I have been single for two years, and though I was seeing someone last summer for a couple of weeks, I still was not accustomed to the whole sharing-your-life thing. I got to know myself in the process, and knew just how I tend to lose equilibrium whenever someone comes into the picture. I’ve unwittingly declared that I am at my best when I am alone, valuing freedom and all that jazz, and believed the only way I could get my shit together was to spend some time with myself for a bit.  I proposed a break while I pull myself together, telling him I refuse to weigh him down with my usual drama queen bullshit about how I have stopped liking my course and how I want to move to Baguio because I have it too easy in Manila, having everything and anything I could possibly want with the least amount of effort.

To my surprise, the dimwitted fool laughed and shook his head, telling me my problems have now inevitably become his because, just to remind me, we’re now in a relationship.

Speechless, I went to sleep and we woke to another episode of me babbling senselessly for an hour about how down I’ve been feeling. He repeated his promise, and I am once again warranted mute. And now, he has curled up on my lap like a cat, after cooking breakfast for the mean old witch that is Beatrice Tulagan whose idea of a meal is Skyflakes dipped in peanut butter.

Perhaps it is really love where we get the strength that we feel has been missing from us all these years. I have never felt so vulnerable and invincible at the same time, if that makes sense. I am taken aback by how amazing this relationship is and I have actually started wondering if this is how everyone feels, or if I just did something utterly noble in a past life to deserve having someone who is willing to put in all the work and make me feel like life deserves another shot just because he sees in me only great things.

I understand now what our lunchmate was saying yesterday, though her words really did sound like the makings of a joke. What was I laughing about, anyway, and what right did I have to make fun of someone’s optimism?

The better version of myself, whatever the hell that means, is deserving of this love, this faith in me. I want to be able to break free from this cycle I have somehow started three years ago. I want to see myself in a different light, one where I could acknowledge my flaws and actually do something about them instead of just accepting them as normal, deeply entrenched habits I could now do nothing about. There is absolutely nothing in the world quite like the feeling of being looked at like someone believes in you so much despite it all, at three AM when you’re a sorry, crying mess lamenting about the pointlessness of your degree; at dawn when you refuse to wake up to do your papers, telling your boyfriend you need five more minutes of reprieve, your five minutes soon turning into an hour and a half; at 9 AM when you are whining about being hungry and being offered sinangag to feel better. I am beyond words thankful, and have never known bliss which empowers like this.

But no, I will not even dare fight those late night Mcdonalds cravings. Silly girl.

In medias res

These days, only sleep liberates me from being consumed by anxieties. I’m caught up in school, org and work responsibilities and I’m afraid if I don’t slow down and take a breather, I’ll end up just shutting myself down. God knows that has happened before. Perhaps it is this tendency to go in with full force making the moments of self-doubt inevitable. Still, I write this with the certainty that I will bounce back, and knowing myself, seeking temporary refuge in writing is imperative for recovery.

With everything happening all at once, taking even just a day off has become a luxury. I like to think I deserve this — the sweetness of doing nothing. The Italians have a word for this but I forgot.

If only it were possible, I’ll be camped on some mountain or by the beach but writing in my room in my bedclothes on a lazy Wednesday’s all I can afford for now. We get through with the simple things. That’s something I’m learning recently, from someone who has that superhuman ability to calm me down. And that’s what I’m focusing on, the little things. Reality gets too overwhelming, too imposing at times.

The problem with me is that I am easily excited by possibilities, and while that in itself is not at all a bad thing, it makes you lose sight of the here and now. Zooming back in helps the pressure dissipate, reminds you to use the present tense however far off into the future you’re looking.

Mind you, I’m not complaining. Lately my life has been brimming with laughter and light and dreams and goals being met one at a time and love — yes, love, as I’ve never felt it before, a feeling (or to borrow his term, a “filling”, of all the remaining crevices of heart and soul) that crept up one random Sunday morning — so I’m not short on my daily dose of inspiration.

I’m just exhausted, and I’ve found that I no longer spend time with myself as much as I used to, which is pretty much tantamount to feeling genuinely rested for me. On top of that, I miss writing. I pride myself most in being self-aware and losing touch with my own thoughts — a cliche that did not make sense to me until now — makes me feel like I am not really fully present. Balance is something I’ve correlated to how much writing I get done, and it bothers me that I haven’t put down a page in a long while.

And now I have. It’s not much, but it’s a start.