Wednesday, June 23, 2004
9:23 AM |
Quddus texted you the other day. "I'm taking Prozac," he said. "And you know what? I feel so much better. I'm no longer as dramatic as I'm wont to be." He is 25, an up-and-coming chef who lives in Palawan, and struggles to find his way in the world after some years of getting lost and knowing that
was the point. It's everybody's story. When you, too, were 25, getting lost and grappling for meaning was also the way to be
. The way to live. Prozac was not even a consideration then. Depression, after all, was a beautiful by-product of post-adolescent emotional wrangling; wallowing in despair in the vein of Woody Allen meeting Schopenhauser was de rigeur
, especially for those who fashioned themselves intellectuals, or bohemians. It was a wonderful pretense. One's 20's could be so romantic in the Existential sense -- Ethan Hawke in Before Sunrise
, Winona Ryder in Reality Bites
-- but then we grow up.
There was a time when you would have envied Quddus that full sense of being brought about by pharmacology. Depression, after all, was easy and cheap. It came with each demand of the every day. Happiness, meanwhile, was something not easily gained: some people buy it through fleshy comforts, or pursue it to the very bottom of beer bottles, or through the hallucinogenic high of ill substances. A fix through controlled medication seems the easy way out, and for a long time you've thought about it -- Prozac and its magic -- if only to reel-in the growing randomness you call your life. You lived in a pressure cooker. Bursting was in the cards.
But soon there comes a certain balance in your life, one that you can arrive at only after a period of much hand-wringing, overzealous contemplation, and painful considerations of priorities. The catharsis takes its time; it comes only after making tough life choices. But when it comes, things fall into place, like lost pieces to a puzzle -- and you suddenly understand how life can be
so much better, once you know how to stare it in the face. Then you breathe in deep and proceed to do the work to make worthwhile every minute of the rest of your existence. Maybe it is because you are in love, and in the throes of being together ten months with somebody you genuinely like and love, despite the differences between you.
But there are other things: a family coming together again after briefly unraveling, for one. An acceptance of place, for another. A sense of Divine Hand, too.
But there are also the Fates.
Gabby, your new bestest friend
, and you talked about this early this summer, when she brandished her tarot cards and read your fortunes, with so much insight that she might as well have read your soul. Or your mind and its web of unsaid apprehensions, steeped in a cha-cha of denial and avoidance. You remember that night well, somewhere in Dumaguete's Capitol Area; you were drinking a caloric summer evening away with assortments of food and talk-buddies. Krip Yuson was somewhere with Cesar Aquino and Gemino Abad. Bobby Villasis was in purple conversation with Ernie Yee and John Bengan. Marie La Vina had fallen under a spell, and the others were listening to a compilation tape of Beatles songs.
"Read my cards," you told Gabby -- already half-disbelieving the suspected outcome. You were not much into horoscopes and such. It was easy to dismiss the stars' randomness -- "but tarot is very different," Gabby told you. There was a blah-blah about this and that, and you nodded, for effect, to convey you understood -- but knowing you still had your cynicism around you.
"Read my cards," you told her again.
"You have to ask a question," Gabby replied, "silently if you want. Then cut the deck."
You did, and then she proceeded to construct her tree of cards.
The symbols were exotic and obscure, and you don't remember the details of each one, except that these were designed by Alistair Crowley, perhaps the most notorious occultist of your time.
Then: "You've been too complacent," Gabby told you. "You don't want to lose what you have right now. And you will, if you just don't do anything to change your lot. You come from a place of high position. You may fall if you do not do anything. I see change in your cards. You will be able to deal with it, of course, and then you will find success and happiness. If
you will change your complacent status quo, of course." Not exactly verbatim, but it was the core of what she had to say. That struck you.
Until now, you still remember the gnawing in the pits of your stomach, knowing how much this is true of your life. And knowing just how much you needed to go on, to finish unfinished things, to change the rut you have found yourself wallowing in. The tarot was just the impetus. It was just something concrete sprung from the haziness of your own buried fears and disappointments.
A month later, this is where you are now. So much more self-assured. And armed with knowing what is the right thing to do. People call this self-actualization, or even finally growing into a complete sense of adulthood. Luke Skywalker called it becoming a Jedi knight. Neo in The Matrix
called it swallowing the red pill. The mythologists call it the end of the journey of the hero. I just call it a breath of fresh air -- something vital and relaxing, even when you realize things have not really slowed down, and even when there are more demands on your time, on your duties.
You just know where you are in the scheme of things, and so there are comfortable niches for everything. You have learned to say no. You have learned the fact that it is impossible to please everybody. You have learned to control your moods, your temper. You have learned to understand other people better, to see the light of things in their eyes, to know that there is really good in everyone. You have learned to buttress your weaknesses, and to marshal your strengths. You have learned Oprah-speak, of course, but there is now none of those old cringing that comes with dealing with New Age hocus pocus philosophy. You still hate Dr. Phil and his shiny head, but you have learned to let go of even that.
Tonight, you come home again quite late, having to attend to late classes, work, and electronic correspondence, and now you are about to push your strength further by coming up with an article to beat tomorrow's newspaper deadline. But you are okay.
None of the panic of yesterdays. You listen to Toselli's Serenade
, or Vivaldi's Concerto for Two Violins
, or your favorite: Debussy's Clair de Lune
, while you plan the intricate schedule of the next day, while you freewrite to put to shape the essay that's in your head, while you also negotiate the priorities of the tasks ahead of you. You feel okay.
You feel actually excited for work, something you have not felt for a long time. Maybe it is the fact that you are back in school -- being both teacher and student. You have forgotten the strange comfort of just being in the classroom and sitting and scribbling away silently in your chair, listening to someone else talk without you yourself having to gab one-and-a-half hours away about literature, or theory, or what-not. It is a change of place, and pace.
Whatever it is that's making you happy these days, you know you like yourself so much better now.
 This is Where You Bite the Sandwich