Friday, November 17, 2006
There are two things that actually make me nervous in my life: the ringing of telephones, and the act of writing letters.
If every life can be explained in the Freudian sense -- that the child is father to the man -- I go about sometimes trying to search through what I remember of my childhood to explain the irrationality of my fears. Because they are irrational
. Who can be scared of ringing phones and writing letters? Snakes, spiders, and great heights as sources of phobia are easily understandable -- but phones and letters?
If I am lying down right now in some shrink's couch, I would probably get this kind of psychoanalysis: that letters and phones being instruments of communication, I am thus inherently fearful of communicating. My fears have constructed me a perfect way of shutting off the entire world where no words and no one can reach me.
In my darkest hours, I try to understand where all these spring from. Was it because, when I was growing up and the family was still dirt poor, I had an absentee father whose silence was so great I never got to even comprehend the man? Was it because I had a mother who had to scrape through a living to feed six children, and every knock on the door could prove to be a solicitor asking for a debt to be paid?
One of my scariest memories is of an afternoon in Tubod where we lived before. I was a young boy, only in grade school. Our mother had just received some legal summons from the local distributor of a popular ladies' wear brand; in it, she was being accused of not being able to pay an outstanding debt. What I remember most was the fear in mother's face. It was the look of a stricken woman whose communication from the outside world was ready to bury her in. In my child's mind, it was a fear that registered a lot of scary possibilities: that she could go to prison, for example, and I would no longer have a mother to take care of me. Every knock on the door simply was a chance for a rude disruption from the real world. Perhaps then it would be better to seal off the whole world by not communicating.
But of course this is me trying to understand myself. Even I tell myself -- in monologues that border on the neurotic -- that maybe I am only rationalizing a certain laziness to communicate. Then again, what explains the palpitations I feel every time the phone rings, or when there is a knock on the door, or when there is anticipation that I am about to begin a letter? I get clammy hands, and my breathing becomes noticeably short. Like all cowards, I unconsciously choose to "run away." This year, for example, I had decided to cut off my landline telephone, opting only for the Internet access that had -- at least -- the buffering mechanism of not being too instantaneous as a telephone call. I still have the tendency even today to never answer calls received over my cellphone when no name registers, showing only a number that I do not recognize. Perhaps these are all my ways of shutting off the world that frankly scares me.
There is one more thing about letter-writing that scares me. It boils down to the fact that I have created this fiction of myself as a writer. And so, every time there is a need for me to write letters, there is this sword of expectation hanging above my head that forces me to consider writing letters worthy of my being a "writer." Hence, I write quite long ones, even almost "literary" ones. Just because. This tendency frankly exhausts me: there is no joy at all in this expectation. Luis Francia, a New York-based writer who is the only person in the world I have confided to regarding this problem of my aversion to letter-writing, once suggested helpfully: "You don't have to write beautiful literary letters. Simple ones will do. Even short emails are enough." Which is wisdom, really; and wisdom that I believe in as well. But still. Write short letters? My mind gets boggled.
My brothers Edwin and Rey insist that I break this fear, and I have assured them that I will. Maybe it is time for me to exorcise my demons, to break away from my fetters. I understand where both of them are coming from. I can imagine Rey in the metropolitan hellishness of Los Angeles and Edwin in the cold sway of Fribourg in Switzerland, hoping for some warmth of news from home. Any missive should be coming from me, the supposed journalist cum writer. That I do not do what is expected me smacks of irresponsibility, really.
Sometimes though, the reason is living itself. There are just not enough hours in the day to get me through the intricacies, the small and eternal emergencies, of life. Even the banal moments take time. How all things pile up!
the insubstantial among the emergencies, all things in a merry glee that never ceases to hoodwink me into forgetting which is which. The divide between things becomes blurry. Where to begin?
is the question I have bored myself asking. Even the journal I keep to keep track of my days is of no help. It has become a record of recriminations instead, of things left undone, and of things that loom in the immediate horizon, threatening to pull me in their gravity of work and expectations. At 31, I am the adult I have always feared I would become: shaped by schedules and things-to-do. There are days when I can feel my youth seeping out slowly -- my clock is ticking, for one thing, and I know I am no longer the young man I still feel in my head.
Then again, tomorrow is always another day, and with it always springs a kind of hope that things will always fall into place.
 This is Where You Bite the Sandwich
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