Tuesday, May 16, 2006


I wish I could say I was one of those sweet, saintly characters you see frequently in Chinese drama serials here - the ideal of feminine beauty with fair skin, liquid half-crescent eyes and almost always dressed in flowy cotton dresses.

She is the filial daughter who forgives her father after he has gambled away the family fortune and makes him realise the error of his ways. She is the faithful newlywed wife who gives up her career so that she can take care of her paraplegic husband full-time. She is the lowly-born servant girl who falls in love with a prince she cannot marry and sacrifices her life for him.

There is almost always one in every series. She is the moral touchstone for the entire show, the angel of light and virtue. On-screen, her character is beset by various trials and tribulations, but she bears what life throws her with such serene grace and fortitude that you can’t help but fall in love with her. (Most times, the producers ensure that she also dies halfway into the series, but I digress.)

Needless to say, if I met her in real life, I would find her extremely irritating. You see, people like her make me look bad. I am not a good sufferer. I am not a good Job. I am a fretful, unloveable and whingey beast when things don't quite go my way. And I am quite capable of spewing my bile on the nearest victim.

When life throws me a curve-ball, I like to throw a pocketbook of credit cards and a mouthful of profanity back. And then some.

Recently, I have been getting acquainted with my inner demons. Readers, it is my pleasure to introduce you to Pettiness. Suspicion. Greed. Selfishness. Jealousy. Cynicism. And yes, they're pleased to meet you too.

Don't mistake my irreverence for flippancy. I know these are not particularly admirable or loveable qualities. And it is unworthy of me to own up to feeling them, but I do.

I wish I could use the excuse that it is the unconventional arrangement of my current relationship that forces these demons upon me, but that would be both unfair and untrue (even though the situation does play a part in strengthening their hold on me). Because I have felt them before and under conventional circumstances. They live inside me - as permanent residents, not squatters - they just have been asleep for a long time.

I do not underestimate their power and their capability to consume me. They are dark, suffocating passions with vice-like grips that all the girly lunches and retail therapy cannot shake. They are afflictions with the ability to eat me up from the inside.

They are adversaries of the night. They need to be fought, exorcised, beaten off with the fiery stick of courage and conviction. If not to preserve the dynamics of my relationship, then for my sanity.

So my life of late has become a bit of a battleground of good versus evil. The combatants are all me. The sanguine me versus the choleric me. The phlegmatic me versus the melancholic me. And so far, the line has held fast. After all, the key to winning is not to gain new ground but rather to push back the enemy.

In this case, the triumphs of omission are more significant and meaningful than all the front-line campaigns of commission put together.

They are the questions I don't ask because I know the answers would not satisfy either of us. They are the things I don't say because it would prematurely lead us down the path to destruction. They are the calls I don't make because I know it would be difficult for him to talk. They are the tears I don't shed because I choose to be the carefree, skippy-la-la girl he adores, the one who can cheer him up at a moment's notice even though she is crying inside.

These unsung, uncelebrated victories provide the invisible glue that hold our fragile union together.

And the spoils of each internal battle, I let him plunder. I entrust him the secret treasures of my heart and let him into my life, little by little. With each intimate confidence I share and each story I tell, I give him parts of myself that cannot be taken back.

I let my lotus heart unfurl for him, even as he runs his knife through it. His presence is a natural anaesthetic. I bleed, but I laugh. Because for those glorious moments, I feel so intensely alive. It is only when I am alone, sobering up to grim unforgiving reality, that I realize how deep the wounds go and how much it will take to heal.

I have sacrificed the plateau of comfort and security that comes with standard monogamous relationships for the bipolar-battle of emotional peaks and troughs that this blog is fast becoming testament to. I apologise for that. But until I can definitively emerge the champion of my crusade, you will just have to come along for the ride.

It was only last weekend that we took ourselves off to a place where no one would find us. Or us, them. And for the first time I was actually at peace. It was a sublime feeling and so precious because for once, I didn't have to share.
It was the best birthday present.

I luxuriated in every single textbook-bliss moment. I wore my temporary tranquility as a cloak. I floated. I head-waggled. I jeted and pirouetted.

And I stored up anecdotes and memories, as many as my brain-bank would accomodate. Little rays of sunshine that would take me through the darkness of the days to follow. The flash of his sea-green eyes in the light. His protective hand on my lap whilst we drove around the island. The postcard setting. The stories. The laughter. The playing. Even the morning sex.

It was a much-needed respite from the tortured passions of the past month. A pitstop for us to refuel and reflect - before rejoining the mad rush of the race.

I knew though, that the weekend would extract its own pound of flesh in return. The higher I reach, the lower I fall – that is the contract I have signed with the devil-legion inside myself.

So here I am now, locked away in the abyss of my apartment, paying the price for my time in the sun. Thinking that maybe the thundering sounds of Maria Callas might drown out that uncontrollable craving to hear his voice. Or that forcing my leaden fingers to slug this entry out on my computer might exorcise the fiends of my spirit. Or that watching a funny DVD might keep my eyes dry for more than five minutes.

I check my mobile constantly – each glance at the bright blue LCD a sub-conscious test to see if he could have sensed the subliminal SOS signals I was sending him. Nothing.

Yet I am paralysed to pick up the phone and dial his number. To start with, I never call. And if I did call, I know I wouldn't be able to disguise my nakedness – the sadness, the pain, the jealousy that he is having fun without me. It would concern him and impair the enjoyment of his holiday. It would be inconvenient. And it would not be appropriate.

You see, I have sworn never to be a burden. Or worse, a liability. That is not my role to play in this particular piece of twisted theatre. The victims have already been cast, and I am not one of them.

I am the wildcat. I am the agent provocateur. I am the id – his pleasure principle - the part of him he indulges and gratifies to the oblivion of grown-up considerations like Consequences or Responsibility. And for once, I need to stick to the script.

So I bite my lip and force my carcass out to Lan Kwai Fong to lose myself in being gay, in partying, in flirting. But my heart is not in it. My heart is not in anything. It has retracted so far and so deep inside the upper left cavity of my chest that I know it will require slow, tedious efforts to excavate it later.

Sometimes I think it is my karma to make up for the pain I have, and probably continue, to inflict on others. It is my punishment. At other times, I think that it is a bitter medicine – a lesson –to force me to grow up, to be a bigger, better person than what I actually am.

It is a difficult process, learning how to be selfless. And I am a reluctant and dull student. I cling stubbornly to my childhood vices of possessiveness and jealousy. They are comforting in a strange way. After all, most people suffer from them too. Why struggle to give them up when they are so convenient, so conventional? Why wish and accommodate someone else's happiness to the detriment of your own? Why not just aim for the 21st century Anthony-Robbins ideal of having it all?

Maybe because I want to test myself. To see if I can overcome my emotional cowardice and take the path less trodden. To know exactly what I am capable of - the possibilities and the restraints of my temperament. Maybe because he is worth it, and I am slowly discovering a much greater joy in making someone else happy than myself.

Whatever it is, we all pick our battles, and I have picked this one. It is a living-will choice to reject the lithium of common sense and pragmatism for now. And though the black madness rages about me, I will stand by that decision.

Of course the constant skirmishes take a toll. There is the sheer exhaustion of it all. When sometimes I dearly wish I had time enough and breath–to sit and be still, to un-think and un-feel, to Zen. But I am afraid of the mallet of truths that might hit me in those moments. That in a moment of weakness, I might give into mean-spiritedness and despair. And simply give up.

So instead I fill my life with frenetic activity, with deadlines and appointments and parties and events and hobbies. I need distractions like a junkie needs a quick fix. Will I wear myself out this way, only time can tell.

Even more sinister sometimes, is the feeling in my core that my life-essence is being leached out from under me. Like the petrification of a beautiful forest, I am turning to stone in the places where I should be richly bursting with life. But there is no one to tend to me and turn me towards the sun.

I don't want to become hard -
no, that would mean points for the other side. But one can be habituated into wearing emotional armour after doing it for a long period of time. And inadvertently, it blocks out love as well as hate, joy as well as sadness, optimism as well as cynicism.

I do realize though that it is important to constantly recognize and evaluate the boundaries of my little character-building crusade. There is a shifting line in the sand between courage and stupidity. Between faith and fundamentalism. Between half-full and half-empty.

So when will I stop fighting the good fight? I like to think that it will be when I have learned all that I have to learn and I can move onto the next stage of enlightenment. But more likely, it will be when I begin to lose the upper hand–when winning the battle is no more important because I am losing the war. When I can barely keep the petty, vindictive harpies at bay and they crowd around choking me and threatening to scratch his face.

Make no mistake, I am no deserter. But I would rather quit whilst I'm ahead, than pass the point of no return and have total destruction all around me. That is still a fair distance away.
So until then, I soldier on and hope for the best.