Friday, March 13, 2009

OUR MIGHT-HAVE-BEEN LIFE

Have you ever woken one morning to discover you have become the person who's not really you?

Rebecca, an Anne Tyler heroine ("Back When We Were Grown-ups") was horrified to find out late in life she has turned into the wrong person.

In her youth, she was known among friends as "The Queen" -- dignified, serene, quiet, regal. In college, she was all set to major in history and to run for honors, too.

When she met Joe Davitch, 13 years her senior, a divorce' with three daughters, she jilted her"half-baked" boyfriend Will, sacrificed a college degree, and let herself be swept off her feet into Joe's life, his ready-made family, his whacky party-hosting business.

Before she knew it, she has become a professional party-giver, outgoing and cheerful, frivolous and funny, on the outside, given to making toasts as inane as:

"A toast to the bunch of us gathered together
In this glorious spring weather
And to Zeb for scoping out the site

And Biddy for cooking with all her might.
And most of all to Nono and Barry

We're delighted they're planning to marry."


At 53 and a grandmother, and having just hosted a disastrous picnic, Rebecca suddenly wondered: "Am I an impostor in my own life?" She looked at the mirror and gasped at the "bag-lady" she saw there with chaotic heaps of cornflower hair, a ramshackle face, and a loose flowery smock.

It was then she began to live on the stealth an imaginary, could-have-been life.

Now comes my friend, Vicky, a full-time University professor and part-time writer, married to a stable, devoted husband, with four grown-up children, being badgered with the same question. She was halfway reading the copy of "Back When We're Grown-ups" I gave her on her birthday two months ago when she called.

She identifies with Rebecca, she says in her plaintive voice.

Yes, Anna, she whimpers. "You blink, and whoosh! There goes your life. Where has it gone to?"

She used to fancy herself a bohemian, she elaborates. Someone who doesn't have a care in the world. Who does things that pleasure her -- and the devil may scratch its head. Not the obsessive-compulsive mom and wife and teacher that she has turned out to be, who worries over duty and responsibility in all her waking hours.

In the early years of our friendship, she had second thoughts about marrying Ben, her boyfriend of eight years. "I have outgrown him, I think. He seems so immature." I remember chiding her: "At least he knows what he wants. You don't." for at that time someone new and exciting had entered her life. Eventually, she married solid, stolid Ben just the same.

Nowadays, Vicky has sedition in her mind. She has to bite her lips to stop herself from barking at her husband, kids and other people around her: "Go away! Give me a break." They seem unable to do anything without her, she frets.

In the last 10 years, she has been bringing her students to Boracay. "When we get there, I just tell them to enjoy. Then I leave them alone. What they do not know is ako talaga ang mas enjoy." Walking, swimming, eating, sleeping by herself, she is herself, if only for a breather.

Her psychological age stopped at 23, she confesses. "Physically, well, another matter" -- this while chuckling.

She apologized for taking up my time, even as she "threatened" to call again and again. "So sorry, you're the only one I can talk to about angsty and irreverent topics." She made me promise not to make "sumbong" to our other amigas who all seemed so content, balanced, religious, and family-centered.

I told her I enjoyed our conversation. And added, how can I make sumbong? "For all you know, I am as out of the box as you are."

That's why I talk with you, she repeats. "There is an aura about you that is girlish and helpless and angsty."

Angsty? Yeah. I think there is a Rebecca in me too that wonders what might have been if I had taken a different road. Different job, different country, different partner. But that is not the predominant me. I can usually convince myself I am happy with my imperfect life and the not too simple, not too complicated person I have become. And when I get the blues or -- uhmm, okay -- the angst, I simply look at the person next to me to know he or she is sometimes bugged, too, by his or her own imaginary, might-have-been life.

Who was it who said that God designed man to be ever hungry, thirsty, craving, and yearning? All because He wants man to at last learn the vacuum cannot be filled by food or water, nor persons or things.

14 comments:

prinsesamusang said...

a lot of chick lit actually have this for a theme. yung pag gising mo everything is different. i find it sometimes weird, sometimes naman i find wisdom in it. somtimes lang. LOL

Auee said...

I have a detailed imaginary life. Is it selfish (bad) of me that in my make-believe life, I have no commitments, no kids, no demanding job?

I wish I could be like you in that you can convince yourself to be happy etc. Me, I seem expend so much energy sometimes pretending to be happy or at least content.

Not that I am not, just that there are low points and it's difficult to come out of it.

"He wants man to at last learn the vacuum cannot be filled by food or water, nor persons or things."

Very insightful, sino nga kaya nagsabi nyan? That's something I will try to remember and repeat to myself. Most of the time, my tendency is to ask myself what the heck I'm doing with my life and how I ended up here. I sound so ungrateful don't I?

imom said...

I'm still processing all these. Your posts come at the most appropriate times, you know? Or you do know?
I've made many stupid decisions in the past. But yes, like you, I can choose to be happy with the present.

Cookie said...

holy crap...i suddenly realized that there's a little Rebecca in me too. i guess everyone has that itty bitty bit of uncertainty. and that's what makes life interesting. it is the never ending quest of trying to find ourselves. i've always lived by the motto that being 100% happy isn't all that good because once you've reached the pinnacle, there's no other way to go but down. better to be almost there and live your life making it there ;)

Leah said...

I was just writing in my journal last nite...."I look in the mirror and I dont see the same person from10 years ago..."

I guess, change is inevitable whether its because you chose a partner, you chose a career or whatever else...simply put, life happened. So deal with it and live it the best you can.

10 years from now...who is to say I will be the same me?

julie said...

I am far from Rebecca's age but there are times when I think about what-ifs and what-could-have-happened-if-only but then again, we can never be fully content, no matter how much we convince ourselves that we are contented and happy and we have made the right decisions, right?

So, when is the next dinner date? :D

Annamanila said...

Princesa Musang!

Women do seem to tend to be more introspective and angst-ridden than men,don't they? Still, there is a possibility (most) men just won't admit to brooding over identity crisis and related concerns. This might be viewed as unmasculine.

Look, this post hasn't received a comment from any male reader! hahaha

Annamanila said...

Auee!

I think I was like you before, until I buckled down to changing my ... uhnmmm ... paradigm. Slowly, I found out I could control how I feel. You think, therefore you are ... see?

Annamanila said...

I-mom!

Sometimes, after writing about angsty stuff like this and getting just as angsty reactions, I wonder if I shouldn't have let good well enough alone. I mean my post might stir something dormant or innocuously sleeping. Yun bang ... haaay, ano nga ba?!!!!

By the way, "angsty" is not a word but I cannot find a substitute to describe the state I have in mind.

Annamanila said...

Cookie!

I like that -- to be almost there and live your life making it there. That's a good way of looking at life. Para mo na ding sinabi that we should enjoy the process of making it there.

Annamanila said...

Leah!

Yes, we change constantly -- inwards and outwards -- even as our essence remains constant. Sometimes it's for the good, sometimes we regress. But if we take two steps forward for every step backwards, we come out still ahead.

Annamanila said...

Julie!

I think so, yes, it's all a matter of perspective.

Dinner? Sige, arrange nyo. It doesnt have to be the same place again. What about the UP-Ayala technohub which Chats blogged about?

Rudy said...

"Look, this post hasn't received a comment from any male reader!" - And you wonder why... :-D

Annamanila said...

Oh, goodie, this post got its first male commentator. Ty! So, what's your take, Sngl?

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