(this appears in Kris Aquino Magazine, abs-cbn publishing, dec 2010)
Rediscovering love has a lot to do with faith and letting go of fear, hesitation, and an addiction to the dramatic. If it could happen to Gina Abuyuan, it could happen to you too
For a very brief while early this year, I decided not to fall in love again.
But I suppose that’s how many people think—and feel—when they believe that they’ve finally been with “The One”, and “The One” mutates into a complete asshole.
When this happens, you feel that love is this repulsive, cloying emotion; the root of all your current misery. It’s why you lost yourself, gave up so much useless time making him happy to make you happy. Love is why your monthly phone bill can cover the salary of two Globe customer reps, and why you agreed to learn how to dive even if, to you, the most uncomfortable feeling in the world is water up your nose or in your ear.
The initial rejection of love doesn’t make you look, feel, or act much better. You ask a psychic-slash-demon warrior to yank your cords away from each other’s ethereal bodies (“cut them!” you scream. “I want to be freee!”). San Miguel’s Dial-a-Beer agents know you by name—and they know you aren’t ordering every other night “for party purposes.” You’re on a curious mix of rage and depression, and if adrenalin isn’t pumping you up and getting you through 4 hours of drug-induced sleep every night, loneliness is rendering you motionless—so still and silent, you can sit for an hour in the direct glare of the sun and not care if your legs melt into the sofa.
There’s a pattern in letting go of someone you love. This is mine. I’ve gone through it three times, and each time, I told myself I would never, ever be a fool for love again.
Now let’s get real before I go on: I’m no bright-eyed ingénue who was content with reading Sweet Valley High and kept her virginity for marriage. I had four or five boyfriends before I met “’The One’ Candidate No. 1”: C, a med student who had knocked up his first girlfriend and married her, and promptly had two more children with her after that, so our pairing was hardly ideal. But we both shared a love for The Cure, The Clash, Violent Femmes, and our fathers both liked golf and cigars (that’s another story altogether), and we had Simone.
Simone, now 13, was a year and a half when her father joined his family in the U.S. Except for some photos and the occasional email, Sim hardly knows her biological father. I was prepared for that from the start. As she grew in my womb, I knew her dad would eventually leave. My daughter and I were going to face the world solo. And that was fine with me.
I was also prepared to not have any serious relationships when C left. Who in his right mind would want to hook up with a woman with a child?
My now- ex-husband, “’The One’ Candiate No. 2”, M, that’s who.
We were another “match made in heaven”. M was just off meth and I, reeling from the New-Agey-preachy-Deepak-Chopra-pseudo-vegan-U.F.O. sighting-Buddhist-Tantric mumbo jumbo of a deep ecology magazine I put together to meet the new millennium, wanted anything—and anyone!—who was dissociated with the “holistic” lifestyle.
M slapped me back into reality and reassured me the sky wasn’t a blazing ocean of fire and that the color blue was just a trick devised by aliens; the world wasn’t going to end tomorrow—and even if it did, he doubted setting up camp in that secret multi-chambered cave in the north, revealed to us by a con faith healer, would help us escape the Apocalypse.
M got me eating meat again. He got me laughing again. He got me talking about things other than Akashic records and the Merkaba. In a whirlwind affair (I wouldn’t even call it courtship), we were married in 2000 and had our wedding party over the lake in Parks and Wildlife. Harpists were flown in from the north, we toasted each other with Waterford flutes and silver goblets from Italy, and our guests got appropriately wasted.
God has a way of distilling you, though, for what you’re truly meant for, and my marriage to M was like going through a wringer. An industrial-strength wringer. With steel blades and white-hot metal rods and Jose Mari Chan’s “Beautiful Girl” looping in the background.
If you want details, you can look them up somewhere in the Quezon City Hall of Justice, where we filed annulment shortly after our twins, Marco and Mateo were born in December 2003.
Looking back, I think what hurt me most about M and I separating was not the drugs or violence, or the porn and the dubious company he kept. It was the Universe slapping me in the face. It was whatever I believed of love and the promise of eternal companionship being taken away from me. It was the ultimate betrayal.
It was also a period of intense shame. I failed at my marriage! I don’t know how celebrities handle it, but I did not make a peep to my family and friends, nor let my colleagues at work know what I was going through. I was then newly-installed as editor in chief of a parenting magazine, and though what I was going through helped me commiserate with some readers, I felt I had to put up a sunny, peachy image. The thought of having to put up with questions, the shows of concern, the pitying “awww..”—everything wanted to make me barf, snap back, or crawl into a hole.
I didn’t do it then, but I urge anyone going through the same to talk to someone. Your parents, close friends, counselor, priest. You will need someone loving, strong and close to you to help sort out your crazy emotions and reassure you that people are still willing to catch and take care of you—even when you’re pretty damned sure you don’t deserve it, or everyone you trusted has abandoned you.
My mother has always been my rock. She drove me around, helped me find a new apartment. When I came clean about owing money for my daughter’s tuition, she wrote a check, no questions asked.
Much later, when M took my sons without my permission, my mom stepped in. She stole them back. My ex-husband was reduced to a blubber of tears and “sorrys” when he saw her. Holding up an index finger, she tells me how she told M off: “Ikaw. Kahit saan tayo magpunta. Hahanapin kita.”
That woman is one scary beyotch.
But you will need someone like this. Someone unwavering and willing to go out on a limb for you, and with you, if you’re to survive extreme heartbreak.
You will also need plenty of time. Time to get empty, and fill yourself up again. You can’t start a new work of art on a dirty canvass.
You will find many avenues for emptying and filling up once more. The drinking sessions will friends will come and go. So will the dabbling in prayer groups and yoga and self-enhancement seminars. They will all help. There’s no single source of redemption and recovery.
There will also be the forgettable affairs in-between, fleeting ego-boosters to reassure oneself that if you indeed choose to go back “in the market,” you’ll still have some value. But by this time, and if you’re smart enough, you’ll be in more tune with the “real” you. The You who’s been stripped of illusion and soap-opera-fed expectations. Not a cynical you, no, but a You who’s got a better sense of when she’s ready for someone really worth it—someone who may just be “The One”.
My Candidate No. 3 came in 2006. I had been praying for a year, asking God to prepare me for love again. I had had a crush on Candidate No. 3 for months before that, so when he showed interest in me, I turned to God and pshawed: “You’re kidding right? This guy? How could he like me?” I was also full of doubt because another man was pursuing me as well. Ang haba ng hair ko, as they say in gayspeak.
I chose D. His Unique Selling Proposition? “Why endure a life of mediocrity when you can have me?!”
But because God likes to have His fun and wants us to work our brains and hearts while He’s at it, Candidate No. 3, D, and I did not have the most peaceful of beginnings. Or middle-ings. Both coming from tumultuous pasts, we were both doubtful that either of us could love the other THIS MUCH.
I will not go into details, but yes, for a very brief period early this year, I made the decision to not fall in love again because we had broken up.
I will also not sugarcoat things. Obviously, we got back together. Many parts of our reunion were romantic, but a big chunk of them were as agonizing as our most chaotic times together. The difference this second time around is that we believe we deserve to be happy, and we’re ready to give and receive this abundance of love that we’ve always been afraid to express and experience.
Fear and doubt have no place in love, or loving.
For example: In the macho, ball-scratching world of old school photojournalists, D goes by the nickname Ungas. He revels being called what most consider an insult. Unsurprisingly, a lot of people think he’s a pain. At the same time, those very people like to be associated with him because of his achievements. I’ve always been wary and worried about being married to such an alternatingly hated-adored figure. How it would reflect on me, my friendships. When I let go of that fear, completely swallowed it, I realized I revel in it as much as he does. You may call me Mrs. Ungas now, f**k you very much.
Love also cannot stand hesitation and uncertainty.
“Commitment” is much-bandied around when it comes to lasting relationships. What does it mean? It means laying down your non-negotiables and sticking to them. Contrary to younger, more obtuse notions, love and loving takes some discipline. Establishing non-negotiables and priorities gives it form and framework. Anything that distracts D and I from building and firming ours up are chucked in the bin.
And love, most of all, calms your spirit. If you feel like you’re gasping for breath and gnashing your teeth and kicking chairs every so often, maybe you have to work at it little bit more.
A few months ago, D was still working in the UAE. I was coming over to spend his birthday; I didn’t know it, but he was preparing to propose.
In an email he sent me a week before my arrival, he tells me about his Russian neighbor, who called him over for drinks to celebrate the arrival of his son.
“The man was so happy to have family with him,” D wrote. “He is so afraid of being alone. He says ‘now is peace’.
“I told them you were coming. I say ‘I now also in peace’. Gina, when I think of you in my life, ‘now is peace’.”