Tuesday, October 6, 2009

ALONE AGAIN...NATURALLY







I have always loved airports.  The coming and going of people, to and from different destinations, all with different stories to tell.  I've always found it exhilarating and thoroughly fascinating, as I wonder what story lies behind the suitcases and the hurried foot steps.  To me, they all spell out countless possibilities and I think there's something profoundly seductive in that.  As of late though, I've come to realize that the Chicago airports, the O'Hare and Midway to be specific, have become the valleys of both deep joy and despair for me.

You see, I've grown to accept that for the most part, my life story now is about leaving or being left...repeatedly.  Since migrating, I've had to adjust to the reality that I only see a few of my family and some of my closest friends once a year, IF I'm lucky.  As such, going to these airports ultimately spell out either eager excitement when picking up family members who come to visit me, OR dreaded isolation when it's time to bring them back for a flight to Manila or wherever home is.  

Just two weekends ago, Mom had to head back home after a five-month visit. She surprised us when she came over in May and her arrival that day remains to be one of the joyous moments in my life.  I thought it was an apparition when I saw her standing in our dining room.  Thanks to my husband, the whole surprise was just perfectly orchestrated!

For the past five months, I had Mom assist me in everything, from plain household chores, to child-rearing, and even with trying to keep my sanity (in more ways than one!).  For five months, I was able to have more breaks during the day.  I was able to enjoy meals without rushing to Noah in between.  I didn't have to worry so much about cooking because meals were always ready and my stove kept churning out delightful home cooked Filipino dishes.  And did I mention that when I washed clothes, they just magically came out either folded or ironed?  In truth, even without all those perks, just her plain presence in the house felt reassuring to me.  It was like being allowed to exhale freely after a long period of having to hold your breath and perpetually rush through everything.  I've been taking care of Noah and with my Mom's arrival, I had my Mommy back to take care of me.  I'm not saying that my husband doesn't look after me.  It's just that in my opinion, a mother's care will always be different.  Mom just feels like home.  The sounds I hear from her are familiar.  The smell of the house with the dishes she makes for us is like a warm blanket you can wrap yourself in.  The conversations are like comforting echoes from the past.

Mourning my Mom's flight back to the Philippines was postponed for a little while because the day after she left, my best friend Fetle came to visit with her family.  We've been best friends for 10+ years now and unfortunately, she's based in Tennessee.  It was a wonderful week just hanging out with them again.  I could only wish for them to move to Chicago or any of the suburbs so that we could hang out every week.  Unlike most people with long time friends living in the same vicinity, and with whom they share a common history, a common memory, I've accepted that things such as being able to call your closest friend/s to go out with you for coffee, shopping or some fun girls' night out are no longer part of my taken-for-granted reality.  I now need to both embrace this new (bitter) reality and reconstruct a different, more acceptable one.  Both are necessary for my mental and spiritual health.    

At this time, everyone has flown back to where they live and goodbyes were said once more.  These goodbyes in my life are much harder than most people's experiences simply because when I take my loved ones to the airport, there's really no telling when I'll see them again.  It's not that easy either for anyone to fly and see one another more often because a plane trip to the Philippines takes approximately 20 hours and almost always costs more than a $1,000.  The need for Filipino citizens to have a visa when they enter the U.S. further complicates the situation.  This is exactly the reason why I have not seen my brother for a long time now.  It's depressing to think that it takes so much effort, time and money just for my family to be complete once again.  It saddens me that Noah won't be growing up with his cousins from my side of the family; that two of his grandparents are not witnessing how he's developing; that he's really only exposed to one side of his family and that my side only seems like a faint shadow that can easily be blurred.

Despite all this brooding, believe it or not, I'm actually much better now than before.  Yes, I still lament about all these things and will probably do so for the rest of my life.  However, the difference is that I have also proven to myself that I am capable.  My parents' physical absence does not incapacitate me as a parent and household manager.  My friends' physical distance has not deterred me from wanting to find new true friends (though I've come to realize how difficult this is).  My sense of isolation, among other things, has driven me to appreciate what I do still have around me and most importantly what's within me.  I've come to realize and more critically observe my own resilience and have learnt to find creative outlets for exorcising my own demons (hence my consistent blogging).  I still have a long way to go and that is an understatement.  And when all else fails and I feel close to diving into that valley of despair once again, I try to find solace in this quote:

"So now, all alone or not, you gotta walk ahead. Thing to remember is if we're all alone, then we're all together in that too." (Patricia, played by Kathy Bates, in the movie P.S. I Love You, 2007)



  

31 comments:

  1. Joy, this is a beautiful blog. Really captures the essence of being away from one's immediately family. Pero no worries, we're here for you and with you.

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  2. Couldn't have said it better myself. As always, your magic with words leaves me speechless. Although I have to say, saying a temporary goodbye to families visiting is better than forever goodbye. Today is my Mom's 5th death anniversary and not having said my proper goodbye (she passed away the day before our scheduled flight home), closure will undoubtedly be unbeknownst to me. In my dreams, when I see her, I'm happy and I get my chance to bid her farewell but, it's not the same. Goodbyes are painful and may leave us bitter and disillusioned at times but, be comforted in the thought that someday, somewhere, goodbyes will bring on hellos. (I can't wait until the day I can say a proper goodbye to Mom, then, hug her welcome home!)

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  3. Jay-Anne EncarnadoOctober 6, 2009 at 11:21 AM

    wow! great seductive writing, joy! keep them coming...

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  4. i feel you, joy! buti na lang me facebook. :-)

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  5. Aiee Antonio-SantosOctober 6, 2009 at 11:22 AM

    Joy, you have nailed it. That is exactly how I feel - from the happiness of having my Mom around, to the guilt of not giving my children the opportunity to grow in the bosom of the family and missing out on all the doting from older cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents, to the challenges of forging new friendships in a this relatively new city (we've been here for more than a year - and I still haven't been on a gimick with friends since they have their own families to go home to) - and to consoling ourselves with chats and telephone conversations with friends and family. It IS a tough decision - choosing to live away from home - but I find solace in the fact that this is what's BEST for Cara and Carlos (and Noah).

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  6. Thanks for the blog Joy! Glad I took the 5 minutes out of my day to read it. Sure puts things in perspective.

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  7. very well said..i guess Filipinos in America, with families still back here, feel the same way..trust me i hear len (peralta) telling me these things all the time. Good job joy..keep the blogs coming..i had fun reading, in perfect composition, the exact thoughts i always hear from friends and now the thoughts are haunting me as I will soon be staying in the US for good with my kids hence will miss manila (and relatives) for a loooooong time. we will be staying in CA and the closest relative (my brother) i got is on the east coast (NY).

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  8. Joy your blog just brought tears in my eyes. I was just dabbing in self-pity lately while frustratingly waiting for my parents to receive their immigrant visa to Canada. I haven't seen my Dad for 3 yrs and the last time we were together Seanne wasn't event talking yet. Now he's started Kindergarten. I was really hoping they'll be here to witness his 1st school bus ride. Like you I am saddened that my kids don't get to spend precious growing years with my family. My only comfort lies in the fact that my parents will be here eventually for good...and that my siblings are just a14-hr drive away (I'm visiting them this weekend @ Glendale Heights) Hang in there....we're all on the same boat:-)

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  9. i love reading your blogs. way to go girl! you really can write and play with words interestingly that even if i think or feel the same thing, it would come out differently if i were to write them. guess that's the main difference of being a mathematician and a sociologist who are both SAHM???

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  10. Hi Joy, now that I'm a grandma I can fully empathize with your mom's side of the story. Thank God for family. You have a great one!

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  11. Len Peralta GonzalesOctober 6, 2009 at 2:19 PM

    i feel the same way. it's harder nga kasi my parents doesn't even want to come here for a visit. although i understand kasi they are getting old na and long flights are hard for them. it doesn't change the fact though that i miss them everyday.

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  12. Beautifully put Joy. The adventure of living abroad is a wonderful experience but at great expense. Missing out on doting family is the biggest loss. Being apart from friends is tough and at times downright depressing. But like you I take comfort in knowing I'm not the only person on this boat. Airports...love 'em and hate 'em.

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  13. Thanks for sharing this with us. Wonderfully done!

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  14. exorcising demons. love the phrase.

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  15. thank god for the internet which eases the feeling of isolation a little bit. and so true that you appreciate your mom more as you yourself become a mom.

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  16. Hi Miss Page, thank you for putting these thoughts together. I have to say that sometimes it is bitter sweet, indeed. May we always find Joy in life's changing sceneries. Have a nice day!

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  17. hi joy! basta bilib ako sa iyo, matatag sa pagtahak sa buhay d2 sa mundong ibabaw...'lika na magfarming na tayo neighbor! hehehe...

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  18. joy, i just stumbled into this blog of yours today. you have and amazing gift. it felt good just to read this. there's so much truth in it. keep it up! btw the line i related most to was: My sense of isolation, among other things, has driven me to appreciate what I do still have around me and most importantly what's within me. count your blessings di ba? :)

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  19. joy, i just stumbled into this blog of yours today. you have and amazing gift. it felt good just to read this. there's so much truth in it. keep it up! btw the line i related most to was: My sense of isolation, among other things, has driven me to appreciate what I do still have around me and most importantly what's within me. count your blessings di ba? :)

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  20. thank god for the internet which eases the feeling of isolation a little bit. and so true that you appreciate your mom more as you yourself become a mom.

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  21. Len Peralta GonzalesJune 23, 2011 at 12:14 PM

    i feel the same way. it's harder nga kasi my parents doesn't even want to come here for a visit. although i understand kasi they are getting old na and long flights are hard for them. it doesn't change the fact though that i miss them everyday.

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  22. Thanks for the blog Joy! Glad I took the 5 minutes out of my day to read it. Sure puts things in perspective.

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  23. Hey, my blog's title is Catharsis as well!!!!!!

    While I cannot relate to the extreme isolation you feel, I can relate to it in a smaller sense. Having grown up in Michigan, where my entire family resides, I found it very difficult when my husband and I were living in Florida alone for four years. I desperately missed my family, but I couldn't afford to fly home to see them. Finally, when my first son was born, we made a very spontaneous, potentially dangerous decision to drop our jobs and move back home, relying on hope and prayer alone that we'd get jobs. We're doing well, but anytime a friend or family member mentions wanting to move out of state, I always think of how we felt so alone.

    Visiting you from VoiceBoks :-)

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  24.  Alone again naturally - Gilbert O' Sullivan, an Irishman. Beautifully expressed Joy. I hope since you first wrote this piece you do not feel as isolated and have become more settled into your life, though I imagine seeing family come and go doesn't get easier.  My sister-in-law is Filipino and I know she misses her family. She is very reserved and it is hard for us to get to know her. This post is a good reminder of how she must feel each time she leaves her family to return to Ireland. They have not been to see her, for the very reasons you mention, visa difficulties and the price of flights.

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  25. I understand. Other than in-laws, I have few close family - a mother and brother whom I see less than yearly, and some first cousins only one of whom do I ever see and then it's every five years or so. Whenever i say goodbye to any of them, I understand it may be the last time I see them.

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  26. I love that quote at the end. Joy look at the wonderful strength you have now because of the distances that separate you and your family. As youve said yourself you are resilient, what a strength that is indeed.

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  27. Joy you have such strength! Don't worry though, you don't walk alone, you have all your PBAU buddies to help hold you up whenever you feel like moving into despair ;) 

    The quote you used was one of my favorites from that whole movie

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  28. Joy, Such a poignant post. Airports mean more than just travel. So many hellos and goodbyes - more of the latter- that they must be impregnated with all the emotions - tears, happiness, sadness, loneliness - conveyed in those often overcrowded, bustling places. My earlier years and more recently, have been full of those goodbyes. First, my father whom I didn't see for nine years for the same/similar reasons you mentioned except that in those days, even phone calls were too expensive. Then my mother and my sister, and then the love of my life, and then my son when he studied in Italy, and my other son for years, and so on. And each time, it was like dying a little inside, that knot of loneliness, and the fear, as with my parents, that maybe this was the last time I would see them.

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  29. A moving post Joy. I use Skype a lot with friends and family. We are all scattered around the world, so my situation is probably easier than yours -we all got used to this...
    I wish you strength and resilience. I do admire you for living 5 months with your mum in your house. After a week we keep nagging each other.
    Take care, and take it easy.

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  30. Hey Joy,

    Such a wonderful post. My sister lives in the US and she misses us so, so much. All the more when she was having her kids. The visa process took long and my mom could make it only after the delivery and only for a month. So the distance made it tough for all of us. I couldn't be with my nephew and niece during their infancy, couldn't see them as the babies they were. But then yes, she feels that she is more capable, more determined that things can be handled by her, though she misses our constant presence.
    It is tough to live far away from family but then that is the sad truth. 

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  31. A beautiful finishing quote, Joy, once that I'll remember in my moments of aloneness and even solitude. My family is filled with goodbyes because we have a huge Filipino-Chinese network -- either we go to the Philippines or they come to us in Vancouver. Sometimes, they even stay a long while in my parents' home. Nevertheless, goodbyes have always been difficult for me and I almost always cry. I try to let it be and let the tears express how important the person is to me. Then, I compartmentalize and try to move on until the next time. =)

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Let me know your thoughts!