Watch Me Entertain Myself!

Sacha Guitry once said, "You can pretend to be serious, but you can't pretend to be witty." Oh yes, I'm the great pretender.
(pilot episode: 20 January 2004)

Monday, April 22, 2013

I Can Be A Lousy Listener

I read this online article, “10 Types Of Lousy Listeners” (click HERE to read it in full) and was struck by one of the types mentioned: The Problem Solver.

As a listener, I know that sometimes we just want a sympathetic ear, and that we just want to rant. And normally I am very patient when it comes to listening. I have been told more than once that I’m a great listener. I guess that’s because I can easily keep a detached distance.

The irony here is that I’m a lousy listener with D. Because when he approaches me with a problem, the first thing that kicks in is, “I HAVE to help him. I HAVE to do something, I HAVE to solve his problem or at least come up with ways to a solution.” I can’t stay detached; I instinctively want to alleviate his worry. Because nowadays when I am faced with a problem, instead of ranting (which I sometimes do) or worrying (which I also sometimes do), my default reaction is to not wallow but instead figure things out.

Twice already I’ve failed D. I remember when he first told me, “I’m not asking you to do anything. Just listen.” But how can I just listen when my mind is already taking in the big picture, looking at it from different angles, and always asking, “What if?” or “How about?”

Through the years I’ve learned not to wallow in worry. Worrying is a waste of energy. I’ve taken to heart adages like: “Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy” by Leo Buscaglia, or what the Dalai Lama said: “If a problem is fixable, if a situation is such that you can do something about it, then there is no need to worry. If it’s not fixable, then there is no help in worrying. There is no benefit in worrying whatsoever.”

However, that’s a lesson that not everyone gets or even appreciates immediately. I too loved to wallow when I was much younger; the realization that my time is better-spent elsewhere was something that crept up on me through experience. And it’s unfair to force it upon D.

Sigh. 2 years and 11 months in, I still have a lot to learn. (But perhaps that ought to be a comforting thought.)

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

So Let Me Just Comment Here

When I read the Facebook exchange above, I was sorely tempted to comment. But then I realize that there is a difference between opinionated and intrusive. So just let me publicly reflect here.

Gleaning from the author’s choice of words and phrases used, one can get a hint of his problem: “everything has been against me;” “lived my life by the book;” and “deserving of all the good things that life can bring.” I was sorely tempted to ask the following: How sure are you that everything is against you? What is this “book” that are you living by? How can you say that you “deserve” such things? And what makes you say that these things are “good”? 

One important lesson that we need to learn while growing up is to be able to think for ourselves. This results in us defining our world-view. Our world-view isn’t shaped instantly, and it also can change from time to time, as we gather more and more experience.

However, thinking for oneself isn’t exactly a value that Filipinos are taught early on. Like most Asians, we are taught to value the collective more than the individual. Add to that the fire-and-brimstone message of the Catholic Church, and you have a people raised on pakikisama and Catholic guilt. I find nothing wrong with collective thinking; however, I feel we should also be encouraged more to think for ourselves. 

And when we start thinking for ourselves, we will also slowly realize our place in this world. I find it both a terrifying and wonderful moment when we slowly realize that we are so miniscule in the larger scheme of things yet so infinite in our minds. More than being bloated with a sense of entitlement, I worry about that realization. How easy it is for us to feel entitled. Or how easy it is to forget how much Lady Luck plays a part in our lives.

Which leads me to the comment about optimism and the grand conspiracy theory of the universe.

“The universe conspires” is the same as “shit happens.” Both are valid ways of making sense of the world. The difference lies in the attitude of the author. Speaking for myself, I often find myself bemusedly thankful at the former and amusedly resigned with the latter.

What works for me these days is a balancing act. When something good happens, enjoy it while appreciating the fact that the opposite had an equal chance of happening. And when things turn south, accept it. The sooner you do, the sooner you can move on and figure out ways to improve your situation. Hope is a combination of doing things yourself while allowing the possibility that forces beyond your control will align with what you want. 

When it’s good, don’t forget that the other shoe could have dropped. When it’s bad, try to make do, but be open to the possibility that Lady Luck may just smile at you.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

At The End Of “Sa Wakas”

At the end of “Sa Wakas,” the new musical featuring the songs of Sugarfree, there was a directorial flourish at the end which (no spoilers here) made the mostly young audience gasp and exclaim, “Ooh!”

Outside, D and a friend were gushing over that particular scene, and I said, without much reflection, “Wow ha, you really fell hard for that? But that’s been done so many times before.” Which prompted D to exclaim, “Well, you’re so old, you’ve seen more plays and movies than us!”

That got me thinking. My friends in high school were the nerdy, geeky ones who listened to Kate Bush aside from Madonna, and obsessed more over Francois Truffaut’s Day For Night than Caddyshack. It was our way of forging an identity that separated us from the jocks whom we despised yet secretly envied. At first I just faked interest in subtitled, obscure films that was more interested in the human condition than blowing things up. But after a while I developed a healthy respect and interest in them (though I still like blow ‘em-up movies once in a while).

Of course, my DVD collection isn’t chock-full of obscure, highfalutin’ foreign films. (To be honest, I like having summer action blockbusters in my collection because I like how they sound in 5.1 Dolby surround sound.) But thanks to my Big Bang Theory friends, I have seen my share of classics films, the kinds that appear in all-time greatest lists. And thanks to my stint working at the CCP (and specifically, in my interest in theater), I have also seen a fair amount of stage productions, from straight plays to musicals to folk theater to what is politely called “performance art.”

Exposure is great, because one gets to appreciate all sorts of art that is out there. But with exposure comes familiarity, and with it, the danger of ennui. Worse, there’s also the danger of an inflated sense of self-importance.

That’s why I am amazed at those who retain their child-like innocence and genuine appreciation and surprise despite extensive exposure. And how does one avoid being a know-it-all?

I realize it all boils down to two things: humility and kindness. Be humble enough to not flaunt one’s knowledge. Be kind enough to appreciate other people’s appreciation.

For so many years I’ve developed my sense of pride and self-worth so that I can be a self-contained unit who is capable of surviving singlehood. But three years into a relationship with D, I am still realizing that what is more important than knowing your self-worth is the maturity to set it aside lest it bloats into self-importance.

Maybe then I can again watch with an innocent heart and an uncluttered mind. And maybe I can still grow to be more patient.

Ang bagong crush namin. You will fall in love with his voice. He actually can out-Ebe Ebe.