Back in the Philippines I remember how people would greet the new year with lots of fireworks. Here in snow-covered Indiana where we’ve had two major snow storms all just in the past week, fireworks are scant. Every once in a while I hear a small pop from the neighbors but the night sky is dark and unblemished by shooting rockets or distant explosions.
As a child , the holidays including New Year’s Eve were spent with the family. Today I live alone. I’ve lived by myself for 33 some years now.
One aspect of being in the family’s bosom is the pressure one may get to conform. I remember well that question about getting married. I didn’t marry until I was 34 but I’d been in America since my late 20s so I was spared much of the pressure.
I was married for just a few years and after my divorce from Mary Lee never got hitched again. I’d had close relationships since then, many of them more mature and beautiful than the one during my marriage but now I think things have worked out for the best for me. If I had a family or children to support I would not have been able to explore the world as I have been so lucky to do – I don’t mean just traveling to places both here in the U.S. and in Europe but travel with my curiosities, with what intrigued and obsessed me.
Married life has many benefits and for most people it’s the best thing to happen to them. In your parents’ era, in the era of people before my generation here in the U.S., people stuck with marriage through thick and thin. Those were marriage’s golden age! I look at people who’ve been married fifty, sixty, seventy years or more and admit feeling a bit of envy. Over time we get to know the other person in a way we would never have. That in itself should make the endeavor worthwhile. Then growing kids and watching them take on personalities of their own, living lives we ourselves never dreamt of living: this perhaps is the supreme gift of enduring coupled relationship.
But being single works best for some people. Living alone with just the occasional company of friends I’ve had more time to read, contemplate things, explore spirituality and the many aspects of an intellectually astute life, and now, the treasure to grow what I’ve come to discover about myself: this streak for creative work.
It seems that at every point in our lives there are crossroads that mark where we have to choose and often choose against the grain, against the most obvious choices. Many times in my life I truly didn’t have a choice. Or at least didn’t have the luxury of time to sit back and look at the choices I had with time to spare. More often than not the choices had to be made and there didn’t seem then that I had much of a choice.
For instance I never thought I’d end up in Indiana. When I was still in the Philippines researching all the American medical schools I could apply to for post-doctoral training the choices seemed infinite: the sky was the limit. But the reality of it was very different. I applied to many programs but the ones that accepted me were those to which I had recommendations from previous participants in the programs – to Rutgers in New Jersey because of Rick Cassone, to Indiana University because of Andy Morrison.
Now when I look back, it feels to me Fate took me in hand. It had a vision of where I would end up, how I would live my life. Circumstances outside me and what I controlled wrestled with my own actions and desires to result in a life that happened while I was thinking of nothing much more than just surviving. Seeing this I am not as worried about the future. The future works out far better than I could imagine – more wisely, making the most of what I have to offer.
I do make choices but even those choices I think I am making are conditioned by factors beyond me. I came to Indiana because my then best friend entered the IU program and invited me to visit him. While here I spoke with the program director and before I knew it I had applied to come here instead of staying in the East Coast. Had I stayed out there I was going to undergo Freudian analysis and become an analyst! My life would have been very different!
Coming to Indiana was the best thing for me; I just didn’t know it. Had I stayed in New York I would have gone on being stressed as I was, not really knowing myself because I was too busy trying to keep my head above water. Here in the Midwest I met people who were more laid back and I learned to lie back, too! I missed the intellectual excitement of Gotham but learned instead to go into the dark recesses of my own mind and accomplish what in the first place I left the Philippines to do: find out who I was.
Family is wonderful but for me I needed to get away from all the voices that told me who I was supposed to be, how i was supposed to be. It’s taken decades to roll away the blinders that a few childhood years formed to make me unable to see things more clearly. Family voices are very powerful. They can drown out the “small, still voice” inside that is struggling to be heard.
The astrological turning of the planet that we call the New Year has been for me a great time to look back and look forward, as far back and forward as I can manage, to set my sights. It is astonishing how often those sights are accurate although not to the fine details.
Nowadays I set a general direction for my course of action and let the “universe” fill in the details. It does a better job than I can ever do of incarnating my future. I am learning to like being surprised by what it brings up from the proverbial hat, the cornucopia of the Greeks. Surprise me, Universe, I’m ready!