[I took this picture of a painting on display at MANILART 2010, and neglected to take note of the artist and title. Any ideas?]
These days, more than the usual, I find myself oscillating between fantasy and real life, elsewhere and here. Given that I’ve begun a meditation practice every morning, this may be unusual or expected. In trying to explain this feeling, a French term floats up in my memory: entendu, which both means “heard” and “understood/agreed upon”. J’ai entendu = “I heard” (i.e. audibly). C’est entendu = “it’s understood”, “it’s taken for granted”, “it’s well the case”.
C’est entendu que je suis un peu floue.
I just checked Google Translate to test whether my grammar was right, and this is what came out:
(A useful lesson learned today: huwag masyadong umasa sa Google Translate.)
Every morning, for ten to twenty minutes (depends on my mood—I’m breaking myself gently), I sit and breathe. Every so often my mind will go somewhere, and will keep going somewhere until some other part of me snaps out of it and brings the rest of me back to my breath. I probably get less than five seconds of pure, still mind, but the reason why I don’t get discouraged is because I remind myself constantly of something my meditation teacher said a few weeks ago. “There will be ‘bad’ and ‘good’ meditation times. Don’t give up especially during the ‘bad’ ones, because those are the ones to learn from.”
So OK. Bad na kung bad. Whether I am happy, or worried, or morose, I notice that my mind isn’t just agitated—it agitates itself. Constantly. There are degrees of intensity and differing dynamics, like a series of buttons on an Osterizer: mix, chop, grate, blend, whip, puree, liquefy. Thoughts splinter into other thoughts, and those fragment into ever-smaller pieces, and so forth. What meditation enables me to do, at this point in my life and practice, is simply to hear the Osterizer noise of my mind’s perpetual self-fragmentation. Or to be more precise: to hear it as noise in there, rather than be completely unaware. I can’t yet press another button, let alone unplug the whole damn thing altogether.
A constant sound—more than a sound: a motif even, structuring an entire symphony—is the desire to be elsewhere. And Elsewhere for me, these last eight years, has been Paris. Even when I was in Paris, I desired to be in Paris.
Let me explain. If you’ve read through this blog (especially in its past incarnations), you will know that I have always felt a sense of frustration about not making the most out of my time in Paris while I was there. I found myself—or that undetectable bedrock idea I have of my self which undercuts every thought, sensation, and action—confronted to the very core. I found myself wanting in the face of the city’s everyday magnificence. I winced every time someone back home wrote or said how lucky I was to be in Paris, because it drove home just how much I was squandering the opportunity. Which of course made me feel worse.
It’s strange to feel diminished by the very thing you are in love with.
Now it’s 2012, and the city I am living in is the exact opposite of Paris. How is it the opposite? Well: it’s trying too hard. (‘Yun na ‘yun eh. Hehe.) Maybe that explains why I feel so comfortable here. Maybe that also explains why I am so sure about leaving! The better, brighter, more beautiful and meaningful version of my life, of ME, can only be lived out in Paris, goes the motif. Major key. Then it shifts to a minor key: I’ll never be good enough for that life. I’m not smart/beautiful/creative/brave enough.
Major or minor, the motif is, obviously, fantasy. It’s not here and now. Here and now is: thirteen million hours of transcription/translation work that’s a week overdue, with a pissed off prof waiting for the yet-to-materialise goods; a pissed off thesis supervisor (now even more dreadful than a pissed off mother); a pissed off prof who expected a better TA; twenty million articles to read and Osterize into a palatable mush of competent scholarly work in one week; and oh yes, a paradoxical belly that manages to be both empty (grumbling from the emptiness) and flabby.
Another paradox: I’ve been working hard. Why have I still been dropping the ball so extravagantly stupidly?
It took me two full days to realise that I’ve been listening to French songs, and songs that remind me of Paris. Instant, wonderful relief, like Salonpas on sore shoulders.
For dreams to work, they have to remain unattainable. This is why the Paris thing continues to exert such a pull on me.
Lately—not often, but in transient instances that glimmer then disappear—I’ve been looking into this motif, this long-held dream, with a gaze that is peaceful and curious and somehow less afraid. Not that it’s gone, but that it’s graciously stepped aside—the old fear that I will never get there, it will never happen, and I’m stuck with this engot OK-lang-but-never-good-enough version of myself that will perpetually disappoint (and it won’t be just a version but will be my Real Self, as in, ako na talaga ‘yun). Also stepping back is the direct opposite of that fear, my blind optimism: I’ll do better, I’ll keep my promises, I’ll work hard, I’ll wake up early tomorrow and every day for the rest of my life! (Ha.)
(Even my monologues have parenthetical comments.)
It’s in those moments that I am aware of exactly where I am—oscillating between fantasy and everyday life, perpetually moved by fear and worry and desire and happiness and sadness. It’s the noise I was talking about earlier. I don’t expect it to ever go away. It’s just too powerful and I have a funny feeling that it’s also who I am, that noise. But then who hears the noise? And where is that silence coming from?
I don’t know the answer. Well, I do know the answer, but I can’t explain it, so I won’t. I only know that from time to time I hear fragments of the silence above and beyond and around the noise—embracing the noise. The meditation actively helps. But I can sense that it’s more than that. Maybe this is just one of the many currents in the glacial push towards adulthood. I wonder what life would be like, what I would be like, if I lived completely in the present? If there was no longer any difference between reality and fantasy? If the blurry fuzziness focused, and simply settled?