She’s home

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated October 19, 2014 – 12:00am

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Illustration by REY RIVERA

After three and a half months of being in Sydney, Lydia came home today, breaking the dullness of my solitary existence.

I must confess that in many ways, I had kind of gotten used to living in our new house by myself. We moved in just four months ago and she had to leave for Sydney after just a few days. Except for the maids who cook my meals and tidy up the bed and clean and the few visitors who come here, I am very much alone here.

It can take a few weeks but one can get used to it.

This isn’t the first time this has happened. We have been separated on a few occasions living in different places. But this one lasted almost four months — one of our longest breaks.

Living alone can be fun. You are the undisputed boss. You take charge of the entire house and you can pretty much get your way all the time. You have your quiet time and you can do as you please — exercise, read a book, go online, or go out. You don’t have to plan on scheduling the use of the car. You can also watch a movie, eat out anytime without having to ask if your partner feels like it.

On the other hand, living alone can get pretty lonely, too. Eating three meals a day alone for weeks can get depressing. There is no one to share any conversation with. One tends to hurry eating. You only eat for sustenance and because your body tells you it is time to. Sometimes, it feels like a chore.

The loneliness can really get to me. I end up cocooned in my room with Facebook, Twitter and other social media as company. Sometimes, I even just end up staying in bed without being online and just reading a book.

Loneliness can become inertia, too. Inertia is some sort of closing in, or turning out the lights on one’s life, figuratively speaking. Things I enjoy, such as going to the gym or exercise, can suddenly seem like a chore. And even when you know you will feel better once you exercise, you still can’t seem to get yourself to do it. Inertia is the downsizing of one’s life’s source. Too much of it can lead to depression.

I also hardly listen to music. It can seem too disruptive or engaging. I just like to be alone doing nothing.

It takes great effort to fight off the tendency to just lie in bed and vegetate. I can feel like my world and life has shrunk into my room. Luckily, my sister Lory who lives nearby calls me from time to time to ask how I am, or invites me out for lunch or dinner.

When Lydia and I had dinner a while ago after months of being separated, the beautiful but lonely kitchen sparkled with her presence. The food was delicious and I noticed that I relished and enjoyed the taste. I did not feel it was something that I just needed to consume for bodily sustenance. The food was a comfort just like her being there was. It was great to have conversation again while eating.

After dinner, we moved and sat in the sala/dining area where I like staying and resting after meals. I noticed that to my surprise, I felt good just being in the room in a way I had not enjoyed for some time. She was there. The empty space I felt was filled up by her presence. She animated everything.

I had forgotten the many nuances one feels that go along with missing someone, as I reminded myself silently to be more aware when loved ones are around.

Now that she is home, there is again the sound of extra footsteps around the house, the running water in the shower, the familiar and welcome laughter and conversation.

Before she arrived, it was the wind, the creaking of wood in the house, the breeze and the distant barking of dogs in the neighborhood. Tonight as she lies beside me, I hear the turning of the pages of a book she is reading, and the sound of sheets being pulled up. She has fallen asleep just now, tired from the trip from Sydney. I hear her breathing softly.

When you are separated from someone for a time, the other becomes some sort of a semi-fixed image, almost like a memory or vague concept. And the longer the other is away, the more the image becomes set. I can imagine how it is with OFW couples who meet again after years of being separated. Too many birthdays, anniversaries and important occasions not shared can produce the discomfort of unfamiliarity. Often, it can lead to the feeling of alienation. The kids have practically grown up not having experienced one parent’s presence at home. It can seem like Dad or Mom are just Skype figures that appear onscreen occasionally and sends money back home.

Their sudden return and presence can totally shake everything up in many ways. The missing parent tries to make up for lost time even if the other members of the family have established routines that they are not part of anymore. It is a sad situation for everyone and it will take a while before things settle back to normal, if they ever do.

Luckily, we have not been separated that long. I must admit though that there is this faint feeling of strangeness of someone else being in the house where I have been living alone the past months. But thank God, it is a welcome feeling.