Biyernes, Nobyembre 18, 2016

Making a stand

I am making a stand, right here, right now in my own little space in the blogosphere. I am appalled with what is happening in my country. The rush and secret burial of a dictator in the resting place of heroes have caused many a sleepless night last night like I did. We have long suffered idiotic, shameful braggadocio with words, deeds from this government and this is the most hurtful and treacherous so far.
As a woman, I have only my words and as a mother, a voice of concern for the future. Hatred has seeped many parts of the globe and my island nation is not spared. Internet trolls lurk the web, some paid while others delusional having drank too much of their master’s Kool aid ready to strike with their own vile and contemptuous words on poor enlightened commenters. These keyboard warriors use their gift of words to blackmail, humiliate others, twisting facts and feeding lies. What a shame.
And this is why I am writing this piece because I don’t want to stand here and just do nothing. I cannot be on the streets protesting this sinister burial because I’m caring for my son. I wish I could be there screaming my lungs out with fists outstretched. But I can’t so let me shout my defiance here. My outrage. My sadness. One hundred forty words in Twitter is not enough.
I love this country. I have been offered a chance to migrate after I got married but I refused. This is where I belong, the land of my birth where my son will grow up and my husband and I will grow old in. So it is sad that there is so much uncertainty right now. Many people voted for a Trojan horse, a messenger with a Pandora’s box.
Our country is suffering right now, the peso has depreciated and our sense of what’s right and wrong have been twisted. We are watching our countrymen being killed on the streets with plastered mouths and cardboards on their corpses. How did we let this happen? Was fear a factor? Intimidation from asshole trolls perhaps? But if we cower then they will continue on this twisted, evil path. Our country will suffer. Rising above this fear and letting our voices be heard is a start.
Because I was there in the Quirino grandstand with my father after the EDSA People Power revolution after Marcos fled the country and I saw the outrage of the people. Pictures of the Marcoses with fangs and horns were distributed and raised fists were a common sight. Now, all that seems forgotten. His burial in a plot reserved for heroes with a 21 gun salute is utter humiliation on our part as a people and it is a sad day for our country. It is a slap and a spit to Martial Law’s human rights victims. It is a shame and a disgrace.
So I will not stand here and do nothing. I will say my piece. I also  want the youth to realize that we should not let our land be devoured by a darkness so evil that our country would have a hard time to recover from. We should respond to it with our enlightened minds and fight until we are out of this darkness again. Let us fight to get back our sense of decency, civility and patriotism because we owe our Motherland that. No darkness should be allowed to cover our lands. Never again.

Miyerkules, Oktubre 26, 2016

Realizations and stuff

I haven’t written in my blogs in a year because I had been busy with some “serious”  business stuff. I admit, I have neglected my writing. And now while I’m still recuperating from pneumonia after a brief hospital stay, I am going back to my first love, my refuge from all the hullabaloo of life, my writing. I am taking stock of what had happened to me and what is truly important to me.

Health really is wealth.
When I was standing by my hospital window and watched cars and people go by, I told myself, health indeed is a great equalizer because it doesn’t matter if you're confined in the grandest hospital room watched over by big shot specialist doctors  or in a public hospital ward with overflowing patients and minimal resources,  you're still not part of the daily hustle and bustle of humanity. You are still indisposed. You are in a pause mode until operational again.
Maybe I have pushed myself beyond exhaustion and have bombarded my mind with pragmatic thoughts, lying awake at night, analyzing the pros and cos of each decision with no time for leisure and fun. No time to even watch a movie or stroll in the mall. So I guess something had to give, my body had to slow me down. I mean when all is said and done, all the money in the world cannot reverse the abuse you have done to your body like eating unhealthy food or not taking enough rest or not having more positive thoughts to make your mind to be more at peace at night.
Right now, I have to push back on all the negativity that have arisen from my hospital stay and deluge of medical diagnosis from my rounds of different doctors from  pulmonologists, ENTs and IM doctors. I still have congestion in one ear and have bouts of breathlessness. I mean, I still have to push myself out of this dark, uncertain chapter of my life. I still have to slug through this and drag  myself out into the sun. But I believe my writing and going back to running could help and of course eating right and having enough rest. And how can I forget, lots of prayers too and imbibing more positive thoughts too J

Family is the best.
No matter how far away they are and no matter what happens, family will always be there if you need them. When the doctor said that I have to be confined, I immediately thought of my son and luckily my mother in law and my brother in law were there for assistance. They cared for him while I was away. My father also visited me often in the hospital and had been a source of inspiration. And of course, my husband, my tower of strength, my confidante and trusted ally and partner was there with me in the hospital while I battled that illness. But having my son away from me was heartbreaking, hearing his voice on the phone made my tears well up and watching him on Facetime or any video telling me to get well soon made me feel happy, sad and miserable at the same time. I can’t wait to go home again. Holed up in a hospital room, it made me think about the realities of life. You may have all the riches in the world and maybe fame but it will not compensate time away from the family.  You begin to realize what really matters in life.

Time is valuable
When I saw some results of my medical exam, I began to realize that time is passing by so fast there’s no need to procrastinate to do what you have to do in life. Our body is steadily aging, even if you feel fit and healthy.  You don’t have time to put things off, you have to pursue your dreams now. You have to try to reach what you’ve been aspiring for. Sometimes, we are so busy looking at other people’s lives and achievements that we forget to look at our own and pursue our own endeavors. But we have to because the clock is ticking. The time is now.

I’m writing this down so that I will not forget. The Christmas rush will be here soon and then the New Year. I should not forget to slow down and take stock of my life and be thankful for what I have at that moment, my health, my family and God willing, time to realize my dreams and my mission in life J 

Martes, Setyembre 29, 2015

Before We Go 2015: Emotionally intimate and moving

It’s been awhile since I’ve watched a movie that made me think and cry at same time. To look at your own life especially your past choices, your insecurities, your what might have beens, your little regrets. We live in a fast-paced world and sometimes the introspection of the choices we have made or not made in the past becomes forgotten. Films that make you do that  are commendable because it not only entertains you but makes you ponder and look at your life in the different perspective. Maybe that’s why indie films with only two characters  are more effective in giving you this kind of introspection. There are no sub-plots to distract you with, just two characters getting to know each other and you are also are getting to know with.

I didn’t know what to expect in this movie, Before We Go, the directorial debut of Chris Evans. But I like seeing a good looking couple on screen, a bearded, dashing Chris Evans paired with the gorgeous Alice Eve was quite a teaser already. I mean you just wanted them to end up together in a setting like the enigmatic New York City.

So when I started watching it and saw how emotionally intimate the scenes were and how true to life the dialogues were, I was drawn to it. And why not, the film had an intimate feel to it like watching two strangers pouring out their sadness, their insecurities, their joys, dreams and secrets to each other. It was moving and romantic. No histrionics or sweeping grand gestures just two people walking in the wee hours of New York city having some adventure together.

I love how the script had a realistic feel to it.  It’s irritating how you can relate to some of the dialogues like how you would feel when you see your ex after a long time or how you would react when betrayed by the love of your life. But more than that, what I love about the film is how you see the characters realize the fears they were running from and how in each other they began to have the courage to face it. I mean how can you not be moved by that.

I don’t care about what they say about the film but I had many realizations here. That sometimes, we are not ready for the good things in life because we refuse to let go of our ideal versions of the past, our ideal versions of our love ones even if they have changed or the situations have changed. We refuse to let it go even if it’s not working anymore. Often,  it’s a battle with yourself with what you want to be and what the situation really is.

I had been in that crossroads before and you really have to look inside yourself and weigh in your heart if the person is still worth it or is costing you your self-esteem or your value as a person. Me, I had been in a relationship where I stayed too long because I was afraid I would not be loved again. I had been afraid to let go because I thought he would be the only person who would love me and accept me because I had been rejected in the past. I hung on because I was scared even if the situation was not ideal anymore and my feelings have changed. It’s not easy to let go of what you’re used to or of change and risk. And I was wrong, someone loved me for me without great personal cost. I’m glad that I took the plunge and I had no regrets.

Anyway, I just love a film that can make the audience think about their own life even if the ending was like the ending of some short story,  an open-ended one. Why ?! J But still, it was moving. So, Mr. Evans, I thank you for that, great directorial debut and thank you for translating these good writers’ work into film, I think you nailed it. And I truly agree what your character, Nick said on the last part of the film, “… then thank her for showing you that you could love more than one person in this life.” I truly believe that and I truly believe you are also a hopeless romantic like me J

Sabado, Hulyo 25, 2015

My first marathon experience TBR 2015

( I  wrote this the day after the marathon, Feb. 25, 2015)

Still aching from yesterday’s 42K run, part of me is exhilarated having done it and part of it is just super fatigued. Everything hurts, my feet, my legs, my back, even my head hurts. I can barely move out of bed after the marathon when I got home. But looking at the picture now, me smiling, triumphant, the pain is forgotten. Standing there with the backdrop “I am a marathoner” smiling like a conquering heroine was all worth the pain. It doesn’t reflect the pain, the doubts on my mind during that run because honestly there were many literally and figuratively dark moments, battles with myself. But before I go to that let me tell you what I experienced and encountered during the run.

It was 2 a.m. when we started, it was a little cold, with a slight wind chill and I told myself, here it is the marathon, the beast I have to wrestle to submission to get that medal, the dreaded dragon I have to slay on my mind. I have been having the jitters that week and it was the week of my birthday. Good thing I got distracted from the celebrations with family and friends.

So the run started and I surveyed the participants, some have their hydration packs, tight compression shorts and pants, athletic tapes on their legs, their caps, visors, sunglasses, you barely notice any nervousness, almost all of them looked psyched. Me, I prayed that my maximum four hour time-based training pays off and my confidence that I was able to hike three mountains would get me through this. I know this was a formidable challenge because I knew that I’m not athletic. Hiking those mountains was not an easy feat for me either, I was just the tail-ender there the same goes in my other runs and my long run two years ago , 21K so I know it would take me 8 hours to finish and I was hoping I would make it to their first cut-off in their 21K.

Then the run started and it was a little chilly, the skies were dark and you can see the stars as you pound through the pavement. I haven’t seen the course so this was really the first time I ran it, I didn’t expect anything  and then the inclines came. Yes, there were inclines, man, that felt brutal to a non-athletic person like myself. I was cursing in my head. Running a full-marathon is challenging enough as it is and some inclines to the mix is like the monkey wrench on my running plans. I was planning to run the first 21K, no walk contrary to what they taught us at the bull sessions then have  4:1 tempo, 4 minutes run and 1 minute walk.

But after those little hills, those plans had to be changed. I hit the wall at the 20K mark, that early, I thought, maybe I won’t able to make it to the first half and had to be taken off the course and because I was so tired already, I will have to tell my hubby that I gave up, I didn’t train enough, didn’t train for the inclines excuses. But then I got through the 21K mark and that changed, I felt that maybe I had the chance since I already know what to expect and just walk on the inclines to save my strength and finish it before 11 am.

But knowing the course already is still different from running the course. And the sun was up, beating at you, radiating its might rays at the hapless runners like myself wracked with pain and cramps. Each kilometer felt so far. When I hit the 30K mark, I was happy since only 12K left but still, each kilometer to the 35th mark felt so long and hard, each step was like pressing your feet on nails cushioned by pavement. A slight jog was better than walking so I did it, I jogged just to keep the pain away not because I wanted to run prove something to those people walking. I jogged because I was in pain so that was what I did. I jogged and felt I already reached the 40K mark, I would be able to keep up my jogging bit but the sun was already high up around 10 a.m., I just wanted to walk because I was so tired, very tired from 8 hours of running and 3 hours of sleep and now I was worried that I won’t make it to the 11 a.m. mark.

There was no let-up in the challenges but I wanted to slay this dragon, I wanted to finally chop its head and call it a day, that loop before the finish line was its head then I saw my husband coming to me, handing me a bottle of Lipa coconut juice, my Prince but it is me who had to slay the beast so he left and I did it,  I jogged that last 500 meters and I finally vanquished it. I did it. I slayed my dragon. Victory at last! :)

I read in a book by Haruki Murakami about running that you should have a mantra to survive a marathon, mine was dream, believe, survive, a tagline from a defunct reality show and I told myself… you have conquered three mountain beasts already, this one marathon, this dragon will also be conquered, no matter how long it took, no matter how far  (a bit of dialogue from one of my favorite movies “Last of the Mohicans”)

Anyway, I did it, I dreamed, I believed, I survived no matter how long it took and no matter far it was from the finish line, I slayed my dragon and I have a medal to prove it. So thanks TBR for giving me a chance to fulfill my dream :)

Sabado, Hulyo 11, 2015

Kili: When love is fearless

There are so many changes happening in my life right now and I am overwhelmed. But one thing that distracts me at this time is this image of Kili, the young, thoughtful and adorable dwarf of The Hobbit. It’s funny that I make him my inspiration now because he embodies the recklessness and foolhardiness of expressing his love amidst all the commotion and hindrances that surround him. I like his laughter, his smile, his thoughtfulness. I like that. I like that in a man.

Maybe I now realize that loving someone doesn’t have to be painful, that loving is wonderful if it is mutual, that loving also means putting yourself out there because at that moment, that second, that minute is that moment you have right now. We never know what will happen next. We want someone who can match our own passion, our own commitment, someone who doesn’t holds back.

I have changed a lot but I guess I will always be a romantic. I will always like sweeping and grand gestures of love, of chivalry, of vulnerability and gentleness in a man. No matter how jaded the world had become, these grand gestures of love will always be appreciated. It may not involve luxurious items like gigantic diamond rings or brand new cars but warm handholding and torrid declarations will always be welcome.

In my years on this earth, I realized that the true gauge of one’s love is when you want to make them happy. No matter what. And Kili let go of Tauriel first  because he doesn’t want to intrude in her duties and maybe in her doubtfulness. But time and fate had a hand on it. And even if it was too late. They both knew that they loved each other. Maybe they will be together in another place and time and in that moment, they will have each other and be happy.

Linggo, Pebrero 9, 2014

The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd, a controversial yet truthful look at a woman's self-discovery

This book came at an apt time when I was finding answers for myself, finding out what led me to some situations. Maybe it was mid-life crisis or maybe it was a symbol for something within me that is setting to burst forth. Or something I refused to face. Maybe it’s my love for writing which I re-directed to something else.

I saw this book on my way out the grocery store. I was on my way home with the grocery bags on my cart on the way down to the parking lot. I don’t know what came over me and I looked back at the stack of magazines lining the entrance of the store like there was an unseen hand tapping my shoulder or a passing thought that I had to heed.

Then I noticed some books below it. It was beside The Hours of Michael Cunningham and below the magazines. The one that caught my eye here was the word Mermaid. I love anything to do with mermaids, I even have a mermaid cap pen. Then I read the blurb on the back. A married woman in love with a monk and her moment of self-discovery. That sounds interesting though I was apprehensive because the cover looked like it was from a YA book. But still I bought it without even reading a single sentence since it was bound in plastic. I don’t usually buy books without reading a paragraph or two just to have a feel of an author’s style of writing. So this was a risk. But I placed it on my shopping cart and hoped that this was not a dud.

I was relieved. It wasn't. I loved the stanza from Pablo Neruda’s poem on the opening page.

I don’t love you as if you were a rose of salt, topaz or arrow of carnations that propagate fire:
I love you as one loves certain dark things,
secretly, between the shadow and the soul.

Then I read parts of the Prologue and sighed. I was glad. I closed that book for a while and wondered if this book was a message from above. Something that provided some answers I was dealing with my life at that moment. Something I had to deal with since I would be turning forty soon.

But more than that, reading the book also made me revisit those feelings of love again. The feeling where everything was heightened, every color vibrant and the shade of the blossoms of a fire tree more vivid in the summer sun. And the giddiness that bursts forth within you and the expanding warmth in your heart when your beloved looks at you.

 Like this excerpt from the book.

He turned toward me, and we stared at each other for several seconds. In the sharp light of the moon, I noticed that his eyes were pale blue and his face deeply tanned. There was an irresistible look of boyishness about him, but something else, too, that struck me as serious, intense.

“Brother Thomas,” he said, and I felt an odd catch in my chest.

“I’m Nelle’s daughter, I replied. “Jessie Sullivan.”

Later I would revisit that encounter again and again. I would tell myself that when I met him, all the dark little wicks in the cells of my body lifted up in the knowledge that here he was – the one you wait for, but I don’t know if that was really true, or if I only came to believe it was. I’m sure I’ve burdened our first meeting with too much imagining. But I did feel that catch in my chest; I saw him, and something happened.
 one of the mermaid picture cards I keep,
by Lord Frederic Leighton  (1830-1896)
The Fisherman and the Siren

Yes, falling in love does give you an ecstatic high like being addicted on a certain drug. But what if falling in love with that someone was not right? When you are married and he has his sacred vows. The plot seems reminiscent of The Thornbirds where a woman fell in love with a priest but no this book is far from it. I read the former in high school and it was more titillating than enlightening. In this book, the woman falling in love with the monk meant something. It led to an awakening. I will talk about that later. 

Below is an excerpt I also liked, a part where the protagonist grappled with her feelings for Brother Thomas, just shows you that strong emotions like love is not easy to deal with because sometimes it creates conflict within you :

“Max, what am I going to do?” I said. “I’m falling in love…..I didn't now how to stop feeling what I felt. To shake the idea that here was a person I was meant to find. It was not just the man who excited me – it was the sky in him, things in him that I did not know, had never tasted, might never taste perhaps. Right then it seemed almost easier to live with the devastation of my marriage than the regret of living my life without ever knowing him for sure, without flying through a red sky or a blue sea.

And one interesting part in the book is when some of the protagonist’s friends discussed about their experience in falling in love with the most unlikely people, what happened when they acted on it and when they did not.

“First of all, you don’t have sense when you fall in love,” said Kat. “And no one here’s judging you. Not in this house anyway. Lord knows you won’t see me throwing stones. I've been exactly where you are”

“I’m just saying I know what it’s like to love somebody you think you shouldn't be loving,” Kat went on. “There probably isn't a woman alive who doesn't know what that’s like. Half of them fall for their gynecologists and the other half for their priests. You can’t stop your heart from loving, really – it’s like standing out there in the ocean yelling at the waves to stop.

But you’ve got to hear this too,” Kat added. I wish now I hadn't acted on those feelings. There was a lot of hurt caused, Jessie….I’m only saying I know what you’re feeling and that you should think this through.”

“I was already divorced by then and wouldn't have minded remarrying, but he had a wife already. Kat is right, that didn’t stop me from feeling what I was feeling. I decided, though, to love him without…you know, physically loving him, and it was hard, about the hardest thing I ever did, but I lived to be glad about it. The thing is, he got me exploring my roots, and so much came out of that.”

Edward Burne-Jones (1833-1898). The Depths of the Sea

Reading those lines confirmed something that I've learned now that I’m older. You can fall in love a couple of times in your lifetime. Of course, there are those who claim that they only fell in love only once in their life but I guess there are some people like me who may have a different experience. I believe that each time you fall in love, it’s different because you're a different person each time, the first time maybe you were young and na├»ve then the next time a little older and hopefully more wiser. But the irony sometimes is while you already know the highs and the hardships of falling in love and have realized that the initial blush of love can fade off after a few months or years yet you can still fall in love like it’s the first time and get this rush of emotions.

In the book I also liked that the thoughts of the other characters were also made known to the reader. In this excerpt, we have the thoughts of the monk, Brother Thomas.

It had set off a longing in him that had not diminished as he’d hoped but had grown so acute he couldn't sleep some nights thinking about her. He would get up then and read the poem by Yeats about going out to the hazel wood with a fire in one’s head. Yeats had written it after he’d met Maude Gonne, a woman he’d glimpsed one clear day standing by a window and fallen hopelessly in love with.

Thomas had felt increasingly foolish about it, at how enmeshed he was in wanting her. As if he’d been snared in one of the monastery’s own cast nets.

And then that one innocuous moment: this woman getting to her feet in a garden without flowers, her face dark and beautiful, and turning to him with light daubed around her head. It had shattered his deep contentment, the whole perfect order.

He felt her even now like something returning, flooding around him like the hidden waters where he swam.

Then we can also hear the thoughts of Hugh, Jessie’s husband, a psychologist as he rationalizes the affair.

Over and over he’d come across the same idea – not the least bit unfamiliar to him – that when a person was in need of cataclysmic change, of a whole new center in the personality, for instance, his or her psyche would induce an infatuation, an erotic attachment, an intense falling-in-love.

He knew this. Every analyst knew it. Falling in love was the oldest, most ruthless catalyst on earth.

But typically you fell in love with something in yourself that you recognized in the other person, yet couldn't grasp what Jessie had seen in this supposedly spiritual man that could capture her so profoundly.

And just as you thought that the lead character, Jessie would end up with the monk and live happily ever after, a sudden change of heart happens. She realizes why she fell in love with Brother Thomas and what attracted him to her and that she misses her husband.

I think beginnings must have their own endings hidden inside them. Gazing at Whit, I knew that the end had been there the first night we met, back when he stood on one side of the monastery wall and I on the other. The sturdy bricks.

We stood there staring at each other. I wondered if I would’ve fallen in love with him if he’d been a shoe salesman in Atlanta. It was a bizarre thought, but it seemed somehow the most sensible thought of my life. I doubted I would have, and it was disillusioning to me in the sense of stripping away the last remaining illusions. My falling in love with him had had everything to do with his monkness, his loyalty to what lay deep within him, the self-containment of his solitude, that desire to be transformed. What I’d loved in him most was my own aliveness, his ability to give me back to myself.

It felt cruel and astonishing to realize that our relationship had never belonged out there in the world, in a real home where you wash socks and slice onions. It belonged in the shadowed linings of the soul.

I had come to the irreducible thing, just as I had with my father, and there was nothing to do but accept, to learn to accept, to lie down every night and accept
I closed my eyes, and it was Hugh I saw. His hands, the hair on his fingers, the Band-Aids on his thumbs. How real all that was. How ordinary. How achingly beautiful. I wanted him back. Not like before but new, all new. I wanted what came after the passion had blown through: flawed, married love.

Howard Pyle (1853-1911). The Mermaid

I guess it’s easy to cast stone over this story, to think of it as one of the usual mid-life crisis story. But it’s not. The falling in love of Jessie and Brother Thomas meant something, it became a spark to re-awaken themselves from their own internal slumber. For Jessie, it was to re-awaken her repressed passion about her art and for Brother Thomas, it was about facing life again instead of hiding in the monastery after his wife and child was killed in an accident. Their meeting and falling in love gave them courage to face what they were running from or repressing in their lives.

However, just like any infatuation, however great it may be, it had to end. Jessie realized that what she had with his husband was more enduring because it survived the fading of the heady excitement of the first months or years of love. It had already reached a more mature level, one that blended well into a stable domestic life. And I think that is what a great love is, the everyday commitment of just being there for each other, of having each other’s back through the years and creating memories and unique traditions for the family.

And aside from this realization, what I really liked about this book was Jessie's moment of self-discovery, her realization that she only belonged to herself not an extension of any man. Because sometimes, a woman becomes too identified to a man, her father, her husband, her lover that she loses her own identity, her own sense of self. Though, her affair had been devastating to people around her and is never justified, it unearthed a part of herself that she lost along the way. I liked that part.

All my life, in nameless, indeterminate ways, I’d tried to complete myself with someone else – first my father, then Hugh, even Whit, and I didn't want that anymore. I wanted to belong to myself.

I sorted through the cotton strands, wondering if something in me had known what must be done even as I’d collected them.

I stood still with the waves cascading against my thighs, elongating as they flowed beyond me toward the shore.

Jessie, I take you, Jessie…

The wind moved sideways past my ears, and I could smell the aloneness in it.

For better or for worse.

The words rose from my chest and recited themselves in my mind.

To love and to cherish.

I took the longest string and tied a knot in the center of it. I gazed at it for a minute, then flung it into the ocean at roughly one o’clock in the afternoon, May 17, 1988 and every day of my life since, I return to that insoluble moment with veneration and homage, as if it possesses the weight and ceremony of marriage.

I’m glad to have read another work of fiction that made me sit through it and finish it again because I have a lot of half-read nonfiction and fiction books littered on my table, my cabinet, my bag. I'm happy to have read this before embarking on the next part of my journey in life. Maybe turning forty does make you more reflective J

Honestly, I haven’t read Sue Monk Kidd’s more popular The Secret Life of Bees but reading Mermaid Chair makes me want to one of these days. I found her on Twitter and I think she lives by the sea in Florida. She often posts pictures of the sunset setting in the ocean and I tell myself wow, what a great way to live, writing near the ocean. I hope I can also do that someday.

Anyway, this post has been a long time coming. There have been a lot of emotional upheavals within me lately and I’m slowly recovering from it and this book has helped me somehow J

Huwebes, Nobyembre 7, 2013

This Burns my Heart by Samuel Park: Compelling & Memorable

It's been a long time since I’m able to read a novel again, one that I can’t put down. I got this book in a secondhand bookstore, found the story fascinating and brought it home. Unfortunately, it was lodged on my bookshelf for a couple of months now, lumped  together with my other books of nonfiction, waiting to be read.

But one morning when I was scanning my bookshelf for unread pieces, I absentmindedly took it out and began to read the first paragraphs again and became absorbed with the story.

This book by Samuel Park was set in the 1960s and revolved around the heroine Soo-Ja Choi who made a mistake of marrying a man she wasn't truly in love with so she can fulfill her dreams of being a diplomat. Her father wouldn't approve of her going alone to Seoul to study for it so she opted to marrying Min who she thought could help her achieve her dreams. But she got trapped in a stifling, very traditional marriage where her in-laws were in charge but she still stayed because she didn't want her daughter to be taken away from her. 

Then her paths crossed with the man she turned away before, Yul, the one she didn't choose but loved. Meeting him again made her realize the gravity of her mistake, the life she walked away from when she didn't choose him. Overall, it is a book about a woman’s journey as she tries to survive the consequences of her choices.

I found this book compelling because you can't help but develop this sense of urgency to find out how Soo Jai would be able to overcome every obstacle, every problem thrown her way. You can't help but share her joys, her pains and her fears. You become invested with the character and are able to go join her on her journey. You want her to succeed.

This book doesn't fall short on the emotions and I like that. I like drama, I like tension, I like dripping expression of emotions, not holding back what the character really feels. I don't like to infer, to guess, I want to feel how the characters are feeling. Maybe that's why I read more nonfiction. However, this book is not filled by pure histrionics but a good and masterful combination of highly charged scenes and beautifully nuanced ones which makes it more dramatic.

A man penned this book and I admire and how he was able to capture a woman’s emotions to its core. How he was able to immerse himself in his character’s plight  and be quite believable. I also liked the way his characters delivered their dialogue, it was so natural that it was like watching a scene from a movie, some scenes were so heartfelt, it tugs at you. 

For a man to write and describe authentically what a desperate mother felt like while looking for her daughter or the agonizing dilemma of a married woman while her lost love was in front of her was a feat. It was like a woman wrote it. So kudos to Mr. Park :)

This book may not be as popular as the other books I've read but it is one of the most memorable fiction I have read in a while. I just hated that Soo Jai's looks here was almost drop dead gorgeous with most men falling at her feet.. I mean really? :) But I read that this book was partly inspired by his mother so I take it back. Soo Jai is indeed that beautiful, inside and out :) 

Here are some excerpts from the book:

“Now, more than ever, I long for my life to have more heft.” Wrote Soo Ja to Min. It was the first letter she’d ever sent him. “ And yes, that the word I mean heft. I have tasted what it means to have days with urgency and meaning, and I cannot go back to living an unimportant life…I can see what will happen if I stay in Daegu. I’ll never have to answer the call of my own highest potential. I must become a diplomat”

“ Her father nodded, smiling. “ I hate that you have to live with them”. So he knew that too. Soo-Ja wondered if all of her efforts to look happy were in vain, and people acted as if they believed her just to be polite, when deep down they could clearly hear her heart breaking.

“If I had let you go to Seoul to study diplomacy: you would never have married him,” said Soo Ja’s father.

“You can’t blame yourself for my mistakes” said Soo Ja

“But isn't it true? Would you have married him if I had let you go to Seoul?” he asked. Soo Ja did not reply, and her father began to nod, taking her silence for an answer…"

“It is the worst feeling in the world, to know that your child is unhappy.”…

“You should have called for me!” he cried out. “I would have taken the first train to Pusan. To think of what you went through!”

“I didn’t want to worry you”

“Worrying is what a father does. Take that away from him and he has nothing to live for. How can I trust you, if you don’t reach out for me in a moment of need?”

Soo Ja felt as if the way to find her daughter was to provide the right answer to a riddle. I know you are here somewhere. You couldn't have gone very far. I can find you. If I look in the right place, I can find you. I will look the way a mother does. I will bring purity to this search.

“I want to go home! I don’t think you’re going to find her!”

Soo-Ja grabbed Na-yeong by the arms again and shook her. “I am going to find Hana. What you just said. I’m going to forget it ever came out of your mouth. Because if I don’t watch myself, I might just kill you with my bare hands.”

…She was like the lowliest of beggars, pleading with no dignity or self-respect, but with tears streaming down her face and questions were not questions but cries. She needed to tell everyone that her daughter was missing: the pain inside her was so big, the only way to bear it was to give a slice of it to every single person in the world.

With Yul gone, Soo Ja began to think of him even more often. She imagined him next to her, offering sad-hopeful smile of his as she did the most mundane of tasks. How is it possible that Yul cannot be mine, when the pain of his absence feels like a cave inside my heart?

Soo Ja could tell no one about her feelings- Yul was a secret, the way any great love was, to some extent, a secret. But when she asked her own self, she heard the words loud and clear: You are not finished with him, and he is not finished with you. Even if you two wanted to, you could not fight this longing.

“..All right, you want me to tell you if I still-love- you? Is that the word you think I’m so afraid of saying? Love? I could do that. I could tell you that. But what does it do? Nothing except make us feel bad. It doesn’t change anything.”

“Is that how you feel?
“I’m a married woman. I’m not free to tell you how I feel.” It was true, but only because she feared that once she started, she would not be able to stop. “Your wife is just across the hall.”

“I know. But I thought I’d forget you with time, and I haven’t. When I was younger, I thought there was only room for one person at a time in your heart. And each time you met someone new, you evicted the one who was there before. But now I realize that there are multiple rooms, and your old love doesn't leave. It sits there, waiting.”