on living alone

drawing - self-portrait,photo reference
Self-portrait, Pencil on paper, May 2010

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DISCLAIMER: vanity post
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I’ve always looked at living alone in Manila as an experiment, a litmus test for a life on my own terms, whether I could stand by what I thought was important, or whether my ideas of “the good life” were just one big white elephant–always perfect in my head but not executable in real life.

This year–2010–has been my big living alone project. The point was to freely explore possibilities that would open up in the process, to have no other agenda but to clear the path. Five months into it, I’ve been asked by at least two good friends for output, an honest concern as to whether I was getting somewhere, or anywhere for that matter. Without second thought, I gave an exuberant YES to their questions, but in complete honesty, I can only claim this– that my life has become lighter, I have lighter everydays, and although it has its gains, it has also come at a cost.

Insights so far:
– On sleep: One consistent “habit” has been sleep–let to wake and sleep on its own, my body claims 8 full hours of sleep everyday, regardless of what time I go to bed. On one hand, I don’t enjoy being grumpy from lacking a full night’s sleep, but on the other hand, I just have to ask whether there is laziness, or indulgence involved. I know the value of sleep–it’s when we converse with the angels!–but when I wake up feeling guilty in the morning (or afternoon, wah!), I know I lingered too long in bed.

– On a sense of time: With no real schedule to follow, I have no need for a clock. I like relying on the sunshine to give me an idea of what time it is. With a well-curtained bedroom though, this plan is a major FAIL. I find using an alarm clock disruptive and very abrasive, but for a body lacking in discipline, I think it’s necessary. Urgency is another issue. I have no deadlines to meet, no ringing phones to answer…which is a gift, really, and what I’ve been wanting for so long. But but but, how much of an output is necessary to justify this flexibility? Is there a need to justify it?

– On cleaning: I used to cherish neatness and wiping my floor with tissue paper just to see that it was squeaky clean. Now I don’t even bother scrubbing the bathroom tiles. What’s happened? I’ve grown into living with no helpers, and household chores have shown their true nature– hardy, time-consuming, and persistent. They just never stop coming. And I’ve relented– I need a better system for these peripherals so I can focus on what matters!

– On cooking: Gone too is the fascination with the kitchen, and with tidying up my eating habits. After experimenting with diets and marketing for one, I’ve concluded that: I can live without a microwave, I don’t like handling meat (it’s oily, smelly, and heavy in the stomach), I can’t have salads everyday, I can eat six bananas a day, I drink LOTS of water, I like fried fresh canton with caramelized onions, I need my chocolate fix, I don’t look for eggs. I need cold beer in the ref.

– On eating out: Not something I look for. I find it sad that the default gathering is dining out or drinking–to have to eat in a restaurant just so I have a place for quality time (one-on-one) with a friend! It’s very limiting, and disabling, but is the state of things, boo. We have no real social spaces that invite soulful but effortless interaction, like parks, open fields, picnic grounds, lakes or forests (asa pa!). If only I could really invite everyone I found interesting into my home, or if only there could be public “homes” out there! As in tambayan, places where conversations–not coffee, food, music, theater or drinks–hold center stage.

– On socials: How much of it is necessary? In principle, I can go on one full week without social contact, but maybe the longest I’ve actually gone without a text, email, phone call or face-to-face conversation with another person is two days… In any case, I realized that I can live without facebook, I only need ten minutes (9 on average) of internet time everyday–the rest is incidental, or pang-aliw. I never liked having a cellphone even before I lived alone, so it’s even more of a relief to be “phoneless” here, where signal is poor!

– On music: I now have at least 20 playlists, the most played of which is “be happy” and “quieting”. I’ve finally sorted through songs I’ve shelved (6 days worth of playing time!), and I like happy music. I’m not a fan of hiphop, classical, jazz, ballads. I don’t like Lani Misalucha, but I acknowledge that she sings well. When I need to think, write, or read, I like the quiet. No music please. Driving is best without music too.

– On writing: I’ve found that I have very little to say really, and that I write to purge thoughts from my mind. Not so much as to assemble or make sense of them on paper, as to leave room for new thoughts to come in, or for persistent ones to remain. And these persistent ones, when distilled, come out to be shared. Necessarily.

– on painting: I like making cards to give away. I still don’t like painting with intent–I haven’t gotten over the habit of seeing “composition” as a killer of spontaneity. I’ve been drawing though, which I like. And which I hope will marry the two–sketching or drafting as a preliminary step for painting. I hope this will help me manage my issue with commissioned works, and with putting a price tag on my works.

– On money: It is not the enemy. Something I still have to really believe in.

So there it is, my SONA as of July 2010. In six months, clarity will have worked its wonders, and then payback time begins.

Cheers to fighting for the everydays that matter 🙂