(This is the continuation of my earlier post, What I Am Learning From Laryngitis.)
Setting boundaries has been my life-long lesson. I’ve had lots of practice and training in setting boundaries while being in intimate, romantic relationships. And I am learning, still. I don’t claim to be an expert and I am work-in-progress, just like the rest of us.
I’m not currently in a relationship of a romantic nature. This time, I am being given the opportunity to practice setting boundaries amongst my fellow countrymen, the Filipinos, a people whose concept of boundary and personal space is so opposite to mine.
I am claustrophobic. I want and need huge space around me. I feel stifled and my energies are restrained when I am in a cramped space.
Crowds. Busy streets and places. Too many activities going on. Very loud music. Shouting and screaming. All these overwhelm me. They’re too stimulating and they’re just too much for me. I want to run away and get inside my cocoon. But much to my dismay, it is the energy and lifestyle in Manila. Yet perhaps to be fair, it is the energy in any highly urbanized, major city.
Add to that the toxicity of the worsening polluted environment, the congestion, the heavy traffic condition, the endless and unnecessary honking of horns, the garbage and littering, prevalent cigarette smoking. And where have all the trees gone? Replaced with condominium buildings and shopping malls being erected left and right, anywhere and everywhere you go.
And this is why residing in a highly urbanized city like Manila doesn’t work very well for me. No. It doesn’t work at all.
Yet I’ve made efforts to make it work for the past two and half years. Yes, two and a half long years. I’ve painstakingly waited to get clarity. And I’ve attempted to find a way on how I could make it work.
Why are you alone?
My own personal space. My private space. My sanctuary.
I need that to keep me sane. To keep me balanced and centered. I cannot be around people all the time. I need to be alone. I need time alone, lots of it.
And I am enjoying my solitude. Tremendously. It’s how I regroup myself. It’s how I recharge and how I’m able to be the light, and live and shine my light.
Compare that with the Filipino culture of being group-oriented. It is a couples society. Doing things and being alone is non-traditional. It is a stand-out in this culture.
When you do errands, go out, dine, travel, etc., and you’re not with “someone special”, you’re expected to be either with a friend or an aide, a nanny. “Wala kang kasama? Bakit mag-isa ka?” (You’re not with someone? Why are you alone?) Like something’s missing, something’s wrong. It’s a question I usually get asked.
But when you’re from another country, it’s a no-brainer. It’s a given. Like you’ve earned the right to be by yourself. It’s a non-issue.
And it’s one of the many things that makes me so different from the people of my country of origin. It’s one of the countless things that I’ve had to learn to re-adjust to when I chose to come back and live here.
It used to bother me quite a bit when I’m asked why I’m alone. They can’t seem to grasp the concept that a Filipina/o is alone and be totally okay with it. Rather than letting me be, their need to satisfy their curiosity comes across to me as an invasion of my privacy. An intrusion into my space.
When I’m having a good day and they’d ask me if I’m alone and why, my response would be, “Mag-isa akong tao, pero marami akong kasamang mga anghel at mga bantay ko.” (I’m by myself as a human being but I’m in the company of lots of angels and spirit guides.) 🙂
And that almost always shifts the energy and lightens us up. It also makes them shut up. Much to my delight. 🙂
To be continued – Part 3: Defining boundaries in the Filipino setting
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