There are no words, because over the last nine days, I have continually sat here and struggled with how to relay everything I had seen and felt in the two weeks I spent in Cyprus. There are no words, because how does one put into words the intoxicating feeling of peace that comes from being in a completely new place, among total strangers, yet having that strange sensation of being truly at home? How does one describe the sudden, yet inevitable and overwhelming, flash of clarity when one realizes exactly what they want, and how much they would give up to get it? How does one admit the terror that this preview — a preview of what life could be like — may only ever remain a preview?
So there are no words now. Only hope, and faith. Hope and faith that after so many months of waiting and thinking and planning, we may still end up lucky enough to live the life we’ve always dreamed of.
I’ve never been much of a risk-taker. When I was a little girl, I learned to sing and dance from watching Old Hollywood musicals, but I was such a coward about doing it in public that my mother forced me to take proper opera singing lessons, join a choir, and go for ballet and gymnastics. When I moved to Buffalo, I was so terrified of failing the Royal Pitches and University Choir auditions that I wasted my first semester hemming and hawing about whether or not I should actually audition.
When I moved back to Malaysia and got a taste of working in public relations, I decided that I hated it enough to want to leave and finally become a writer, but I was afraid that publishers wouldn’t find my writing good enough to want to hire me. So I wasted three years whining about how much I hated my career and lamenting my lot in life. (In retrospect, I can’t complain too much; working in public relations taught me everything I needed to know about how to survive working in a country like this)
Then when it came to relationships, I was adamant that none of them could be a long-distance one, because I knew my own insecurities would never be able to survive a relationship that was defined by an ocean (or three). So few people would be more surprised than I am to discover that I am now in a long-distance relationship.
I, the most insecure and jaded person I know, am in a relationship, if one can call it so, that for the last two months, has been defined by a body of water.
It’s something I never really wanted to think about up until a couple of weeks ago, primarily because it’s something that I never thought would happen again after my last long-distance relationship went up in flames. But now that I’ve had two whole months entirely to myself, I’ve had more than enough time to think, absorb and process everything and put certain things about this into perspective.
People ask me how I survive this, how I go from one day to the next just waiting for a call or a WhatsApp message, or waiting for him to either tell me that he’s coming back, or to finally pack up my life and join him, when they know I’ve never been the most patient in all other aspects of my life. Half the time I have to wonder at it myself, as I never in my wildest dreams — or nightmares — thought I would be the kind of woman who would get into a relationship like this, especially one that involves me putting myself at risk of getting hurt every single day, let alone do it a second time four years after the first go-round crumbled about my ears. But I tell them that the waiting is actually the easiest part by comparison.
Because when you have to learn to set aside your differences in order to have a relationship that isn’t rife with resentment, the waiting is easy. When you have to learn to prioritize and focus on what is most important in keeping a relationship like this alive, the waiting is easy. When you have to decide whether certain things are worth fighting over or better off being left alone, the waiting is easy. When you have to tell yourself every single waking moment of the day that this is the life you signed up for and you don’t get to cry or rage over it because you chose it, the waiting is easy.
I don’t know where all my waiting will take me, and if I must be honest, I have to prepare myself for the possibility that it may not take me anywhere at all. But right now I know that as long as I never forget why I got into this in the first place, how I’m going to survive in it, and what we could stand to gain if everything turns out the way we want, I could wait the rest of my life.
My family has never been a religious one. For as long as I can remember, my family has never celebrated anything religion-oriented, not even Christmas (their annual business-gathering-disguised-as-a-Christmas-party notwithstanding). Maybe that was why, at the age of twelve, I decided to become a Roman Catholic, so that I would have some form of belief system. For the first five years after being Confirmed, I attended Mass every single Sunday, took Communion, went for probably more Confessions than were appropriate for someone my age, and read the Bible in both English and Latin. Then when I was 17, my father opened his first restaurant (perfectly timed, no doubt, to begin right after I was done with high school), and I was enslaved to the business, which marked the end of Mass and my days as a good Catholic.
I’ve never really considered myself a ‘religious’ person, but I’ve always harbored the childish notion that God really is watching and listening to everyone, whether they deserve it or not. It is perhaps this notion that lies behind the meaning of ‘the fear of God’. We may want something, but if we want it for the wrong reasons, God would choose not to give it to us. If we get what we want by the wrong means, God would let us have it for a while, and then take it away from us the same way we took it for ourselves. And if we’re waiting for something, but decide to give up waiting because we think we’ve waited long enough, God might decide that we don’t deserve it because we simply lacked the patience and faith.
What is it that keeps us hanging on and holding out for something? Is it our absolute determination to have it, and our unswerving faith that if we are patient enough, it will come to us? Even when we know it’s a lost cause, do we hold on for dear life in the hope that it will all eventually work out for us? Or are we just afraid that God will observe how we handle ourselves during these hard times, and then make the final decision as to who deserves what?
A decade ago, my very first tattoo artist told me, “I’ve learned in my old age that if something doesn’t happen now, it just means that there’s something greater out there waiting to happen soon.” If that were true, then would we still be hanging around to see if what we’ve been waiting for all these months would ever happen to us, or would we just let it go in pursuit of that ‘something greater’? Wouldn’t God then decide that we are undeserving of either one and in the end leave us with nothing? Do we continue, then, to float along in this limbo that we’ve created for ourselves, too afraid to go back, and yet too uncertain to move forward?