Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Worth the waste

"Out of sight, out of mind." This phrase came up in conversation recently with a friend based abroad, and the same concept was mentioned again in a YM exchange with my homegirl Ria last night. I find it all too true that when someone is not around, it is easy to forget to care. Presence is such an important factor in a relationship, which is partly why I don't believe in long-distance ones. It is also why one of the truths I hold most dear and try to live by is that immortal line from The Little Prince: "It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.... You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed." Over the years I've learned that cultivating relationships calls for investing time and effort-- time and effort "wasted" on showing up to a barkada dinner or family gathering, sending and replying to emails and text messages, organizing a high school reunion or a friend's despedida... they serve to strengthen and enrich the bonds among friends and loved ones. And I consider that time and effort well wasted.

A former student remarked that I seem to be "glowing" in my Christmas and New Year photos, and while her presumption was the usual "Are you dating someone?", I attribute it to the flush of joy that comes with the holidays, when one is surrounded by family and friends. Last December was particularly joyful because I met up with so many people I haven't seen in ages, and some whom I never get tired of seeing: Bev came home to Manila for the first time in 6 years; I sat in Sir Tirol's HI166 class; Mini-me and I had coffee during the short time she was in town from Lah-lah Land; AP-Annex, the TRAK stars and Rated R got together; I had lunch with my fellow former Philam MAs on the day before Mark left for the US; Chef actually showed up to our LM post-Christmas dinner with balikbayans Pia and Inigo; the Lim clan got together for Sa-pe's birthday lunch; I attended Gerry's wedding; and Auntie Nene spent New Year's with us in Baguio. So much time and energy wasted on so many roses. Who wouldn't be glowing?

But as Ria pointed out to me, it needn't always be physical presence. It's enough to get a sense of being there for each other in spite of distance. The other night I got to speak on the phone with my dear "twin" and former co-teacher Tangsoc, who gave birth to a bouncing baby boy last December 30 in New Jersey. Hearing Tangsoc's signature raspy voice brought back a flood of warm memories of our shared days in ICA, and it was wonderful to be reminded that we've managed to remain friends while living in two polar time zones. So I guess "out of sight" doesn't apply all the time, as long as there's the motivation to reach out and reconnect through any way available.

A week into 2009 and I'm just starting to recover from the endless parade of parties and get-togethers that filled my holidays with cheer and gave me that nice "glow". But the physical fatigue's a small price I was more than glad to pay. I've always valued my friendships, but it's only been the past few years when I've made the conscious effort to work at being a better friend. It's tiring, at times frustrating, and often consuming (time- and self-), but in the end, it's always worth it.


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