In her book, Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg dedicates an entire chapter to discuss a commonly experienced phenomenon among writers which I think applies to just about anyone. The discipline of writing is immediately painful for the one who has to sit through the “discipline” exercise, the process if you will. Goldberg calls it Fighting Tofu…”Tofu is cheese made out of soybeans that is dense, bland and white. It is fruitless to wrestle with it; you get nowhere.” Indeed, I find myself always reminded about this. Half the time ideas are flowing through my mind and just as I am preparing to write, little demons in my head are convincing me that I am too tired, too stressed, too worked-up or just saying, quite bluntly, I don’t want to write. Maybe later. Of course, the other demon is saying the opposite, write now for so and so reasons, altruistic or not. I have yet to encounter a day when I don’t take a few hits off that tofu, but lately, I’m proud to say that I’ve found reasons to sit and write.
Not all of them are happy though.
1. First, there is obligation. My mother was just recently told to write an essay of sorts on waste management. The last meeting she attended for our subdivision was one in which people could air their concerns about neighborly things. Somewhere between recalling stories from the recent floods that hit the city, she raised her hand and said that there should be an increased awareness for proper waste management. in my mind, I was silently applauding this lady, my mother. But then she told me that instead of finding some sort of way by which the community leaders could integrate this into their agenda, they made her responsible for it instead. Scapegoating a bit I guess but much as that would have really irritated me, I’m just glad they told her to do it. That way it gets done right. Oh, but over dinner, she asked me, rather reluctantly, to write it for her. Again, boon turned bane turned boon again. At least, by virtue of obligation, I’ll be compelled to write. Don’t even think my only obligation here is to my mother. There’s also this whole save the environment cause I have that seems more like it should start from the home. So, from home it will start. (As usual, if you have much needed input, I will be more that happy and very grateful.) And before planting trees, we have to learn to recycle first.
2. Second, there is the inevitable reality that blindsided me and caused obvious strain throughout my day. Yesterday’s news of a mass murder seemed surreal. I knew of mafia-like killings in the country and some mass graves that were discovered by our local human rights chapter of volunteers and experts but nothing could have prepared me for the news that 47 civilians were killed due to election violence. Someone is toying with all our emotions and it’s a bit too much to handle. On the one hand you have the back-to-back recognition of world famous champion boxer, Manny Pacquiao and larger than life dreamer/idealist Efren Penaflorida then all of a sudden, news of a massacre? No, no, this can’t be true. I can’t say it because I know that once I say it, it will really be true. How can we go from great to downright inhumane? Last night, I kept wondering how persons who’ve ever shot another human being dead sleep at night? Don’t they hear the people’s voices echoing all the time?
3. Another reality that bites is the constant reminder that life is short and sometimes unforgiving. Toward the late afternoon, I checked my email and found that one of Alexis Tioseco’s sisters whom I met briefly during his wake had added me on Facebook. I confirmed the request and wento over to her page to leave a message and then after I had done that, I saw all her posts linked to her brother’s killing. I think that’s when it became clearer, yet again, that he and Nika were really gone.
4. I think of articles 2 & 3 together and it hits me just how senseless it is to die over theft. Alexis’ killer and those hit-men from the massacre wanted to steal something…be it papers to file for someone’s candidacy or petty cash and appliances, the thieves took something they can never give back, much less atone for. They stole lives. Real people died yesterday and 47 is only a statistic just as 91 landslides in the Cordilleras during Pepeng’s wrath did not account for all the people whom we lost.
5. To end the year, I was thinking of using all the days of December to write down as many names of the people who died this year. I definitely want to write them down with my own handwriting because, just like speaking, writing also makes things real. My tofu will always be something to wrestle with but none of my demons object to this endeavor. I’ll write them on sheets of colored paper, or maybe just the white ones. Then, maybe we can fold them into cranes? Make paper boats? Kites even? —December, much as it is festive and full of joy, must also be a month of remembering and celebrating the lives of those whom we wish we could share it with, if it weren’t for the fact that they were taken too soon.
6. My only wish is that during the holidays, we might all bring hope in our little way into the lives of others so that everyone who lost someone this year (in death or otherwise) might begin to feel the wounds slowly healing. I really really hope this happens.