In the four years I’ve lived in Palawan, I realized one major thing about myself: I’m fiercely independent, as my former colleagues used to say about me. I’m also a homebody. A hermit. I prefer being alone on most days and would really rather stay home than be elsewhere. They used to say this a lot about me, but I never quite understood them until Palawan. My former boss used to complain that I was ‘too independent’. That’s saying a lot coming from a self-willed, very independent person like her. I hope I don’t take after her though I see some similarities. And I think I’ve always been like this even during college. I also lived by myself in college when my family was dispersed in different parts of the world. But it was reinforced strongly here in Palawan, for the good or bad. I say that because I think there should be a healthy balance to it. That while you’re a homebody, you do have a healthy social life. And I do. What has changed, I noticed, is my attitude towards independence and living alone. I’m at that point where I prefer not having to socialize at all. I’d rather just be home and if I do go out, I won’t ask a friend to accompany me. If a friend invited me for a movie, I’d go out. Otherwise, I would watch it on my own and not bother anyone. I’m very content cooking for myself, eating by myself, and I’m always holed up at home. My simple joys are traveling (though this, I have to do with a friend), doing grocery, watching my usual TV series online, and being able to exercise alone at home. I don’t seek activities outside like I used to. I just do everything by myself without needing any company. Is that bad?
It isn’t that I think I don’t need people. It’s just that I prefer not to need them too much, that I’m fine on my own. I would of course hang out with close friends, but I don’t necessarily seek them out. I’m very comfortable being on my own now, and I think it has affected even the way I view relationships in general. I used to dread being single while all my friends get married left and right, but suddenly, I’m okay being as I am. I think the word is resigned. It’s how it is, so I just accept that and live as simply as I can.
We have a Dutch friend in Palawan who also lives by himself. He’s in his 60s. I often wonder how he was able to do it –living some 30 plus years on his own without family. He’s lived here in the Philippines even more than my 30 years of existence, and he managed on his own. Was he always happy? Were there times he was lonely, too, like me? I noticed that from time to time, he would invite us and some close friends for merienda or dinner, and he’d be content. That was his simple joy. He doesn’t need to go to fancy places. His joy was cooking for his friends and having them over for conversations. The last get together we had was about three weeks ago. After almost 40 years in Palawan, he’s ready to move on, to literally go where the wind takes him. He didn’t mind where, as long as he was happy. He will be off traveling some distant places and he doesn’t know if he’ll come back or not. He’s already made plans about his house and there was an evident calm with his decision. I asked if he wasn’t happy in Palawan anymore. It wasn’t the case. It was more the feeling that things are not changing in this country, that he wants a new environment, wants to feel alive again and explore what else is out there. He also said something very similar to what I was feeling. “You can’t please everyone. You decide what works for you in the long run. If this person or this relationship is complicated, I move myself away from it. I don’t need too many people in my life.” In some scary degree, I’m like that. It scares me because you feel a sense of self-sufficiency and in my heart, I know we’re not made to be that way. We’re made firstly to be dependent on God, and second, to be with people, to be with a community. Why is it that I tend to gravitate towards independence, then?
Speaking of cooking for friends and having them come over like I used to, I haven’t been able to do much of that in the 5 months Jem has been here living with me. I was telling Pastor Cesar just the other day that I do feel like my ‘way of life’ has been encroached, my privacy taken away from me. Where I used to have freedom to go where I want, to work in my own pace, to wake up or sleep at a time convenient for me, because of Jem’s presence, I’m somehow unable to do these things. It isn’t so much restriction. It’s that I had to readjust to having to live with someone again. I can’t do quiet time in my room, I can’t exercise, I can’t invite friends over like I used to. The little things get to me. Her constant asking where we would eat for lunch or dinner forces me to go out when I just prefer to cook at home. But she’s also very independent, so she makes it work. She’ll eat out, then just take away food for me. That set up works because I don’t like to go out.
Kuya Josh made a funny comment when I shared this with them. “You do realize that husbands and wives sleep in one room, right?” I get where he was coming from and I think he nailed it. The issue was intimacy, the idea of disclosing yourself, your life, your soul to people. Have I become afraid of being too intimate with people, with friends? Do I gravitate towards being alone because it requires less sharing of my life with people? Has my independence made me less intimate with my relationships? The bigger question is, since I prefer being alone so much, how has it helped me in my relationship with Christ? Have I also lost intimacy with Him? Am I too self-sufficient? Or are there underlying issues to all of these?
Self-sufficiency is the enemy of salvation. If you are self-sufficient, you have no need of God. If you have no need of God, you do not seek Him. If you do not seek Him, you will not find Him. – William Nicholson, Shadowlands