Today marks the end of the first month of the New Year and its rather interesting in as much as today happens to be Gina's birthday and it would also have been my wedding anniversary. Had I stayed on the slippery path of marriage, I would be marking my 5th year of having the knot tied around my neck and I'd probably be a bit more insane than I already am, but at least I would be living the "Singapore Ideal."
It's funny how events and relationships play such an important part in shapping who we are. When asked about the people who had the greatest impact on their lives, most would say it was their parents. - "Dad is such a man's man and Mum is such a lovely lady etc etc" are the usual statements that people will make. Sometimes, especially for children of divorced parents, you'll find that they end up loathing one parent and hating the other.
For me and my siblings, we've been spared alot of bitterness that our mother might have felt towards our respective fathers. I for one have never been overtly cuddly with my Dad but that does not mean that I have a loathing for him the way some kids do. I guess, at my great age, I've come to respect the fact that my Dad just ain't the cuddly sort who needs to do things with his kids, but that doesn't mean he's unloving towards us. I'm an educated man and its thanks to him that I have to tools to get along in life. My mother, on the other hand, is more active in the life of her kids and so her presence in our lives has always seemed so much greater. Once again, I think I've come to accept my mother is the person that she is and so, today, my relationship with my parents (stepfathers and stepmother included) is at the stage that its in. Like Tara often says, "I love the patchwork nature of our family, and I wouldn't change it for anything in the world." Say what you like of my parents, but I think they've done a decent enough job with myself, Tara, Max and Christopher.
A relationship with ones parents is important but I think, as my mother always says, the relationship with ones parents is a relationship with ones past. My mother once said that although most good Chinese boys would side with their mother in a conflict between mother and wife (after all you only have one wife) - she said, "I hope you will side with your wife if you're ever in a mother versus wife situation. I'm your past, your wife is the person for your future and I hope you side with your future." It may be an ironic remark comming from my mother (she who needs to be obeyed - she does point out that she's an Iron Ox like Adolf Hitler) but one that I think is very true.
I am probably the man who I am because of the various influences in my life, which I attribute to my parents. However, if I were to look at the relationship that had the biggest affect on my life in the past six years, its my relationship with Gina, who, for all her many negatives, was my constant companion for four of those six years.
When I look back at those four years, its easy to think of the negatives. Gina was my first relationship (I only had months with the rest of them, with her, I had years), I was her first sexual partner, she was the first person to hit and scream abuse at me and I was the first person to take her to court. Like the Iraq War, our relationship was based on a false premise. I enjoyed the attention she lavished on me and the regular sex. She saw me as someone she could domesticate into being a constant companion. We were perhaps so busy playing a game of being something we were not in order to get what we wanted out of each other and when we found the reality, it was a bitter dissapointment.
Marriage for me, was a lonely experience. It was a case of my only friend being my wife. She had very few friends of her own and those that I met, I had very little in common with. She loathed my "Wierd" friends and family - they were either eccentric, belonging to a dissaproved class or race and so on. Female associates were especially dispicable in her eyes. Everyone I know tells me that the years that I was with her were years that were lost. My family believe that she was the reason why I could never hold a steady job (her demands for attention were so overwhelming that they clashed with the attention I could have given to work) - while her family blamed my inability to hold a steady job to her frustrations. My friends and family saw her as being worse than a stumbling block - to quote my mother - "If you have children with her, they'll be more backwards than your grandparents."
But the negatives of the relationship should not obscure the fact that for what it was worth, I did have feelings of affection for Gina. She did blackmail me into the marrige - a case of "I'll abort the baby if you ROM." But I was in actual fact quite willing to walk into the blackmail. At the time, I actually felt - "Well, if it works, it works, if it does not so be it," and I actually felt that there was something worth going for in the relationship - perhaps you could call it confusing love with lust but I was actually frightened of walking out on her and not having her in life. It took two very intensive and very draining years for me to realise that it was no point holding onto something that was going less than nowhere. Perhaps I was never really in-love with Gina the way I was with Carra, but I still have alot of affection for her and as I've said of my current relationship with Han Li, there are things about Gina that I am genuinely attracted to.
I also had genuine affection for my out-laws. My mother-in-law was simple, uneducated but treated me well. When I came to stay, she ensured that I had good food and I was a welcome fixture at family events. My father-in-law, as I've mentioned before, is a man that I grew to have respect for. The man may only have had a Secondary Two education but he managed to put two children through to school by selling a low-margin comodity like eggs. I often try to look back and find out what he did in his egg business that I could apply to my own. As the marriage wore on, I had the secret hope that I could maintain a decent relationship with them even after Gina was no longer a part of my life - I admit I often had this dream that Gina would get so insane that she'd end up in a asylum long and I'd have to raise the kids on my own and bring them over to her folks from time to time (Call this a Wuthering Heights fixation, but I always saw myself as a young widower trying to raise the kids without a mother figure)
The marriage also helped me to look at issues in an interesting light. On a personal front, I appreciate the fact that some have the need for stability. Some have the need for variety. My need for variety and independence and challenge overcomes the need I have for stability. I'm not saying that I don't need stability. Living at home provides me with a stability to do things I could otherwise not do. However, I've come to appreciate that my strengths are best appreciated when I work as a rogue rather than as part of an agency. Somehow, whenever I have become part of an agency, the worst in me comes out.
BANG PR was a good learning experience and steady income was appreciated in 2005. But I could never fit into the corporate culture. I could never understand the need to take on more work than I was assigned to (hell, they were not increasing my money!) And I never appreciated the value of savings and ended up drinking away too many nights at CU (hey, if you run out of money, you just got to wait for the next pay day.) Last year, I cut down on the drinks and made a point of trying to have a cash pile.
I think, thanks to the marriage, I also learnt that the main point in life is not to ask the question of "How did you end up here," but "What are you going to do about it?" I'm still learning to ask myself that question - I still end up in more than my fair share of lousy situations. It took three years for me to stop looking back at how I ended up in my situation to actually doing something about it and moving on with life. The PPO was the first bout of relief that I had in two years. Writing the series of articles in the media on the topic of husband abuse under the name of Terrence Ang was thereputic in as much as it allowed me to get my side of the story out to as many people as I needed to and getting onto the front page of Today made me feel that I had extracted something out of the marriage.
Those were wasted years but its not how I lived them that counts. It's now a case of what do I do from here that counts. The last year has been good, this year could be better and on this day, Insh Allah, I shall be able to build something for myself on the foundation that was badly damaged.