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abel d soto

"In the end, only three things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of the things not meant for you." – Anonymous

When we speak of possessing, we speak as if the objects we keep are meant to be ours; as if in our possessions, they achieve immortality or permanence. That's why we have heirlooms and keepsakes dusting in time and stashed in attics, waiting to be set again in the eyes of everyday life, waiting, however remotely, to be used again. That's why we have journals to keep records of daily events in our lives, both petty and poignant. That's why we have museums and libraries to house the immense collection of proofs of our development from a tool wielding-ape to a quasi-god trying to grasp the fundamental laws of the universe. A sociologist commented that we are a curious species, who like to keep things only for the memories they stand for.

This nagging need or want to keep the past puts us as slaves to the hurt of loss. I've lost so many things, and I've time more to lose. There are poetry books that I lost, like Ricardo de Ungria's Decimal Places which a friend bought for me. When I lost it, I thought I lost the five or six years looking for it. I thought I lost a treasure. I thought I lost a part of my friend who gave me the book. Pens, Pilot blue ball pens, how many have I lost since I took to the allure of the swirling blue lines that I weave on paper? I'm also notorious for losing handkerchiefs and face towels. Sweating profusely, as always, under the sultry sun, I would reach deep into my pockets, only to find out that I had nothing to wipe the sweat beading on my nape and neck. Keys? Well, I have little to lock away so I don't have keys to lose. Oh yes, my ID—from the first in school up to my last employment—my morning would not be complete until I've turned the house upside down looking for it. Lately I'd find it inserted in between the pages of one of my books or of my organizer that I used the night I had to study for the next lessons I have to teach the next day.

But I don't only lose things. I've lost friends before. Some of whom, I now admit with a tinge of humility, had decided to lose me.

When we lose things, we go back to where we thought we lost them. Sometimes, going down on all fours, we would sweep the ground for even a semblance of those lost things. Then we'd stand, blood still pounding at the sides of our head. We could only sigh and say, "I've lost it!" Or we'd make pilgrimages to every lost-and-found cathedral around the vicinity in the hope of finding them again. If only we could go to a Vatican of things lost and found, where they would inevitably show up, and then we might yet find them. But alas, not all lost things want to be found.

It would be nice if we could find again our wayward beloveds where we lost them. Going back to the places where we wove our dreams and memories, we half-hope and half-expect to find them there. Their loss hurt us so much that we weep nights to sleep. Upon waking up, eyes baggy and bloodshot, we would gaze at the white space yawning beyond the window, and still weep. I, and I guess most of us, feel that losing the object of one's love is the most profound pain. Which leads me to M.C.Y., a good friend, who asked me once if it's possible to love without the pain. His eyes were wet with sorrow as he let his questions pass between his lips.

Here was my answer:

A friend bought me a rosebud, one star-filled and promising night. The petals were soft, red tongues of love's fire that licked my heart. I felt a small ball of warmth grow inside me. I placed the rosebud on the kitchen table, and prodded her to "un-bud" her love within me.

Morning came and brushed its wings on my face, and love had fully bloomed between me and my friend. I returned to the kitchen table to put the rosebud in water. It was gone. I looked for it under the table. I looked for it in every nook of the kitchen, in the drawers, in the cupboards, in the trash can. I looked for it, only to find loss.

Every time I sensed the loss of the rosebud, I would be torn by hurt. And I couldn't do anything except to think of what a beautiful vision the rosebud would be in a long and slender glass vase on the window sill against the morning light could have been. It possessed me that I felt, as with a flower, what the wilting of petals, one by one, was like.

My friend, E.R., tired of hearing me complain about the loss of my rosebud, played a song by Joni Mitchell. He sang, "Don't lose yourself away..." Don't lose yourself in the passing away of your loved ones. Death is irreversible, not even love can bring them back.

Days after, I couldn't stop thinking about my lost rosebud. It was haunting. It was painful. But then I realized that the rosebud wasn't entirely lost. It is within me, in my memory, in my heart. In time, the rosebud in me became a rosebush. The heads of the roses blossomed and filled the hollows and spaces of my soul.


"Solitude is not the same as loneliness. Solitude is a solitary boat floating in a sea of possible companions. Respect for mutual solitude is a requirement of society. We need to transcend solitude—to be alone but not lonely." – Robert Fulghum

In love, yes, we always lose ourselves. We lose ourselves because we blindly abandon to the promise of being united to our other halves. We like to hold them within our arms. We tighten our embrace in the hope that our bodies will meld... that we will be one with them.

However, oneness, or unity, is infinite. So long as we delude ourselves with the union with our loved ones, we will experience pain. True union occurs only between souls; while death is the true unifier. Coming closer together will only halve the distance between you and me, but we can never be truly one. We are earth-bound, unable to ascend to heaven in this reality. Only heaven is infinite, where happiness, serenity, and unity exist—sadly, heaven is beyond our reach for now.

Love is the space between the firmament of infinite unity and the terrain of painful separation. Though we cannot, in the here and now, attain heaven, we can aspire to it, which is why we seek out others, who may help us achieve such an ethereal state. As Ma. Leovina Nicolas said in Damyata, "All forms of human connection are transient–if not illusory." So we must realize that we can never find finality in any loving relationship. Sooner or later, things must end. And once again we are alone. "And if we do not know how to love one another, it is because we do not know how to be alone," Miguel de Unamuno wrote in his Solitude. "Someone who cannot tolerate aloneness is someone who doesn't know s/he's grown up," wrote Paulo Coelho. Into ourselves, we retreat to gain the knowledge of who we really are. And that knowledge is what we can share—for love is sharing oneself.

"Much of our pain is self-chosen," said Kahlil Gibran in The Prophet. I guess what most people find objectionable and wholly repulsive with pain is what happens next. What do we do with the pain of loss, with the pain of being lifted off the back of love? When after flying with our borrowed wings that melt away, like the wings of Icarus, and we find ourselves hurtling down to the sea—what do we do?

In Sonia, Francisco B. Icasiano wrote, after the death of his daughter, that "Pain... is beautiful only when one can rise from its depressing power." Michaelangelo's David is a masterpiece of the human body in stone. But the stone from which the sculptor's David was "born" did not become beautiful without the blows of the hammer and chisel. "Although he is called the same person, he is always becoming a new being and undergoing a process of loss and reparation," Plato immortalized in Symposium. Because of the pain that we feel after separating from our beloved, we become new persons. We gain more insights and we become greater lovers because much of what we have is there to be given away. But in the process of loving, we should leave ourselves behind. Love leads us gently to the real us. And yes, George, the greatest love is still the love of oneself.


Pain sustains me in my writing, in my efforts to be a writer. If my heart were to be a separate body from which I draw blood to infuse in my writing, it would be riddled with needle pricks. To taste the juices of a fruit, one must cut through the flesh. And if it could, its screams would rip the air. Similarly charged is the responsibility that goes with writing—I should help others toward growth. Because I care. Because I love.


"In the end, only three things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of the things not meant for you." – Anonymous

But one does not have to feel pain when loving. We should gladly let our loved ones go, when they want to. And we should not feel any less because they were not ours for the keeping, but because they have enriched our humanity. They have helped us to be better persons. So as the poetess, a great mother and teacher of love and loss, Ophelia Alcantara-Dimalanta, versified in "Finder Loser": "I shall go on seeking lost faces and faiths... sadly aware that later... I shall lose them all again." The epiphany that occurs in admitting that we find to lose, frees us.

As a butterfly lands on our palm, let us make it feel our love. And one way to do it is to keep our hands open. Let us not cage it within closed fingers. If we do, we might bring about its death. And then we would have lost completely what it can teach about life. Basking in the golden light of morning, allow it to spread and beat its wings for the last time as it flies away.


"We think much less than what we know, we know much less than what we love, we love much less than what there is, and for this reason we are much less that what we are." – R.D. Laing

In keeping our hands open, we prevent the pain when our loved ones fight to be free. Is the love we shared with them not enough that we need them to be forever with us? That would be selfish and most unloving.

Let us not dwell on the "what-was" for we cannot bring back the past; after all, it brought us to where we are right now. Those that "what-could-be" are nice dreams, but they are not real. This moment, when you are with your beloved, is what counts. So make it count. "If there's anything a lover is," said Leo Buscaglia, "it's a person who realizes that the only reality is 'now'." If we become such lovers, then it's worth dreaming and loving amiably adrift. Today. In the now. Here, that is spelled "nowhere."

Ring cacaluguran e la mu atiu ban dumame quecatamu qñg oras da ring quecatamung queinan, nune ban ilual da quecatamu ing quecatamung sicanan caring oras a quecatamu ia iting cailangan.

[About the author. Abel D. Soto took up his certificatory double major course in Creative Writing and Performing Arts at Centre for Arts Foundation, Inc. in Quezon City. He also finished the Managing the Arts Program at the Asian Institute of Management in Makati City. He is a resident of Bacolor, Pampanga.]

-Posted: 2:49 PM 3/4/10 | More of this author on eK!