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Some thoughts on the ‘R’ word |

Modern Living

Some thoughts on the ‘R’ word

- Paulynn Sicam - The Philippine Star

Has it ever happened to you that you are so mentally exhausted that you can’t think or read or sleep? You’ve been absorbing so much new and unfamiliar material in so short a time that your brain is overloaded and can no longer function. You try to understand what you’ve been reading but the details just don’t connect. Your mind is crowded with so much data that your brain just refuses to process.

It happens to computers — when the memory is full, it will simply refuse to accept any more  files. It happened to me recently when trying to digest new voluminous material that I had to synthesize under a tight deadline rendered me catatonic.  At the end of the day, I just lay on my bed unable to think, read, write, or sleep.

I used to work better than this. As a journalist who lived with immovable daily deadlines, I could wing my way through difficult material and submit a coherent story at the end of a coverage day.  To channel Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, I ate deadlines for breakfast. But I can’t seem to do that anymore.

This got me thinking that maybe I’ve been working too hard, that it might be time to lay down my burdens and become a woman of leisure like most of my contemporaries. Way after my classmates have retired and now spend their days as ladies who lunch, who take cruises and zumba lessons, frequent bazaars or do charity work, I am still laboring in the salt mines.

But my work is important and I love it. Peace work is exciting. Like a roller coaster ride, it is thrilling and confusing, exhilarating and exhausting. Its ups and downs can leave me spent, dispirited. But any flicker of the possibility of achieving peace gets hopes soaring and my adrenalin pumping again. Peace work is not a sprint but a marathon that requires commitment to a seemingly endless, sometimes pointless race that could lead to somewhere or nowhere. It can be frustrating, but somebody has to do it. 

It has made me wonder if this kind of work should really be done by younger people who have more drive and energy, and perhaps newer ways of seeing and doing things. Maybe the pursuit of peace would be better served by the impetuousness of youth rather than the caution, patience and deliberateness of tired old veterans of this two-decade-old process.

Maybe.  All I can say is, no matter who does it, I hope to see the light at the end of the tunnel in my lifetime.

Speaking of lifetime, I have already lived 70 percent or more of my expected lifespan.  It has been a relatively productive life (except perhaps for the peace agreement with the left that remains elusive), and I have much to be thankful for. I have been asking myself more frequently these days, isn’t it time to consider the “R” word and enjoy the fruits of my labor? 

Actually, no one is stopping me from retiring, except myself.  My daughter in Sydney is just waiting for me to make up my mind to move there where I can be close by and see my grandchildren grow up. If I quit my job, the work will be picked up by someone else. I am certainly not indispensable.  I could just literally drop everything and fade into the sunset, if I please.

But after a splendid one-month vacation in Sydney where I slept well and woke up every morning looking forward to a lazy day marked by the pleasure of smelling fragrant sun-dried laundry and trying out recipes for dinner with the family, I realized that domesticity is fine for a month, or even two. But longer than that, I get restless and start longing for the challenge of the political analysis, problem-solving, planning, strategizing, and mind games that make my peace work exciting and fulfilling.

All I need is a holiday to recharge my batteries to get this trusty engine revved up and purring. My disastrous attempt to produce a major report about an unfamiliar topic on a short deadline, has taught me that since I am no longer as young and flexible as I used to be, I’d be better off sticking to matters within my comfort zone.

I have decided that I should only retire when I have to – when my work stops being a growth experience, when I can no longer manage the steps up and down from my room on the fourth floor of my walk-up, whichever comes first.

About enjoying the fruits of my labor, the harvest of goodwill is abundant, but one can’t live on a virtual pension derived from psychic income.  When I leave this world, as we all will, I will go with my boots on, and nothing more than what I hope will be regarded as a good name.

Meanwhile, I have work to do.


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