The Confessions of Hugotron
I have become somewhat notorious among my students for my habit of “hugot.” Sometimes, during the course of a lesson, I end up spouting random sentences that hint vaguely at a sense of dissatisfaction at my singleness. It has gotten so bad that sometimes even things I say that can be remotely interpreted as romantic come off as hugot instead.
Hugot is a hazily-defined Tagalog slang term that literally means “to extract” or “to yank out.” When applied to this context, it refers specifically to people dredging up past hurts, usually involving romantic relationships (or lack thereof), that we have never really moved on from, in order to gripe about them. It usually is paired with the feeling of being “sawî” or romantically-impaired. Sawî is a general emotional state, while hugot is a specific act.
Now I would consider myself Hugotron, the leader of the Sawî-Ticons, as Megatron is the leader of the Decepticons. For a long time I had been struggling with unrequired love, low self esteem, and heartbreak in what grew into a maelstrom of self-pity and bitterness. I would roll my eyes at overly-expressive couples in public places. I absolutely hated going to weddings. I found them awkward, annoying, and the bouquet and garter toss utterly condescending.
Social pressure did not help. Well-meaning friends and family would ask me why I was still single, or why I wasn’t pursuing this girl or that, or if they could set me up with someone. Perhaps they were not aware that I was struggling with some very deep-rooted issues in my life.
(I cannot really go into detail about these things here. I would love to discuss them in private, but not here. Suffice to day these issues heavily distorted my perception of love, marriage, and relationships and caused a great deal of bitterness.)
Unfortunately, of all possible people to rant to, it was my students. Dear students, if ever I had exposed you to cynicism and bitterness, please do forgive me. I realize that what I have done by doing this may have wounded you or thrown a shade upon some things that I barely understood at the time. Please do forgive me.
But now to the meat of the matter.
I have come to realize that while most people treat hugot with some sardonic humor, in my case it quickly became a guilty pleasure, a self-absorbed attempt at getting people to take pity on me, and ultimately a self-absorbed self-pitying act that really did nothing but torment me more.
It may provide a temporarily release and even get some other people to legitimately feel pity for us, but where does it lead? All it does is focus on the hurt, the emptiness, and the nihilistic outlook that all this hurt means nothing. It fails to give any attention to the Lord who stands with us, in the shadow of whose cross our suffering ends up making the most sense. We forget about the God who knows human suffering. If all we focus on is the hurt, well, it really will hurt.
Before I go on, let me explain how I came to this point. This realization comes at the tail-end of a long, tiring, and somewhat frustrating week. I felt Saturday would not bring any release, because we were required to attend a whole-day parenting conference, AND a friend was getting married. (I have mentioned above that I typically avoid weddings.)
I was not looking forward to it.
I was also struggling with some serious pressure issues about relationships. I could not explain to them why I was single, and any attempt at doing so made me only look more like a bitter kid with serious baggage. The burden and struggle were real, so I asked a friend if I could sit down with him to talk about this issue. He could not meet me until Friday night, which I understood, so I waited.
During the wait, I just felt worse and worse. I was incapable of focus. I could not work. I really felt like just going home, but I knew I had to talk to him. By the time we got to speaking, I suddenly felt much better.
Then came Saturday morning. I had to get up very early, and the conference was to take the whole day. But I went. My morning prayers were scattered. My devotions confused. I could barely think. But I kept moving on. During the conference, I had neuralgia attacks. But I kept focusing. I tried my best to listen. But by the time we got to the afternoon sessions, the neuralgia was gone, and I came to realize one thing:
I really want to be a dad. I really believe God has called me to be one. I really want to get married. I believe God has that as part of His plan for me.
I was a precocious hopeless romantic. From a very young age, I kind of understood the concept of romantic love and actually wanted it very early in my life. Various other influences came in and added some corrupt and malicious angles to it, which caused me to struggle, and the annulment of my parents’ marriage didn’t help. The influence of an exclusive boys’ school culture (not the school itself, but the results of being in one) crumpled my confidence and made me seek romance not as a God-given gift, but as a status symbol to prove that I was better than the rest, that I could get “the girl” who would be the envy of everyone else.
I am thankful the Lord had kept me from getting into those relationships; having them with that distorted outlook would have hurt a lot of people. The dream evolved into a nightmare.
But through this period of waiting for the girl who would become my partner, I believe that God has given me an intense, difficult, but mind-blowing crash course on relationships. The lessons are so rich that each of them deserves its own exposition. But of this episode, a very important realization has come to me, that has set my heart free:
If this dream is from God, He will see it through.
This is something I have known in theory, but my friend told me something he learned himself: if I trust God for my eternal destiny, how dare I not trust Him in something like this—especially if He was the giver of that dream anyway?
Sure, I have to do my part. I learned that from ten-year crush on a friend, who I never really pursued (which would not have been a good idea then, laden with issues as I was).
But sometimes, even if we try with all our might, we fail. In this case, though, I believe that when it is time for me to start, the sovereign Lord, who has been to me a Teacher, a Guide, a Pillar of Cloud and Fire in the wilderness and a Sublime Author, will see me through. He will take responsibility for bringing fruit forth from my efforts.
The White Flag
This new mindset does not immediately solve everything. I am not magically in a relationship. I am not suddenly immune to loneliness. But another lesson I learned from my friend is this: our maturity in the faith is proportionate to our surrender.
Nobody likes this word. Neither do I. I hate it when I give up while running. I hate it when I can’t get work done. I hate conceding in video games or card games. But this is a different kind of surrender.
This is not resignation–not an abdication of responsibility or desire. This is an act of leaving to God the things beyond my control: the time I have to wait, the heart of the girl I like, my friendship with her in he meanwhile, the societal pressure, and the myriad temptations in between.
This is, like pretty much every other learning in the faith, something we have to give up to the Lord. But I cannot express enough the serenity that has broken out in my heart.
After the conference, tired as I was, I drove all the way down south to my friend’s wedding reception (I had missed the ceremony by a couple of hours). But the bitterness, I was surprised to notice, was absent. Completely gone.
I enjoyed every moment of the reception. It was not a rueful and fake lightheartedness that I felt at other weddings that left me in tears on the way home. It was a soft, deep, but thrilling joy—the feeling of sudden relief from pressure that had been lodged deep in my heart for years. Surrender—a hopeful surrender, not a fatalistic, cynical surrender—brings me to this newfound serenity. This was a surrender to the God who is the Author of my life, the One who could write romance better than I could. This was a surrender to the God who loves me.
My friend said something wonderful at the reception. Often people would ask him how does anyone know if she’s “the one” or when to pursue her or when to actually get married. He answered it beautifully: “Sometimes, answers don’t need questions. You just accept what is there, and enjoy them.”
And thus, I kissed hugot goodbye.
“Cease striving, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the Earth.” –Psalm 46:10