Sunday, 14 February 2016

The Beauty of Delayed Gratification

At least every fortnight, I'd be greeted from school with a letter waiting on top of the piano. The handwriting was very familiar. I would wait until after dinner, when already in my pyjamas, I would open the letter, careful not to tear it. 

We didn't have a landline where I used to live back in the early 90s. It was ludicrous, but not an unfamiliar scenario in the Philippines even though our family home in a gated subdivision was just around the corner from Metro Manila.

One of my childhood best friends lived just 45 minutes to an hour away (driving speak before Metro Manila plunged into its current sorry traffic state), but we communicated by snail-mailing each other. It went on even after she moved to California. I looked forward more to her letters because we were now in different parts of the world. I wanted to be Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield (to my UK readers, they're the famous twins from the teenage book series Sweet Valley High) and the rest of the American girls in the novel series Sweet Dreams (published from 1981 to 1996). I was vicariously living the American high school girl's life through my best friend's letters. All I wanted was to get out of my high school uniform, sign up for classes I wanted, meet my date by the locker area, and work in an ice cream parlour after school. I was 13. 

But I digress as usual.

We both kept our letters going back to around 1990. She took all of hers to America; I am yet to collect everything to bring them over to the UK.

The other week she posted on Facebook (where she's very rarely on and I'm slowly distancing myself from) a photo of those letters strewn on the floor, summoning me to resume our stalled letter-writing going back to the 90s. The image brought me back to the times when we still knew how to hold our horses --how to hang on to anticipation for nothing is immediately available at the touch of a button.  Those were the days when I grew up in patience, when 'send' meant popping into the post office rather than pressing the touchscreen. 

Like you, I don't like delays either. But perhaps just like you, I have almost forgotten the feeling of counting days until the big event. Everything is instant. Do you also get the feeling that you seem to have just stowed the Christmas decorations, only to take them out again? I call it a January-December affair.  We've become bereft of chances to soak in our experiences and daily goings-on. 

For Christmas, I received a potted flowering plant. I won't tell you which one it is yet. The label says the ideal time to grow it is around the end of January. But as I have shed at least a layer of patience over the years, I started watering it by the second week of January, around the time of my birthday. I thought it's a special occasion, so I had an excuse not to follow instructions. 

I read that this plant blooms into a spring flower. The prospect of growing my own, watching, and waiting filled me with a sense of wonder. I find myself smiling when I see the bulb has grown overnight and the tip of the stalk is slowly opening up to accommodate the beauty of nature that's raring to come out. 

My kitchen window is to my potted plant as my teenage letters were to the piano top.  It's comforting to know that my girlhood excitement doesn't wear off. The flower blossoming signifies so many other aspects in my life that I'm currently nurturing. It's so trite and such a cliche, but still holds true that patience is a virtue. It takes determination and strength of will to be able to withdraw ourselves from instantaneous pleasures mostly derived from distraction. The pursuit of something worthwhile can be an uncomfortable and rough road that no easier route can match the joy and bliss of achieving. 

Waiting for a letter; a flower almost peeking from the bud; my itinerary to sync with overseas family members' so we can be together even for a few days; the first line for a literary project; a major financial commitment to be given the green light. There are delays of more substantial nature than these, but they all take up the same significant aspect in our life some of us don't have enough of or running out of: Time. 

We all struggle with time suspension and would like to get past it as soon as possible, or in desperation, at the soonest impossible.  But gratification is at its most rewarding when we allow things to run their course. When the colour pops from the bud which is not long now, I may probably hear the swoosh of a letter slipping though the mail box  at the same time, or a ping from my mobile phone inbox. I'll get there. And my heart will be singing when I arrive.


  1. This is a very beautiful post full of delicate are a very sensitive person, dear!

    1. Thank you dan! I didn't think my post could be described as being full of delicate poetry, but thank you. Have a good week :)

  2. Gorgeous post my dear!! I really love letters in the post, the wait for them to arrive is marvellous. We do live in a world where every thing is so instant and it does drive me bonkers sometimes. Some things are so worth waiting for, especially the anticipation of letters in the post :) xx

    1. Thank you Doll! I would love to bring back proper letter-writing in my life. With proper stationery. Did you collect them? I had a stationery collection when I was a little girl. Haha. Now, the only letters I get are utility bills. Hahaha. Hope you're having a good week so far xxx

  3. Such beautiful writing Marj, I found my head tilting to one side as I immersed myself into your words. Goodness me, writing a letter, I cant't remember the last time I've put a pen to paper in that way or alas received one. I think when I was about 11 or 12 I had a pen pal in Barbados and then we just drifted apart - I wonder where she is now, can't even find her on social media but if I did and she was still living across the world I would probably suggest we put pen to paper again because I agree I'd get so excited about receiving it, almost as excited as receiving my payslip at the end of each month!! Hope you are keeping well my lovely xx

    1. I had a pen pal too! I don't even remember her name anymore, but we used to write a lot and she event sent me comic books. Aww, thank you for your comment on what I wrote. I really appreciate it when others appreciate what I share via my writing. I really am resuming my snail mails with my best friend in Cali. Just need to practice longhand. Have a lovely weekend xxx


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