The Nothing Days
This post is dedicated to Yasmin, the most beautiful woman in the world. Happy Birthday sweetie. I love you very much.
There were no more romantic lights, no more marches or strings, no more suits and dresses. Just Yasmin and I very close together on a small mattress in a small almost empty room, with piles of my books on one side and her clothes on the other. It had been a little over a week since our wedding, and we were back from a mini-vacation with Yasmin’s family while they were in the Philippines. Our place was both empty and a mess at the same time. It’s possible for a place to have nothing yet still feel disaster. We had not yet furnished our place because I was pretty-tapped out from paying for a wedding. We had also not fixed-up our combined stuff. We’re still fixing until now. I don’t think we’ll ever finish. But I remember the feeling of her warmth, the smell of her hair, and brushing her smooth long arms, and I remember feeling complete contentedness. In that moment it was truly enough to have nothing more. Yasmin likes to sleep-in and I like waking-up early. This gives me the benefit of being able to watch my own private sleeping beauty every morning, with her long brown hair resting on her pillows, and her soft breathing causing her chest to rise and fall slowly. I love tracing the outlines of her face, her neck, and her breasts, and follow them to wherever they may lead. Someday, I’ll need much more powerful glasses to do my tracing. But to even get to that point will be wonderful in itself. I think we’ll realize then what we should already know by now but don’t, that we have everything already, despite the Nothing Days. Maybe we do know and simply forget a lot.
This morning, Yasmin woke up very early to feed Elijah. She’s been incredibly dutiful with taking care of our son. Despite having to recover from a Cesarean and all the changes of giving birth, she has selflessly put him first. Maybe it’s the motherly instinct. I like to joke, “Hey. You still have a husband, you know?” After feeding, I took Elijah and she went to get some much needed sleep. I changed him, strapped him to my chest, and went for a walk. We have a simple surprise for his mom, so we went out to get it done. I also wanted to get a cup of coffee from The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf nearby. (Shameless plug!) As we walked through the freshly-rained Bonifacio Global City streets, I would look at my sleeping son, to watch him peacefully riding his pouch, content to be bobbing up and down following the rhythm of my steps. Just a month and a day old, not a single accomplishment beyond peeing on his dad’s face, with very meagre possessions of mostly bibs, outgrown clothes, and disposable diapers, and already completely content. It doesn’t take much to be content. It only takes rest. I really need to learn how to rest more, just like the pure sleep my son enjoys now during his Nothing Days.
I got home and walked to our bedroom to lay Elijah on the sleeper we placed on our now much bigger bed, which is no longer just a mattress. Yasmin likes to sleep outstretched, and it’s possible for her to stretch and for us to still not touch. Personally, I preferred the touching. When your wife’s skin smells as good as mine, you’ll prefer the closeness. It’s funny how much better women smell than men. When my wife tells me, “You stink. You need to shower.” I smell myself and think, “Yeah she’s right!”, and go shower. When she says, “I can’t wait to shower. I really stink.”, like after being out all day or coming from the gym, I smell her and think, “That’s stinky?” You smell better than me on my best day!” It’s a good thing Yasmin likes me dirty. Just kidding. Actually, I’m not. She’ll kill for that comment. Or maybe she won’t. Who really knows what a wife will do? I don’t think they know themselves. The discovery is all part of the fun, no matter how frustrating it can be. To discover your wife is to realize you know nothing, only to find you are more and more privy to the infinite layers of love. To know nothing but have everything is an amazing paradox. I can’t say I’ve done it justice trying to describe it. It’s like trying describe chocolate. I highly recommend tasting and seeing true love. I highly recommend getting a small bed.
Now, 7:42am, I’ve already been up nearly four hours, and I feel like I’ve gotten nothing done. I catch myself and realize that’s not true at all. I’ve done a lot. What made me think that I threw away my morning? The number 281 in white font sitting in the middle of a red oval on the right hand corner of my email app. “Have I really fallen that far?” I thought to myself, “where the quality of my mornings are now determined by the amount of messages I’ve dealt with?” I remember as a young man, when the only messages that counted were the ones that came from whoever I liked at the time, and how, just a few years ago, I would block all notifications other than Yasmin’s texts. In many ways I was much dumber back then, but intuitively I understood that Yasmin’s texts were more important anyway. I think I got that right. Well, she did marry me, so, I did get that right. Or maybe she got it wrong by marrying me. Too late. Haha! I don’t mind getting the better end of the deal. Why she married an obsessive, grouchy, workaholic, tactless, dense me, whose current favorite line is, “that’s not in our budget”, I will never understand. But I’m glad she did anyway. I have complete confidence in the fulfilment of our grand dreams, but I also know that there is a journey to great heights. Part of it is to build the character of the travellers, but another reason, I’ve realized, is to reveal who really loves. To be loved when you have nothing, are nothing, is a wonderful feeling. This is why I do not rehire anyone who has left our companies for “cooler” places or recommend reconsidering someone you’ve already broken up with. If someone won’t journey with you during the difficulties, then they are not fellow travellers but passers by. I think many couples have forgotten the beauty of the nothing days, when the journey was simply about love. Young spouses should not miss this temporary window of planting the profound message of “I love our Nothing Days because I love you.” because someday you won’t have nothing. You’ll have greater responsibilities, greater expectations, kids, bills, challenges, fights, offences, baggage, relatives, opinions, blog posts, tweets, and more, and life will feel like a never ending cycle of trying to catch-up, of trying to meet another’s needs and expectations. But to be able to have journeyed together through the nothing days, is a powerful memory to return to. Yasmin and I like to remember our times on the mattress, many of which I can’t share with you (not that you would want the details anyway). Young spouses, young parents, young professionals, do not be in a rush to leave the nothing days. Don’t be in a rush to have everything figured out, to have a respectable title, to get credit, or be seen as successful. These are vain pursuits. Focus on loving your fellow travellers, make their lives more beautiful, and you will find you’ve enriched yours in the process, and even more, you’ll know who really loves you.
This is why I know God really loves me. As a child I knew it intellectually, because I was told it was so. Now, after journeying with Him through the Nothing Days, I simply know it is so. I felt the peace beyond understanding when I had no understanding. I felt His forgiveness despite my moral trench. I felt His faithfulness when I had no faith. I experienced His provision when I was poorer than poor and in great debt. I felt His love in my shame. He was with me during my Nothing Days, and I gratefully recall them now, as I remind myself to be still. The Bible reminds us that “It is good for a man to bear the yoke while he is young” and to “not despite the day of humble beginnings”. The older I get, the more I realize how elegant the insights of the Bible are. The Nothing Days are the humble days, the times when we have very little, or even, nothing, or even more, like me, have had less than nothing, and in debt. The Bible says very simply, “Do not despite it”, don’t resent it, don’t be in a rush to escape it. It reminds me of this book on fatherhood I’m reading written by a Navy Seal where he says something about how the successful Navy Seals are not simply the ones who can endure suffering of training but can actually turn suffering off and even enjoy what should have been suffering, not because they’re masochists, but because they are able to focus their minds on the greater purpose of their suffering. This is what the Bible was saying. It was telling us what the Navy Seals would centuries later validate: the Nothing Days are good for you. It’s good for you to experience it while you’re young.
After this post, I will open the Excel sheet where I track my expenses and personal cash flow. I find that Excel is simply the best tool for this, and I’ve tried a bunch of apps. Contrary to what some may think, I’m not “rich”, at least not financially, and at least compared to my goals. While I may have more assets than the average person, that doesn’t say much given that the average person doesn’t even save. It’s like a 6’7” NBA player feeling really tall in the Philippines, because the average height is probably 6’2”, only to go back to the NBA where the average is now 6’7”. There he’s no longer really tall. He’s average. So while in terms of assets I may have a bit more, and not much more, from a cash-flow perspective, I would say I’m pretty average. Given that cash is king because liquidity, even personal liquidity is very important, I would even say I’m barely average given all my obligations. There’s really not a lot of margin at the moment and not much room for luxury. I share this say that just like most people, I did not have family money to start with or a trust fund to inherit. I cannot say my days are worry-free. They are worry-full actually. Haha! But they are not ugly bad days. And they are never wasted days. I don’t believe in wasting a moment. I have learned to embrace the Nothing Days and to enjoy the pain or difficulty it comes with, knowing full well that it’s not merely suffering to be endured but character building to be enjoyed. And it is a temporary window I don’t want to miss, because someday we won’t have nothing. Like I said I am completely convinced in the fruition of our grandness dreams, and the chance to experience nothing will be difficult, if not impossible. But more than the lessons, and there are many, I want to know that special kind of love that only comes to those who have found that they can love and are loved even during the Nothing Days. #db