Travels with Myself

A Journal of Discovery and Transition
Doug Jordan, Author

Books by Doug Jordan

4. Skepticism

And on other fronts I am proud to state that I have overcome my skepticism of lulu.com and rejoice at having successfully put up my book, Travels With Myself. (Well, I am still skeptical of lulu’s claims that self-publishing a book is as easy as 1-2-3. It is if you have perfect knowledge of Microsoft Word and how it must be formatted in absolute compliance with the PDF criteria in lulu’s print engine.

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Travels with Myself, Part II

3. Patience

Said to be a virtue (though, curiously, not one of the ‘Great Virtues’ (André Compte-Sponville)), Patience can be learned, or so we are also told, and there is no doubt in my many years, and even more so in the last many months, I have had plenty of opportunities for honing this virtue.

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2. Post Covid Stress Disorder, June 30

I lament my forced separation from Carmen Beauty; I am missing her company and constant companionship and feeling quite lonely. We Skype twice a day, sometimes four times a day, adjusting for the twelve hours difference in our time zones, and keep ‘in touch’ (ha!) that way.

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1. My Story Isn’t Over Yet, June 15

Many of my readers, when they had read the last instalments of my blogs that they were in fact the last, were mildly alarmed at the news: I had said I would convert the two blogs to books: The Pilipiñas Packet ended because I had returned to Canada from Philippines, Travels with Myself ended because my journey from the abyss to recovery had largely been complete. But then my caring readers were relieved when I said I would continue the blog, I still have a life to live and stories yet to tell.

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74. Going Home

I have been trying to live my life differently. I’ve tried to accept the Platonic challenge[1]. I’ve tried to follow Scott Peck’s (and Matthew Kelly) and James Hollis’s guidance to live life vigourously; but I’m aware that I am running out of time and then I remind myself when I get discouraged or bogged down of Dylan Thomas’s anger.
Still, it might be nice to have a home to come home to.

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73. Travels With Myself

I set down in the previous chapters some of the Lessons Learned of the Philippines. But what have I learned about myself? And have I been able to convey some of what I have learned to my readers? Indeed, what hubris for me to think they would want to know what I had learned.

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70. The Author’s Life

One goal is output – not the ambitious thousand words a day, more like five hundred. In any event, a thousand words a day is pointless if it’s mostly crap. I think of Hemingway at his typewriter, tearing pages out of his carriage and filling his wastepaper basket, so much more visceral than modern hard drives. I’ve learned to be content with merely a decent paragraph, and just walk away.

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68. Family

Family is big in the Philippines and it’s not a cliché. Not only are the families big but the value ‘family’ is big. It’s a specific cultural condition widely understood by Filipinos. That doesn’t mean they all get along but they certainly know where everybody lives.

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67. Calamities

A big part of the reality of The Philippines are calamities, of which the Philippines experience a couple every year, and some years those calamities make world head-lines. The Filipinos mostly take these calamities in stride, but even for them, some of these are wrenching.

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66. I Shall Return

Maybe I was living a romantic fantasy of my hero of the Pacific, a vague notion of walking in the footsteps of history. I was returning to Philippines, maybe to find happiness with my own Filipina companion.

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65. The Philippines Sojourn

Travels With Myself has a different purpose than The Tagaytay Tribune;Travels is the account of my journey of self-discovery and transition in the twilight of my life. The journey to The Philippines was as much a vehicle for discovering myself, as it was for having a life experience.

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2. The Author's Journey

64. Amitié, A Novel

My author friends said I would never be able to please all the readers all the time, especially family and closer friends. I needed to put their ego issues aside and consider who my ultimate audience was. But that was still not clear to me. What was the real reason for writing this book?

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62. Suburbia 2

The thing she did comment on though, was how far we had to drive to see these many friends. Living in suburbia, your friends were scattered in their own distant suburbs, or downtown, and this meant much travel. At least the travel on relatively uncongested expressways was not the tremendous thief of time that commuting in The Philippines is. For this we cannot thank city planners for inventing suburbia, only for adequate infrastructure.

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61. Suburbia

when Marlene died and I sold the house I had had enough of suburbia. I imagined myself instead moving to old house, in an historic town, Perth, and savouring life of a different sort, the life of an author, eccentric perhaps, within walking distance of the library and interesting pubs where I could study the various inhabitants of a life so different from suburbia. Or so went the fantasy. Instead I moved to a downsized, though substantial, three-story townhouse, in Kanata. There I languished for a year, confirming once again that a house is not a home.

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60. The Poodles

I was surprised she was fearful of my dogs. Maybe it was the size – standard poodles are twice the size of the semi-feral mutts she was familiar with; maybe their eagerness was a little off-putting to a reluctant visitor – responding with enthusiasm if you gave them any sign at all.

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59. Discovering Canada

I am proud of my country and if Carmen is to know me, she also needs to know where I come from, just as I need to know more about her. And into the bargain, traveling with someone is often a real test of the relationship.

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58. Boxing for Health – Mental, Physical and Emotional

Carmen often would claim to be my new medicine and the reason for me getting off my psycho-pharmaceuticals, and this was almost certainly true, to a degree. But maybe more importantly, her catalyzing me to get back to boxing was even more significant for my improving mental outlook. It suited my Ernest Hemmingway self-image as well.

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57. Relearning the Art of Cohabitation

It wasn’t just the challenge of dealing with the cultural and experiential differences between Carmen and me, nor even the strangeness of getting to know another person. It was the mundane of how to load a fridge.

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56. First Impressions of Canada

We arrived in Pearson and faced Canadian Immigration, but a nod and a smile from the Immigration Officer soon gave us to know we had nothing to dread: ‘Welcome to Canada Ma’am, Welcome home Sir.’

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55. Carmelita Balibalita Espino

And the more I learned, the more confused I became. Could I spend the rest of my days with this woman, so culturally and linguistically, educationally and experientially different from me? Time would tell, but I already suspected there was a lot more to this woman’s story and at the least I should discover it, maybe write the book.

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54. Returning to the Sun

I still have problems to solve and still need to find the courage to solve them. Chief among these are dealing with aging, living a more considered life (James Hollis), practicing virtue and dying (with dignity). Bundled with this is leaving a legacy to my children and grandchildren, memories they can be proud of.

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53. Grief’s Lessons

[two things that have stayed with me] : ‘we never stop grieving, it just gets quieter.’ And, ‘[he] doesn’t believe in closure’. If there’s new information that explain things you didn’t understand before, that helps; but there is no closure. It’s not like closing the lid of a box, or a coffin.

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52. Life’s Harsh Realities

Returning to the sun was not all sunshine and warmth. It seems transitioning is not a sudden turn but a gradual bend in current realities. I may have been regaining my mental health, and feeling energy returning, but many questions remained about what my new reality was.

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50. Visa

But what if Carmen is the answer; if she can get a visa to visit me in Canada, we could still see if things might work out. I didn’t think I had many options, but the mind does wander.

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49. It’ll Never Work Out

After eight days in dreamland it was time for me to return to Canada. I promised Carmen that, like my namesake, I would return. Doubt occupied my mind throughout the Christmas break, but I rebooked tickets for Manila January 15 – 22. I had come to Philippines to discover if she could fill this huge void in my life. It seemed pretty unlikely that she could.

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48. The Writing Bug Returns

As I anticipated my trip to Manila to meet the Filipina Cupid, I fretted about being drawn away from my [renewed interest in writing and completing my ‘novel’]. Such is the mind of the writer when the writing bug is upon him, he doesn’t want to do anything else.

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47. Discovering Manila

I knew I was searching for more than Discovery Suites Hotel. I had come to Philippines to find Carmen, but I also knew this was an adventure with many dimensions.

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46. Discovery 2 – Eight Days in Dreamland

Of course it was surreal. I had never done anything like this in my life, quite, and it seems this was a completely new experience for Carmen too. But it struck me from the beginning, she may have been more certain of her goals than I was.

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44. Stop Talking!, Stop Walking!

I retrieved my bags and worked my way through the exit and surveyed the throngs of greeters on the other side of a barrier, looking for a familiar face in a sea of faces. Hopeless. Carmen and I had talked about our Hollywood moment, locking eyes in the crowd and rushing into each other’s arms, and ‘the kiss’. I lingered at the exit looking for her but it looked as though our Hollywood moment wasn’t going to happen.

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43. Hair on Fire – 2

The progression of a relationship in on-line dating predictably follows the same pattern, it’s only the pace that varies. In my state of mind, the pace I set for myself – or was it set for me by my subconscious mind? – was hectic. Carpe diem, time is of the essence, and running out fast.

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42. Filipinocupid.com

My disenchantment with on-line dating had reached its peak, or should I say depths. After a couple of dozen failed encounters I saw only a long lone jaded journey into increasing cynicism. It was probably not a fair assessment,

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40. Anger And Grief

It may seem odd to think of anger as a sign of returning to mental health, and it wasn’t obvious to me at the time either, but instead of the nihilism of anger that I had been experiencing I was seeing something different. The anger was no longer directed at blaming and revenge, it was more generalized. I’m sure I offended some of my friends during this period, and for that I must apologize. I just hope they can see that this was part of my healing process.

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39. The Blur of Forgetfulness

In the months of my struggling to find a way out of the abyss I have almost no recollection of people and events, women I dated, promises I may have made, people I may have offended. Instead I relived and reworked the memories of Emily, the months of love and loss and might-have-beens. It was obsession of course, those persistent thoughts; I couldn’t just block her out of my mind. Probably I didn’t want to.

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38. Mental Health

My journey through the Fog, and then into the Abyss, gave me much experience with what mental health is. Beyond academic knowing, I now had

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37. Dating 2

I had been dating for about three months and already beginning to feel discouraged. Rather than feel the excitement of the new, I felt only increasing cynicism. I may have been living as if my hair was on fire but my energy was being sapped. But I was compelled to carry on, and match.com kept sending me prospects.

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36. Dating, Oh My

I preferred ‘organic dating’ – going out with people I already knew, if only slightly, or be introduced to somebody – but I knew the name of the game in 2018 was on-line dating. Kinda like a lottery – if I wanted to win a prize I had to buy a ticket – and maybe just as soul-destroying. I took a deep breath and posted my bond and my profile on match.com.

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35. The Question of Suicide

After that dream, and all through that awful summer of Emily yo-yo-ing me I had considered hanging myself more than a few times from various staircases, but now, while visiting Marlene, I thought the branch of the tree reaching over her headstone would do nicely. I wondered where I had put my rope.

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34. WOTS 2

Word on the Street (WOTS) is one of the biggest [outdoor] book fairs in the world, certainly the biggest in Canada. And you’ve got to admit, it’s a clever name, both of them.

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33. WOTS

If I was to be a real author, not a closet pretender, I needed to sell a lot more of my books.
Despite my reservations, and fear, I wanted to get wider exposure. I wanted affirmation. Endless ego needs may have been at the base of all this, but if I wanted exposure, I had to promote my books. As any author, successful and otherwise, will attest, the better mousetrap gets no attention by itself.

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32. Hair on Fire

It may have looked like desperation to others, and maybe it was, but to me it was about regaining my life force, to live with eros, not in a rocking chair.

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31. Lost

My plunge into the abyss lasted four months. Maybe abyss is the wrong metaphor; it didn’t feel like falling into a black hole. It felt more like I was walking underwater, trudging, dragging my feet on a sandy bottom with an undertow holding me under. And maybe this agitated aimlessness lasted longer than four months. It wasn’t as if I suddenly woke up one day and felt well. But from August to December I have only fractured memory of what happened to me. Here’s a list of what I do remember.

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30. Jump with Me

I drove back to Ottawa the next day. She called me at four o’clock. We talked for two hours. The upshot of the whole conversation was simple.
‘I’ll jump with you.’
Okay,’ I said, ‘We’ll jump together.’

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29. Into The Abyss

I knew I was having an emotional episode, even though I had never experienced anything like this before. This is what is commonly called a ‘nervous breakdown’; though professional people don’t use the term anymore, it nevertheless feels apt if you are experiencing one.

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28. Yo-Yo

I wanted her back, but after my anger and petulance, how was that possible now?
Help came from an unexpected quarter: A former neighbour who was also friends with Emily.
‘I’m going to fix this.’ she said.

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27. Writing Mania

One Sunday afternoon of hopeless staring I suddenly saw my story unfolding in my head. I rolled out of bed and sat down at my computer. The words started to flow from my fingers. And in the erratic days and nights of the next three weeks, I wrote. And wrote. And wrote.

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26. The Flute

I drove to the cemetery to consult with Marlene, but she had nothing to say to me. In the fog of my grief I had hoped Emily would be the answer to my next stage of life. Now I felt completely alone. I was a mess, an admixture of anger and anxiety, possessiveness and petulance.

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24. Moving Day

All through that fall and winter I had been gently but steadily moving ahead with the task of downsizing my household. It was a painful but necessary step to me redefining my life following Marlene’s death. I now had too much house, and too much stuff for one man living alone.

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23. Time to Move

I only felt alive when I was with her. But even then, I knew this was more fantasy than real. I knew I had to get my life in order, and my finances in order, and start over. The confusing part was when the fantasy and the reality merged.

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22. Reading, Writing, ‘Rithmetic

Little did I realize I was also tampering yet again with my core identity. We are creatures of habit and we are especially attached to our own territory: house and office are core to our sense of self.

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21. Falling and Flying – 2

As our relationship progressed, I began to ask myself what sort of relationship I really had with Emily. ‘You are too unstable for us to think about this relationship. It has only been a few months and you are grieving hard for Marlene. And so am I. We are not ready for a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship.’ Emily found lots of evidence of my instability. There were many signs:

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20. Falling and Flying

At the Kingston station I noticed a young couple greeting each other with an excited kiss on the platform. I smiled at this public display of affection and then a dull yearning began in my chest. I suddenly had an impulse to text Emily. Was she available to have dinner with me that evening when I got back?

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19. False Hope

The fog of grief was real enough: I lost concentration, I had no plans, I was forgetful. I couldn’t sleep. I knew there were things I needed to do to start putting my life back together, but not today, maybe tomorrow. I went to grief counseling; I read many books about grief. I finally read The Emperor of all Maladies. All I wanted to do was escape all this grieving stuff.
And there she was.

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18 Parallel Universe

During the period of Marlene’s illness, and dying, I was consumed with the obvious activity – caring for the patient. Caring for myself was an

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17. Grief 3

This post [Grief 3] may feel a bit like Rach 3, that difficult and challenging piano concerto by Sergei Rachmaninov, at first compelling, but then

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16. Marlene’s Grief

Was Marlene shocked at the confirmation of her cancer?  Did she go through the classic stages of grief in her journey with cancer? Did I?  Not

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15. About Grief

Maybe the ancients had it right, grief is one continuous blur with no clear steps or stages, and no certain period, only a gradual diminishing of pain.

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14. Fallout

One of our long-time friends had observed at the time Marlene’s mother had died from esophageal cancer, ‘there’s always a casualty with cancer’; even if

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12. The Funeral

A funeral may be one of the most striking symbols of the human condition. Every tribe in human history is marked for its cultural attention

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11. The Race to the End

In the ensuing weeks my daily routine was almost entirely focused on the care and comforting of Marlene. I designed an excel spreadsheet to monitor

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8. Life Transitions

Every life transition brings its own emotional response, even when you are the architect of your own transition. Many transitions are gradual, even semi-conscious. You

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2. Master Class

I never took a writing course. There was a basic styles handbook in university, and I’m sure I had marginal feedback from various TAs who

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Introduction

Travels with Myself (with apologies to John Steinbeck, or should it be Graham Greene?) is the story of my journey of discovery, to find myself

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