Monday, March 07, 2005

Grace With Fire

*****

when i give my students my email address for them to contact me off-school in case they still have questions with their reading assignments, i get impressed but mixed reactions from them.

the guys snicker and tease me; i think they think "Fire" in the name means something deliberately provocative. the girls ask me why i still have to include "Fire" to "Grace", when they say "Grace" already describes me fine.

i have a reputation at school for being one of the most loved teachers, who gets along easily with everybody, with strict standards but without the ego tripping theatrics in and out of the classroom. so, i guess that means my girl students can't see me ever as being fiery, in the fiery manner of egomaniacs they have been accustomed to. : )

with other people, i get more or less similar reactions. i get the impression that they think i am trying to be deliberately vampy with the name, or flaunting my capacity for rage. : (

both are totally far from the truth.

*****

"Grace with fire" was born as a Net id on june 16, 2003. i distinctly remember the day.

like in those movies when a particularly important moment suddenly happens in slow motion, i remember that mid-morning at home, feeling sick with flu and weepily heartbroken, sitting in front of the pc, making a sudden internal decision, wiping my tears and sitting up straight, erasing all my old email accounts and signing up for two new ones, this time with the name, "grace with fire".

up until then, i had only been a year separated, having left a horribly sick 10-year-marriage, and struggling to rebuild my life at all fronts -- financially, emotionally, spiritually. i thank God that, at least, i was (and still am) in very good physical health.

up until then, too, i had only been introduced to chatting on the net for around 7 months. before then, i didn't even know where and how to start one, contenting my self only with emailing and surfing for topics i was interested in.

i was introduced to chatting on the net through this dating site ad which popped up for me on nov. 2, 2002. i was in a net cafe, and my email browser and other surfing browsers hung. i clicked and clicked but only this pop up ad worked. so while waiting for the browsers to function back again, i toyed with the pop up ad and signed up for their free membership.

needless to say, that absentminded toying introduced me to a whole new world of meeting people, particularly men, in the Net.

the many instant messages i got and interest alerts, averaging 10 a day for the first month, did much to bolster my non-existent womanly self esteem then, i guess. : ) i was starved for attention, and thus was not even discriminating of who i was communicating with. i entertained one and all, like a kid with a new toy on christmas morning.

it afforded an inexpensive and safe way for me too to meet men, and learn and practice my conversational and flirting skills (!). before that, i didn't even know what flirting was, would you believe?

my ex-husband was my first boyfriend, and my first everything, and it was a whirlwind courtship of only four months. before that, i basically led a sheltered, cloistered life, with no close boy buddies, with my nose in my books and writing, and wanting to be a missionary nun (!). so you can say that my introduction to online dating was my first introduction to dating, period.

anyway, on dec. 20, 2002, i met a man in this site, whom i had instant and intense connection with. we chatted 5 to 8 hours a day, whenever we could, emailed, talked and texted on the phone, talking not only about our selves but the world, business, politics, issues, books, travel, people. you name it, we discussed it animatedy and intensely.

needless to say, we fell in love fast. we finished each other's sentences, and contacted each other at exactly that moment when either one of us missed each other terribly. we believed (and still believe) we are soulmates.

three times, from december 2002 to june, 2003, we planned on finally meeting, but each time, something got in the way. first, it was changes in his schedule, with a business deal about to fall through. then it was SARS. the third time was because i refused to meet him anymore, given certain shattering discoveries.

it was the week of june 10. we were finally meeting in 2 weeks. everything was all set and we were both excited and happy.

and then one early morning, as i was waiting for him to come online, a strange id messaged me, asking me if i knew him (mentioning his name). i didn't answer at first, but then the stranger presented her self as his wife!

i didn't even know he was married, in the first place!. : O

i was disbelieving, so i asked her to furnish me with recent pictures of her with him and their family. and she promptly did, via email.

over the course of the next few days, his secret life unraveled before my eyes. his wife called me and we talked. she also emailed me and gave me further details of their life together and his other life as a philandering husband.

the last straw was when she gave me his passwords to all his email accounts and invited me to open them my self. and what i saw tore my world apart.

he was emailing and chatting with so many (mostly philippine) women at the same time, basically telling them the same stories he told me, and buttering them up with similar sweet nothings and empty promises.

what made the situation even weirder was that the wife now asked me for advice on what to do with their marriage, after i asked her how come she took all his bullsh_tting so passively when she knew of them all along.

it was a surreal time. she and i talking, he not knowing, he and i talking still. until that june 16 day i found out about all the other women he was conning too.

i was down with the flu, busy with school opening bedlam, yet living this other life in the Net in this rapidly unfolding drama and tragicomedy. my heart was breaking with each new truth i learned about him, and i was doing all i could to keep my world from falling apart. this did not yet include my legal and financial battles with the ex, and having to deal with the creditors he left behind.

but, thank God, i was in the middle of reading Conversations with God, Book I too at that time, and i was exactly at that part about making a statement to life of Who You Are when life happens to you.

so, that june 16 morning, as i was opening all his email accounts and reading all his communication with the other women, this thought slowly formed in my mind and an internal decision was made: "i will NOT let whatever is happening to me now bring me down. i will NOT remain a victim of this for long. i will turn this around, i don't know how, but i will turn this around, and be the star of my own show that is my life. i've had enough; this does it. no more ms. goody two shoes. from now on, i will NOT take sh_t from anybody anymore, but take it back to where it rightfully belongs!"

as i was reading his mails, i don't know what got into me but i just coldly, methodically started erasing them all, including all the names in his address books. i didn't even stop to think whether i had the right to, when even his wife didn't even have the gall to do it. i just felt really sleazy, and i didn't want to see my name up there in those accounts lumped together with all those sleazy-looking and stupid-sounding women.

and then, after finishing with his emails and his address book, i turned to his signature. his initials are M. L. , to which i added the caption -- "Married Liar: I have a wife who supports me and two grown-up children and I am just out to screw all stupid women, particularly Filipinas!" -- thinking with secret satisfaction now that he'll never know what hit him once he still sends emails to all these women (granting he remembers their email addresses) and the women find their emails from him with this automatic signature attached to them.

i also had to hammer the final nail in the coffin. his wife told me he had spy software installed and that he actually monitored all my chats and emails with other people. not that i had anything to be guilty of, but i felt that i had to be rid of him, of them, of all of this, and get as far away as i could the fastest way i can. everything felt sh_tty and the only one thing i was certain of was i wasn't part of that sh_t, that i wasn't made of sh_t, even if these other people are.

and so, one by one, too, i deleted all my accounts coldly, methodically. the tears had run dry then, and the only thing left i felt was this steel determination growing inside me that whatever is happening, THIS IS NOT WHO I AM AND I WILL GET OUT OF THIS PROUDER OF WHO I AM THAN EVER.

so, while signing up for my new free accounts now, and thinking of a new name to describe my self, i was reminded of a personalized astrology reading and report i had ordered for my self some years ago, which described me as being both elegantly simple and mysteriously complex, with the tenderest sensitivity and compassion and the coldest and most unbreakable will and hottest temper, once sufficiently provoked-- somebody who is grace with fire.

*****

and that's how "Grace with Fire" was born, my statement to Life of Who I Am.

: )
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