My Grandma used to tell a story about a distant relative who lived in Penaga, Kedah. It was, and still is, a small village where people worked the paddy fields and the sea. This distant relative was married to a lady who lived in Karangan, Kedah, another small village about 45 km away from Penaga (see map). They lived in a time around and post-World War Two, when life was hard and dangerous.
Due to circumstances that was rather vague or perhaps forgotten by me, they had to live separately in these two separate villages. Every week, or every other week, this distant relative would travel all the way on an old school bicycle to see his wife, all 45 km of it, through uncivilized terrains and the dangers of communists which were the rage around the area at the time. Just to see his wife for a couple of days, and then off he went cycling back to work. They had a happy relationship until their passing.
It sort of sounds like a plot of a period drama love story, but things like these really happened back in the day. These are real people looking after their relationships throughout some real shit. Us? Most of us can’t even hold it together during ‘tough’ times, despite the technology, living comforts and privileges we have as opposed to these guys back in the day.
What constitutes working hard to keep/maintain a relationship? In the past, I had been known to be the first to draw the curtains whenever things get even slightly difficult. In my mind at the time, relationships are one hundred percent happy times, and there was no point staying if it gets hard. In case you’re wondering, yes, I was watching a lot of movies at this time. You know, the ones that showed relationships to be all about rainbows, candy and galloping across the wheat fields on a magical unicorn together forever towards the sunset. And all of relationship issues solved within two hours or less.
These days, none of us really have to cycle through a dodgy road in the tropics avoiding random militants with guns to sustain a relationship, and most of the hurdles we would ever face are just the ones of our own minds. And yet somehow, we give up much too soon compared to my distant relative there (I have no idea how he looked like, but I always imagined him as a lanky guy with a ‘songkok’ and the 1960s styled pants pulled up to his chest).
I suppose the old-age saying is true – the best things in life are usually the things you have to fight the hardest for. This applies for both fighting for seats at a new brunch place in town, as well as our relationships (although the former is often overrated). Like everything else in life, most of the time high risk bares a high reward. And if it does end up down the drain, there is peace and closure in knowing you’ve tried your best, as opposed to sitting there in your little comfort zone where nothing grows, wondering ‘what if’.