running

Don’t mock me.

The weather has been terrible – hot, humid, druggy – and I just could not find it within myself to leave the house to exercise. I have a mat, two sets of dumbbells, an exercise ball, a stationary bike and a trampoline in my house. So weather aside, I knew my reason for not exercising was just an excuse. I was running away from having to start… running.

Feeling severely lethargic, I was tearing off pages from magazines to fill my scrapbook when I chanced upon a recommended website. ‘Rated as the best online tool for diet and fitness!’ it proclaimed. Well, no harm trying… I thought to myself.

I joined the program. Like I said, do not mock. I really need all the help I can get.

But if you see me doing weird leg lifts on my chair during lunch, jumping and stretching… be a little understanding. Cheer me on. I’m taking baby steps in preparation for my eventual step on the track again, the mountain in October and maybe, just maybe, a marathon in December.

I will run. Just not today.

*

Running has always been more than an exercise to me.

Years ago, it was a symbol of survival.

I was facing severe challenges in life then, and short of cutting myself, I knew I had to find an outlet for the raging turmoil. I laced up and hit the track. The struggle for breath and the dull ache in my legs were such a beautiful release, a tangible battle I preferred to the unsaid fights in my mind.

I began running at least four times every week. Sometimes, more.

With amazing clarity, I can still recall a particularly difficult night when I seriously considered giving up the fight. I was ready to run away. I need to think, I thought to myself…

I walked to the tracks and began the journey, all the while crying out to the skies, hoping for a release, trying to find an answer, when the running grew difficult. I was entering my fifth round (longer than I’d ever done) and I heard the words rise up in me, ‘It only takes one step. Put one foot ahead of the other. Ignore the elements, the pain, the struggle, it won’t kill you. Keep putting that one step ahead of the next and you’ll get through.’

And I did.

That night, I finished my first ten kilometers.

That night, I chose to be a survivor in life.

*

‘It’s precisely because of the pain, precisely because we want to overcome that pain, that we can get the feeling, through this process, of really being alive – or at least a partial sense of it. Your quality of experience is based not on standards such as time or ranking, but on finally awakening to an awareness of the fluidity within action itself.’

– Haruki Murakami

I think I’ll hit the tracks tomorrow.

It’ll be good to meet my old friend and companion.

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hello, you read me?!

‘You’re like my sister,’ Spike said, as the waiter walked away.

‘What do you mean?’ I asked.

‘You can be quite bitchy,’ he replied. ‘And you know, you should be careful about that at restaurants, because you never know what they might do in the kitchen with your food.’

Wait. I was bitchy?! I bit back my quick retort and quickly rewound the incident with the waiter. I’d placed an order for dessert and after some time, only a sundae arrived. The rest of the order seemed to have dissipated into thin air in the mad holiday rush of orders. I waved the waiter over to ask what happened to the desserts and he said he’d check. I don’t think I said anything disparaging… but yes, it could have been my tone of voice; that slightly impatient did-you-get-it-right condescending tone.

I think I might have over-compensated for my bitchiness later as I effusively thanked him for every little thing he did. I was trying to un-bitch myself!

‘Thanks so much!’ I grinned when he appeared at our table with the ice-cream, and again when he appeared with our doggy-bag, and again when he handed me my coffee and again, when I asked for the bill.

I was hoping for some redemption. And clean food.

It’s so easy for me to get caught up with getting things efficiently done that too often, I find myself forgetting that these people may be doing their best. In being straightforward with my questions (no time for polite inquiries)… I unwittingly transmit the message that their efforts are not good enough.

I dislike it when people do that to me. And here I was, doing it to others.

*

Earlier today, the husband was terribly unhappy with an email that he’d received.

‘What was it exactly that made you unhappy? The feedback? The amendments that need to be made?’ I asked.

‘No, it was the way the words were phrased. It made it seem as though all the work we did was flippantly disregarded simply because there were some mistakes in the final product,’ he answered. ‘I mean, it’s just a matter of communicating it with more understanding, or tact.’

A flurry of emails later, the matter was settled and oddly enough, all the messages were now punctuated with smileys.

*

‘How do you think I listen, in conversations?’ a friend asked me.

We were initially talking about what grabbed us first when we listened to a new song – the tune, the song’s structure or lyrics – and somehow, this led on to a discussion about how we actually listen to what’s being said when we are with friends.

‘Well, I think you hear the inflections in the voice first, then the tone, the body language, the expression in the person’s eyes and finally, the words they are saying,’ I replied.

‘Sometimes, I have to replay the conversations in my head and take note of the words exchanged,’ my friend explained. ‘Only then do I really get what they were trying to say…’

I wondered about that. I think we all do it actually.

How many times have words gotten lost in an exchange because we were affected by the emotive overtones in a statement, the facial expression of the speaker or the volume with which a person spoke? And in the case of emails… the missing smiley face?

Albert Mehrabian once did a study on such communications and concluded that in all face-to-face communications, words constitute only 7% of what’s being said (!), the tone of voice 38% and get this, body language and facial expressions a whopping 55%.

With people we like and trust, the words bear more weight and likewise, with people we don’t know or don’t trust, we read them more than we listen to them.

While I don’t think there’s a need to take this rule as a law, it’s a good reminder for me the next time I meet someone on the street, in a cafe or at work. They are walking people… living in a world entirely separate from mine.

How much effort does it take for me to breathe in deep, look at them as a person (and not a means to an end) and smile… because they deserve that? It will only take 2 seconds.

And I’ll get clean food…

the next hit

I like getting high.

The feeling of absolute abandonment to the elements, losing myself completely in the existence of that singular moment, owning nothing but the breath on my lips…

I’ve spent my whole life in search of that high.

I found it in stories but they ended once I turned over the last page; it was always bittersweet, like saying goodbye to a darling friend.

I found it on the stage but it ended once the applause died; my very first dance performance was at five and unfortunately, it was also the first tangible encounter I had with insecurity.

I found it in relationships but they ended once the differences created a gulf that no human effort could cross. It was always too painful, saying goodbye, and sometimes, the pain far outweighed the initial bliss.

I found it in liquor but sleeping beside the toilet bowl was not good for the body. I would wake up aching the next day, groggy and uncomfortable in my own skin, the taste of last night like sand in my mouth.

I found it in drugs but they never lasted long enough, cost too much and seemed to create a deeper void than the one it filled… leading me on a perpetual hunt for the next hit with a desperation I hated.

And then, one day, I found it in Him.

It was exquisite.

I felt accepted; there was no insecurity standing before Him. I felt such intense love, knowing His story – how He came because I would not go to Him, could not, when I was steeped in my mire of self. I drank deeply from His spirit and the colours in my life grew so vivid, beyond what any drug could give.

And each time I get high on Him, I want more… but it’s not a sickening desperation. It’s a longing so deep I can’t express. I can’t live without this. I can’t live without Him.

Am I obsessed? Most certainly. And I don’t care. I want more.

Junkie, a friend once said.

You’re right, I replied.

And I liked that.

*

‘What can I do with my obsession, with the things I cannot see? It’s the madness in my being, it’s in the wind that blows the trees. Sometimes you’re further than the moon, sometimes you’re closer than my skin. You surround me like a winter call, you come and burn me with your kiss. And my heart burns for you…’

– Chris Quilala, Obsession

I like getting high.

Now is there anything wrong with that?

a rude awakening

3.30am

It wasn’t a bad dream. But it was… bothersome. The details were so clear, vivid and it felt so real. The words of plea, the loss, the heart’s cry still rang in my head over and over again, the emotions still raw and tangible. I turned over and did my best to push it out of my head, to think of other things but sleep was fast escaping through the cracks of slumber. I was wide awake. I lay there, breathing deeply… thinking.

4.00am

Hot cocoa. A warm drink is always soothing and helps put a person to bed, no? It’s worth a try. I climb out of bed, ignoring the cries of sanity, ‘You have a long day ahead! You have a meeting at 9.30am! You have a big night!

I figured that if I couldn’t sleep, at least I could spend the waking hours doing things I like. I munch on some grapes I find in the chiller, while I wait for the water to boil. And I keep turning the dream over and over again in my head… like a damn song on repeat.

4.15am

Randomly surf the internet in search for interesting news, music reviews, updates on my friends’ blogs, anything… and then I decided to listen to some music. ‘I need the Dream Maker’, I think to myself.

4.20am

The Mother walks in. She was on her way to the loo.

‘You forgot to sleep?’ She asks groggily.

‘No… I had a bothersome dream. Not a nightmare, not a bad dream, but one that really bothers me.’ I replied.

‘Mmmfftt…’ came her reply.

4.30am

I begin praying while listening to music. I sing along. I keep myself warm in His love. The dream has begun to recede into the dark corridors of my mind. They lose colour and start to pale. The story is slowly losing its hold.

4.45am

I shall write. It always helps. Even if it’s about nothing, so I begin the post. Interesting… I think to myself. I actually have the perfect picture saved on my desktop.

I want to sleep. It’s already 5.02am. I had originally planned on falling asleep by 5am but even the best laid plans go awry.

5.09am

A headache is starting to develop. The body wants sleep. It knows it needs its rest. ‘It’s time to try again…’ I think as I end this post and prepare to shut down the computer. I contemplate going in to work late tomorrow but know it’s not a possibility. The meeting is urgent. When are meetings not?

With a sigh and a final prayer…

Goodnight.

stripped; what do you see?

It was a slip. But in that briefest of moments, I saw her as she actually was, without the veil of assurance she always wore. Her very words – although punctuated with a well-timed laugh – betrayed her heart. But as quickly as it was revealed, the veil went up again and the person I thought I saw was hidden again.

I looked at her with interest.

It truly doesn’t matter if you have everything going well for you – there’s always something you know you lack, something you battle with in quiet, something that you desire deeply. And I felt compassion.

When are we then made complete? And why this struggle for perfection?

‘Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.’

– Antoine de Saint-Exupery

It is human nature to desire perfection.

Who hasn’t wanted the perfect body, the perfect family, the perfect relationship, the perfect career, the perfect passion, the perfect life? And yet, if we were truthful, we might all agree that these ideals serve one purpose – to hide the fact that deep inside, we feel like losers.

The thing is, being happy is not about perfection. It’s about stringing together all the odds and ends of our strengths, getting comfortable with our nakedness and being proud of the person that we are – our fallible selves.

I’m not there yet. The stripping is still a daily process, like yanking off a band-aid from old wounds, I face my fears every single day. I have to choose to resist my defensive mechanisms coming into play and instead, stand still.

You see, I want to grow comfortable with my weaknesses.

I want to stand, stripped.

Gloriously imperfect.

Wonderfully made.

Hidden.

In the Dream Maker’s arms.

I choose to see Him, as He hung naked on the cross.

He took the stripping, that I might be clothed in His perfection.

such a perfect day…

I had a day to myself and for once, I didn’t choke it with plans.

‘Is it normal to feel this lazy?’ I asked the Mother.

‘Lazy?! We just worked nearly 14 hours yesterday. I think it’s normal to feel exhausted,’ she sniffled in reply. The flu bug had just bitten her.

Her words eased the guilt.

I left the house for a quick errand and thereafter, decided to walk from the Botanical Gardens all the way into town. It was a long walk but I donned my shades, plugged in to Kim Walker/Jesus Culture and began, what I would call, my perfect day.

I watched people, browsed many racks of clothing on sale and walked even more, cocooned in my world of abandonment in worship. It was sheer freedom. No one approached me, no one bothered with me (save a few curious glances at the girl who bopped her head to music they couldn’t hear) and smiled when a song hit a raw, emotional note in me.

As I stepped in to Topshop (and got ready to actually buy something), a song that I’d already heard many times over suddenly rang out clear in my ears. As I think back to that moment now, I can still see each frame with crystal clarity.

A brightly lit place with pounding music…
I am watching the stylish ladies huddled around the clothes…
Do they feel self-conscious? I wonder…
I remember my battle against insecurity every time I’m in a crowd…
I recall using clothes to define me…
I feel again the emotions when I wear something wonderful…
I browse the clothes too, searching for that feeling…
I hold a yellow top…
I hear the song…
I stand still amidst the babble of humanity that blurs in movement all around…
I don’t move, transfixed.

Life hit the pause button and realized why it didn’t matter anymore if my personal style wasn’t up-to-date. These things didn’t make me beautiful. I stood there with that piece of cloth in my hands for the longest time, staring off into space with a quiet smile…

Words can never say the way He says my name. He calls me lovely.

Lovely! I looked all around at the people rushing for new clothes, new looks, new images… did they feel that loveliness too?

No one ever sees the way He looks at me. He sees me holy.

Right there in Topshop, no one was watching me. To them, I was insignificant. But not Him…

Words can never hold this love that burns my soul. Heaven holds me.

I felt my insides explode with warmth as my surroundings melted away and I found myself encircled in His arms…

You would not believe the way He touches me. He burns right through me.

I began to feel the stirrings of a new desire, a longing to get away from the noise, the busyness…

And I could not forget every word He said. He always knew me.

I can’t forget. He never lets me. Even when I try to better myself with new clothings, new habits, new ideals, new rules for living… the truth is, it doesn’t matter. He already knew me at my worst and continues to love me with His best.

Almost apologetically, I put the item back onto the racks and walked out, hugged by a Man who saw me so beautiful. The rest of the day passed in an exquisite blur. I was high. But made one final stop at Borders to grab some magazines before heading home.

*

It was exactly what I needed today. A hug.

The past weekend was one filled with a certain despair. Dark thoughts ran through my head when I least expected and I know it may sound weird – as I’m always surrounded by people – but I’d been feeling very weighted down by an inexplicable sense of loneliness.

With just one song, everything changed.

I tasted again, the sweetness of acceptance.

Can it be real for others, what was made real for me today? I feel as though I’m bursting with the call: Come hear the Dream Maker’s serenade! He makes it all worthwhile. He colours in the greys with His love saturated touch. He longs to hold us tight…

And suddenly, I want to tell a bewildered generation that He dances and sings over them with abandon… as He does for me.

Can you see it?

Can you hear it?

Can you feel it?

It’s His love… and He’s calling out for you…

[Words and music by Jesus Culture/Kim Walker]

wardrobe malfunction

The frustration began on Saturday, 5pm, when one of the singers sent me two pictures of outfits she wanted to wear.

‘Can I wear this instead?’ she wrote. We had already agreed on something earlier and what she didn’t realize was that if I changed her outfit’s colour or style, it would’ve affected the other 7 singers’ outfits as they were all appearing on stage. I tried my best to entertain her queries but at 8pm, after a long string of texts, I sighed.

‘Look, can we just go back to what we originally planned?’ I asked.

‘Okay…’ was her reply. And no sooner was that over, did another singer send me some pictures of jackets that she wanted to buy for the stage. I sat huddled in my chair, looking at the pictures and felt that none of them worked.

‘Can you wear this?’ I sent her an old picture.

‘I can’t find the jacket…’

‘What about the long dress with the cropped military jacket?’ I asked again.

She sent me a picture of herself wearing it but it just didn’t look good. This went on for a good 2 hours when her duet partner suddenly began sending me pictures too, of a suit he’d purchased. Apparently, he also had last minute inspirations.

‘Can I wear this?’ he asked.

‘With blue jeans?’ I replied.

And it was so weird. He seemed to not have seen my texts because he kept replying that he wanted to wear either black pants or black jeans.

Finally, I called all of them and at 11.30pm, the dust settled. We’d found a compromise. I stretched out and got ready for some quiet me time… when my phone rang.

‘Hey, do you have a black tie?’ an apologetic voice asked.

*

It was a crazy morning. I woke up late, only to realize that the outfit I’d planned for myself didn’t work. Rushing around like a headless chicken, I came up with two alternatives and dashed out of the house. I didn’t do anything with my hair and makeup as we’d engaged artists for that… but sound-check dragged on so late that when we finally got off the stage, we had exactly 15 minutes of prep time before we had to be on standby again.

I basically walked on stage with unfinished makeup and my hair in some weird house-wife bun. It was not the best of starts.

Things settled in time for the second session when the actual broadcast recording was going to be made but by then, I’d been standing in my sky-scraper heels for a solid 4 hours. I was in pain. An hour later, I hobbled off stage and yanked the shoes off. Then I half-ran to a briefing I was giving… the people had been waiting one hour for me.

The briefing went smoothly and I was back on stage for the closing but once I got off, again, I had to rush off to the other end of the 5-tower building for my next briefing.

This time round, talking was hard.

Besides having no microphone while talking to almost 200 people, I needed to stand on a chair to arrest their attention, battle with movers in the background and distracted people along the perimeter.

By now, I was seriously regretting my choice of outfit – a warm tunic with jeans and those damn heels. I pranced around, shouted myself hoarse and did all I could to get the salient points across to the people… when finally, I gave up.

‘Hey,’ I said quietly. ‘I understand that it can be hard, having someone tell you what to wear, how to wear it and then check in on you to see if you’re following instructions. I also understand that for some of you, this style change may require you to make sacrifices in time, energy and money – things you may not have much of.’

I looked out at the sea of faces and sighed.

‘When I first joined the team, I was a student. I didn’t have much cash and buying a simple pair of black pants was costly for me. So was getting my first pair of black shoes. There may be times it will get frustrating but it can be great fun too. You’ve all been made in His image. You are all creative people because He is creative. We just gotta know why we’re doing this.’

I spent some time explaining the why’s and then, I released them.

‘Into Your hands,’ I whispered to the Dream Maker, before I began my slow walk back to the other side of the centre.

I was looking forward to a peaceful walk – I’d already spent the whole day interacting with people – I needed some down time. I spied a sale and was just about to enter the shop when two girls stopped me.

‘Hi!’ One of them called out. ‘I just wanted to say I loved your performance last month. I thought you were great!’

‘Oh… thanks.’ I answered. That was nice.

‘And… I wanted to know, how do you do your hair?’ she continued.

We stood there chatting for quite some time (my feet! my feet!) and when they finally left, my window of time for shopping was closed. I needed to return to check in on the other people. Resigned, I limped back, very slowly, and crumbled into my chair. I still hadn’t had a proper meal the whole day.

‘God, this is exhausting,’ I whined.

‘Would you have it any other way?’ He asked me.

‘Well… no.’ I replied.

‘It’s them shoes, isn’t it?’ I could almost hear Him chuckle.

*

Sondy came in to the room and sat beside me. I looked at her and started laughing. She was gorgeously resplendent in her new outfit, new hairdo and full makeup.

‘You look beautiful,’ I said.

‘Look?’ she replied. ‘I am!’ She flung out her arms for emphasis. ‘Hey… I’ve realised that I was so deeply stuck in my personal style that I never got round to trying new things. And I was thinking… that maybe I’d go back to shop some more. Do you have more templates I could follow?’

I was elated. I told her I’d email her what I had.

‘Thanks dear,’ she hugged me. ‘Thanks for doing all this.’

It was the first appreciation I’d received all day.

‘No… thank you,’ I replied. ‘For making it all worth it.’

*

And that’s why I do what I do…

Heels and all.

*wince*

grandfather

I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me but no, there they were – five strands of grey hair, carefully etched, like pencil-drawn highlights on an ebony landscape. I carefully searched his face for more signs of aging and sighed in relief; there was nothing else new.

Then he got up from the chair and my heart ached. Very slowly, he eased himself away from the table and began limping away, his hunch just that tiniest bit more pronounced.

‘Please don’t go…’ my heart pleaded, but it was precisely why we were in that meeting today.

We were discussing how we each could rise up to the place where collectively, as a team, we would be able to stand on our own feet, before the year was over. He was being transferred to another branch of the company – for greater responsibilities and his greatest wish was that the team would be able to unite in one heartbeat.

‘I don’t want him to go,’ I whispered to my neighbour.

‘None of us do,’ she replied. ‘Who would defend us, once he’s gone?’

‘That is precisely why he’s toughening us up, getting us to make our own decisions… he knows that once he’s transferred, we need to be strong enough to fight our own battles,’ someone else added.

I sighed.

The grey hairs on his head – I’d never seen them before and today, catching them glint in the light of the setting sun, I realized that time was moving on. And so must I.

*

When I first came to church, I was a beaten, broken girl. Fresh from a tumultuous relationship, still drinking, smoking and clubbing heavily, church was the last place I wanted to be.

I actually grew up in a Christian environment. As a child, I remember walking in the gardens of my old church, waiting for my mother. I recall plucking the flowers in the dark of night, brushing off insects that crawled up my leg, playing with pebbles and hearing the strains of singing waft on the cool air around me.

I accepted Christ when I was four and God was a real friend to me. He was always there – in the night garden – playing with me while the adults worshiped Him.

As I grew older, I felt the weight and burden of being a good person deaden my feet and I stopped seeing God as my night companion. Filtered through the adults’ demand on me needing to live a life of purity, I got angry. It grew worse, year after year. In rebellion, I began to walk down paths – any path – as long as it took me far away from that intimate night garden.

Finally, at 16, I turned to God and yelled at Him. ‘Leave me alone! Let me go to hell, I don’t care. Just leave me alone because I hate this. I hate the hypocrisy of Christians, I hate church and their constant masquerade parties. I don’t care if I die. Just go.’

I stopped going to church after that.

But years later, I found myself walking in to a different church one Sunday morning. Perhaps it was the hunger in me for a God, perhaps it was the desperation of a girl who’d lost everything and knew that there is only one truth. I wasn’t too sure. All I knew was that I sat defiantly on my chair while my insides coiled and cowered in fear of rejection.

When the worship began… the tears started flowing. I have no recollection of what was sung or preached. All I knew was that I’d found home.

The lead musician on the stage that day? It was him – the man I lovingly call Grandfather. He was (and still is) a breath of fresh air in church. When others daren’t speak the truth, he does with no qualms. When others feared being the ‘bad guy’ to make the changes that were needed, he boldly walked right into the fight. When others recoiled from humanity’s ugliness, he stepped forward to embrace the outcasts.

He saw me through the years of change, noted the little sacrifices I made (when no one else did) and tried his best to give something to me, every time he met me. He disciplined me, scolded me, loved me and built me up. Through every mistake I’d ever made, his one constant refrain was, ‘I never doubted your heart…’

Oh he knew I loved God and loved being in church, but he went one step deeper than any other leader had ever done, he understood the frailty of my weaknesses and he judged me no less for that. He never stopped believing in me.

These days, I rarely see him around anymore (as he’s already started on his new portfolio) but he still impacts me greatly. I’ll never stop letting him have that special place to speak into my life. Why? Because… I want to be like him.

‘Why must things be so hard? Why do we need to go through these challenges?’ Softspeaker once asked her husband.

‘Maybe God’s training you, training the team,’ her husband replied.

‘Training us to do what?’ she whined.

‘To be like your leader – a man fearless of other men’s opinions,’ he replied.

Fearless. I like that.

And in honour of the man who walked out the room today, I will stand tall.

I will fly.

Even if it hurts to say goodbye.

recovery

‘Wait, why’s there this extra piece of cloth here?’ Sondy asked me. ‘Is it a design?’

We inspected the garment she was trying on carefully, trying to figure out why the design was so odd, when I realised…

‘Oh my god! You’re wearing a romper! Not a dress!’ I laughed out loud.

‘What? You mean I stuffed myself down one entire pant leg?’ She asked me, before we both doubled over in mad hyena cries. It was hilarious. We couldn’t keep a straight face after that, as we walked into shop after shop. We were looking around for an outfit for her, as she was slated for a performance this Sunday.

Seeing her laugh was a huge contrast to the Sondy I met about a year back. Then, she was moody, easily worried, fretful over the slightest details in life and occasionally, would throw us a curveball by saying she couldn’t come down for a meeting. She was just ‘not in the mood’. She also cried a lot.

Today, she was carefree, dancing in the changing rooms when she found something that fitted well, singing when the shop played her favourite tune… she was just a very colourful spot in my life. Which was good because after two hours of shopping for her, I was very tired.

‘Why are you working here, so far away from home?’ I asked during one of our walks.

‘Oh… it’s such a silly story,’ she blushed in reply.

‘A man. It must’ve been a man.’

‘Yes… well, I’d been dating this chap for 5 years and when he got this job and knew he had to up and move to another country, he proposed. I accepted. Then I applied to play for the same orchestra and when they accepted me, we moved. 5 years on and countless affairs, we finally got a divorce.’ She explained. I understood then why she was such a wreck when I met her. It was when her world was falling apart.

‘I cried every day… I’ve never cried so much… and the worst part is, he’s still working where I am too. And I can’t help but see him and his new girlfriend, it hurt so much. And I just saw him again today!’ she threw her arms out, nearly hitting an old man walking by.

‘How did you feel?’ I asked.

‘Hey baby, he looked at me. And I thought, you ain’t getting this… (motioning to her body), no way, uh-uh. He’s missing out. And he’s looking…’ she laughed, before quietening down a little. ‘Every time I know I’m going to see him, my heart goes panicky. But once the work begins, I forget him. So it’s been good.’

I was about to reach out to give her a hug when we saw the perfect black, leather jacket.

‘This one! It’s the one you’re looking for!’ I gasped. We did a little dance around the clothing rack before heading to cashier.

‘God, I’ve never spent so much in one shopping trip,’ she said.

‘Do you think it was worth it?’ I got worried. Every time I take someone out on a personal shopping trip, I’m conscious of the fact that not everyone has a deep pocket.

‘Oh honey, it was a hoot!’ she shouted.

It was a hoot. And an afternoon well-spent.

*

‘So how are you?’ I asked Kitty over lunch. ‘Are things settled with Mr Goofy and the Beauty?’

‘Well… we met last Sunday and talked things through, line by line. But since then, we haven’t talked at all.’

Kitty and her best pals had a misunderstanding of sorts and over a span of a few weeks, the relationship had turned into a finger-pointing blame game of he-said-she-said.

‘What are you going to do now?’ I was worried for her. She looked a little worn out.

‘I still love them dearly, but I’m not going to hang around for them to call,’ she sighed. ‘I mean, I’ll just get on with life.’

She couldn’t see my salute then, but I gave her one. I was really proud of her. I knew how much their friendship meant to her, but mistakes and human relationships can get so complicated. The same love we feel is sometimes the same love that hurts. She’d been through a lot and now, to see her walking on made me want to prance around with pom-poms.

*

‘I am spinning the silk threads of my story, weaving the fabric of my world…I spun out of control. Eating was hard. Breathing was hard. Living was hardest.

I wanted to swallow the bitter seeds of forgetfulness…Somehow, I dragged myself out of the dark and asked for help.

I spin and weave and knit my words and visions until a life starts to take shape.

There is no magic cure, no making it all go away forever. There are only small steps upward; an easier day, an unexpected laugh, a mirror that doesn’t matter anymore.

I am thawing.’

– Laurie Halse Anderson (Wintergirls)

Small steps with every morning that breaks. That’s how I started on the road to recovery. It didn’t happen overnight although dear god, I wish it would. But sharing with people my own personal journeys of breaking… and the slow re-building after that has shown me that these are precious experiences – precious moments that I carry with me.

Stories.

I took the train to work this morning and found myself surrounded by people. I could almost feel their untold stories buzzing all around me – the pregnant lady who didn’t get a seat, the self-conscious dude with his headphones on, the twittering teenagers in the corner, the man dripping with sweat and rain…

What were their stories of recovery?

What are yours?

in all my fears…

Can I be thoroughly honest here?

You won’t judge my frailty or vulnerability will you?

Will it change the way you see me?

Do I become a lesser person, if you know what I fear?

*

I was called in for a quick rehearsal with the girls, for a song that we need to perform two weeks later. I have not spent any time practicing nor developing my vocals this whole year, so I know that when it comes to singing, I am severely lacking. Which is one of the reasons why I was initially reluctant. True enough, whole solo sections were handed out to the other singers and I was given what I guess I do best, the harmony lines. The supporting act.

Add to that the fact that I’ll be leading the worship session that day, I am again, faced with this huge weakness that I have: in this team of singers… I can’t sing as well as them.

I can hold a melody line, and yes, they say that I am good at rhythm, but darn it, I can’t sing as well as they all do. So why am I here?

‘I wish I had what you have,’ Softspeaker said to me.

‘Wha… What in the world are you talking about?’ I asked her.

‘Your groove, your infectious ability to lead people to sing along with you, I wish I had that. Can you help me?’ She smiled.

This is the girl I first heard singing when I came to church more than ten years ago. She was the one I saw leading people… whose voice could reach the hardest of hearts and melt them with her song. When I first began singing in the team, I did my best to imitate her, to sing like her, to blend with her. And she was asking me for help?

‘Babe, I wish I could sing like you…’ I trailed off.

‘Funny huh…’ she mused. ‘We fail to recognize our place in the team. We forget that each of us brings something special, something that no one else can replace. And we long for what others have, ignoring what we have. We fail to realise that we’re contributors too.’

Yes. She was right. In my pity-party, I was overwhelmed by my lack and couldn’t see beyond myself to the truth that it didn’t matter how little I think I have, I still have something precious that I can give. This thought plainly boggles my mind because when I listen back to my recordings, all I can do is cringe.

‘Why are we so pathetically small-minded?’ I wondered as I walked out of rehearsals. ‘Why do I look at myself when really, it’s not about me?’ I was slightly irritated with my pride.

Alone, I sighed. ‘Here you go, Lord. It’s little, it’s all I have.’

And I could almost here the gentlest of whispers in my ears saying, ‘Thank you. It’s all I need.’

I am humbled.

*

Bob Dylan (featured above) was never known to have a good singing voice. If anything, they described his nasal tones and sandpaper voice as almost grating. Still, he won millions of fans with his passion and lyrical song-writing. His recent album showed more of his lack in vocal prowess (due to age, I figure) but he keeps at what he’s doing, and he’s recognized for that.

‘Have you ever written a song?’ Smiley asked me.

Yes, I have done that. One actually was recorded and funnily, I tried to hide that fact from him.

‘Why? Why won’t you tell me where it’s been recorded?’ he asked.

Honestly? Oh, it’s going to hurt to be this truthful but it’s because it came from the heart. And if someone judges the song… I feel almost as if they are judging… me – in my most vulnerable of moments.

I thought about it though, on my way home. The fear of not being accepted. The fear of my weaknesses on display for the world. The fear of being… not good enough.

‘If it’s not good enough for you, will you give it to me?’ I heard the Dream Maker ask. ‘Because to Me, it’s the most beautiful thing I’ve heard. You are the most beautiful thing to me.’

And I crumbled.

The song doesn’t belong to me. It never did. It’s a mere tool of passion, that hopefully, will continue to touch the random listener one night, in a deep, quiet moment.

The singing doesn’t belong to me. It never did. It’s a mere tool for Him to use, at any level.

Am I willing to lose control of these elements – whether they fail or succeed – and to release them wholly into His hands?

‘I do.’

I smile as He takes my hand.

‘Dear god, I do.’