August 31, 2010 § 6 Comments
I once had a rabbit. It had no name. We just called it that… the rabbit.
It died of a heart attack.
Today, I feel like my rabbit.
I am a week away from a ‘work trip’ and am totally unprepared.
I have scripts upon scripts to write, production teams to pull together, schedules to lay down, props to finish up, articles to write… and all by the end of the week. This is in addition to the fact that I’ll be trekking in Nepal in about 3 weeks’ time and am totally UNPREPARED.
Equipment – nada.
Physical stamina – what’s that?
Permits – you mean I need them?
Plane ticket – booking tomorrow.
My thoughts are all over the place. It’s all not good. That plus the recent spate of sleepless nights have left me feeling very much like a watercolour painting. My substance is gone. Where is my mind?
I leave my sentences hanging and don’t finish them, ever. This frustrates Jap Girl, who’s begun finishing them for me. I’m in the middle of writing multiple emails as I write this post and yes, I know, someone out there is going to tell me, ‘Focus!’
But I can’t. Every minute, there’s a new demand. A new curve ball. Someone, throw me a lifeline. Or a nice basket of fruits. That might help. It always made my rabbit quiver with excitement…
Actually, while we’re on wishes…
Someone, give me a life where there are no demands. Just for a week, I’d like to taste what it feels like to do nothing.
[Beautiful watercolour pictures by Holly Exley]
August 24, 2010 § Leave a comment
‘Hello! My name’s Flex and I’m here to help your muscles get strong,’ the stocky instructor said. I nearly choked on my Coke Light. Flex? I quickly wiped the liquid dribbling down my chin.
‘Hi,’ I replied weakly. I didn’t expect the gym to allocate a trainer that quickly. Too many days since my last run and a rotund tummy was starting to get to me, and I knew I had to start running again, but after the last time I went out in the morning (about a week ago) I found myself severely disheartened. I don’t know where my motivation went.
Yesterday, while cleaning out my bag, I chanced upon a random voucher lying inside. ‘A two-week free pass to the gym? That might work’, I thought. And that was how I found myself there today, standing before Flex.
‘Look, I have never joined a gym before and have no idea how things work,’ I began. I didn’t want him to think that I knew anything about what I was doing. In fact, I think I might have unconsciously painted a pathetic portrait of myself, to kill any expectations he might have had. ‘You’ll be working with a complete beginner…’
‘No problem! I’ll take you through the equipment and start you on a course of workouts that will whip you in shape for your hiking trip!’ He enthusiastically pounded the table. ‘Do you want to start now?’
‘What? Now? Noooo… I’m not ready,’ I stammered. ‘How about a few days later?’
‘I can do lunch. You want to try on Thursday? I can slot you in at noon,’ he nodded, ‘Just send me a message with your mobile and I’ll slot you in.’
‘Okay…’ I meekly replied. Yes, I can see how having a personal trainer helps because I am now committed to a lunch-time workout. Me – the girl who always eats in to avoid jostling with the lunch-time crowd, who likes to kick back and chill, alone… will now be found sweating her ass off in front of a man named Flex.
‘Let’s use gaffah tape!’ Cutesy exclaimed, as we discussed the decor for the next campaign. I stifled a smile. Gaffah?
‘Will it be hard to edge the images of the dancer out if we shoot her against a background that’s not white?’ She continued. Edge? Did she mean etch?
‘It will take time but it’s do-able. And we’ll continue with the veneer effect…’ the designer answered. Veneer? Now I had to speak up.
‘Do you mean vignette?’ I smiled.
‘Yeah, whatever that effect is,’ he laughed.
‘Hey! You have white nostril hair!’ I guffawed. It was fascinating.
‘Ah, it’s the dust from the sculpture I was working on,’ he said as he grabbed a tissue to clean his nose out. ‘Maybe I should wear a mask.’
And that is how our weekly department meetings go. I like my team. They are some of the best creative minds I’ve met, who speak without an ounce of elitism in their speech.
‘What was the Sky Gym like?’ I asked the Husband on our way home. Months ago, he was offered several personal training sessions at one of the most elite gyms in our country and I know he enjoyed himself there.
‘I felt intimidated at first,’ he said, ‘Because that place caters to the rich and exclusive. It was always empty so the staff would be watching you as you did your workouts. I mean, they had nothing else to do. The view was great though, and the trainer was nice. I would have returned except… that place made me feel uncomfortable.’
‘What do you think of the gym we went to just now?’ I asked.
‘I like it there. I know some people may bemoan the fact that it’s common and crowded, which it is, ever since they lowered the membership price but I know if I’m a klutz there, no one’s gonna bat an eyelid,’ he said.
I nodded. It’s true. I liked being in that place because it didn’t feel extraordinary. If anything, it was common and approachable. Very much like the team of people I work with. There are no airs and if you make a mistake, it’s okay. It’s expected.
I want to be able to look back on a day and laugh at my plebian ways.
Stepping off the train, The Husband and I noticed a well-dressed chap walking ahead of us. Everything about him was perfect. His jeans hung at just the right places, the shoes were spot on trend and his clothes… well, let’s just say he looked like he’d just walked off the Sartorialist pages.
‘Why do I get the sense he’s too aware of what he’s wearing?’ I whispered.
‘I was just thinking that!’ The Husband exclaimed. ‘And that’s what makes his entire perfect outfit look a little wrong on his person…’
‘Maybe inside, he’s trying to be someone else,’ I answered.
‘We are all freaks. Yes! Alone in our rooms at night, we are all weirdoes and outcasts and losers. Whether you admit it or not, you are all worried that the others won’t accept you, that if they knew the real you, they would recoil in horror. Each of us carries with us a secret shame that we think is somehow unique…
And if we are, each of us, freaks – then can’t we accept what’s different in each other and move on?’
– James St. James
I want to be comfortable in my skin.
There is a line in my favourite Switchfoot song that goes, ‘We are a beautiful letdown, painfully uncool. The church of the dropouts, the losers, the sinners, the failures, and the fools…’
If only we would let go of the facade of perfection for a moment. We would finally be happy with who we are and cease from attaining the faultless life. Flexing our happy muscles then wouldn’t be such a chore.
(Sorry, had to use the word flex. It’s been ringing in my mind)
August 20, 2010 § 1 Comment
I was a race car driver, soaring down the tracks, the rushing wind swirling my hair into a little chaotic frenzy. The engines purred powerfully beneath me as we headed off the road down little unknown valleys, between the mountains, stopping somewhere beneath the vast open skies.
I was a cat, curled in her tiny home, seeking refuge and comfort from the cacophony of a busy world. My resting place was the eye of the storm and in it, I was invisible as I watched people quarrel, bodies passing by in a frenzy to meet their personal deadlines. All that mattered to me in that tiny house was the now.
I was a robot, looking through tiny pinhole eyes, my entire body a wall of protection against anyone who tried to get inside. But they would never find me as I was a robot, an unfeeling machine, immune to hurt, rejection and sadly, laughter.
I was a princess who just received a parcel from a prince who admired me, the gift filled with treasures from his land, a trumpet call to the man he was, and what he could provide. Riches? Glory? Magic? The parcel held secrets untold, passed down through the generations. What delight lay inside the parcel? With intense patience, I slowly peeled back it’s covers.
All I needed was a cardboard box. And the world of imagination unfolded whichever way I wanted it to.
The humble material of my early dreaming which today, was made tangible, thrilled me to bits. I’ve always wanted to do something in tribute to Michel Gondry’s Science Of Sleep and Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth. Both the movie and book impacted me deeply with its childlike perspective… something I lost when I grew up.
“Would it be possible for me to see something from up there?” asked Milo politely.
“You could,” said Alec, “but only if you try very hard to look at things as an adult does.”
Milo tried as hard as he could, and, as he did, his feet floated slowly off the ground until he was standing in the air next to Alex Bings. He looked around very quickly and, an instant later, crashed back down to the earth again.
“Interesting, wasn’t it?” asked Alex.
“Yes, it was,” agreed Milo, rubbing his head and dusting himself off, “but I think I’ll continue to see things as a child. It’s not so far to fall.”
– Norton Juster
We laboured over every element of our cardboard world – adults seeking play as children would, with the added finesse of skill that maturity brings. Every moment was gloriously relished because isn’t that what growing up is all about? We get to let our imaginations run wild with aplomb.
I cried a little today. Silly things but they got to me. I think I was worn thin with trying to look happy over the past few weeks and the more I tried to look like it didn’t matter, the truth ate me up from inside. I felt wretched.
The week was finally over but for me, the challenges have just begun. It’s going to be one long week. I am however, looking forward to playing with my cardboard world and fantastical characters. In them, even when I am weary with pulling together my damning emotions into a solid state of ‘okay-ness‘, I have fun… and in that fun, hope is strengthened. I resurface from the imaginary with new belief that it can all be good.
‘Wouldn’t it be great if we could build an entire building with cardboard?’ someone said today.
‘Yeah, but would happen when it rains?’ came someone else’s reply.
‘We’d just build another one,’ I replied quietly.
Which is pretty much what I’m doing with my life now. Every single day, I build a new dream. The days are filled with both accomplishments and disappointments but I carry none of them with me to bed. Like what Michel Gondry once said, ‘I’ve dreamed a lot, but I’m not a very good sleeper.‘
Instead, I search out for that place in my cardboard box where I once hid in a corner, alone for a while, the silence punctuated only by the sound of my rhythmic breathing…
‘Have you ever heard the wonderful silence just before the dawn? Or the quiet and calm just as a storm ends? Or perhaps you know the silence when you haven’t the answer to a question you’ve been asked, or the hush of a country road at night, or the expectant pause of a room full of people when someone is just about to speak, or, most beautiful of all, the moment after the door closes and you’re alone in the whole house? Each one is different, you know, and all very beautiful if you listen carefully.’
– Norton Juster
In that silence of my cardboard box, I am satisfied. For a moment.
And sometimes… that’s all I need at the end of a long, long day.
August 18, 2010 § 4 Comments
They stared at me, taunting me… ‘I dare you,’ they seemed to say.
I succumbed to the dare. I finally put them on (quashing the unease in my stomach) and looked into the mirror. It felt odd to see my body’s silhouette look like an hour glass. Yes my dear friends, I finally put on my first high-waisted pair of jeans and let’s just say, it’ll probably be my last time.
They were electric blue and I teamed them up with a white tank top (tucked in, of course), a yellow cardigan and beige heels.
‘Do I look slim?’ I sulked to the Mother. I really needed some form of reassurance.
‘Yes, you do. Well… most parts of you do,’ she chuckled in reply.
‘What? Some parts? Which part looks fat?!’ I was aghast. The Mother, in a sudden passionate desire to clean her shoes didn’t seem to have heard me.
‘You look gorgeous,’ the Husband smiled. ‘Very hot.’
‘Right,’ I answered. ‘This hot wouldn’t have something to do with the fact that a particular part of me is emphasized, does it?’
‘Oh erm… heh, let’s just say you’re all woman today,’ He laughed. No, it was not encouraging at all.
I tossed my hair in what I hoped was a stylish shampoo-ad move and sashayed to the door. It was the start of a very self-conscious day. And like most of my life’s drama, today was also one where my digestive system felt inspired to produce the largest amounts of gas within the shortest amount of time. I was grateful that farts don’t come coloured because I would have been surrounded by a constant gaseous rainbow.
Around noon, I was propelled out of my chair (gas is good for turbo power) into a rehearsal with a new voice talent and thereafter, we were cocooned in the recording studio (thankfully, they didn’t die of suffocation), before I headed off to meet the guys who were on site to help create our set for the next video shoot.
I was seated on the couch talking to the chaps when I noticed an odd balloon-like swell beneath my belt. What the hell? Mortified, I tried to flatten my tummy bulge but it didn’t work. The tough jean material was buckling in ugly pouches and I looked at least four months pregnant. Smoothly, I took my laptop and pretended to do a little work…
Have I said yet that I hate high-waisted jeans?
To make matters worse, my stylist had efficiently arranged for me to pick up some clothing from a well-known boutique in what is probably one of our most stylish streets. Right. Embarrassment is not good enough for the office. It must be shared with a well-dressed world.
For once in my life, I was dead focused in doing my job. I picked up the clothes and made a beeline for the station pronto.
Ever noticed how toddlers playing hide-and-seek seem to think that as long as they can’t see you, you can’t see them? They stand in a corner with their eyes tightly shut and are shocked when they’re found. Well, I ‘hid’ myself on the train with a book. Buried between the pages of ‘Where The Wild Things Are’, I’m sure no one saw me in my electric blue-white-yellow damning outfit.
Stepping through the door of my house, I ran into the toilet with tremendous speed.
‘You win,’ I muttered to my pair of jeans as I flung them across the room.
I swear I heard them snigger.
I have a pile of clothing that I keep for my personal morbid fascination. They are damning evidence that some things should never be worn because when I did, I died a thousand deaths. And yet… it only takes a year before the horror fades and I revisit them with renewed hope.
‘Maybe my body’s changed shape! Maybe I wore it wrong! Maybe it’ll work this time!’ I smile in hope.
They never fail to make me feel like the worm that crawled out from under a rock.
Under the glare of reality, I see my faults highlighted with such force I wear black for days thereafter. A sign of mourning the things that can never be and well… because black is slimming. It’s a good ego-booster.
Moral of the story?
Keep on trying but dear god… do it first in the bedroom, not in front of the world.
That said, I’m waiting for a certain friend to finally try on the two newly purchased pairs of skinny jeans that are still lying in the closet. Come on! It’s time someone else had a hilarious story to share.
August 17, 2010 § Leave a comment
[Wonderful Life by Hurts]
Between the pockets of a good day filled with fast-paced activity and cheerful creativity, I slumped inwardly with tremendous inertia. I was about to expound on how many shades of grey existed in my day… when this song popped up in my iPod, at the precise moment I began writing this post.
What can I do but shake my head in amazement? When I stand disinterested with all that the Dream Maker wants to say to me, He reaches out to speak in a language that touches my heart.
‘Don’t let go, it’s such a wonderful life…’
It was enough to shake me out of my somnabulistic stupor. To celebrate, I will don my shoes early in the morning and hit the tracks tomorrow. I’ve neglected my daily runs for slightly more than a week now… not anymore.
Once 6am comes around, I’ll head out with a new determination. I deserve it.
Helloooo running shoes, I’ve missed you.
August 16, 2010 § 2 Comments
‘Did I tell you that I was admitted to the mental hospital twice?’ Jay said to me, twisting a tissue between her fingers. ‘The first time I was admitted, it came after a spending spree. Apparently, I had taken all my credit cards and bought so many items I maxed out all my cards but when I returned home to my husband, I couldn’t remember what I’d bought. I had nothing in my hands. They say I gave the items to random strangers on the street.’
‘What’s wrong? What did the doctors say?’ I tried my best to keep my face from showing any outward shock. She looked so empty, devoid of all the cheer I once knew her to have in vast amounts.
‘They say I am bipolar and when I’m happy, I go berserk spending loads of money. And when I get depressed, I hide from the world because I think someone is out there, coming after me.’ Jay looked at me and smiled wistfully, ‘I can’t remember how it feels to be unafraid.’
‘Why did you enter the hospital again?’ I reached out to hold her hand, ignoring the shredded tissue on the table between us.
‘I had been on prescribed medication for months and was feeling good. Stable. So I thought maybe, I was fully recovered and so stopped taking the medication. Not a good idea. The wild mood swings hit me again and when I began crying in class in the middle of teaching a lesson, they put me back into the hospital again.’
‘Why did you stop taking the medication? I take vitamins every day… it’s just routine,’ I tried my best to empathize with her but honestly, I couldn’t begin to fathom the depth of her struggle.
‘As long as I’m taking the medication…’ Jay took a deep breath to still her shaky voice, ‘I can’t have children. I’ve been married for three years now and all I dream of is holding a baby in my arms, and I can’t. I hate the fact that I’m dependent on medication to keep me normal,’ she gave me a sardonic smile.
‘Do you have any idea what it’s like to practice being normal?’ Jay leaned forward and stared at me, ‘I need to force myself out of my house to take a walk around the neighbourhood. Every person I meet is like the enemy, and to overcome this fear, I get out, walk for a bit and run home. I do this every day, while I wait to fully recover from this madness.’
She sat back and sipped her tea. Cocking her head to one side, she smiled.
‘I’m better now so don’t worry. I just need to wait for the day I’m fully recovered… the day when I can be stable without ever needing those damn pills. Maybe then, I can start living life again.’
How different am I from Jay?
Every single day, there are certain things I need that help me get through the day feeling, well… normal. I start my mornings with a hunger as I open my box filled with letters from the Dream Maker. Reading them and spending some time listening to Him talk takes me into the happy zone.
Recently though, I’ve been careless with my time and negligent with my ‘medication’. While I can’t understand my change in attitude, I see its effects on my emotions – they swing wildly from anger, depression, hurt to apathy.
‘Just pick up the letters and read them,’ I chide myself as I stare at the box of letters. Oddly, I put it down and walk away, only to face a day battling shadows that I don’t need to fight.
It’s plain dumb, stupid really.
‘Though I have a broken heart
I’m too busy to be heartbroken
There’s a lot of things that need to be done
Lord I have a broken heart
Though I have a broken dream
I’m too busy to be dreaming of you
There’s a lot of things that I gotta do
Lord I have a broken dream
I’ve been told that this will heal, given time…
‘Are you angry with me?’ His quiet voice startles me a little. I didn’t even notice Him coming to sit by my side, that was how consumed I was with my internal battles.
‘Angry? No…’ I shake my head.
‘Don’t lie to me, I can see right through you,’ He replies with a tinge of sadness.
‘I’m not angry, well, at least I don’t think it’s with you,’ I sigh. ‘I’m just tired…’
‘I saw a tear fall while you were asleep,’ He put His arm around me, ‘And I know why.’
‘Can you be faithful when I am faithless? Loving when I am hateful?’ I said, trying to keep the edginess from my voice, ‘Can you see me beautiful when I turn ugly? Will you make it all work out when I wonder if I’m doing all I can to destroy it?’
I was hoping to push Him away with my extremities and at the same time, longing for Him to prove that nothing will change the way He was holding me in His arms.
‘If you will let go of all that’s in your hands, and let me hold you in mine, I will change your world,’ He says with an urgency I haven’t heard before. ‘Look at me.’
I lift my bowed head and turn to look at Him.
‘That’s faith. All you need is to know and understand that I am the Dream Maker – the Maker and fulfillment of every desire in you. I made you, how can I do anything but love you? I see into you and whatever you choose to dress yourself in, dirty yourself with, doesn’t matter to me. I am looking into your heart.’
He opens His hands and spreads mine in His.
‘My hands are bigger than yours. You can try to work destruction, either purposefully or carelessly but My hands will always be bigger than yours. The world I can create from your mess will be far more astounding than any crap you give me. Can’t you see it? I am passionate about you.’
He takes the box of letters and places them in my hands.
‘How you feel on your journey – pain or joy – will be dependent on what you choose to fill your mind with. It doesn’t change its outcome. I’ve already written your story. And it’s good. One of the best, really…’ He smiles as He leans over, kisses my forehead and stands up.
‘I made my choice to believe in you. Now you choose what you want to believe.’
After He walked away, I sat there holding the box and bowed my head. Then very tentatively, I opened it, took out the first letter and began reading.
August 14, 2010 § 3 Comments
A boy in a wheelchair dreams of dancing.
It’s the biggest dream he has that fills him up with hope.
‘There’s all this new research that they’re doing and I think if I tried them all, one of them is bound to work for me,’ he smiles at his school counselor.
‘I read your file and… you know you are severely crippled,’ she answers him, holding sheets of medical research in her hands. ‘These studies take ten years or more before they are even tested on humans…’
And as the words of his counselor sinks into his heart, he bows his head and leaves the room. He lets go of his dream. Someone finally woke him up to reality.
‘It’s not going to happen, but I’m really okay,’ he says to his girlfriend. ‘I’ll make new dreams. I’ll dream of things that are possible.’
Yes, I was watching episode #19 of Glee’s first season and in my heart, applauded the scriptwriters for handling the delicate, nearly intangible topic of hope and reality, with dignity and grace. Year after year, thousands of hopeful wannabees put themselves out in American Idol auditions… and I am always amazed at how many people live in a bubble where all things are possible.
‘My momma says I’m a great singer so f%#k you Simon Cowell!’ I hear that statement repeated time and again on the show.
One of the hardest things I’ve had to handle, when auditioning singers in the past, was telling them that they didn’t have the natural foundations for what makes a good singer. Here I am, on one hand, telling people to build visions and dreams, while the flipside to what I do is bringing reality into what simply cannot be. I do my best to help them seek out their natural giftings and build on what’s already in them.
Dreams and reality – if there ever was a better conundrum, I haven’t found it.
‘Years ago, I couldn’t carry a tune,’ SoftSpeaker once said to me. ‘I know you won’t believe it but I never sang in public, and when I did, people told me I wasn’t cut out to be a singer. But it was all I dreamed of doing.’
She has since recorded albums and her voice is heard on at least two internationally marketed albums. She has performed in front of thousands and yet, here is a girl who says she couldn’t sing. What would have happened then, if she allowed someone else’s opinion change her course?
Can a dream be so powerful it changes the very elements of a person’s physical makeup, taking the impossible into the realm of possibility? Would that have worked for the boy in the wheelchair?
The first song I ever sang for my vocal teacher (more than ten years ago) was Dream A Little Dream (funny… I only just saw the irony of my selection) and because she was a jazz singer, she cut me off. I think I hurt her ears and caused embarrassment to her favourite genre of music.
Back then, I actually harboured dreams of performing on stage. My first vocal teacher (the temperamental witch!) was unyielding in her attack on my dreams and truthfully, I thank her for that because in injecting such mockery at my juvenile vocal attempts, she steered my dreaming into the right direction.
Today, I know that I’m not cut out to be a singer with albums under her belt. My ideals are lowered and I just want to sing well enough to hold a song without the cringe factor, while I do what’s necessary on stage. I have since sung in choir recordings, taught choir singers, done backing vocals, performed in musicals and my forte (if any) would be funny, dramatic and hilarious pieces. Yes, my singing is more a support role to what I do better – I am a communicator.
Do I still dream? Hell yes.
But I’ve also learnt the difference between fantasies and actual dreams. My definitions of both categories are based on a healthy combination of experience, brutally honest people, hope… and a sprinkling of all-things-are-possibility.
I fantasize about writing a book (while I battle deadlines for short articles), running a restaurant (I don’t even cook regularly though I must say, I eat well) and being in the top 20 fastest runners of a marathon (when I can’t even finish running 10k).
And my dreams? Ultimately, I just want to be happy and fulfilled every single moment of my day.
But that might just be made up of many tiny little fantasies… and that’s why it’s important to keep it all alive. With the power of dreaming and the Dream Maker’s ability, it might all come true.
Am I contradicting myself in this entire post? Yes. Because that’s precisely what dreams do.
They contradict reality and offer the solace that one day, what we want will happen, what we want changed will finally transform and what we desire most of all is really, already in our hands.
I say, dream on.
Now please excuse me while I go back to my fantasies.