distracted

I have just finished four different posts across different social mediums.

And am just beginning to ask myself… why do I seem compelled to write in so many differing channels?

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research

I’m pondering on returning to Japan for a short trip. ‘Maybe flights will be cheaper now?’ I naively assumed. And after some research…

United doesn’t fly to Japan as a destination alone, but as a stopover to the States.
And oddly, when I did a further search, no longer registers any stopovers in Japan.
They must be very frightened. Or my search techniques are severely lacking.

Cathay Pacific is $610.60 for a 9hr 35min flight, but arrival at night.
If I want to arrive in the afternoon, it includes a stopover in Hong Kong.

China Airlines is $712.20 for a 18hr 22min flight (!!) with stopover in China. (Nooooooo!!!)

ANA is $1132.22 for a 7hr 15min flight but only 4 seats remaining.
So many people traveling back??

JAL is $1150.05 for a 6hr 55min flight.
SIA is $1449.60 for a 6hr 45min flight, arrival in the morning.

Looks like flights aren’t as cheap as I thought they would be.
I wonder why?

*

Doing some further research for Mother (who has yet to get a data plan after a week being in Japan), I chanced upon this very useful blog (click above image for link). Although it features temporary plans for the visitor (helpful for me), it also contains several nuggets of information for the long-term resident using an iPhone/iPad.

Now the problem is, how in the world do I explain all that to my 62 year old mom?

I sent the pertinent details to her anyway and am hoping the nice chap she meets at the Apple store will be able to do a better job than I can. She’ll be venturing forth into town tomorrow, and one of the to-dos is yes… get a data plan. I gotta admire Mother though. She’s probably the most techie woman in the elderly town of Atami right now.

I remember a taxi-driver I once met there, who proudly told me that he didn’t have a mobile phone, didn’t use the internet and basically stayed away from all things digital because they were for the younger generation. Odd then, that prior to the earthquakes, the elderly care home (where Obachan resides) was shifting to HD cables & television sets for all their occupants.

I wonder if they’d have noticed the difference, seeing how so many need their glasses & hearing aids.

I mean, today, on Skype, we were hollering at our laptops, trying to communicate with my 92-year old grandmother… when she suddenly remembered that she hadn’t put her hearing aids in. Nice. And all the while, I thought it was because of the Skype upgrade I recently installed. Although I have to say… after the upgrade, my video & audio connection seemed to suffer more lag than usual.

Okay. Enough rambling. Now back to research.

This time – music for work.

letter to mom



Dearest Mommy,

Today was the first day in many years that we didn’t speak with each other.

You were always there, seated at the dining table in the mornings. You were there when we traveled to work together. And even through the weeks when I was working so hard I knew neither day nor night, your presence was always felt. You never failed to send me a text message or email, asking if I was having dinner at home or staying back at work late. Back then, I thought you were just ‘checking’, like all mothers do. Now I know, it was your simple way of reaching out to me, without being intrusive.

I still have to resist turning my head towards your desk, when I walk into the office. And for a split second this morning, I thought I heard you in the dining room… that’s how deeply ingrained you’ve been in my life. I’m not sure how many other daughters get the chance to live and work with their mothers. Some might scoff and shudder with that very thought, and if they do, I wish I could lend you to them to show just how sweet and rich a mother’s presence can be in a child’s life.

And we all are someone’s child, aren’t we?

Today, I sat in the office during my lunch break, wanting to be alone for a bit… when a scene flashed across my mind.

I was about three years old, seated on our old kitchen table, reading a book that you gave to me. It was a favourite of mine, I think, because you read it to me every single day. And on that particular day, I was proudly reading back each word to you… the sense of accomplishment thrilled me.

‘Mommy! Mommy! See… I’m reading all by myself! Are you listening?’ I remember saying as you busied yourself with the cooking. I didn’t know then the mental struggle you were going through because Father had left the family. Neither could I even begin to understand how much pain you felt each time you had to leave me with the babysitter’s when you went to work.

All I can remember is that you turned around, looked me in the eyes, and smiled.

‘I’m listening.’ You said.

And you were telling the truth. You never did stop listening, even when years later, as a teenager, I refused to hear you out. I would rant, shout my frustrations, cry because I thought no one understood me… and still, you listened. It came to a point where I didn’t want to talk anymore and determinedly shut the world – and you – out of my life.

Yet you waited, your ear inclined to me.

I sought the comfort I once knew with you, from my friends and other worldly fillers, but there were no replacements. The harder I searched, the lonelier I felt. That’s when I opened the door to my heart… and found you there.

There was no repayment that needed to be made. You picked up right where we left off, as though my wandering years didn’t happen.

And like the child who sat on the kitchen table, who read back the words you once read to me… I began listening to you as your stories unfolded, because mommy dearest… the seeds you planted in me were never lost.

‘You are my mother’

And though we are many miles apart, I just wanted to let you know…

I am so proud of you, and what you’re doing over there in Japan. I’m always here for you – whenever, wherever – so please don’t ever think you’re intruding or that I’m too busy. Because no matter what happens on my side of the earth, no matter how chaotic my hours might be, as long as you ask me, ‘Are you listening?’ My answer will be consistent, just like yours always was.

‘I’m listening.’

We will get our perfect endings, not because you’re a perfect mom or me, the perfect daughter… far from it. It’s simply because we know the Dream Maker wrote our story. And well, He likes happy endings.

Love you so much,

Your daughter.

 

 

good | bad

Here’s an interesting story for today.

Written by Jake Adelstein from The Daily Beast, it reminded me that there is no real true ‘bad’ or ‘good’ person out there. People make choices. But what they do doesn’t define who they are. They are still human and very much a comrade in times of extreme adversity.

In a singular, defining moment, a person can switch from doing what we deem ‘wrong’ to something ‘morally worthy’. Does that then change who they are?

‘What separates you from a murderer or thief?’ I was once asked. ‘Can you say that there’s not a single part of you that is able to do great evil? And at the same time… great good?’

It stems then from the deepest place where all choices are made.

Who or what holds your heart?

*

“There are no yakuza or katagi (ordinary citizens) or gaijin (foreigners) in Japan right now. We are all Japanese. We all need to help each other.”

– a yakuza member

The worst of times sometimes brings out the best in people, even in Japan’s “losers” a.k.a. the Japanese mafia, the yakuza.

Hours after the first shock waves hit, two of the largest crime groups went into action, opening their offices to those stranded in Tokyo, and shipping food, water, and blankets to the devastated areas in two-ton trucks and whatever vehicles they could get moving.

The day after the earthquake the Inagawa-kai (the third largest organized crime group in Japan which was founded in 1948) sent twenty-five four-ton trucks filled with paper diapers, instant ramen, batteries, flashlights, drinks, and the essentials of daily life to the Tohoku region.

An executive in Sumiyoshi-kai, the second-largest crime group, even offered refuge to members of the foreign community — something unheard of in a still slightly xenophobic nation, especially amongst the right-wing yakuza.

The Yamaguchi-gumi, Japan’s largest crime group, under the leadership of Tadashi Irie, has also opened its offices across the country to the public and been sending truckloads of supplies, but very quietly and without any fanfare.

The Inagawa-kai has been the most active because it has strong roots in the areas hit. It has several “blocks” or regional groups. Between midnight on March 12th and the early morning of March 13th, the Inagawa-kai Tokyo block carried 50 tons of supplies to Hitachinaka City Hall (Hitachinaka City, Ibaraki Prefecture) and dropped them off, careful not to mention their yakuza affiliation so that the donations weren’t rejected. This was the beginning of their humanitarian efforts. Supplies included cup ramen, bean sprouts, paper diapers, tea and drinking water. The drive from Tokyo took them twelve hours. They went through back roads to get there. The Kanagawa Block of the Inagawa-kai, has sent 70 trucks to the Ibaraki and Fukushima areas to drop off supplies in areas with high radiations levels. They didn’t keep track of how many tons of supplies they moved. The Inagawa-kai as a whole has moved over 100 tons of supplies to the Tohoku region. They have been going into radiated areas without any protection or potassium iodide.

The Yamaguchi-gumi member I spoke with said simply, “Please don’t say any more than we are doing our best to help. Right now, no one wants to be associated with us and we’d hate to have our donations rejected out of hand.”

– excerpt from article by Jake Adelstein

*

While I don’t agree with what the yakuza has done in the past, I applaud them for the way they stepped in when no one else could.

To read the full article, head here.

the blank space

Been staring at this blank, white empty space for a long time.

I feel much. But my mind is like this void, which I don’t know what to fill with.

Random thoughts.

Sudden tears.

Breathe. Normal again.

Get busy.

And the cycle repeats itself.

*

‘How have you been?’ the Amazonian texted me just two days ago.

‘Well, I discovered something new today.’

‘Which is?’ she asked.

‘It’s very difficult to brush your teeth and cry at the same time…’ I replied.

‘Shit. I felt that,’ the Amazonian texted back.

*

‘How are you?’ the Sister asked me.

‘Aside from breaking down at weird moments for no apparent reason? And being a total emotional-ass? Pretty good,’ I replied.

‘Me too… darn it! I’m starting again,’ she said.

*

‘Hope your mom is good and well,’ the Visitor texted me.

‘She’s good…’ I answered, and began detailing her travel plans, before ending it with, ‘I miss mom.’

‘Even after all these years, I still miss my mom,’ the Visitor said, explaining that his mother had passed on years ago… and this time… I felt it…

Reminding me that we both are our mother’s children… and what we miss most about them, their strengths and unique abilities, are what we’ll find surfacing in our lives, over and over again. Truth is, they aren’t ever that far away from us.

*

‘I’m doing my best to encourage myself,’ Mother wrote to me. ‘I was having a conversation with Obachan and to tell me something, she took me from the north pole to the south pole, to Timbuktu and Iceland… and I got lost somewhere. I miss living with you all.’

And all this while, I thought Mother was doing fine without us. Little did I know…

‘Did you cry?’ I asked her during our skype conversation today.

‘Yes… on the plane. I did.’

And from that point onwards, we could barely make out what the other was saying amid the sniffles and shaky voices.

*

Standing there during the service, it was hard to raise my hands. It wasn’t because I didn’t want to. No. I was afraid that if I allowed the words to enter my heart, to sing with abandon like I usually do, I would crumble. I didn’t need to let anyone else see how messy my insides were.

‘But you understand, don’t you?’ I asked the Dream Maker. ‘I mean no disrespect.’

‘Yeah, I do,’ He said. I felt His hand gently hold mine that were tightly clasped together. The love almost made me start crying.

‘I’m losing it!’ I whispered to Him through gritted teeth.

‘Right,’ I heard Him laugh softly.

*

‘What did the Big Boss say?’ the Mother asked later.

‘There was so much! Hold on…’ I grabbed my notebook and began reading out the lines I took down. Oddly, after letting the words pass through me again, I felt better.

Ahhh… I gotta go. Obachan got up and says she’s hungry. Tomorrow?’ Mother asked, Obachan’s voice beckoning in the background.

‘Tomorrow.’ I replied with a smile and shut down the connection.

*

‘I made you some lemon bread… and lemon bars,’ Kitty smiled a little bashfully.

‘Oh my… thank you so much,’ I replied. She knew that lemons were one of my favourite fruits. And I was always griping about how it’s hard to find the perfect lemon-y tart, cake, bread…

But it was more than a lemon-y thing that Kitty made. I felt her hug through the items she made.

‘I’m just glad they made you smile…’ she said.

*

Then there was the newly-wed couple who were just there. Knowing, and ready to be, well… there for me.

Spike who didn’t want to ask too much, but who wanted to show he too, understood.

Cutesy and JapGirl who took over my work while I was gone.

The Husband who sat by my side, quietly, patiently watching over me even when I wanted to be alone.

The little boy who climbed onto my lap and cried with me.

The little girl who held my hand, committed to being there for me.

Signs of love written on the wind. They were every where I turned.

I am not alone.

*

‘Well, at least this shows things are getting better. CNN/BBC etc are all reporting on other news now, like robbers and politics,’ a fellow Japanese twitter-er posted. He was of course, referring to the deluge of Japan-related news that dominated the headlines of every news agency the past week.

And all I can say is, I am likewise doing better.

I know it because the blank space that imprisoned me for the past few days isn’t quite so blank anymore.

Life is interesting again.

*

Thank you dear friends for just being there.

For sharing your stories.

Those few minutes helped. More than you probably knew it.

And the Dream Maker? He never stopped reaching out to hold me.

the land ahead…

Surreal.

While many around me watch with a mixture of fascination & horror as events unfold in Japan, I sit with Mother, discussing her move to Atami. Ironic how she was traveling back to a place filled with disaster when the rest of the world was trying to get out.

‘Sakiko’s relatives are still missing,’ Mina-san said to me at the table, as we tried to enjoy ourselves at Mother’s farewell dinner. ‘Her mother and father are here, but everyone else is back in Miyagi.’

‘Did she grow up there?’ I asked. Sakiko was her colleague and close friend.

‘Yes… it’s her hometown. She received news that her best friend is dead. Her mother can’t eat because her younger brother is still missing, as is the rest of the family. And her father’s entire business was built in Miyagi, so now, he basically has no work to return to.’

The sashimi managed to get stuck in my throat. And that was when our phones beeped. We had set it to receive notifications whenever there was news from Japan.

‘Five minutes ago, there was another earthquake, this time further down south, in Shizuoka.’ I said. ‘The earthquake measured 6.0 in magnitude…’

‘Shizuoka?’ Mother looked up. ‘That’s far away from Miyagi.’ And a little closer to where Mother is going to be in two days’ time. Mina-san quietly began texting on her mobile. Her family was in Kanagawa, a prefecture beside Shizuoka.

‘Is everything okay?’ I asked.

‘It should be. They’ve already suffered the worst on Friday, but I’m just checking to see that they’re all doing well.’ Thankfully, they were. ‘Although my sister just had a massive quarrel with her husband.’

‘Quarrel at a time like this? What happened?’

‘She was pissed that while they – mom and her – were busy hiding from things that could fall, he was snoring on the couch.’ Mina-san laughed.

It felt good then to smile again. Still, this disaster feels too real and it’s getting under my skin. I know these people. I’ve lived with them. Japan is my second home… and to see what’s happening to the country is akin to watching a gang of brutal rapists attack someone you love.

You feel helpless, angry and weepy, all at the same time.

*

Tired of the news footage I’ve seen so far, I decided to browse some pictures that talked about the human plight, strength, resilience and courage. Here are some (of the best) I found from Life. You can click on the pictures to lead you straight to the gallery itself.

Holding On (March 12)
A soldier carries an elderly woman on his back as people are evacuated to a shelter in Kesennuma, Miyagi prefecture.

Lining Up (March 14)
A mass of people wait to buy food at a grocery store in hard-hit Sendai.

Please Call (March 14)
Thousands are missing in Japan since the quake. Here, a woman posts a message for loved ones at an evacuation center in Natori.
Aftermath
A young survivor surveys the destruction in the northern Japanese city of Ishinomaki, two days after a tsunami ravaged the coast. In the days following the quake, as the waters receded, the nightmarish scale of the destruction became evident: entire towns were, in effect, wiped from the map; cars, buses, homes, people were washed away…

Doing Her Part
Neena Sasaki, 5, carries family belongings from her destroyed home in Rikuzentakata.

Smiles Amid Ruin
A soldier smiles as he holds a four-month-old baby who, along with with her family, survived the tsunami’s devastation in Ishinomaki.
Sharing The Pain
A woman holds her granddaughter at a shelter at Natori.
A Moment To Remember
A man lights a candle in memory of the victims of Japan’s massive March 11, 2011 earthquake in a park in Sendai. It is believed the death count in Japan could reach 10,000.

*

I’ve never been in a nuclear reactor. For those of you like me, here’s a gallery of pictures you can browse (not of those in Japan but a historical walk through) to help make sense of everything happening in the news.

*

Throughout the past few days, Mother hasn’t once lost her cheerful outlook on life. In light of all that’s happened, she’s utterly convinced that heading back to Japan is the right thing to do. And I can’t agree more. If there ever was a time when my grandmother and relatives need her, it’s now.

I can be unselfish about that. She being there would also allow us back here to direct our help in a more focused way. But I’ll miss her ability to laugh at the most dire of circumstances and honestly, Mother is such a beacon of encouragement and light. Am I fearful that I’ll sink into a deep pit of darkness once she goes? A little. My heart has been aching in a million places these past few days – for the people in Japan, for the history that many have lost, and yes… for me. But I’ll manage.

I’m going to miss that spunky, cheeky lady like hell though.

the hurting world

15 minutes late for work, I got off the train at my usual station and joined the mob rushing towards the escalators. I had just turned my head to check my card, when a shadow at the corner of my eye made me look up.

Swish, swish, swish… He was a cleaner I hadn’t seen before.
Swish, swish, swish… Elderly, hunched and quietly doing his job, I’m not sure why but I was entranced by his lone figure.

A few minutes later, the crowd was gone but I was still standing there, hidden by the station’s signboard, watching him. My mouth was filled with words, but I was afraid to give them voice. My intellect didn’t quite know what to make of my heart’s odd behaviour.

I walked away.

*

Just as I reached the lift lobby, another cleaner walked past. He had a hole in his throat.

‘Throat cancer,’ the Mother said to me. ‘And because of the operation, he now has to breathe through that hole.’

‘How does he speak?’ I asked.

‘He doesn’t… well, not the way you and I do. He had to learn how to articulate through that hole.’

*

Walking through the corridor towards my desk, I passed by Crazy. She was a video editor that I worked regularly with.

‘Morning!’ I chirped but was completely ignored. Something’s not right…

I saw JapGirl and immediately asked her if she’d noticed anything about Crazy.

‘She’s going through something, but I’m not sure what,’ she replied with a sad smile. I understood that look. Crazy was one of JapGirl’s best friends.

‘Should we say something? Do something?’ I asked.

‘I’m not sure. It looks like she wants to be left alone.’

So I left her alone.

*

‘I am so sorry I’m late!’ the Dancer exclaimed as we sat down at our favourite eatery for lunch. ‘Things were just mad at work and I couldn’t get away.’

She was an hour late but it was fine with me. I had work to finish too, and truthfully, I was a tad reluctant to leave the office.

‘Don’t worry about it,’ I smiled as we tucked into our beef goulash. ‘So how have you been?’

And it all came pouring out – her problems with a team that she’d worked with for years, a horrid misunderstanding still unresolved, the sleepless nights that left her tired, the frustrations with her inability to dance because of her injury…

‘i just don’t know what to do!’ she wailed.

‘Then you’re in a safe place,’ I said. ‘You’re an accomplished woman. You’re famous because of what you’ve done in the past… I mean, come on! I can google you! How many people can I do a google search for information on credentials and history? But now, you find yourself in places where you can’t be strong… and while I know it’s frustrating, maybe this time, it’s about the journey, not the end-goal. Can I ask… what was your deepest desire when you first came in to church?’

‘I once asked myself that,’ she slowly stirred her cold soup, ‘And I had no answer. So I took a pen and began to draw. For reasons I didn’t understand then, I found myself drawing trees. Big, strong trees. One after another, till they became a huge forest. And then I got it. I wanted to grow people, to see them become strong trees, to help others who can’t do whatever it is they want to do.’

‘What do you think you’re learning, from all these things that are happening around you?’ I pressed in a little more.

‘I’m not sure… I just feel so out of control.’

‘Maybe that’s what you’re supposed to be learning,’ I smiled. ‘To let go. To not be in control but to let another greater power work through you instead.’

‘I think you’re right. I’ve never felt this way before…’ she said. Then with a loud wail, ‘But noooooo… it’s so difficult!’

We laughed and then I had to run. I was 30 minutes late for my next appointment.

*

Back-to-back meetings and coping with a shoot that was scheduled at the last minute, the day passed by and before I knew it, it was 8pm. With a sigh of relief, I packed my things and turned off the lights. Walking out, I passed by Crazy again but she looked no better from the morning.

‘Love you…’ I texted her but hours later, hadn’t received a reply.

*

Hurting people with untold stories. When do you leave them alone and when do you intrude into their world?

See the woman on the train, the man driving the cab you’re riding in, the guy seated at the bus-stop, the colleague beside you… there are hurting people everywhere.

‘Is there a reason why I was placed in this precise spot on earth?’ I asked the Dream Maker. We were watching the non-existent stars in our night sky.

‘What do you think?’ He asked.

‘I think there is. But how do I help anyone?’

‘Love them.’

‘But how?’ I wrinkled my brow.

‘Smile. Look at them in the eyes. Let the love be genuine. Sometimes, that’s enough for the day.’ He said.

‘That’s enough?’ I didn’t get it.

‘Build it daily, one brick at a time. You’ll know what to do when the time comes…’

‘Easy for you to say,’ I laughed, chucking Him on the head. ‘You’re God!’

‘And you’re Mine. What makes you think you won’t know otherwise?’

*

This time, I’m writing out the plan in them, carving it on the lining of their hearts.

– Hebrews 10:16 (MSG)

 

state of wonder #1

A Pirate-ship bedroom!!

Okay, this doesn’t actually count as I didn’t take these pictures but gosh! It’s so awesome I just had to share it with everyone…

Designer Steve Kuhl ful­fills every boy’s (and girl’s) fan­tasy with this insanely cool pirate ship bed­room…

I don’t think I’ll ever outgrow the desire to sleep in my fantasies.

To see more pictures, head here. You WILL be awed.

state of wonder

Woke up, washed the night away.
Made food disappear, painted my face.
Smelt the rain, rode on wheels
Pulled strings together, just like I did before.
Is there something wonderful, every single day?

*

The less we see the world around us, the faster the day passes by. I only noticed this phenomenon today as I tried to fill in my personal time sheet for last week. It scared me that I simply could not remember what I did a mere four days before.

Awakened to the fact that my moments were well and truly buried in the grave, I began watching and living in the now, purposefully noting people’s mannerisms, the words they said, food we ate, the chair I sat on… and the oddest thing happened. I grew happier. People are such funny creatures…

What would it be like if I were to live in a perpetual state of wonder? I asked myself. Will the world become a colour-filled playground for my fantasies? Will I find myself exchanging distrust and cynicism for belief?

I’m not sure if there’s a point to this exercise, but I’m going to try. I’ll find one thing each day to be mesmerized with and hopefully, be able to document it here. There’s nothing to lose. After all… if nothing changes, I’m already familiar with this life I know as mine.

*

Interestingly, I chanced upon this post by Seth Godin, that also talked about wonder (and anger).

What caused you wonder today?

women I’ve loved…

Reading, conversation, environment, culture, heroes, mentors, nature – all are lottery tickets for creativity. Scratch away at them and you’ll find out how big a prize you’ve won.

– Twyla Tharp

Through every personal evolution, I’ve noticed that there are some tendencies in me that refuse to budge. Whether it’s in design, style, principle or just personal taste… my preferences remain the same. ‘Why?’ I asked myself today, as I scanned a friend’s collection of writings and pictures with deep envy. ‘Why don’t I see life like she does?’

Is it a choice? But I do my best to stay open to all sorts of ideas.

Is it something we are born with? Unless I have access to great resources for an in-depth research, I will never know that one.

Is it how we were influenced through our pivotal years? That sparked off something in me, which was when I decided to review the women I’ve loved and admired.

1. Janis Joplin

‘I was a misfit. I read, I painted, I didn’t hate niggers.’

Janis Joplin was a singer/songwriter in the late 1960s, best remembered for her bluesy, heart-wrenching vocals and raw performances. Together with the psychedelic rock band Big Brother and the Holding Company, they released a song that became my theme for a year or so, titled Piece Of My Heart.

Something about her misfit nature clicked with me then, as a 16 year old girl. She was the oldest child among three children, so was I. She felt out of place in school, I felt out of place in life. She came from a Christian background, a place which I was trying to break free from. She sang with the choir, so did I. And because she was known as the woman who dared to be different, I decided that being different from my school mates wasn’t that bad after all.

Creating my own world of rhythm and blues, psychedelic rock and anything that involved the poets and writers in the Beat Generation, it didn’t hurt too bad that I couldn’t identify with the rest of my mates. It was okay. I had Janis and gang and they understood. Everything about their beliefs and outlook on life, I absorbed. It was also around that time that I began listening to Jimi Hendrix, The Grateful Dead, Otid Redding and interestingly enough, Miles Davis.

*

2. Bjork

‘There’s no map to human behaviour.’

Although Bjork had been performing since the age of 11, and was also part of the Sugarcubes in the early 90s, I only started buying her records when she went solo. I had every album, single and collaboration she was involved in, as I was deeply mesmerized with her personality and music.

I was still studying then, and so, Bjork became my source of inspiration for sound, music and video productions. I was introduced to the remarkable works of Michel Gondry (he directed her music videos), listened to Tricky, Howie B, 808 state, and soon enough, the world of dance music opened up to me.

I managed to watch her perform twice and I remember leaving the concert exhilarated. Not because I finally had the chance to watch a woman I so greatly admired (although I must admit, I was right there, in front of the stage), but because I felt I’d caught something – a certain passion for life.

The greatest impact Bjork had on me though, was her hunger to work with different genres of music. There were no boundaries in her exploration of different styles, and though some projects didn’t seem as successful as others, I just grew in admiration of a woman who was unafraid to try anything.

*

3. Darlene Zschech


Having spent most of my teenage years running from the church, I finally walked through the doors of my local church in 1997, and was greeted by a new sound. A sound that I found liberating. A sound helmed by a team from Hillsong Australia, led by a worship leader named Darlene Zschech.

I loved her leadership on stage, the songs that she sang and the words that she wrote. It all seemed to come from one place – the heart. And because it was birthed in the deepest place of intimacy, I found myself identifying with her open vulnerability. I remembered the first time I actually met her face to face. I was assigned to write an article on her and my opening question was, ‘Standing on stage looking out at the thousands of people in front of you… what’s the first thought you have?’

She kept quiet, her head down. I grew worried. Did I do something wrong?

Then lifting her head, she looked at me with tears in her eyes, ‘I feel the power of His grace. His love. That He would call someone like me to do His work. There’s nothing in me that deserves this. Nothing. It’s just Him.’

Since then, I’ve had the chance to work with her on more occasions but nothing has changed. It’s still the same. Her life is lived with one purpose, a purpose that I’ve grown to share – that every breath we breathe, we do it for Him.

*

Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.

– Benjamin Franklin

There’s another woman I love deeply.

She was the first misfit – being the daughter of a Brigadier-General, she moved from location to location, never having enough time to from firm friendships, never really integrating with her surroundings. The classic loner, she read books, wrote and lived through music.

She was the first bohemian – while the rest of her counterparts studied business, accounting or became teachers, she pursued music, learning how to build and construct pianos. Leaving her home, she traveled to a little known place I now call my country, and established herself here as the first female piano tuner in the late 70s. I’m still in shock that she was the one who tuned Duke Ellington’s piano when he came to perform.

She was the first rebel – against her Japanese traditions, fighting to be an independent woman with a successful career.

She was a survivor – alone in an alien country, coping with a husband who cheated on her, dealing with a handicapped child (my second sister), from having a lot to having little… mother made home a place of refuge.

She was a nurturer – every where she went, she brought me along. When she cooked, I was seated on the kitchen table top, reading a book. When she went shopping, I was in her basket. When she went to church, I played in the gardens.

I found my identity as a woman, by watching my mother.

And therein lies my answer.

The person I am and the choices I make, the personal tastes I have… they were all cultivated by the influences I was exposed to, but instilled with deeper roots because of the mother I had.