with heart

‘Normally, in anything I do, I’m fairly miserable. I do it, and I get grumpy because there is a huge, vast gulf, this aching disparity, between the platonic ideal of the project that was living in my head, and the small, sad, wizened, shaking, squeaking thing that I actually produce.’

– Neil Gaiman

‘You know what your problem is? You are a perfectionist,’ Busy Bee stared at me, fuming mad.

‘You want things done the exact way you saw it in your mind. You start off enthusiastically, planning things in detail and setting wheels in motion. But when it starts to deviate from your plan and mutates into an imperfect expression, you give up. You get disheartened and lose interest. You call it quits. And that’s why you’re always surrounded by so many unfinished projects.’

She was right. I had unfinished art work, unfinished time lines, unfinished cases… it all reeked of failure.

We were doing a post-mortem of our projects in 2007 and her feedback on my performance was… not good. Instead of walking away though, Busy Bee faithfully stood by me, even when she only wanted to slap my face. She taught me to be committed, to accept failures and value the potential in results that are far from perfect. Since then, our partnership has deepened to one of nurture. We understand each other so well that in our arguments, there’s an undeniable love and respect. We truly desire to bring out the best in each other.

Tonight, I remember these things vividly, as I survey the mass of unfinished projects in my hand. Each of these items began with a dream. In my hands though, they looked naked, distorted and admittedly, there were many times today I want to throw in the towel.

But there is a new fight in me. I will not give up. I will keep working on them until my heart, and my heart alone, feels ready to let go and say, ‘I’ve done my best. Now… God, do the rest. Make them spectacular.’

With heart. Is that they only gauge we have for this life?

If we live life according to our expectations, we fail. If we live life according to the world’s set standards, we fail. If we live life merely wanting to maintain protocol and follow guidelines, isn’t that a failure of dispassion too?

But living life with heart – is that the only way we can gain actual satisfaction with every little task we complete?

*

‘Hey PD, will you have ten minutes today? I need to ask you about something…’ I texted him.

‘Sure. Come on up to my office.’

I needed some advice about a matter and PD was one person I thought could help shed some insight on my confusion. I updated him with a year’s worth of journey in five minutes and then sat back. ‘What do you think I should do?’ I was hoping for a clear direction.

‘I don’t have an answer,’ he said. ‘I know you want me to tell you what to do but I can’t. I can tell you this… if there’s one thing I’ve learnt in my life, it is to follow my heart. I’m not there yet and still make decisions based on what I think is best, but I’m learning that even when things may not yield the best results, it’s important to know that we followed our hearts.’

I sighed. He smiled.

‘What does your heart tell you?’

‘My heart says that I don’t want to do this.’ I answered.

‘And are you ready for the consequences?’ He asked.

‘Yes, I think I am.’ And as I walked out that office, I know I am. This is going to be one of the toughest things I’ll need to do but I can’t do things out of obligation or fear. I need to know that I made the right choice. Hopefully, those affected by my decision will understand that too. Hopefully, the bridges I think I’m burning can be rebuilt again.

*

‘There comes a time when the world gets quiet and the only thing left is your own heart. So you’d better learn the sound of it. Otherwise you’ll never understand what it’s saying.’

– Sarah Dessen

Last night, I didn’t sleep. Last night, I asked myself many questions.

I was in the midst of completing my article on Paddington and the Fair Maiden’s loss and found myself torn between wanting to report things as I would normally, from my point of view, and wanting to write as one would, for the publication.

My writing voice was contrived and it frustrated me that I didn’t feel the words that were coming through. When sunlight creeped through the curtains, I gave up. I headed in to the office and openly declared to everyone that today was my writing day so please, leave me alone.

Fat chance. I was roped in to impromptu meetings and found myself saddled with an additional three more scripts to write.

‘This is not funny,’ I whispered to the Dream Maker. ‘How am I going to be able to do all this by Sunday? I have to hand in my overdue article, meet some people at 11am tomorrow, followed by a rehearsal, another meeting at 3.30pm and if all goes well, the earliest I’d be at home would be 6pm. That effectively gives me another late night!’

I groaned inwardly.

And did what I knew best then. I burst into song, this time adding a few pirouettes for good measure. With heart.

*chuckle*

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who am i?

‘Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.’

– Oscar Wilde

I stood before my new office today. I didn’t dive in. I didn’t walk in. I chose instead, to take a deep breath – it was a funny mix of sour plums and new furniture. I looked around and wondered, ‘Who will I be here, in this new department?’

The move was scheduled to take place two weeks ago and to be honest, I was glad for the delay. I don’t think I was prepared nor ready to say goodbye to my old team. I was already managing my new portfolio (and having great fun with the work) in my old office, but to be cocooned in this new room with a whole new bunch of people required… new dynamics.

‘Oh god…’ I thought to myself, ‘It took us years in the previous team to get thoroughly comfortable with each other – our weaknesses, idiosyncrasies and bad habits – and the journey was a very meaningful one; albeit very painful at times. Now, I have to start all over again?’

I turned and walked away. I wasn’t quite sure who I could be in the new team.

*

Who am I?

If I was a flower – I’d be a daisy. Or a dusty pink rose.

If I was a song – I’d be a compilation album because I don’t think I can live one tune for the rest of my life.

If I was paper – I’d be the rough brown type, the kind they use to wrap parcels. Nothing fancy but always ready to be inked, written on, decorated. And if I were string, I’d be brown twine and make the knots somehow, look beautiful.

But who am I really?

People have described me as intimidating, confident, unique, private, liberal, even funny. At the core of it all though… I think I’m just a woman who treasures the little girl within her. I don’t ever want to lose that fascination with life. I don’t want to forget the miracle of another day, alive. I want to laugh easily and be able to cry too, if I feel like it.

I just want to be real.
And I’m still searching for that, every day.

You see, from birth, I was taught to act a certain way, behave appropriately because ‘what would people think?‘ So this cycle of wondering if people could accept who I was got deeply ingrained in my system and before I knew it, I created this ‘person’ that I felt I ought to be.

At 15, I was the rebellious one with the navel piercing, low-riding pants and filthy mouth.

At 16, I was the indie/hippie chick who listened to The Smiths, Jimi Hendrix and any other obscure band, expounding on philosophy whenever she could.

At 17, I was the clubber.

At 18, I was the sensible, practical one. The one who ‘obeyed the rules’ that society set. Deep in my heart, I didn’t need to ‘break free’ from the rules but there was a hunger to be me. Still, I hid it behind smiles and perfect words for the right occasions. Eventually though, it all broke apart. How long can we try to be someone else?

Finally, at 26, I began my journey to live life free from my deepest fear, ‘What would people think?‘ It was painful, immeasurably so. Everything I understood about life was taken away, every belief, challenged.

I still remember the night when I sat alone on the kitchen floor, spent from crying. With barely any strength left to lift my head, I asked again… ‘Who am I?’ and in the quietness, I heard the Dream Maker’s gentle whisper, ‘You’re mine.’

It wasn’t about identities. It was about whose Name I carried and therefore, what was already bestowed on me.

*

Back in the office, I plugged in some music and began packing away years of my life into boxes. Carting them into the new place, it became easier and easier to view the items in the boxes as that – landmarks. They didn’t declare my person but instead, were mere recognitions of how far along this journey I’d come.

‘Let’s play ball!’ I suddenly piped up. The whole team turned around and as we chatted, we tossed that little stress ball around. Then I called for a song break and we began singing… or at least, I did. And when I was hungry, I stopped mid-way, sat on my desk and ate, watching the rest do their work. Needing a stretch, I decided to cart the flight cases down to the other office and asked JapGirl to push me while I sat on top. She willingly obliged (god bless her darling heart). It no longer mattered if people were watching or if I was in a corporate organization. I wanted to be free… to be me.

I was laughing again.

‘I could hear you singing all the way from where I was!’ A colleague told me.

‘Oh no! Did anyone complain?’ I gasped. Reality hit me. Darn it, there were managers all around the office.

‘No… it was nice. Somehow, the atmosphere felt more alive,’ she answered.

*

I still need to get used to being myself. It’s extraordinarily hard… but damn… it’s good fun.

finally understood

‘I don’t know how you did it!’ Kitty remarked as she typed away at her laptop.

‘Did what?’ I asked, reluctantly turning my head away from the computer screen to look at her.

‘You are so busy! I mean, you are not just busy doing work but you’re working at like so many things at one time, I don’t see how you managed to meet up with friends and hang out!’ she answered.

I smiled in reply. I didn’t know how I did it either. Actually, I didn’t know if I was doing anything at all.

Kitty has been helping me out with some tasks on a volunteer/intern/free-labour basis and oh-my-god did she come at the right time. We are embarking on a brand new project and it’s because of her and EmoGirl’s help that I can even keep on schedule with the tasks that need done.

It felt nice that someone finally recognized how busy I was. I often wondered if I was plain stupid (how come I keep forgetting things?), slow or merely incompetent that I lagged behind my responsibilities.

Douglas Adams (may he rest in peace) once said, ‘I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by‘ and I wholeheartedly agreed with him.

Thankfully, that has changed.

Or maybe, I have changed.

Whatever it is, her empathy was like balm on my tired mind. I finally felt understood. And to reward myself after a day’s work in the office, I treated myself to telly hour at home. I rarely watch the telly but tonight, I watched American Idol. Guilt-free. Amazing what a little remark of empathy can do for someone else.