tonight

You always had a keen sense for when I needed attention, and you never failed to take the extra effort – whether it was a question, a card, a word or meal – you gave me what I needed, what only a mother could.

Perhaps that’s the reason it hurts so much tonight.

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why doesn’t it ever end?

Simple.

‘The challenge with being an initiator of projects is that you are never, ever done.’ (Seth Godin)

Amidst mountains of projects and to-do lists, battling the rising fear that I am doing something wrong because work never ends, it’s comforting to know that my place is one of privilege. If we are given the powers to initiate projects, we have unwittingly signed on to a life that constantly looks ahead.

I am not done because my dreams and goals aren’t. Not because my time management sucks, or that God didn’t give me the energy and 36 hours in a day I need to complete everything.

It’s because I still believe.

what to do next

This is the most important decision in your career (or even your day).

It didn’t used to be. What next used to be a question answered by your boss or your clients.

With so many opportunities and so many constraints, successfully picking what to do next is your moment of highest leverage. It deserves more time and attention than most people give it.

If you’re not willing to face the abyss of choice, you will almost certainly not spend enough time dancing with opportunity.

– Seth Godin

Hot on the heels of my last post on lessons learned, I read this blinking light of a post by Seth Godin. And dear god, it’s like someone peered into my head and summed up all that I’m facing. What am I really going to do next? Dare I answer, I don’t know!

It’s a little tough when so many of life’s choices are not actually within my sphere to decide. But wait. Hold on. Am I giving myself excuses to shirk away from really deliberating over what I can do? Let’s start small:

I can decide what to do with my health. I am drinking close to 2 litres of water a day; a marked difference from my coffee and tea diet previously. And I have scheduled three runs for this week (dudes! you better not back out!). And I shall determine to sleep earlier. I need rest. So there. Health issues settled.

I can decide what to do with my current career. I am researching (okay, do conversations with people who’ve been there count?) and I am planning my schedule for the coming week, including a list of videos that I must watch because if I don’t feed, I can’t get inspired. I guess I could read a little more… (sniffle, bye bye magazines, hello thick boring books filled with technical jargon)

I can plan my finances a little better. I have avoided online shopping for a week. And haven’t actually bought anything off the racks for a while. I guess I could forgo my lattes, and cabs, and return my library books on time…

But ultimately, what do I want to do with this life I now have?

I want to get Seth Godin’s latest book We Are All Weird. Something about that title resonates with me…

back to the school of life

Confucius once said, ‘By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.’ I’ve been an imitator (and still am to some degree), and experiences I have, by the barrels. Perhaps it’s time to take the noblest route. Here are my lessons learned in the past one week. Ouch.

1. I love bright red lipstick. It makes me look wide awake and happy. This is important because of point number 2.

2. It’s possible for the human body to experience an extreme range of emotions, within 6 hours. I can’t recall the last time I had to switch emotions and mindsets so quickly, depending on the room I needed to walk in to, and the people I had to face. It feels like I’ve been running to stand still.

3. A night’s sleep isn’t good enough to rest you when the day was emotional. I sleep as much as I can, and wake up feeling as tired as when I collapsed into bed.

4. Life can be complex. And you can still be happy. Seriously. You know the feeling of relief, pain and sheer tiredness you get when you leave the dentist after a root canal? It’s less a pop and more the deflated sizzle of victory. Yet you smile, albeit crookedly, while you bleed.

5. Dressing up is fun when it’s camouflage. We women dress for many reasons; to impress or attract, to make a statement or to hide how we feel. When I feel really down, my clothing gets more outrageous and colourful. And the past one week has seen me in a bright yellow and white dress, hot pink pants, rainbow-hued floral scarves…

6. Camouflage doesn’t work on me. Especially with the people I know. I walked into the boardroom a few days ago and the first thing my boss said was, ‘Hey! You must be feeling down! You’re dressed really brightly today.’ Yes. I am a book. Go read me.

7. Quiet talks are still my favourite mode of communication. I can be social when necessary but give me a choice and I prefer heart-to-heart talks. Like the conversation I had with a running partner, another I had in a car, and interestingly… the ‘talks’ I had with the boss.

8. I love change. I hate change. Wanting it is different from actually stepping in to it.

9. Playing inane games on the iPhone can be good. I’ve stopped lying to myself that I am merely ‘maintaining’ the fashion boutique for someone else who used my iPhone. I am doing it for myself. There’s something so ridiculous powerful about purchasing clothing, expanding my store and visiting my neighbours that I am now hooked. Simply because it’s the one thing I can control in my roller-coaster life.

10. I couldn’t have chosen a worse time to run a marathon. 42km awaits me in December and I can now run for only an hour. That’s 1/6 the duration of what I’ll have to face. The sobbing faces of people sitting by the road in immense pain because they decided to run a marathon without actually training effectively for it? That might just be me. Hand me the muscle rub.

And yet all these things I’ve learned cannot prepare me for the ultimate test – my future. But hey, at least I’m shouldering on, with a bright red smile and yellow dress on. Maybe I’ll wear orange on my long run tomorrow…

red lipstick

Today, I had only one goal: clear out the office.

Over the past few weeks of preparations for the dance performance that just passed, the upcoming Christmas event and next year’s big show in February, our office had gradually become a store room – two mannequin busts, a circular clothing rack, bags and bags of cloth samples and two prototypes of costumes/props – I could barely walk a straight line from one end to the other. And since everyone was out for the day, I had the space to myself.

Just for kicks, I decided to dress for the occasion: I wore bright red lipstick. Not your run-of-the-mill dark red or deep red though. It was a shocking pink/red that was such fun to put on, as if donning on a persona.

Oooh yeah! The glamorous office cleaner!

What I didn’t expect though, was the reaction people gave me when my lips were brighter than, well, everything else around me. Passers-by would unabashedly stare, colleagues from other departments would look quizzically at me or worse, react as one would when you talk to a friend with a booger on her face. Except I had no booger! I just had red lipstick on.

‘I’m distracted by your lips!’ a friend exclaimed, midway through our chat.

‘Why so dolled up today?’ a dancer asked.

‘You look… really nice.’ the Hubby said.

‘You look old.’ the little ones laughed.

Oh well. It was fun and because of that, I’ve decided to make it my red lipstick week. I wonder what other reactions I’ll get? That said, I accomplished two marvelous things today: the office is much cleaner now, and I tried something new.

Tonight I decided to do a search for covers on youtube and thought I’d collect some of my favourites here. I’ve always loved covers (see my previous post here and here) because of the different perspective they offer to something familiar. Forget the covers that sound exactly like the original (boring) or the ones that showcase a bunch of people who’ve just learnt to play their guitar (but good try guys!). I really like those who tear apart a song and are unafraid of highlighting the bits that mean something to them.

1. The Rescues doing Teenage Dream

Where do I start… beautiful vocal harmonies, a heartfelt performance, this is simply gorgeous.

*

2. Boyce Avenue doing Only Girl (In The World)

Turning a needy, whiny and demanding song into something akin to a love song of promise, this one surprised me.

*

3. Skylar Grey doing Love The Way You Lie

Okay, this one isn’t really a cover since she was the one who actually wrote the song, but I’m including this version anyway because I prefer her rendition. Which is a demo, no less.

*

Not much else I found for today but if you have any other recommendations, do let me know. I’d love to hear what else is out there… in the large, large world of cyberspace.

diary of a beautiful girl

I have a cracked reflection of things beautiful.
I lost the wonder beneath the things that once were.
Standing in the middle of my room, I begin to cry
Because of who, no, what I saw in the mirror.

I hate to admit this but I’m going to anyway. Realization is the start of discovery and maybe I’m hoping that by being honest, with myself, with you dear reader… I will start on the road afresh. I’ve been sitting by the side, wallowing in the dirt, heaping condemnation upon condemnation on my head. Not anymore.

Since a year ago, I’ve piled on the pounds. From a UK8/10, I now have to buy clothing in a size 12. It may not seem much, but it’s been enough for me to enter a state of horror and frustration because for the first time in my life, there’s nothing I can do about it.

I tried dieting. I tried exercising. I tried giving up. I tried to not care. I tried believing. I tried speaking. I, I, I. And each time I try something and it fails, I enter a deeper realm of self-disgust.

You’re pathetic, I said to myself. Others have more serious challenges to deal with, you have more important matters to concern yourself with. But faced with a closet filled with clothes I can no longer wear, comparing myself to the world’s lack or beauty only fuels the downward spiral.

‘I don’t think it’s just the weight,’ the Mother said. ‘When did the weight start to affect you so much? I remember when you first started putting it on, you were happy! You were fit and ready to do anything! You had a healthy self-image. You were running, and trekking, and going to the gym…’

‘I don’t know. I think it started in June. I have no inspiration to get out there, to care for myself anymore.’ I muttered at the computer screen. We were conversing via skype. ‘I don’t even write anymore. I don’t listen to music, I don’t read. I’m just… existing.’

‘It sounds like you’re mildly depressed,’ Mother said. Mildly depressed?

‘Was it after I left?’ Mother asked quietly.

‘I don’t know…’ I looked away because the tears were threatening to spill.

Mother was right. Ever since she left, I feel more alone than ever before. Yes, I am surrounded by love but nothing can ever substitute Mother’s caring for me.

And that’s when it dawned on me – I’m not facing a problem with my weight. It’s just a symptom.

I’d been eating to fill the hole inside my heart. I would walk to restaurants, just to order something that reminded me of her. I’d plan dinners that she used to plan. And every morning I’m alone, I’d sit at the dining table (where we used to sit together) and eat, eat, eat…

The oddest thing is, no one around me seems to understand how hard this is.

‘I miss my mom,’ I’d confide in my close friends. And after a nod, they’d change the subject to ask me how she’s doing.

Perhaps it’s hard for them to empathize with me. You see, it’s not just a mother-daughter relationship I have with Mother. She’s my best friend. She is my confidante. She’s the only person who senses my mood changes and is gutsy enough to go for the jugular and meet me heads on to question my belief system. She makes me a better person.

And without her… maybe I didn’t feel that good a person anymore.

‘You know I’m still here,’ she said. ‘I’m always here. You’re my daughter and I’ll still step in to help if you’d let me.’

And therein was the clincher. After she left, I thought I needed to be independent. I stopped updating her about everything in my life. I did my best to be her, to be like her as I handled the household affairs and family relationships. But I’m not her.

Deep inside, I was also struggling because I know why she needed to leave. I am in total support of her decision and at the same time, the selfish part of me was angry that she had actually left. That for the first time in my whole life, I had to face life without mother by my side.

‘I love you.’ Mother smiled at me, her face out of sync with the video feed. ‘I’m always here.’

‘I love you too.’ I whispered back, before logging off from skype and crawling into bed.

*

Something changed after that.

This morning, I looked into the mirror waiting for that sense of disgust to well up but it wasn’t there.

I had time to meet up with friends, enjoy a funny movie with the family and for the first time in months, lunch and dinner passed without the strange appetite I’d been fighting against.

At night, I walked over to the mirror and, summoning all strength into my articulation, I worked my lips and tongue to shape words I hadn’t said to myself in a long time.

‘Hello beautiful.’

*

Thanks mom, for loving me even at my ugliest. I love you… with all my heart.

metamorph

I change.

Therefore I am.

*

‘So we have three main events coming up…’ Cutesy said, rounding up our two-hour meeting. ‘And I’d like to put some of you in charge.’

‘I can help…’ I smiled. I love doing events. They are slightly chaotic but there’s always the element of magic – when you see what once merely existed in your mind, played out live.

‘You… just need to focus! I want you to really look into the videos. That’s your main thing for the coming months.’ Cutesy stared at me, before breaking into a laugh.

Whaaat? I groaned inwardly. You see, while I love conceptualizing videos, scripting and coaching/interviewing people… I really dislike being on set and coordinating schedules & equipment. I can do the job, not a problem. But really, it’s painful at times. I hadn’t told anyone this – that I had always gritted my teeth and carried on with the job because I knew I had something else to run to. There were the events, the live running of a show, the adrenaline I knew I’d get.

To be told that videos is going to be all that I’m involved in, well… I didn’t know what to think.

*

‘In view of your work schedule, we thought that we’d take you out of leading for a while and let you focus on backing up vocally,’ the Music boss said. ‘It’s not a reflection of your performance or anything, seriously, we all enjoy it when you lead. We just think you need more time to train yourself vocally.’

We were in the midst of the annual vocal review, and I agreed with the assessment wholeheartedly. It had been getting harder and harder to take the stage because I know where I am vocally, and how much I lack in that area.

‘Well, I guess it’s not a fantastic time to bring this up but I’m going to need to take leave again,’ I sighed. ‘Work is not easing and I don’t think I can commit…’

It was painful. Painful to leave what I love doing. Painful that when given the chance, I couldn’t do as well as I wanted to.

*

I sat at my table and without really understanding why, the tears began to fall.

‘Dammit! Stop being such an emotional wuss!’ I screamed inwardly but however I tried, I just couldn’t be strong. Not when all I loved was something I had to walk away from.

That was yesterday.

*

‘I wonder if I’ve been changed in the night? Let me think. Was I the same when I got up this morning? I almost think I can remember feeling a little different. But if I’m not the same, the next question is ‘Who in the world am I?’ Ah, that’s the great puzzle!’

– Lewis Carroll

This morning I woke up a different person.

I looked the same, I walked the same and darn it, I weighed the same.

But no, I wasn’t who I was yesterday. Something in me had finally chosen to embrace the waves and flow with the current to wherever it shall lead me.

‘You see, it didn’t matter that they were frightened or faithless,’ I explained to a friend. ‘It’s that while they were stuck out there in the middle of the perfect storm, they had the Dream Maker in the boat. He could change the shape of things at any given moment, which he did, and took them to safety. They got over to the other side of the lake because He was with them.’

I paused, reflecting on all that had taken place this year – the crazy events, my mother leaving, saying goodbye to old friends and meeting new ones, the great curve balls, turmoil and victories.

No, it didn’t matter how they felt in the boat. They got over to the other side. As will I.

*

Who will I be at the end of this new wave?

Even I don’t know the answer.

But that’s okay for today. In fact, that’s enough.

See you on the other side.

*

‘For, you see, so many out-of-the-way things had happened lately, that Alice had begun to think that very few things indeed were really impossible.’

– Lewis Carroll

little note

I opened up my emails to read through the stuff that I’d stashed away for later reading… and got this:

Dear Jesus, I pray for my friend reading this email. I pray You would be real, near and present in a very tangible way right now. Show Yourself strong and capable. Weep alongside those who weep and carry those who are broken and needy. Ignite joy and peace and hope tonight. Renew. Regenerate. Refresh. We need Your presence so much. Amen.

It spoke to me.

Timely.

That’s Him.