/regret/

There once was a girl who thought life would be good. She married a man she loved… and still had a boyfriend on the side. A guy who’d travel the ends of the earth for her – which he did, when she was ‘posted’ overseas for a 2-year contract. What she didn’t know was that she’d end up pregnant, lose her job and find herself saddled with her husband’s medical bills as he was admitted to the hospital for pneumonia.

Life literally fell apart in the span of one week.

And every night, she fell asleep crying.

*

There once was a lady who thought work was meant to be fulfilling. She had been offered several jobs – one with fame, one with traveling opportunities and one within the comfort of her own home. But she either turned them down or left after a year. Nothing satisfied her, till she entered her latest arena. Advertising.

Thrilling, it challenged her, pushed her to the edges… and then the floor beneath her feet fell away.

Her very own boss turned around and embarrassed her before one of her most important clients. Time and time again, he forgot all the promises he’d made. It felt like her own reputation in the industry was in danger of getting marred, not by her commitment or work, but by the man who first employed her.

Disappointed, she looked back at the doors she’d closed and wondered if there was any other path she could walk. It felt like there was no way out.

*

Regret.

Some say the word was coined between 1300-1350, originating from a Middle French term regreter, which is a mix of the Old French re (again and again) and the Germanic greter (greet). In other words, it came from the idea to re-greet, i.e. to welcome again and again… the past?

It does bear some truth, because we only ever feel tremendous remorse, loss, sorrow or dissatisfaction when we look at our history of faults – the common phrase that begins each thought, ‘If only...’

But you can’t drive a car while looking at your rear-view mirror.
And you can’t live today if all you see is yesterday.

*

‘I don’t know how you do it,’ Smiley said to me today. He’d just returned from a trip overseas and we’d finished updating each other with a brief summary of the past two weeks.

‘I don’t know either. I’m just taking it one step at a time,’ I sighed. Yes, I feel tired and worn out. Yes, life can be a serious struggle, too often than I’d like it to be.

‘There has to be reason why you’re facing so much,’ Smiley continued. ‘Maybe it’s because the Dream Maker knows you can do it. He is your supply. Maybe He thinks highly of you… and that at the end of it all, there’s something great to be gained.’

Maybe. But I haven’t even thought about what I’m gaining or learning. I’m just doing my best to keep still, and carry on. It’s going to be a big week several huge weeks ahead but I’m okay. I’ve got the Dream Maker by my side.

He wrote this story, shit, He knows how it ends and dammit, He loves me.
So I’m going to be just fine. And yes, I believe that.
Because I at the start of this year, I remember asking Him to help me become more efficient, to grow wiser, to be deeper in thought and more creative in my solutions. So this just might be my learning plan.

I asked for it.

And for that, I have no regrets.

*

‘God made my life complete when I placed all the pieces before Him.
He rewrote the text of my life when I opened the book of my heart to His eyes.’

– Psalm 18:20, 24 (MSG)

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living | now

She lies there on her bed, in a room where all is quiet. It’s been two hours since she opened her eyes but she hasn’t moved, save to clumsily stretch out towards the bedside table, hunger propelling her hands to pick up a biscuit. It takes her ten minutes to finish her little meal. Thirsty, she ponders on her ability to get some water but she knows it’s not something she can do, not now.

Closing her eyes, sleep escapes her. She isn’t tired. Her ears perk up whenever someone shuffles past her apartment, but it will be another hour before someone walks through her front door with lunch. It’s interesting how the body becomes sensitive to the slightest pressure, when forced to keep to one position for long periods of time…

She thinks about the pain. It’s a welcome relief from the tormenting thoughts that demand entrance into her mind. Not much longer… she tells herself. I can wait. I can do this.

*

‘I’m flying back to Japan tonight,’ Mother said to me.

‘What time’s your flight?’ I didn’t need to ask why. I already knew. Still, this was a departure grossly accelerated.

‘10.45pm. Enough time to head home after work, pack, and reach the airport for check-in.’

Earlier that morning, Mother told me that an email had arrived from Obachan’s care manager. Obachan lives in an elderly care estate and while it’s stipulated in their contract that all occupants must be able-bodied, Obachan was completely immobile. Two weeks ago, she hurt her back and since then, had been confined to her bed.

‘Why won’t she hire a full-time nurse?’ I asked.

‘She’d rather be alone than to have a stranger in her apartment the whole day. She’s obstinate that way.’

Obachan did have a full-time helper for a while, but a week ago, fired her. They had been quarreling and she was tired of being told what to do.

‘She’s only comfortable with a nurse coming in at lunch and dinner, for an hour each visit. That’s barely enough time to feed her, clean her and tidy things up.’ Mother sighed. ‘And this morning, the care manager wrote to me saying that it seems she’s starting to become a little delusional. Can you imagine lying there for the whole day? Unable to do anything but think? Anyone in her position would start having weird thoughts. And she’s talking about darkness and oppression, being unable to breathe at night…’

‘When will you be back?’ I asked.

‘A week later. I’m just hoping to help get her eating again and well enough to manage things on her own… at least till I return to take care of her for good.’

I nodded, refusing to let the tears fall.

But after Mother left, I did cry.

For my grandmother who’s fighting for her life.
For my mother who’s trying to stay strong and positive.
And for me who’s trying to say goodbye.

*

‘I’m not ready for this,’ I marched up to the Dream Maker. ‘Seriously, this is all too rushed!’

I had plans to visit Obachan, to take her stories and document them down in a book for our future generations. These were stories that needed to be told – stories of her courage and commitment, of living through the war and raising up a family amidst poverty, of a life that today, doesn’t exist anymore – there is still so much to learn from her. And I wanted her to see that.

I didn’t have the chance to celebrate Mother’s birthday either. We were planning on taking her out with the family to do everything that she wanted to do…

‘What is going on?’ I sobbed angrily.

‘Are you crying for yourself or for them?’ He asked.

‘For all of us! We had plans… but now, it feels as though we’re barely able stay above the tidal waves, there’s no chance to breathe in deep nor think clearly…’

‘There is only now.’ He replied. I glared at Him in frustration. What kind of one-liner was that?

‘You are angry because the future doesn’t line up with your plans. You feel guilty because you know you could have done more in the past. But both don’t exist. And that’s why you’re frustrated. You aren’t where you’re supposed to be.’ He continued.

‘Now? And what can I do with now?’ I shot back.

‘What would you do, if that’s all you have?’ He asked.

I kept quiet. I thought about the Mother… perhaps she’d appreciate it if I sent her an encouraging email. And grandmother? I could do a video recording of the family telling her she was in our prayers… that we loved her and were looking forward to seeing her get better.

‘The future is for Me to handle…’ the Dream Maker said. ‘It’s what I’m here for. And I am faithful.’

For a split-second, I thought I saw a fiery glint in His eyes. Then bowing my head, I nodded.

*

‘And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.

But the greatest of these… is love.’

– 1 Corinthians 13:13

 

power of choice

On a given day, I tote around a Blackberry smartphone to keep up with the emails and urgent corporate calls, a Sony Ericsson mobile for personal use, a digital camera for my wardrobe photography, a macbook pro, my office keys and necessary passes, a wallet filled with more unclaimed receipts than money, a book (currently, it’s Murakami’s South Of The Border), a style magazine for reference and a folder of the current event I’m managing. Heavy bag.

Every day, I scroll through countless online sources for inspiration like style blogs, online magazines and newspapers and if necessary, the odd technical journal on video/lights/production etc. This is in addition to answering yet more emails and doing specific research on whatever task it is I’m handling, gathering what I need, to churn out documents for other people’s reference. Heavy head.

At night, I log in to facebook, multiply, wordpress, blogger, good reads, tumblr and several gmail accounts. I also take the time to catch on blogs that I enjoy reading for leisure.

Recently, I’ve added to my midnight hours some research on physical conditioning, Nepal, blog writing, script-writing…

When does it all become an overload of information? And do I really need to know all these things?

Information used to be a precious commodity. The hunt was as much fun and important as the exquisite feeling of finally holding in my hands, the very piece of information I was looking for. I remember with great fondness, the hours spent in the library poring over books, chatting with the librarian, scrolling through the microfilms of newspapers from years ago.

These days, I merely need to head straight to Wikipedia for that.

Perhaps it’s the accessibility of it all, that information has become somewhat… disposable.

Oooh, good stuff to know, bookmark page and save for the future. But will they be relevant in the future? I mean, there is only one source for help – the constant, unchanging truth.

Maybe it’s the delicious power of choice.

To read or not to read, to sift through the chaff for the wheat.

I look at the ten open tabs on my internet browser, then at the red leather bound bible on my dresser.

What will I choose? What will you choose?

of stories and walls…

‘We’re all strangers connected by what we reveal, what we share, what we take away – our stories. I guess that’s what I love about books – they are thin strands of humanity that tether us to one another for a small bit of time, that make us feel less alone or even more comfortable with our aloneness, if need be.’

– Libba Bray

I found myself scanning the shelves for Christopher Paolini’s Aragon. It came highly recommended by a 12-year old and I wanted to know why he found the series so enchanting. The night before, we were seated together during dinner and began a delightful conversation about Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and the wonders of dragons.

‘Don’t you feel like you’re missing out with the rest?’ I asked him, motioning to the other kids who were playing a card game.

‘A little…’

‘But you’re still here…’ I said.

‘Yeah. But this conversation is interesting.’ He replied.

And so it was. I found his views on his world of imagination thoroughly inspiring, which was probably why I was standing there in the Teens Fiction aisle today, checking out books I otherwise would have ignored.

*

‘My greatest fear is to be lazy,’ 16-year old Jojo said to me. ‘I know I have a good mind but that’s also why I get lazy and neglect studying. I’d rather spend the entire day in bed, dreaming and creating stories in my head.’

‘What stories do you think of?’ I asked. My interest was piqued. I had originally promised to take this boy to a youth meeting (which he otherwise wouldn’t have attended) and in the beginning, talking to him was akin to chipping a wall with a toothpick. There was no letting up. Until we began sharing our stories and passions.

‘I love Star Wars and my lego collection. Usually, I think up of my favourite storylines and how I can recapture all that in lego building.’

Jojo has a collection of over 500 Star Wars lego pictures in his iPhone and began showing them to me. Listening to him grow excited over the intricacies of his passion, I began to see the boy as he was.

‘Why didn’t you join the youth group years ago?’ I asked him again. Last week, I’d asked the exact same question and the only reply I received was that he didn’t know. Today, he finally opened up.

‘They didn’t like me. It was boring.’ He said.

‘Will you try again though? Go with me to the next meeting?’ I asked somewhat tentatively.

He looked at me and shrugged.

‘Sure, why not?’

A tiny shaft of light shone through the wall where it finally caved in. It was the most beautiful sliver of illumination.

*

Walls.

Born fresh into this world, we are without walls, borders or sensitivities to the human race. Each year, a new layer of bricks is laid – some built faster, others slower – and while it serves to protect what’s within, it keeps out the ones who can enter in and make an impact. The special ones who’ll help water the gardens we keep. The ones who will share in the fascination of every flower born and help pull out the weeds. The ones… who will hold our hands and walk with us, through its paths.

Walls. And their breaking.

What happens to us when we stand without our walls? Can we still survive?

‘I wondered which was harder, in the end. The act of telling, or who you told it to. Or maybe if, when you finally got it out, the story was really all that mattered.’

– Sarah Dessen

*

We are all stories, woven together, bound and waiting for someone who will take the time to read it with respect and love.

I began thinking about the greatest book ever written – the bible.

It caused the Author to bleed.

It reveals His heart, which He did with no fear of rejection.

It lies on my table – the very description of His person.

And like I do with every book, I tenderly hold it in my hands and today, began to read it with fresh eyes. Why did I still come to it with a sense of religiosity, as though it would be too hard for me to understand? Wasn’t it merely a note from Heaven? Wasn’t it like a blog written by a dear and close friend?

Wasn’t it written, dedicated to… me?

Stories. That’s why I love them so dearly. They connect me with another person who in turns, impacts my life and causes me to feel less alone in this world I walk in.