/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)

the tears of dreams

Living my minutes stretched out thin over a slice of life, I finally crossed over the crusty edges and careened on a downward spiral into hormonal madness.

It began with the evaluation of a singer. All I wanted to do was enjoy the music, to let it wash over my parched soul and fill in the cracks but each time I did that, my eyes watered. Yes… I was dry. And standing before a fountain, I neglected my thirst and very purposefully reigned in my thoughts, checking the boxes on the form, filling in the blanks with my comments…

I began questioning my purpose as an evaluator. All I really wanted to say was that the singer was doing a great job as a courageous vocalist – one who’s grown stronger and better, rising boldly from each failure. But no, I needed to quantify that growth with numbers. I know the importance of the evaluation but dammit, maybe it’s time I back out of all this. Maybe it’s time I turn away from what I like doing, to return to what I love.

*

Next up – auditions for a short drama.

So many of them tried their best… only to hear us say they weren’t good enough. I looked at them and again, was bowled over by their courage to try. The worst bit came when the Amazonian stepped in. God, I’ve missed my darling friend. She began her monologue, only to stop halfway…

‘This is too hard to read,’ she choked. She tried several times but was overcome by tears. The words I’d written in the script cut too closely to her heart and I knew, something was up. I wanted to reach out and ask if she was okay, what was going on, how was work, the family, the children… but all I said was, ‘It’s okay dear.’

I walked her out of the audition room to say goodbye, my eyes tearing again. I’d just watched her live through some pain she had yet to articulate to me.

‘I miss you…’ I said.

‘Me too. See you around.’ And then she was gone.

*

The part I dreaded the most though, was calling up three of the dancers we needed to turn away from the upcoming performance.

The first chap, I met face-to-face. We talked and he understood why he hadn’t made the cut. He appreciated the fact that I’d personally contacted him and I felt relief. It gave me the boost I needed to make the second call.

I picked up the phone, took a deep breath and dialed the numbers.

‘… so I hope you understand why we need to take you out of this performance, this time round…’ I finished my explanation, half expecting the same reaction as the first guy.

‘But I really want to do this…’ she replied, finally breaking down and sobbing on the phone.

My heart ached.

I spent another ten minutes talking to her, encouraging her and making promises about the future that (dear god) I hope will come to pass. When she finally stopped sobbing, we put the phone down… and that was when I finally broke. This was all getting too much for me.

‘Hey… are you okay?’ JapGirl asked.

‘Yeah…’ I sniffled. But I wasn’t. How can you be, when you’ve just spent an entire day judging if others were good enough? How does one determine that anyway? I’m not an expert. All I can go by is my heart and what it tells me… and I know when something fits right and when it doesn’t. But how do you make someone else understand that? How do you quantify that for them when all they hear is the sound of breaking dreams?

How do I convince myself that I’m right when all I hear is how wrong it feels?

*

What is the weight of a tear?

How much does it bear, as it rolls down your face?

What sound does it make when it hits your chest?

And where does it go when it’s finally released?

As a child, crying was the answer. It solved all problems. The cathartic bawling gave way to sunshine and smiles. But as I grew older, crying became a choice, one that sometimes, I didn’t want to take. Walking away and ignoring the ache was easier. Or so I thought.

*

I sat in the empty auditorium tonight and looked out at the sea of velvet chairs. I tried to hear the music, imagine the crowds, feel the energy… but was a little too late. The curtains had closed on yet another day of casting and preparation work for the event.

It will all be good. I don’t fear the outcome.

But for once… it’s not the performance I’m thinking about. It’s the people, their dreams and the journeys they are all taking.

I hope they aren’t alone.
I hope they turn to the Dream Maker.
I pray… that they felt my love, though frail.

Because if it weren’t for people like them, there would be no event, no curtain call, no applause.

There would be no chance of other people’s dreams coming true.

behind the cardboard dreams

In the beginning was the idea.

And that idea was made flesh with recycled cardboard boxes, gaffer tape, black marker pens, yellow notebook paper, thousands of photographs, willing people and hours of time sacrificed.

I was up till the wee hours of the morning approving the final details of the video and waiting for it to get exported but it didn’t matter, we were excited. This morning, the editor was slightly late in delivering the video file and we had our mad moment running to the broadcast room at 7.30am.

‘You’re late so we won’t screen it,’ the person at the door said to us.

‘What?!’ the editor said, barely able to control his anger but the door had already slammed shut.

‘They wouldn’t even port the file over to the system!’ He growled at me, ‘And I have never wanted to throw something at someone in a long time.’

It was a dismal start. We walked quietly to our office.

‘What are we going to do?’ I whispered to Cutesy, ‘I mean, yes, we are late but come on, is this the way to treat the issue?’

I wasn’t even mad. My mind was already trying to work on a solution but I felt hopeless. After all, the video was the missile that would launch the entire campaign and without it, the work didn’t make sense. We were robbed of context.

‘I’m not going to fight,’ Cutesy replied me, her eyes downcast. ‘I’ll leave it to people on top to work it out but we need to pray.’

The team huddled under our dark cloud and closed our eyes. We could only trust in the Dream Maker to make it happen. Already tired out from weeks of overwork and yesterday’s traveling back from our trip, we felt beaten by circumstances beyond our control.

‘Alright guys! Let’s get to work and make this thing happen,’ I said to everyone. Summoning a smile for them, I continued, ‘Let’s have fun. This is going to be awesome. We’ve worked with the impossible before. This is nothing new. Now, let’s rock!’

Putting the fear aside, we set up our stations built entirely out of boxes, hung posters, distributed materials and prepared the many teams, all the while wondering if everything was going to fall through.

‘Hey,’ I said to the Dream Maker, when I finally had some time alone, ‘can you please hold my hand?’

‘I already am,’ He answered.

With Him by my side, I watched the details get pulled together and marveled at the beauty of every single person’s spirit. The what-if’s threatened to dampen my enthusiasm but I knew I had to look like everything was okay. It wasn’t easy.

A few hours later, Cutesy came up to me.

‘How are things?’ She asked.

‘It’s all ready to go,’ I answered. ‘What about the video?’

‘It’ll air,’ she answered, ‘but I’ll need to write a formal letter of apology. Because we did cut it too close this time and of course, made some people unhappy with our seeming flippancy with deadlines.’

‘You okay?’ I asked. She looked very, very tired.

Cutesy smiled.

‘I’m good. We’re all good.’

And it was.

*

‘We did it!’ the twins laughed, throwing off their huge boxes. ‘We shocked the people!’

They’d been hiding in their boxes where the crowds were slowly building up and when people had grown accustomed to the many boxes strategically placed all over, at a synchronized moment, they stood up and began dancing.

‘People were laughing hard!’ They giggled as more of our people came streaming back. ‘This is so much fun!’

I sat at the booth and in the spaces between the busy moments, began reflecting on 2010.

‘I remember watching the video of you walking in months ago,’ I said to Smiley, ‘when you first auditioned. Back then, I had no idea who you were, what you did or where you came from. It was almost as if you had been plucked out of non-existence onto the stage.’

‘I had no idea what I was getting myself into,’ Smiley answered.

‘And from a normal chap, you went to lead actor, then singer, then singing regularly and now, leading your own team of people… isn’t it grand, the journeys we all took in 2010?’

‘It was crazy,’ he answered.

And as I watched the people signing up today, I wondered how many of them were in for the same journey of stretching. Resonating deep within me was this knowing that we – as a team – were poised for a new era.

‘Let us be marked by fun,’ I whispered to the Dream Maker, ‘And let it all be done with such a level of rest…’

‘It will be,’ He sat back and chuckled. ‘After all, their stories have already been written by me, hasn’t it? And you know me…’

‘You like happy endings?’ I smiled.

‘Yes, I do,’ He reached out and slung His arm around my shoulder. ‘We are going to have such amazing exploits.’

I nodded to myself.

2010. It’s already been filled with the amazing.

Only the spectacular lies ahead.