hating & loving. me.

I hate it when I lose it.

I hate it when I behave in the precise manner I dislike being treated.

I end up hating myself.

*

Today, I lost it – straddled between managing the schedule (we were one hour behind time) and cramming in as much cues and lyrics as I could into my puny mind, before the start of the event. I didn’t think I was actually stressed out but I was. When the furor of the rush died down, sometime before the event began, I walked over to Scooter Girl.

‘Hey, I’m really sorry for responding to you that way,’ I said. ‘It was inappropriate of me.’

She shook her head and murmured, ‘It’s okay.’ But I knew deep inside, it wasn’t.

I felt like a huge, deep sigh. I’d hurt someone with my emotional outburst. I’ve got to make amends somehow…

*

Why do we treat people the same way we dislike being treated, when we’re pushed in a corner? It’s really a case of the things I want to do, I don’t. And the things I don’t want to do, I do. What a massive conflicting state. I see some people around me who are constantly wrapped in love. They do wonderful, little things that touch lives and always seem to able to reach out to those who pass by, if only to bring a little sparkle into their mundane day.

I want that.

I want to sprinkle a little stardust into the lives of the people around me so that when they walk away, they’re shining.

Tormenting myself just as the day ends won’t help matters though. Tomorrow is a clean slate, one upon which I’ll write a new story. I’ll try.

*

‘I don’t like me,’ I complained to the Dream Maker.

‘When you look at yourself under such microscopic lenses, who do you see?’ He asked.

‘I see a girl who tries… but is always falling short,’ I said.

‘Do you see Me?’ He cupped my face in His hands.

‘You?’ I shook my head, but I knew where He was going with this.

‘You no longer exist, I do. Can you see Me in you?’ He pressed on.

‘Well… sometimes, I forget…’

‘All things old have passed away, I’ve made you new. All that you are, is now wrapped up in all that I am. Who am I?’ He smiled.

‘You’re everything I want to be,’ I began.

‘Ah, but you already are that person,’ He interrupted me. ‘You only forget. When you stop seeing Me, you’ll only see all that you are. But that’s a shadow of things that have passed.’

*

I think I’ll buy Scooter Girl a peanut butter chocolate bar. I heard that’s her favourite.

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countdown… to all things new

36 more hours to go before I leave for two weeks out in the mountains of Kathmandu.

This will be my first official ‘solo’ trip away from family and friends. While I am excited about all that I will experience for the first time, I am also apprehensive. I’m not quite sure what to expect.

When I traveled in Japan on my own last year, I still had my umbilical cord plugged into cyberspace. Reaching loved ones, answering work emails and staying ‘social’ kept me from feeling lonely. But out there trekking, I’ll be leaving it all behind and will only carry my trusty iPod, a journal and a pencil. At least, I’ll still have words. Will I miss people desperately? How will the world (as I’ve known it) look different when I return? Will my person change?

For the regular traveler, my questions may seem way too cautious and worry-filled but bear in mind… the places I’ve been too have always been swamped with familiar faces. Yes, even in Australia, Japan, Malaysia… there were always people I knew.

This trip was birthed out of a desire to get away from it all, to return to solitude and anonymity… something I’ve not had in a very long time, and I am really looking forward to it. Just so happened that I watched the following video (it’s adorable!) last night and chuckled to myself. How apt…

*

18 more days to go before I turn a year older.

I didn’t plan it this way but it’s nice to know that I’ll be returning two days before my birthday. I think, on hindsight, this trip was really the best way of celebrating the close of yet another birth year. What better way to seal personal growth and survival with a trip that I’ve not done before? As usual, I began thinking back about the past 300+ days and asked…

What did I learn about myself this year?

1. I actually love peanut butter.
2. I can face the world sweaty, grimy and make-up free… without an ounce of self-consciousness.
3. I can survive extreme fatigue, pain, loneliness and emptiness. With a smile.
4. I love running on trails more than pavements or tracks.
5. I’m not superwoman and I need friends & support. Goodbye selfish pride.

What did I do for the first time since my last birthday?

01. I ran my first 10km race. And I wasn’t last.
02. I got inked. Twice.
03. I traveled on my own. Well, at least I will be, soon.
04. I joined the local gym and began working out regularly.
05. I said, ‘No, I don’t think I can cope.’
06. I began eating healthily, three meals a day!
07. I wore a gown, on stage, in front of thousands, to sing.
08. I grew honest with my darkness, and in that, found freedom to be myself. Almost.
09. I wore trekking shoes to work and braved the snide comments. Ha!
10. I finally began doing things for myself. Just because. Without feeling guilty.

All in all, it’s been a good year.

And for that, I am profoundly grateful.

*

3 more months to go before the end of the year 2010.

Taking time to scroll through my writing (which I began regularly updating in April), I decided instead to frame my moments with music. It has, I believe, the power to re-fire memories in way that words sometimes can’t.

To Build A Home – The Cinematic Orchestra

In the pitch-dark performance studio, Patrick Watson painted a beautiful room of vulnerability, intimacy and safety, using only his weightless tenor vocals and piano. And in those few minutes alone, gave meaning to 2010. I walked away with a new desire to re-create that moment, this home every single day of my life, and for the many who come my way.

Let all that we pretend to be fade into the darkness… as we find beauty in who we truly are.

Holy – Jesus Culture

Again, it was the abandon with which Kim Walker sang that reached deep inside me, that taught me how I too, can be open about what’s in my heart when I sing. Each time this year I ran dry and wondered if I should quit… I picked up their album and listened. They are still on my playlist and I return, with regularity, almost every other week, to get re-ignited inside with their music.

Wonderful Life – Hurts

I have no idea where they’re placed on the scenester’s radar but when their album came out, I was on a blissful high for a long time. ‘Don’t let go, never give up, it’s such a wonderful life…’

They reminded me to smile.

Unredeemed – Selah

The words to this song was what struck me, when I first listened to some friends perform if last week. It felt as though someone had peered into my heart, penned down my questions and revealed it all for the world to see.

‘Life breaks and falls apart, but we know these are places where grace is soon to be so amazing. It may be unfulfilled, it may be unrestored, but when anything that’s shattered is laid before the Lord… just watch and see, it will not be unredeemed.’

It might be best to listen to it on your own below, and hear the story behind it all.

*

We sat there, side by side, contented just to be together. I leaned my head on His shoulder, closing my eyes…

‘What are you thinking?’ He asked.

‘You already know, so why do you ask?’ I looked up at Him.

‘I like to hear your voice,’ He smiled at me.

‘Well… I’m thinking about a year that’s gone by, and how each time I thought darkness felt overwhelming… those were just moments before the sun broke through,’ I reached out to hold His hand, ‘You were there every step of the way, always ready to hold me, to receive me, even at my ugliest. Thank You…’

‘No, thank you,’ He whispered.

‘For what?’ I said, ‘I didn’t give you anything!’

‘Yes you did,’ He reached out to hold me, ‘You gave meaning to what I did. You allowed me in to a place that no other person has ever been. You let me be your everything… and that is precious.’

We didn’t talk much after that, the Dream Maker and I. There was no need to.

We had everything we wanted right then and there.

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.

hope


Standing on the brink of camp, my insides are slowly expanding with the potential of good things to come. I’d been dragging my feet in the dust regarding this getaway, many times regretting that I’d even offered to go with the team due to work and my recent spate of procrastination.

This time round, I really have bitten off too much to chew, what with camp, work, life and the upcoming trip to Nepal… feeling overwhelmed every morning when I wake has been something of the norm. It probably explains why I’ve been unable to sleep well. Worry has been etched into my face and I hate how it disfigures my smile.

Besides work, I’ve also been considering some massive changes in my life (albeit unwillingly but for the good of the future) and with no one to really talk things through, my thought life had been a tad abysmal.

Tonight though, as I started preparing for this trip, the excitement began building.

How will it end? Will it provide the answers I need? Can I get the rest I desire?

Check in a week later and we’ll see how it rolls. Let’s hope it’s all good.

*

‘It’s all dead,’ the girl whispered to herself as she sat in her barren garden. Picking up a withered daisy, she held it close to her heart. ‘What happened? You promised me flowers and fruits but all I have is the withered image of what could be.’

‘It does look dismal, doesn’t it?’ The Dream Maker sat down beside her on the cold, dry ground. ‘This dying garden, is it all you can see?’

‘What else?’ the girl answered, ripping the flower apart. ‘What else is there to see? Just look at this!’

She held out the dried petals and leaves, before scattering them onto the ground.

‘I am so angry I want to destroy everything, tear them all apart and walk away. I give up. I’ve worked so hard to keep the garden alive but it dies on me. It’s all a work of futility. I hate this place…’ she gritted her teeth, digging her fingers into the earth with frustration.

‘Let’s destroy this place then,’ the Dream Maker answered. ‘Let’s set fire to all that’s dead and gone.’

‘What?!’ the girl looked at him in horror.

‘I’ve got the fuel. Let’s kill everything that’s in here.’ He said firmly.

‘But… but I still love this place,’ she said. ‘Look, I know I’m angry but I had dreams for this garden. Maybe if I work the ground harder, something will change. I think destroying it is a little harsh.’

‘No, it holds the ghosts of what could have been,’ the Dream Maker stood up. ‘Let’s torch the past together and rebuild it all from scratch.’

The girl didn’t stand up. She didn’t understand. It didn’t make sense to her.

‘Hey,’ the Dream Maker stooped beside her, ‘when we burn what’s dead, it fertilizes the ground and rebirth is easier. You don’t see it now but everything that seems wasted effort can help build something beautiful for the future.’

Sweeping a clear spot on the earth, the Dream Maker used His finger and began drawing His plans for the new garden.

‘What do you see?’ He asked the girl.

With tears in her eyes, she looked at the lines in the earth.

‘I see hope,’ she sniffled.

Then wiping her eyes with the back of her hand, she stood up and tentatively reached for the matches.

‘Where do we start?’

*

medication

‘Did I tell you that I was admitted to the mental hospital twice?’ Jay said to me, twisting a tissue between her fingers. ‘The first time I was admitted, it came after a spending spree. Apparently, I had taken all my credit cards and bought so many items I maxed out all my cards but when I returned home to my husband, I couldn’t remember what I’d bought. I had nothing in my hands. They say I gave the items to random strangers on the street.’

‘What’s wrong? What did the doctors say?’ I tried my best to keep my face from showing any outward shock. She looked so empty, devoid of all the cheer I once knew her to have in vast amounts.

‘They say I am bipolar and when I’m happy, I go berserk spending loads of money. And when I get depressed, I hide from the world because I think someone is out there, coming after me.’ Jay looked at me and smiled wistfully, ‘I can’t remember how it feels to be unafraid.’

‘Why did you enter the hospital again?’ I reached out to hold her hand, ignoring the shredded tissue on the table between us.

‘I had been on prescribed medication for months and was feeling good. Stable. So I thought maybe, I was fully recovered and so stopped taking the medication. Not a good idea. The wild mood swings hit me again and when I began crying in class in the middle of teaching a lesson, they put me back into the hospital again.’

‘Why did you stop taking the medication? I take vitamins every day… it’s just routine,’ I tried my best to empathize with her but honestly, I couldn’t begin to fathom the depth of her struggle.

‘As long as I’m taking the medication…’ Jay took a deep breath to still her shaky voice, ‘I can’t have children. I’ve been married for three years now and all I dream of is holding a baby in my arms, and I can’t. I hate the fact that I’m dependent on medication to keep me normal,’ she gave me a sardonic smile.

‘Do you have any idea what it’s like to practice being normal?’ Jay leaned forward and stared at me, ‘I need to force myself out of my house to take a walk around the neighbourhood. Every person I meet is like the enemy, and to overcome this fear, I get out, walk for a bit and run home. I do this every day, while I wait to fully recover from this madness.’

She sat back and sipped her tea. Cocking her head to one side, she smiled.

‘I’m better now so don’t worry. I just need to wait for the day I’m fully recovered… the day when I can be stable without ever needing those damn pills. Maybe then, I can start living life again.’

*

How different am I from Jay?

Every single day, there are certain things I need that help me get through the day feeling, well… normal. I start my mornings with a hunger as I open my box filled with letters from the Dream Maker. Reading them and spending some time listening to Him talk takes me into the happy zone.

Recently though, I’ve been careless with my time and negligent with my ‘medication’. While I can’t understand my change in attitude, I see its effects on my emotions – they swing wildly from anger, depression, hurt to apathy.

‘Just pick up the letters and read them,’ I chide myself as I stare at the box of letters. Oddly, I put it down and walk away, only to face a day battling shadows that I don’t need to fight.

It’s plain dumb, stupid really.

*

‘Though I have a broken heart
I’m too busy to be heartbroken
There’s a lot of things that need to be done
Lord I have a broken heart

Though I have a broken dream
I’m too busy to be dreaming of you
There’s a lot of things that I gotta do
Lord I have a broken dream

I’ve been told that this will heal, given time…

– Spiritualized

‘Are you angry with me?’ His quiet voice startles me a little. I didn’t even notice Him coming to sit by my side, that was how consumed I was with my internal battles.

‘Angry? No…’ I shake my head.

‘Don’t lie to me, I can see right through you,’ He replies with a tinge of sadness.

‘I’m not angry, well, at least I don’t think it’s with you,’ I sigh. ‘I’m just tired…’

‘I saw a tear fall while you were asleep,’ He put His arm around me, ‘And I know why.’

‘Can you be faithful when I am faithless? Loving when I am hateful?’ I said, trying to keep the edginess from my voice, ‘Can you see me beautiful when I turn ugly? Will you make it all work out when I wonder if I’m doing all I can to destroy it?’

I was hoping to push Him away with my extremities and at the same time, longing for Him to prove that nothing will change the way He was holding me in His arms.

‘If you will let go of all that’s in your hands, and let me hold you in mine, I will change your world,’ He says with an urgency I haven’t heard before. ‘Look at me.’

I lift my bowed head and turn to look at Him.

‘That’s faith. All you need is to know and understand that I am the Dream Maker – the Maker and fulfillment of every desire in you. I made you, how can I do anything but love you? I see into you and whatever you choose to dress yourself in, dirty yourself with, doesn’t matter to me. I am looking into your heart.’

He opens His hands and spreads mine in His.

‘My hands are bigger than yours. You can try to work destruction, either purposefully or carelessly but My hands will always be bigger than yours. The world I can create from your mess will be far more astounding than any crap you give me. Can’t you see it? I am passionate about you.’

He takes the box of letters and places them in my hands.

‘How you feel on your journey – pain or joy – will be dependent on what you choose to fill your mind with. It doesn’t change its outcome. I’ve already written your story. And it’s good. One of the best, really…’ He smiles as He leans over, kisses my forehead and stands up.

‘I made my choice to believe in you. Now you choose what you want to believe.’

*

After He walked away, I sat there holding the box and bowed my head. Then very tentatively, I opened it, took out the first letter and began reading.

the lost friend

Stop, and we start asking all the questions
Raising alarm, a symptom of the tension
Though we’re unarmed, we fumble through the trenches
Taking apart all that we invented

We have become alien

We played the part til comfort’s gone
Now the only language is loss

– Cary Brothers

My first best friend was a toy beagle. I received him as a Christmas present when I was about eight.

‘He was in the store and he had the saddest, cutest look on his face,’ The Mother said. ‘He looked lonely and there was only one of him. I thought he needed a home and that was why I bought him for you… He also reminded me a lot of you. He had your eyes.’

He was a beautifully made soft toy puppet and I remember afternoons I spent with him, talking about our childish dreams for the future. Every night, I fell asleep with him in my arms and woke up with him by my side. Over the years, his fur lost its gleam and the spot where I lay my head on his became bald. Still, I loved him with all my heart.

I can’t remember the day I finally packed him into a carton box where he now resides. I don’t even know when nor why I outgrew him but I never gave him away. I couldn’t. He was too precious to me.

Several years ago, a friend gave me a bunny named Beatrice. She was a gorgeous hand-made terrycloth doll that had the droopiest ears and the cuddliest form. It came at the perfect time. I was 29 and going through a difficult time in my life. Now I am not one to have many dolls. I dislike soft toys and the way they gather dust but Beatrice was different. She stayed in my bag and went with me everywhere I went.

At work, she sat on my lap while I conquered pages of Excel spreadsheets and Word documents. At night, she watched me while I poured my heart out on the laptop, writing words no one would ever read. She was the hug I needed when I felt lonely. She was the smile I needed when things got unbearable.

Eventually, I started going out more on production shoots and it was no longer feasible for me to tote her around while I stood out in the hot sun, ran around in the rain, battled camera equipment, props, wardrobe, lights and a demanding schedule. She found her way beside my beagle and stays there now.

Tonight, I remembered them.

As I did a friend who has grown distant over the past few months.

My dear friend was a soul mate. And like all soul mates, we shared our dreams, laughed at our similarities and found hope and comfort in our friendship. Knowing that there was someone out there strengthened our determination to make it through life’s gray landscape, in search of our personal rainbows.

Recently, I couldn’t find that friend everywhere I looked. It’s not that my friend no longer exists. We still write emails but with each word written, I feel the distance more tangibly than I ever believed I could. It came to a place where the words were finally useless – the very words that once drew us together.

It felt strange and I wondered, had I unconsciously packed our friendship into that box where my beagle and bunny now resided? I thought I was trying… thought I was still doing my part to reconnect with my friend but it was all alien. Our language was no longer a dependable medium of communication.

Smiley once asked me, ‘Do you believe that friends are for a season?’

‘Well, I think some friends are. They come into your life at a specific moment to give you support and be what you need. Then we both move on,’ I answered. ‘It’s not usually painful because both parties simply get on with our busy lives. But real friends? I think they are here to stay.’

‘Yes, that’s what I think too,’ Smiley said. ‘I have friends I made when I was really young and though we don’t contact each other all the time, we still make the effort to catch up. I think the idea that friends are for a season is bullshit.’

I agreed. I still have my secret keepers and we make attempts to constantly catch up. Sometimes, it’s with regularity and sometimes, it’s after a long silence. Sometimes, our conversations are casual and then there are those moments when we’re extremely close. It all depends on what we’re going through in our personal lives. The important thing is… we’re there for each other.

So what happened to my beagle, my bunny and my lost friend?

And why do I feel such a strange sense of loss tonight?

*

‘I do not want any one to read my book carelessly. I have suffered too much grief in setting down these memories. Six years have already passed since my friend went away from me… If I try to describe him here, it is to make sure that I shall not forget him. To forget a friend is sad. Not every one has had a friend. And if I forget him, I may become like the grown-ups who are no longer interested in anything but figures.’

– Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

My lost friend is special.

There are dreams found within that person, a depth of character and resilience that is uncommon and over the years, I’ve grown to both admire and respect the odd quirks. Even in the deepest of difficulties, I remember how my friend would search for truth in the anger and tears.

My friend could see beauty in the darkness and had an uncommon patience to wait out the storms.

When I turned ugly and withdrew into a season of solitude, I often returned to the friendship thinking that I’d get a reprimand or at least a chill in our communication but that friend was always there with a smile.

‘I’m sorry,’ I would sheepishly say.

‘It’s okay. It hurt but I understand,’ came the reply.

Today, I wonder… if I went back to that box in search for my lost friend, what would I say? And what would I hear in return?

*

‘Thanks for being there today,’ I said to the Dream Maker.

‘I’m always there,’ He replied.

‘Yes… You are. Why is that? Why don’t you turn away when I forget about You? If someone were to ignore me the way I do to You sometimes, I’d at least give them the cold shoulder for a while… but you never do that. Why?’ I needed to know. It felt very unfair for Him to be on the receiving end of my rants and emotional tirades.

‘Simple.’ He said. I looked up from what I was doing.

‘I don’t get You…’ I began to say, till I saw what He had on His palm. It was my name, inked permanently into His skin.

‘I made a promise once. A promise I will always keep. I’m here for You because I traded all I had… to win you with my love. Do you think it’d be that easy to turn Me away?’ He looked at me quizzically, as if He couldn’t fathom why I could doubt.

I traced my name in His palm and as I reached the end, He closed His fingers around mine.

‘I promised I won’t let You go. No matter how you try to shake me off, run away, hurl mean words… it won’t change a thing. I made a promise I’ll keep for eternity.’

We sat there for the longest time, holding hands, while I wept my silent tears.

I am not alone.

letter to the broken-hearted

Dear friend

How do you stop your heart from breaking? Every moment, the silence rips each piece of my being into a million pieces, with no promise or hope of mending. I try to hold it together, put on the bravest of faces, smile to all who are familiar and yet within lies a hurt so unbearable that my strength is but a mere shadow.

I tell myself that it will get better with each day and I hope to fight a winning battle at the break of new dawn. Then I awaken from slumber and the hours ahead feel like hell.

How do I fill the void that’s within, when all focus and distractions have abandoned me? I know what needs to be done but my capabilities struggle and fail. There is no comfort except for the assurance from the one I love… but when silence is the only sound, all sanity, resolve, confidence and everything I know leaves me…

And I’m left with nothing but the unbearable heaviness of being.

She broke up with me. No, more than that. She broke me.

How do you live when your person has been shattered into a million pieces?

*

I logged in to my email account, only to read a dear friend’s heart-wrenching note about how she got dumped. The relationship seemed so magically beautiful when they first met and then, a few weeks later, with no warning whatsoever, the other person ended it.

‘I never told anyone this, but I think I found The One,’ she confided in me. ‘It’s hell. I don’t know how to live from here onwards.’

This was just yesterday. A few days before, I received a text message from Mrs Couple. She had just got her separation papers and the divorce will be made official in a matter of months.

‘What do I tell the kids? The truth? A lie? What?’ Mrs Couple asked me. ‘How do I explain to them that Daddy won’t be coming home? And me… how will ever believe in love again?’

Then there are the two chaps I caught up recently, both getting over the girls they had been dating for months.

‘Every day is a fight to resist making contact with the other person,’ they said. I looked into their tired eyes and wondered when they last had a good night’s sleep.

Deep in pain, they just wanted to know one thing.

‘How do I get through this?’

*

What do you say to a broken heart? How do you tell a person that everything will be okay? When you’re deep in pain and can’t see past the bleeding wound, it’s almost impossible to imagine the day it heals. It’s too surreal a hope.

‘How did you get through your pain?’ the friend who wrote the note asked me.

‘God,’ I said.

I knew it seemed too simplistic an answer but like the very breath on my lips, it was through intense pain that I found my way to recovery through Him. The drugs didn’t work, neither did the alcohol, or physical pain of any sort. When I came down from my high, reality – with all its claws – was waiting. God changed my reality. And that was a fact.

‘The Dream Maker huh. Why do you call Him that?’ she asked.

‘Because the day I found myself broken, when all creativity had died, when my dreams were snuffed and tomorrow was too painful to imagine living through, He came and gave me new dreams. He took all the pieces of me and over the months, knitted them together with a love that I couldn’t imagine existed.’

‘I’m too proud to ask for help,’ she replied. ‘I think it’s hypocritical if I go to Him when I’m all bleak, only to forget Him when all is well.’

‘You won’t forget Him,’ I said, ‘How do you forget the One who was there when no one else was?’

I didn’t. He’s all I have.

*

Humanity lies bleeding at my doorstep. I want to help, I want to reach out and give them hope, love, riches… anything to ease the pain but I look at each and every one of these people I love and I realize, I can’t.

I don’t have the power to make them dream again.

*

My dear friend

I wish I could wrap you up in my arms and love you till the pain eased.

If I could…

I’d take the tears you cry and bottle them because they are precious.
I’d take the colours of the rainbow and knit them into your soul.
I’d take the wind and tie them to your spirit so you could fly.
I’d take the rain to wash away the darkness in your being.
I’d take your hand and just be there whenever, wherever.

If I could… but I can’t. So instead, I’ll write you new dreams, re-write the stories of the life you know and trade it in for the life you want to have. I’ll carefully seal these in an envelope and place it in the hands of the Dream Maker. Then as you lay your head on your pillow and finally fall asleep, tired from the fight in your mind, may you meet the Dream Maker.

And one day, you’ll smile again.

I love you dear friend.

Neubauten’s lullaby

The demolishing of what was once a carefully designed toilet is finally underway. Several weeks ago, the neighbours one floor below us complained of water leaking and staining their ceiling. After some checks, it was found to be due to the building’s old age so with some subsidy, we now have to redo the waterproofing for the toilets. We have two – one in the kitchen and one in the master bedroom.

Today, they began works in the kitchen’s toilet. First up, hacking away at the tiles, removing the toilet bowls and all other attachments. What I didn’t anticipate though, was the massive noise we’d have to endure. The drilling went on for hours and even after it stopped, I still felt the tremors and heard the ringing in my ears.

It really felt as though Einstürzende Neubauten were playing live in my house. There was no escape. And like all music (experimental, in this case) the sounds continued to ring long after the songs had ended.

Totally random information that’s unrelated and yet, somehow connected to this entry, is that Einstürzende Neubauten actually means collapsing new buildings, and the band’s trademark is using custom-built instruments made out of scrap metal, building tools and samples of noises in their performances. Destruction was part of their music order.

After the contractors left my house, I surveyed the mess and shuddered at the thought of them ‘doing’ my bedroom toilet next. I am not looking forward to sleeping in my bed when that happens.

Yes people, it’s my princess-and-the-pea moment. Except that the pea here is a destroyed toilet.

*

Destruction. Does it really need to take place before improvements can be made?

Let’s take a house’s foundation, for example. To build a simple one-storey structure, the foundation created would be perfect for that purpose, and nothing more. But once expansion is required (multiple storeys) and perhaps, further extensions outwards, the builders would have to destroy what was once familiar – home – and start rebuilding from scratch. Imagine the hacking, demolishing and noise that takes place.

What happens then when your dreams grow bigger and your potential increases? When you pray and ask the Dream Maker to extend your borders… what actually are you asking for? Are you ready for the demolishing of what was once familiar – not because it was necessarily bad but because it’s not sufficient for the amazing things that lie in store?

Growth gets painful, noisy, confusing and at times, plain dirty. At the end of the day, you clean up the mess and sigh with relief, thinking that maybe, it’s all over, until a new day arrives and the hacking begins. Then there’s the drilling deeper (introspection, anyone?), the painstaking brick-laying (which seems to take forever) and the moment when you survey the process and ask, what in the world is happening? Weren’t the old days better? Can’t we just be happy with the way things were?

The only thing that grounds you then is the hope of something beautifully glorious ahead which you can’t quite see yet. So you hurry to the blueprints to recapture that vision, to flesh out the rooms of the future.

That’s why I read the blueprint of life. It’s what I need to get through my days when I feel overwhelmed by the mess that greets me. It reminds me of promises made, dreams painted and one day… a new and glorious place to live in. My life sometimes feels as though it’s constantly under construction, a works-in-progress.

Destruction. I think I can deal with it.

Especially when I know the contractor in charge is the Dream Maker.

He is the best builder I ever know. After all, He made Himself the chief cornerstone of my new home.

*

Einstürzende Neubauten, play on. Your music is now no longer the sound of massive destruction but one of hope. Great things are ahead of me.

And yes, my toilets too.

the tears you weep | the strength you keep

‘I will not say, Do not weep, for not all tears are an evil.’

– J.R.R. Tolkien

She clenched her teeth and bit back the cry. She would not scream. She would not make a sound. Slightly delirious from the pain, she began to laugh, just as the Artist sat back and the machine was silenced for the night.

‘It’s done,’ he said, flexing his hand. ‘Five hours… you’ve done good. Take a look.’

She stood up and slowly walked to the mirror. Turning around, she gazed upon what once existed as a mere dream. Beauty, brokenness, preciousness and faith were all intertwined in shades of black and grey, forever inked on her skin. Tentatively, she touched the swollen area and felt her heart leap.

‘I’m literally wearing my heart on my sleeve,’ she thought.

‘Oh yes, it might weep a little and if it does, shower and clean it up, then ice it down,’ the Artist said.

‘Weep?’ she asked.

‘When it gets agitated, plasma seeps out, as if it’s tearing,’ he explained.

‘I like that word – weep,’ she mused. ‘Why does it weep?’

‘It’s the body’s way of healing,’ the Artist said, ‘mending itself through the tears that fall.’

She saw through her mind’s eye:

… the child that stood alone, wishing her parents hadn’t left her.
… the girl that was mocked, ridiculed and ostracized by others who gossiped.
… the youth who faced the harsh realities of broken relationships.
… the woman who lost her first child.

It was a past that had no hold over her. She was now a lady who had found her strength in a beauty that was eternal. Shakily, she gathered herself together and walked out.

Out into the dawn of new beginnings.

‘She was the books she read in the library. She was the flower in the brown bowl. Part of her life was made from the tree growing rankly in the yard… She was all of these things and something more…

It was what God… puts into each soul that is given life – the one different thing such as that which makes no two fingerprints on the face of the earth alike.’

– Betty Smith

She was ink.

*

There’s a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I’m too tough for him,
I say, stay in there, I’m not going
to let anybody see
you.

there’s a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I’m too clever, I only let him out
at night sometimes
when everybody’s asleep.
I say, I know that you’re there,
so don’t be
sad.
then I put him back,
but he’s singing a little
in there, I haven’t quite let him
die
and we sleep together like
that
with our
secret pact
and it’s nice enough to
make a man
weep, but I don’t
weep, do
you?

– Charles Bukowski

I once fought against tears. I thought it was pure weakness when a person showed their emotions and had no control over their display. I despised the crybabies, secretly mocking their vulnerability. I stubbornly resisted help and support, my pride too strong, my will refusing to acknowledge that people need people.

I can’t remember seeing Obachan cry. I never once saw Ojichan with tears in his eyes. That’s strength, I thought.

I was wrong.

The more I resisted the urge to cry, the harder it seemed to get on with life. How can you with a choke in your throat?

*

‘Can I come in?’ the Dream Maker asked, knocking on the door.

‘Why?’ I asked. ‘There’s no one here.’

‘That’s why I want to come in. I’d like to make it my home,’ He answered.

Home? Since when was this empty chamber a place of refuge and comfort? And yet, knowing that Someone cared enough to visit made me open the door. And when I did, the tears broke through.

‘Damn it! What did you do?’ I hollered but couldn’t hear His answer. My cries were too loud. And as I wept, I felt as though every pain, every hurt in my past was being revisited.

‘I don’t want to remember!’ I sobbed as the images I’d kept deep in the recesses of my empty chamber flashed across my mind. But as the tears coursed down my face, it felt as though each drop was a hurt from my past that was being shed. The weights that bore down on my wings were falling away and hours later… my soul took flight.

The day I began crying was the day I understood that the tears – my tears – were a sign that I was still alive.

It was a sign that I was healing.

how can we be strong?

‘Can I come with you?’ she asked.

I stifled a sigh. Going out to run was a very personal time for me and if she came along, I knew I’d be held back. She would want to talk, try to keep up… in other words, I wouldn’t be able to do things selfishly and at that point in time, I wanted to be self-centred.

‘Why do you want to come?’ I asked. ‘You know it’s hot out there and I’m usually silent when I run.’

‘I just want to be with you,’ she answered.

My heart melted. How many more years will I have with her before she would rather be with her friends? What good is ‘me’ time when ‘we’ time is limited? I have the rest of my lifetime to do things solo, but with her… it was good enough reason to share.

We laced up, stretched and hit the track. Amazingly, she kept up with me for a good distance before giving up and heading to the playground to wait for me.

‘You did great today,’ I said on our way back.

She smiled and held my hand tighter. ‘I like being with you.’

We shared a sweaty hug as the dark clouds rolled in…

*

After writing about the Father last night, I started thinking about my own little ones and how I can best equip them for a world that is grimy, gritty and harsh. How can I teach them to see the rainbows through the rains? Will they give up? Will they get sucked in? Will I always be there to hold their hand? And even if I was, would they turn to me and would I be able to help?

I put aside my books, laptop and work, took them for a short walk before dinner and raced with them to the mall. On our way back, I walked behind them and felt so small.

‘Will you hold their hand and fill in the gaps where my love falls short?’ I asked the Dream Maker.

‘I will, as I did for you. You turned out okay, didn’t you?’ He said while I nodded.

‘They’re yours then,’ I said, ‘And umm… thanks, for being the Father I needed.’

‘Always,’ He answered with a wink.

*

To See a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.

– William Blake

When He holds my hand, I know I have infinite possibilities within reach. It is the strength I need to take my next breath, the joy to break my face into a smile, the anchor in my turbulent emotions.

He was there when I had nothing. He gave me hope.

He was there when I was broken and used. He gave me beauty.

He was there when I was alone. He gave me love.

He was there when I finally laughed again.

And He held my hand tighter with all that He had.

*

‘How do you do it?’ I asked the Amazonian. She copes with her newborn child, takes care of her 9 year old half-sister and 13 year old half-brother. She coaches them in their studies, cooks, cleans, does part-time work… the list is endless.

‘I get exhausted just hearing about all that you have to handle and still you laugh and have lost none of your wacky humour,’ I continued.

‘There are challenges but you know what? As long as I know my husband is there beside me, backing me up 100% of the way, I can handle anything,’ she answered.

We all need that Someone in our lives.

Who’s yours?