fragile resilience

‘It’s like anything else in life. It’s hard for a little while, then you get used to it, and eventually you just carry on with life as normal. The human heart is the most fragile and resilient of things.’

I smiled when I read that line in the email. It felt as though miles away, my friend still understood what I was going through. And I very much needed to read those words.

Especially since it feels as though the framework of support I’ve been dependent on for the past few years is slowly being dismantled, one by one. I was quite unaware of the way I dealt with the loss. I had been shoving my thoughts and feelings into the deep recesses of my mind. And with every day that passed, a new brick was laid upon the wall around my heart – a wall that was once demolished.

It was only when I began losing my cool at the smallest issues, when my emotional state grew rocky, and I saw how I refused to open up about it… that I realised I was beginning to shut people out.

‘No one would understand,’ I fumed alone.

And maybe… they wouldn’t. Not entirely, anyway.

But the email reminded me that I can, in the midst of so many upheavals, find my footing once again. I can find a new way to deal with old patterns. I can keep the walls away. I can refuse to be isolated. And maybe… I can find a new support system.

Everything’s gonna be okay.

And if not, I will be.

*

If I ascend into heaven, You are there.
If I make my bed in hell, You are there.
And even if I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea…
Even there, Your hand shall lead me.
And Your right hand…

…it holds me.

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the heart of being

‘I don’t do installations anymore,’ Alan tried to explain, using his choked version of the English language. ‘The doctor said that my heart is not well. I work too hard, he say, stress you know? And… I must learn to rest.’

‘What happened?’ I asked, trying my best not to stare at his emaciated frame.

‘I collapse. Too many years, too much stress, the heart just give up. I had so much work, I go to bed and still think about work. And now, because of this,’ he tapped his heart, ‘I cannot do work like last time.’

In a span of 2 months, Alan lost 18 kilos and his livelihood. He was my main go-to guy for all things electrical in my home. I saw him about three times a year, and quite honestly, it never dawned on me to inquire about his family and personal life. Knowing that he’d just completed work on my air-conditioning unit and lights… I felt guilty.

‘But you’re one of my best customers, we been together for so many years… so for you, I do,’ he smiled.

Crap. Now I felt lower than the scum that eats scum.

‘Hey, if you can’t, it’s okay. Really. Your health is more important!’ I assured him. Or was it myself?

‘No, no. I still must earn for my family. But I tell you so you know, in case your friends ask for help too. I do for you, but not for them. And I give you discount…’ he smiled.

*

I left my house and headed to the gym with Mother.

‘Wait…’ I said to her.

‘The cab’s already here…’ she replied.

‘Just give me a minute…’ I stopped walking and closed my eyes. I was searching for something… what was it?

Opening my eyes, I didn’t see the car park. Instead, I saw all I had in life. I knew at that moment… I was never going to bed again with the cares of the world, because they didn’t care if I rose the next day. Shaking my head, I wanted to laugh. It was absurd, being so consumed by my worries, when I had breath to live.

‘Hey…’ Mother called out a little worriedly.

‘I’m coming…’ I laughed, skipping over to the waiting cab.

*

‘To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.’

– Oscar Wilde

As I write this:

… my phone is filled with to-do alarms that reach the end of March

… my deadlines are drawing closer, encasing me with their demands

… my days are filled with meetings, sometimes, over lunch

… my nights are not mine completely, as I share them with others

And yet, I know, it is all still awesome.

*

‘For in Him I live, and move, and have my being…’

– Acts 17:28

 

 

living eulogies

Soft Speaker’s father passed away yesterday at noon.

As I lay in bed, I began thinking about the things we say at funerals and wondered, why do we reserve the most beautiful speeches for a time when they’ve gone? Why are we able to see past the differences, weaknesses and idiosyncrasies of our nature when they are no longer around to appreciate it? Wouldn’t life be all the more beautiful if we said what we truly feel right now?

Will it make our relationships different?

*

For the Husband

When we first held hands, I was mesmerized by how they seemed to fit, as though crafted for that sole purpose years before we met each other. I made you promise to never let my hand go and you did just that – through the bitter times, the laughter, the tears, you held on even when I wanted to pull away. And that’s how we got through life, with our hands held tight.

You saw me as a beautiful person and taught me to see myself the same. It didn’t matter if I was fat, tired, haggard, angry or down-right ugly. You loved the flaws as much as you loved the beauty. My shortcomings didn’t subtract from my beauty, if anything, you made me realize that it caused my gorgeousness to shine. Your acceptance made me a better person.

You gave me two darling children, little embodiments of our personalities intertwined forever in them and I am astounded by life’s very essence as I watch them grow. It wasn’t always easy but together as a family, we have so much laughter. We are captivated by the wonder that each day brings. We are children again, with them.

Thank you for working beauty into life, with your music, your passion, your eye for the quirky and your kooky humour. You have given so much and I know I don’t always take the time to thank you but now I do.

Thank you for bringing the magic in my moments. Thank you for being you. Thank you for the love.

*

For the Mother

The earliest memory I have is of us alone in the kitchen where I sat on the dining table reading a book out loud to you, as you cooked dinner. You were a busy woman but you always, always made time to listen to a child’s rambling. Even when father left you for another woman, you hung on because of me. You didn’t give up on life even on days when the exhaustion hit you so badly you wondered if you could get out of bed. I was your reason to live and you were my world.

But I reciprocated that love with rebellion. In your moment of intense frustration, you said something to me that I will always remember.

‘I give up on you. I’m letting go. I’m putting you in God’s hands and He’ll manage you.’

That was the defining moment for me because a few months later, I hit rock bottom and with nowhere and no one to turn to, I turned to Him. My life changed as I stepped into all that He desired for me, and you watched quietly from the sidelines.

You never flinch when I tell you the worst things about myself and although I know it’s difficult, you resist the desire to intrude or advise. You’d already handed me to the Ultimate Care Giver and in doing that, you became my best friend. There is nothing I hold back from you and you are my soul mate.

You love to make things grow. Whether it is a life, a meal, a flower… you don’t just mother me. You mother the friends around me and have adopted them as your own. You are a shelter, a source of comfort and wisdom. You are my mother and in You, I find home.

Thank you for the life you gave, the care you expressed, the tears you shed and the arms you kept open. Thank you for the love.

*

For Me

You were the hardest person to love. Every time I saw your frailty, I turned away disgusted with what I’d seen. I had such high expectations of who I wanted you to be and when I saw your imperfections, I picked, picked, picked away at your faults. You were, quite honestly, hard to live with and I remember wishing you were never born.

Then one day, I realized… if I could not love you, no one else could. So I opened up my heart to love and received what I could not give. In receiving another person’s acceptance, I began to accept you. In receiving another’s love for me, I started to love you too. In seeing how someone saw me as beautiful, I began to see your beauty.

It took a long time but eventually, the day came when I could look into the mirror – into your eyes – and say, I love you for who you are, where you’ve been and how far you’ve come.

I began to love me.

Thank you for not jumping off the side of the building. Thank you for not overdosing on the pills. Thank you for choosing to turn away from the dark alleys and walk instead, in the sun’s bright light. Thank you for choosing to live.

Thank you for the love.

*

living eulogy.
she danced.
she sang. she took.
she gave.
she loved.
she created.
she dissented. she enlivened.
she saw. she grew. she sweated.
she changed.
she learned. she laughed.
she shed her skin.
she bled on the pages of her days,
she walked through walls,
she lived with intention.

– Mary Anne Radmacher

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*