Tuesday, 27 March 2012
Matt and I sat down the other day to work out how many times we had moved houses since getting married. Let’s see… in Sydney, there was the one close to the beach with the curved window where I watched my belly grow; the one where Faith (daughter number one) spent her first months; the blue one we bought, gutted then painted in bright canary yellow (I STILL cannot believe how bright that colour was!), and the one near The Gap (yup, notorious for the wrong reasons but with the most spectacular views of the ocean). Then, in Hong Kong, there was Parkland (where Faith got a good laugh because I nearly peed my pants when she pointed out the almost-like-an-anaconda-uninvited-guest in our living room), etcetera, etcetera. Long story short, Singapore makes this move number 10 -- that’s packing AND unpacking every 14.4 months! No wonder I’m permanently exhausted.com!
When I was younger, relocations were due to circumstances beyond my control – my parent’s divorce. Then, as a young adult, it was my work which saw me constantly selling-up to take a contract overseas (where better money awaited), only to have to start from scratch all over again once the gig was wrapped-up. You'd think I'd learn! Presently, and for the past 11 years, Matt’s job has seen us decamp from Sydney and set-up homes in Hong Kong, London, and now, Singapore. Each move is proving to be more challenging with each additional child, (and MORE ‘stuff’ that nobody will let me throw out!) and now, a dog as well! I dread the next call summoning us to move again – because undoubtedly it WILL come -- its just a question of when.
The most recent relocation took us from London to Singapore via Zurich and Dubai. “What kind of crazy route is that?” you ask? The latter two were the other ‘possibilities’ of where they wanted to post us. I remember the early part of the ‘adventure’: Matt coming home and saying we were moving to Zurich and how excited he was: the fresh air, the lifestyle, the skiing! I, however, felt sick.
I had been trying to learn french for the past few years and had not made much headway due to my inability to be ‘guttural enough’ in my pronunciation. With German requiring even more ‘grrrr’, the probability of me mastering the language was zero to the infinity-of-infinity.
And skiing? Let’s just say when I first stepped onto a ski field at ripe old age of 38, I had never been so terrified in my life. Not just of breaking something, but of being the CAUSE of someone else getting hurt because of my inability to stop. “Get out of the way!” I would frantically call out. “I can’t stooooooooooooooooooooop! SHIIIIIIIIIIIT!!”
Added to my anxiety was the reputation of the Swiss to take life very seriously. Oh man! I am so going to be a social pariah with my loopy sense of humor and my flair of putting my foot in it! The impending move brought back horrible memories of when we first arrived in London, when stress saw my mouth transformed into a grotto of ulcers – about 20-or-so of them – and of how lonely and lost I felt.
Driven by a renewed sense of fear, after a few months of staying up till-all-hours surfing the internet to research, and trying to be positive about the “next adventure” (as per Matt’s directive); I finally plucked up the courage and confessed. I had it all planned out. I would plead my argument rationally over dinner. Matt sat there, listening patiently to my manic and hysterical outburst, then asked, “In your mind, what is the worst thing about this move?” I replied as honestly as I could, “German. I REALLY don’t want to learn German.” Then, he burst out laughing. Unfortunately, Matt’s laugh is very infectious and so, feeling foolish, I became even more determined to get over my anxiety.
Luckily for me though, yet another few months later, the Zurich idea was canned and they were moving us to Dubai! Hurray! Somewhere warm! Plus zero percent tax! Seeing the disappointment on Matt’s face made me even more determined to make this work and be positive.
“Honey, what a wonderful opportunity for the girls! Asia, Europe, and now an Arabic country! How many children get to experience such a truly global upbringing? This will probably propel them into distinguished careers with the UN or an NGO, no?” Yes, I sounded like a salesman + tiger mom on speed. Anyhow, our reconnaissance trip was quickly booked. But then, the call came. “Dubai’s not going to work. You will have to move to Singapore.”
Was I relieved? Guilty! And though I recognize we would have transformed wherever they sent us into a wonderful home (even if it meant paying people to become our friends!), I cannot deny the news finally filled me with a childish glee at our next adventure.
Thursday, 22 March 2012
Early on, in-between singing gigs, I spent a good number of years waiting tables and (except for the crazies and the stalkers) I loved it! You see, I just loved this simple equation: Attention + Service = Tips. KER-CHING!
Fast forward a couple of decades, remembering how difficult the service industry can be, I try not to be a nightmare customer. The only problem? Good service can be hard to find and I often have to stop myself from being too blunt with my 'feedback'.
Walked into the gym the other day. The head instructor, seeing me for the very first time (I know this because it was my first time in his gym), called out, “So! How much weight have you lost so far?” Shooting daggers and putting as much frost as I could muster in my voice, I replied I didn’t come to the gym to lose weight. I know it was not the slickest of retorts but I was too busy thinking he could at least have asked my name first and then perhaps ask me how my workout was coming along as opposed to how much weight I’ve lost. Bonehead!
I’ve also had some doozies in shops: the time I got told off by a haughty assistant at some boutique in London for not hanging the clothes back on the hanger after I’d tried them on. Opps! I thought that was her job seeing she was stationed at the change rooms! Or the time I walked into a clothes store in Hong Kong and was told the change rooms were ‘broken’ (how do you break a change room?), followed with “none of the clothes in that shop” were my size anyway! Ouch! Needless to say, I didn’t buy anything from either shop. The ‘supermodel-in-waiting’ too busy to serve me at the cosmetic counter because they’re busy fixing their make-up or chattering like a chimpanzee on their phones; and the indifferent ‘I’m-waiting-for-my-big-break’ waitperson who is M-I-A and fails to grace my table to inform me of the plats du jour (let alone take my order!). Their total self-absorption coupled with their lack of care for the customer just grates. Hello?!? Doesn’t anyone want any of my hard-earned cash? Banks and telephone companies fare no better and sometimes, dealing with them is like watching an episode of “Faulty Towers” or “‘Allo Allo”. In fits of rage and out of pure frustration, I have oscillated between bursting into tears while sobbing how unprofessional a company was (they later sent me 2 dozen roses!) and handing out tongue lashings. Neither one a pretty sight.
For me, however, the worst culprits are some of the jokers working in call centres who sound like they are reading from a script. Had to ring a phone company the other day due to a spate of mis-billings which happened 6 months prior – after I had closed my account. To add insult to injury, the mis-billings were then followed by a mountain-load of letters from debt agencies demanding I pay this bill. I dread to think how many poor trees had to be chopped down to create the paper for all these letters – just because of some bumbling buffoon’s mistake! A series of phone calls later, I truly thought all was sorted. WRONG! Got ANOTHER letter from a debt agency three weeks later.
I rang the phone company AGAIN, spent the next 30 minutes explaining how this had to be an error, only to have this person mumble some “administration fee” mumbo-jumbo. After he repeated it for the 5th time, I concluded I needed to go above his pay grade and asked to speak to his supervisor. He asked why. I told him I needed to speak to someone who didn’t read from a script and that he wasn’t a robot and needed to think outside of the box. He hung up on me. Aaaaaarrrrrrggggggghhhhhhh!
Look, I don’t necessarily adhere to the “customer is always right” notion as there are some pretty arrogant and ignorant so-and-so’s out there who are so badly behaved I want to shake them. But the point is this, good customer service is actually so simplistic. Listen. Empathise (if there’s a problem). Suggest options. Be outstanding in delivery. Customer walks away happy. And importantly, they will come back!
Came across this in my research today:
“You are serving a customer, not a life sentence. Learn how to enjoy your work. Otherwise please do us all a service and quit!”
Think I will get this printed up on a whole lot of T-shirts and give them out!
Tuesday, 20 March 2012
Before my life got swept up in a whirlwind of nappies (apologies to Mother Earth but thank goodness for disposables!), strict sleep routines and controlled crying (as per some expert’s advice); and now, school runs and homework, I used to think I was a very ‘together’ person.
Things very seldom ever got lost, names never forgotten, and pin numbers and passwords faithfully safeguarded and never confused. Fast forward 12 years and that ‘super power’, unlike my waistline, has receded!
I try to side-step having too many senile moments by actually keeping a working list in my diary. Things-to-do, errands to run, people to call, the children’s daily after school schedules, bills to pay, meetings, birthdays all go straight into my diary as soon as I am aware of them. More sensitive information like passport numbers, frequent traveler memberships, all sorts of user names and passwords are stored ‘somewhere safe’. Problems do however arise when I forget the location of my ‘fort’ of classified information. But that’s another story!
Moving countries 3 times in the last 11 years has sent my shrinking brain into orbit as I struggle to remember basic information anew. Everyday pertinent information such as our address and postcode to commit to memory. PLUS new telephone numbers: mobile, home, school, Matt’s work AND mobile, the emergency number, etc. Let’s see. 65 for Singapore. I’ll be 22 in 90 years. Flip the 65. And you’ll get my new telephone number! Uncomplicated? Perhaps not. Memorable? For me anyway.
People’s names, however, are becoming increasingly hard for me. Faces? No problems. Their children’s names? I’m pretty good, especially if they are friends with my girls. Lately, however, names escape me within moments, forcing me to adopt the supposedly memory-boosting strategy of asking them to spell out their names. With names like “Alice”, “Maria”, “Amanda”, I would look dopey with my request so I try the “Kylie as in Kylie Minogue?” or “Tia as in Tia Maria?” routine. The exotic ones become a minefield as I struggle to comprehend the first, second AND third time, having to ask the poor owner to repeat their names over and over again. Shaye? Finola? Do I need a hearing aid? Perhaps that’s the problem!
Moving on to another common but more serious trait of nappy brain: temporary amnesia. My top moments:
1. turning the house upside down to look for something, and getting the whole family involved, only to forget what that something was
2. forgetting what I wanted to write/say within moments of coming up with the undoubtedly genius idea
3. taking the time to write down a grocery list… only to leave it at home
4. forgetting the reason why I started telling a story – mid-way!
5. getting the pin numbers on ALL my cards mixed-up!
With Paige (child number 3) nearly turning 9, I can no longer blame sleep deprivation caused by a new-born; nor on any pesky hormones that surge during pregnancy. My research procured an article promising that although my brain shrunk between 3-8% each pregnancy, not only should it have popped back to its original size (a long time ago) but its caliber would become enhanced! All I can say to is: I’m still waiting.
Meanwhile, I shall have to top up my brain food, continue relying on checklists, and keep calm and carry on. Purse? Check. Phone? Check. Keys? Uhm… has anyone seen my keys? Argggggggghhhhhhhhh!
Friday, 16 March 2012
Everyone wants it. Magazines and books keep sharing secrets of how to get it. Companies tout their wares claiming you will get it if you bought what they have to sell. Many people walk and talk as if they have it. Confidence.
Recently, a well-meaning friend asked why despite having everything going for me, my ‘beauty’, “great friends, wonderful hubby, fab kids” I lacked “a lot of confidence”, pointing out that most women would kill to be in my shoes.
Sigh. I have a complicated relationship with “confidence”. On occasions when I have received my quota of Zzzzzz’s, had my work-out, and feel very organised, I wear confidence like a slinky second skin. On those OTHER days, however, that part of my personality fails to make an appearance like a missing guest-of-honor at his own surprise party. When my GF (and no, it does not stand for Girl Friday but girlfriend) sent me the concerned note about the missing quality in my otherwise sparkling personality, I must confess I started crying.
Am I so transparent that she saw through my insecurities through a few pieces of prose I had invited her to critique? How can that be? I had not written about the boy who used to punch me in the stomach and face if I did not allow him to spit in my mouth -- of how I would feel so stupid (for being a coward) and dirty afterwards. Neither did I write about the derogatory profanity that served as a cane to whip and belittle me -- continuing until I finally left the family home for good. Of birthdays that went uncelebrated with no cakes, presents nor parties. Or the humilation I felt one Christmas, as eyes stinging with uncried tears, I unwrapped my lone present - a packet of Twisties - whilst my siblings cried out excited shouts of joy at their gifts. “Fat, ugly and stupid” were corrosive taunts fed to me on a daily drip.
I was the girl who never spoke up because nobody bothered to hear me. Never protected myself against the abuse hurled at me from all sides because it would only get worse if I did. I was the girl who had nobody to turn to and there was not one person there for me. Better to just curl up in a ball and say nothing. Why? Because I had begun to believe I was worthless.
Okay, enough of the oh-my-so-tragic-childhood! Just give me a moment whilst I put away my violin – truth be told, at the end of the day, yes it was a lousy childhood but there are millions who had it considerably worse than me. But yes, my GF is correct. If you looked up “confidence” in the dictionary, you would never see a picture of me beaming back at you.
Yes, I can do certain things with confidence. Walk into a room full of strangers and strike up a conversation. Get my daughters to giggle at how silly their mom is. Convince Matt that I am always right, even when I’m wrong (sorry Matt!). Top up your glass and make sure you don’t leave our home hungry. Recite the alphabet from a to z. AND, whenever I put on a pair of heels, with those magic extra few inches -- I become the epitome of Miss Confidence! Must be the fresh air up there!
My self-assurance does however teeter dangerously on the edge of hysterical confusion at other times. My mothering skills. If I am interesting enough to myself and others. Do I set a good example for my children with my choices and actions? Am I fulfilling my destiny? Am I making the right decisions. The catalog is painfully long so I won’t bore you any further with it!
I know I have much to work on with so many chips on my not-so-broad shoulders and my thin skin needs toughening up. But its okay. It keeps me busy (and out of trouble!). Taking baby steps, one at a time, I know I will have relapses now and again but will try to show myself kindness and be patient with myself.
They say Rome wasn’t built in a day; so let’s just agree I’m a work-in-progress. Meanwhile, I will just have to find a way to keep my heels on without getting a permanent backache!!
Wednesday, 14 March 2012
Sleep. One of those things I never seem to get enough of. Ever. As if fueled by the tide, every now and then, a wave of insomnia sweeps in and I struggle to either fall asleep or stay in ‘the land of nod’ for very long. Like now for instance.
Apparently, I used to be a ‘good sleeper’ seeing Matt’s nickname for me was “pillow head”. Thinking about it now though, I’m really not sure why as being a morning person, I was always the first person to leap out of bed .. (although these days, as Matt’s still sleeping due to his ‘funky’ work hours, I tend to attempt a stealthy ninja roll instead so as not to wake him). Perhaps he was referring to my wild caveman look courtesy of my untamed ‘morning’ hair? Or maybe it was my puffy face from where I had slept. Who knows? I should ask him sometime… Anyhow, as anyone who gets insomnia will attest, its no fun – PLUS after a few nights of it, although I still manage a certain sense of normality in front of strangers and acquaintances, I become a bit of a ‘snappy tom’ and get a bit feral around my poor family.
The thing is, I cannot understand why it happens. The temperature in our bedroom is locked into (sorry Matt!) a hibernation-inducing 18 degrees Celsius with the air-con serving its double purpose of providing ambient noise to drown everything else out. Even in London, in the height of winter, poor Matt had to put up with the fan at full blast for the very same reason. Our tinted windows are reinforced with blackout curtains that serve as guardians against any unwanted rouge gleams of light! I even have a couple of eye masks on hand – just in case! Extreme? Perhaps. Point-to-note, I avoid overnight flights as its too noisy and bright to sleep. Holiday stays at rooms without the same at-home-conditions see me suddenly become a reluctant night owl, staying up till all hours until exhausted sleep finally claims me.
Matt, on the other hand, is an EXPERT at sleeping! He can sleep ANYWHERE! The plane? Within minutes of sitting down. The train or on a ferry? Effortlessly. Even on the rare ocassion when we go to bed at the same time, with me as the ‘exhausted’ one, he’ll fall asleep within seconds (I know because he does the sleep ‘rattle’!); whilst I lay there beside him, patiently waiting for sleep to claim me and insanely jealous at his ability to fall into a state of blissful slumber so quickly.
What normally follows is a TOTAL loss of control over my mind as I lay there obsessing over never-ending lists, mental notes, replaying conversations, planning the menus; all whilst alternating between trying to coach myself to “breathe deeply” and berating the whirling cogs in my brain that won’t stop churning. When random pop tunes start weaving into my consciousness, I ‘flip’ (ie to the other side) in an effort to shake it off without giving myself whiplash. Sigh. Wham?! “Wake me up before I go-go!” Really? Arggghhh. Breeeeeeaaaaaaathe….
I know there are plenty of people out there who can survive quite-well-thank-you-very-much on not very much sleep. I used to be – when I was younger (so much younger than todaaaaaay..). Now, at 40-something, without enough of sleep, all my worst-of-worst traits seep through – petty, picky, insecure, grumpy, painful. The worst one? EVERYTHING becomes a BIG deal and I find myself getting frustrated and obsessing over the most mundane everyday stuff! Just LOCO!
And so, for the sake of the welfare of my poor husband and children (and anyone else who may have to cross my path), I will try to overcome this and any future waves of insomnia by following 10 golden rules:
1. Continue to stay away from scarey books (those who know me or have read my previous articles know what I’m talking about!)
2. Work on my breathing
3. Drown out the ‘inner-chatter’ with more breathing
4. Remedy my oh-so-tired -eyes-that-feel-like-they’re-on-fire with eye drops
5. NO online Scrabble just before I go to bed
6. Find an interesting but actually quite boring book to read – for bed!
7. Stay away from scarey movies (as per point 1)
8. Think before I speak when I’m feeling grumpy
9. Embrace the wisdom of just ‘sleeping’ on a problem
10. Thank my guardian angels for surrounding me with patient people who put up with me
Monday, 12 March 2012
In the interest of keeping mental tabs on where my girls are in their psyche and what they are being exposed to on television, the radio and printed material, I often attempt to watch, listen and read whatever it is they are into at any given time. This normally works quite well as we giggle over television plots, sing along to singers barely half my age and discuss storylines, often bemoaning a writer’s lack-of-speed in releasing the next installment of a favourite book series.
With two of my three daughters under the age of 10 and one just on the brink of 'teenager-dom', you would assume that most of it would be quite tame and PG-rated. It is with this expectation I chanced upon a new series of books that Faith, my nearly-teenager and my eldest, had started devouring: Skulduggery Pleasant.
The Skulduggery Pleasant series is written by Irish author AND award-nominated screen writer and centers around Skulduggery Pleasant, a wise-cracking skeleton detective, his spunky 12-year-old-sidekick Stephanie. The first book is tame enough, chronicling their meeting, the developing relationship and their subsequent journey to save the world and stop an uprising of all sorts of dark underworld characters. (Breathe) And I DO mean UNDER the world, scary-spooky-soul-devouring characters. Did I mention the skeleton?
I should point out at this juncture that I am the world’s BIGGEST scardy cat. Pre-Matt, in my single days, I would put off being in a darkened room by taking on a night job. When it finally came time to face the inevitable ‘turn-off-the lights’ moment, I always had some sort of soft music going on in the background as I drifted off.. to drown out any sort of scarey noises.. ie the ones that happen in the dead of the night! Simply put, George Benson and Luther Vandross ‘held’ my hand to silence the pitter-patter of my pounding chicken heart from fear during those long nights!
Fast-forward to my late 20s and pre-baby days (before I was too permanently exhausted to worry about anything that went “bump”!), in the middle of our very cozy 400-something square foot studio, whenever Matt traveled overseas for work, I would put off going to sleep by baking brownies - which would subsequently follow Matt to work when he came back!. Let’s just say, his colleagues loved it whenever he traveled!
Getting to the point, simply put, if you opened the dictionary and looked under “CHICKENSHIT”, you would find a picture of me, hiding behind some sort of security blanket, with a look of sheer terror pasted on my face. You get the picture.
Getting back to my tale of terror, I survived THAT first book without so much of a cold sweat and greedily started devouring the second book, “Skulduggery Pleasant – Playing With Fire”. The scare factor suddenly revved up a few notches as a parade of monsters and dark characters rear their ugly heads; including “Grotesquery” (which refuses to die), a psychopathic assassin (with a grudge), a blood thirsty-syringe-carrying vampire AND an army of super spiders! I shudder at the memory!
Did it occur to me to put down the book at any point? Yes. But I thought if I just worked through it, I would become desensitized at some point. Did my plan work? No. Let’s just say, that night, I tossed and turned and jumped at every noise.
Next morning, I tell Faith I’m not so sure about her reading these books as they are quite dark and scarey. She asks why. I tell her about the scarey characters and the spiders. And then she reacts in the only way she knows how. She bursts out laughing! “Spiders?!? Are you serious mom!” “Yes!” I protest. “They were very hairy and scary! And there’s a WHOLE ARMY of them!”
Faith tries again. “Mom, I really want to keep reading these books. I find them interesting and quite funny.” “Okay.” I warn. “But if you get nightmares, don’t say I didn’t warn you!” Faith then smiles her beautiful smile with a “Oh Mom! You are so funny! Just as well I’ve got Daddy’s genes and am more of a daredevil like him!” With that, she gives me a hug and book under her arm, walks to her room, with a chuckle.
As I watch my taller-than-me-nearly-teenager walk away, I cannot help but smile at at the way Faith handled that exchange. Just as well she’s got Matt’s genes!
Saturday, 10 March 2012
So. A few weeks ago, I was relating to a girlfriend about how Matt had come down with a bug after his recent business trip to London which was also compounded by jetlag. Poor guy just wasn’t himself. Her response was a flippant, “Oh. Its probably just the ‘man flu’!” Translation? Its ALL in the mind. I shared this observation with Matt, who in between his symphony of coughing fits and nose blowing, promptly informed that the ‘man flu’ was very real but was up a few notches at “Rambo strength”. Anyhow, karma was to bite me in the proverbial ass for not realising just how sick he was; when for Valentine’s Day, my lovely husband gave me a kiss.. AND his cold. The next day, my throat was scratchy and my body ached. I was NOT a happy bunny!
I know I can sometimes be a little too chirpy for some people’s tastes. Example? If I know you, and I don’t have to know you very well, my hellos are normally followed with a very energetic wave if you are a few metres away. Otherwise, I may just blind you with one of my power-watt-show-you-all-my-teeth smiles and grab you into a big hug. I also think nothing of asking waiters or shopgirls who have served me their names just so I can thank them by name and blind them with a smile, no doubt leaving them to wonder if I had just escaped from some mental institution.
Tia, (daughter number two), is constantly embaressed by how friendly or how cheerful I am. “Mom, please can you stop singing?” or “Mom, please can you stop bouncing around so much?” is often followed by her physically trying to hold on to me (often disguised as an embrace) in an effort to either calm me down or hide me with her body. Of course this only serves to amuse me and sometimes, if I’m feeling really wicked, I simply exaggerate all the action she’s trying to stifle even more. Poor Tia! I know she sometimes wishes the ground would just swallow her (or better, me!) up. But, other times, I think she’s secretly amused I am so silly. Mind you, I do tend to balance the silliness with a very stern “have you finished your homework yet” or “why is your towel lying on the floor? How many maids do you think you have?!” whenever it is required.
Me sick however, is a whole different kettle of fish. Picture this: total absence of any kind of smile, flat tone, bedraggled hair that looks like I had been caught in a wind tunnel, and just a general grumpy air. And DO NOT even THINK of getting me to say anything more than once! All in all, not a charmer by any stretch of the imagination!
At the sight of this very obvious transformation, all my three girls speak in hushed tones to each other.. except I can STILL hear them from my bedroom as I have developed extra sensitive hearing where even a pin drop is unbearable. My bloodshot-light-sensitive eyes lead me to dress in the dark, resulting in quick offers to find their own way to school and back home again – which I gratefully accept and sink straight back into bed again.
Even food becomes an effort as I struggle to get anything down. After four days of this, and as I feel myself turn the corner with this flu, I ask Matt if I’ve lost any weight. “Uhm… no?” He responds. “Really? What’s the use of being so sick if it doesn’t lead to losing any weight?” I grumble. My neighbour however, proclaims I look emaciated from all the weight I’ve lost from being sick. Totally unprompted I might add! I thank her profusely and tell her she’s my new best friend. Matt watches this exchange and quickly excuses himself to watch paint dry on a wall somewhere!
I have to say this though. As my health returns and my mood bouyed (perhaps thanks to my neighbour’s observations), I feel very grateful for Matt’s patience and his ability to keep his temper in check even when I’m snarling responses to his attempts to carry on perfectly normal conversations with his crazed wife (to be clear, that would be me); and his good humour when I stare stonily into a distance because I am sick of being sick. A model patient I am not. But a wonderfully patient husband, he is.
So, next time, when he tells me he’s sick I promise I will not be so blasé. AND should any girlfriend snigger about the ‘man flu’, I will shush them, tell them to wash their mouth out with soap as the ‘man flu’ is very real and there is nothing imaginary about it.
Friday, 9 March 2012
When I was a little girl, I remember reading about the little engine who “thought he could” and who then went on to conquer hills that other bigger brighter and even wiser engines thought were just too big for him.
Today, Matt, my super fit husband, cajoled me to join him on his bike ride. And so, armed with Maroon 5 on my iPhone (for distraction), we set off to conquer Mount Faber on our bikes.
For those not in-the-know, Mount Faber is home to one of the oldest parks in Singapore and is also the launching pad from which you hitch a scenic ride on a cable car that takes you on a scenic route to activity-filled Sentosa island. It is also a hill about 105 meters (344 feet) in HEIGHT! GULP!
So, the ride begins, in post Singapore morning downpour, navigating through the traffic and puddles. Paddling earnestly behind Matt, I am on the receiving end of all the back splash the grooves of his tyres whip up. Before long, I am covered from head-to-toe in black back-splash-splatters and I half expect animal protection service to pull me over and lock me in an enclosure for some exotic speckled primate.
Unperturbed, we keep peddling and end up at the foot of the fabled Mount Faber. (Sorry about the pun but I cannot seem to help myself!) The climb begins easily enough but it doesn’t take long before I can no longer keep up with Matt and his bike’s back splash as the hill takes on a life of its own and feels like a sheer stairway to heaven! I change gears to the lowest ones possible in an effort to tackle what now feels more like a summit than a “hill” and my thigh muscles feel like they’re on fire.
Next thing I know, the image of the “little engine that could” flashed into my sweat clouded mind and the words “I think I can, I think I can” break through Adam Levine’s (front man of Maroon 5) lament of “Misery”. I try to distract myself further by watching a bright yellow butterfly fly past, only to notice a bird, hopping alongside my sweltering attempts to ‘master’ the hill. Let’s just say the bird got bored pretty fast and flew off to find something more interesting to hop alongside. Am I exaggerating my efforts? No. Was there really a bird? Perhaps. Anyhow, I digress. Getting back to my summit…
Finally, I see a turn! Surely this means the road will level out a little and offer me a brief respite. Nope. It was quite likely some road planner’s diabolical joke to lull novice cyclists into a false sense of security. Each turn simply graduated into a steeper hill which just seemed to go on forever. Aaaaarghh! Who’s idea was this anyhow! I call out to Matt. “I think I’ve changed my mind about this bike ride! Let’s go to the gym instead!” He just laughs and calls out to just keep peddling and keep my gears low. “Barnie just did 20 laps of this last weekend” he quips.
“Barney”? He’s comparing Barney and I? Me of 5 foot nearly 4, 53kgs and shoe size 37 and him at 10 foot something with no body fat and feet the size of don’t-take-me-there? AND he’s younger than me by a good 4-5 years! All of this, runs through my head when suddenly, I see flat road in the distance! Can it really be or is this like a mirage in the desert?
True enough, despite being outrun (or out hopped) by a bird (which was quite possibly mocking) and drenched in hard-earned sweat and back splash from Matt’s bike, I had finally reached the top of Mount Faber! “Didn’t you enjoy that?” asked my bemused and patient husband. “Yup! That was awesome but I can’t feel my legs anymore” I respond. To which he just laughs and says, “Come on! Let’s do a couple more laps of this!”
Sigh. And so we did the circuit a couple more times, much to the amusement of the bus load of Taiwanese (I think) tourists surveying the Singapore vista. Now, finally home and freshly showered (though still waiting for feeling to return to my legs!) I sit here musing this morning’s adventure, and a note my brother, also a Matthew, sent me this past week pops into my psyche:
Whether you think you can, or think you can’t. You’re right.
Thursday, 8 March 2012
Identities are funny things. They range from the very basic “male”, “female”, “sister”, “friend”; to the physically descriptive “curly”, “shorty”, “twinkle toes”; to the playful and affectionate “monkey”, “honey”; to the not-so-kind “loser”, “asshole”, “imbecile”.
We are born into this world with ready-made identities which begin with “my first born” or “my first daughter”. Then “my difficult sleeper” or “my good eater”. To “the biter” or “the faster” or “the fastest”. The list goes on and these identities build upon each other. Creating layer upon layer like an onion until we subconsciously begin to walk, talk and breathe whichever tags have ended up becoming second nature.
As you may have previously read, I have recently lost my mojo, what I consider my identity. Like everyone, I have many identities. Some more similar and an extension to each other. And others more conflicting and a total contradiction to the former - depending on the person who ‘handed’ me my identity.
In Hong Kong, a friend called out to me once about being “Russian”. I had stopped, mid-step, and turned around in confusion. “Russian? What? You know I’m Australian!” Only to have the penny drop a few seconds later, and realise she meant “rushing”. So yes, in Hong Kong, I mostly rushed about like a headless chicken, going from one job to the other, ticking those proverbial boxes.
In London, friends and acquaintances often commented that I “knew everyone” (ie at the girls’ school) and I was the “go to” person if they wanted to know anything or get anything done. I knew how to “make things happen”. Someone went so far as to call me the “Mayor of London”. It was a nice identity to wear.
So far though, in my 7 months here in Singapore, I’ve heard myself termed “blur like a sotong” (ie clueless) several times from childhood classmates I have recently become re-acquainted with. Why “blur”? Because when they ask, “remember when I was so mean to you?”, my response standard response is “I really don’t remember that”. Another crime to validate my “sotong” (Malay for ‘squid’) status? Having left Singapore when I was 15, I have little knowledge nor comprehension for the local slang and so when I ask when something means, this group instantly crack up about what “a blur sotong” I am. I have to interrupt myself now to google the actual meaning of this term so I can be more succinct about this newest identify I’ve been given. This is what I found:
Blur sotong: Blur meaning gong tao, meaning confused mind, meaning you’re totally stupid and clueless. Sotong means squid. Squids are stupid things who react at any one thing. Put them both together, if you’re a blur sotong, you’re totally helpless. Go find yourself a corner and hide.
One word. Ouch. How did I go from the clued-up and well-connected “Mayor of London” to a “totally stupid and clueless” squid?!
Sigh. Which brings me to this point. I have laid awake the last few weeks over my missing mojo and wondered how to find an identity to call my own. Not like the ones recently given to me by others: “Faith, Tia and Paige’s mom”, “Matthew’s wife”, “occupation: housewife”, “the girl that runs all the time”, “the one who carries all her own groceries”, “the Girl Scouts Leader”. Not the ones I used to be: “published songwriter”, “Mulan”, “Princess”, “singer on cruise ship”, “singer in fight scene in animated movie Dragon Blade”, “entrepreneur”. But a new one. One given to me by me and me alone.
What would I like it to be?
Motivator. Writer. Lover of good food, good drinks, good company and a good laugh. Funny. Kind. A great friend.
Thursday, 1 March 2012
“Blogging”. Up until now, I have had little exposure to this growing phenomenon and had never considered it as an activity I would try; casting it in the ‘too cool for school’ mental heap. It was, I had decided, an activity for people with lots of time on their hands and lots of interesting things to say, AND with a whole adoring public waiting to inhale their every written word.
What would I have to say that was interesting enough to keep my to-be-audience coming back for more? I am not book-smart and world weary like my professor brother. Not a walking encyclopedia like my witty husband. Nor am I on radio or tv nor a professional-anything like so many of my clever girlfriends. I am simply a 40-something year old who is looking. Looking for what? To be honest, I am not really sure. An identity maybe.
Since we moved countries again(our third in 11 years), I seem to have lost my mojo and find myself in the wilderness of the “what should I do now” jungle. When we moved to Hong Kong, I was in my permanent pregnant phase. Popping out 3 babies in quick succession, I was wrapped up and consumed in a world that revolved around dirty nappies and sleepless nights. In between that, I managed to finish a university degree, get involved in my first child’s school as a teacher’s assistant, make a brief cameo back into my previous life as a singer with starring roles in pantomimes and a singing role in an animated movie, AND a foray into the jewellery business selling shiny sparkly simulated jewellery. And we entertained like there was no tomorrow. Hong Kong was a very social city for us.
5 years later, and we found ourselves put up in a stunning mews house in Knightsbridge, central London. This phase saw a different sort of flurry with the girls now all old enough for school. After a settling-in period which involved crying fits (mostly mine) and bouts of loneliness, life took on momentum with school runs, after school activities, play dates, sleepovers and entertaining. We were going to show the Brits how to entertain, the Aussie-way. I also got heavily involved in the girls’ school’s PTA (volunteering and chairing wherever possible), set-up a successful costume jewellery business (which I then sold), dipped my toe back into the world of PR (very briefly), set-up an iPhone cover import business. I also made it my business to say a friendly hello to any new faces around the girls’ school because I remembered how hard I found it to be the ‘new kid on the block’. I had purpose. Oh. And we bought, gutted and renovated a house. And we traveled around Europe within the constraints of school holidays. Although, come to think of it, the girls were CONSTANTLY on school holidays!
Now, here I sit, some 7 months since we arrived in Singapore, with no firm plan in sight as to what my next role will be. In Hong Kong, I was the baby maker. In London, I was the person who knew how to make things happen. But in this city, where my girls are now at an age where they are stretching and testing the freedom of their young pre-teen lives, I suddenly feel my use extends no further than taxi driver, social secretary and chef. And with the very efficient and safe transport system here, the girls’ growing independence to make their own social plans, and a live-in housekeeper, even those roles are under threat!
So, am I about to become a “blogger”? I’m not sure yet. For for now, I will start by simply writing and seeing where it takes me.