Monday, 23 April 2012
Okay, before I start, I just want to say I told Matt I was going to write about this; to which he responded with a cheeky grin and a “I look forward to reading it!”. I also want to clarify, I am VERY grateful whenever Matt helps out in the kitchen or cooks me a meal.. BUT.. He is THE world’s messiest cook in the world! I don’t know if it’s a ‘Venus and Mars’ thing (as in the book) but whilst we share a lot of common traits (with us both being Capricorns), in the sphere of general household stuff (especially in the kitchen!) we are polar opposites!
Take this past weekend as an example. Matt sweetly offered to cook breakfast for our guests and our family. That’s 3 adults and 4 children. For the children, he served up noodles, dumplings, spring rolls and chicken buns. For the adults: eggs, bacon and toast. Mind you, it was more brunch than breakfast seeing it was past 10 o’clock. Why he made so much food? I’m not sure as we also had brunch/lunch booked for 12.30. Okay, I digress.
At some stage, I wandered into the kitchen to find that Matt had used nearly every pot, pan and counter top in the house. As we don’t have a dishwasher and its only fair that whoever cooks doesn’t have to wash up, the distinction fell squarely on my shoulders. And so, I began to work through the mountain of what-can-only-be-described as a culinary battlefield. There was a wok, a 2-pot steamer, a frying pan, one pot for noodles and another for wontons. There were empty noodle, spring roll, chicken bun and dumpling packets, along with several cooking utensils, bits of uncooked noodles (that for whatever reason did not make the ‘cut’ and managed to escape the boiling hot water) ALL strewn across the kitchen top like evidence at a crime scene. The open kitchen cupboard doors and drawers only added to a post ransacked-by-hungry-bears scene of carnage. AND he had NOT even started cooking the adults’ breakfast. Excellent!
Again, I want it noted that I always feel like a princess when Matt cooks for me as it doesn’t happen very often due to the practicalities of our day-to-day lives. It also brings back fond memories of the first time he cooked for me and presented a feast of baked fish, Caribbean-inspired rice, drunken chicken AND a side of plantain – just for the two of us. And yet, in spite of my romantic musings, as I walked into the kitchen on Sunday, I couldn’t help comparing (only in my mind of course!) how many FEWER pans I would have used, along with all the rubbish I would have already thrown directly into either the rubbish or recycling bin as I cooked. And should I also mention I wouldn’t have cooked so much food seeing we were booked to dine once more in a couple of hours? Okay, I digress again. As you can see, I am still traumatized from dealing with the washing-up on the weekend!
Yes, Matt and I are very different in the kitchen. Where he would follow a recipe to the letter, I would throw caution to the wind, tasting as I cooked, adding and cutting out as I went along, until it metamorphosed into an a-la-Mish creation. As I clean and clear while I cook, reusing pots and pans to save on washing up (hint, hint!), Matt lives for the moment and creates his own summit of pots and pans which slowly mount up like an asymmetrical pyramid in the sink. He would laugh and tease me for using smaller pots, pointing out that regardless of the size, it would still need washing up. And I see his point.
As much as I moan and groan to my girlfriends (and them to me) about our demented husbands in the kitchen, I must confess I love the way Matt is hyperbolic in his utensil usage as he puts together a culinary masterpiece to impress me, even after 16 years together. I know I am a lucky girl -- just don't tell him I said so or I'll never hear the end of it!
Sunday, 22 April 2012
It has often been noted that saying ‘sorry’ to those closest to you can sometimes be the most difficult apology to muster. Up until earlier this week, I had always thought that I was quite good at admitting when I was wrong and apologizing. In fact, in my younger years, well-intentioned friends would point out I apologized too much. “Why are you always saying you’re sorry? Stop it!” To which I would reply, “Really? Sorry!” And so, a conscious effort was made to curb my expressions of regret.
Over time, it became clear I had become so successful in reining in my ‘sorrys’ my vocabulary was near relinquished of the word. In other words, I had gone to the OTHER extreme. Not to say I didn’t apologize for little things like if we were playing tennis and I lobbed the ball and hit you straight in the eye, of course I would apologize! But in instances where a heartfelt ‘sorry’ would have made someone (including myself) feel better, I stubbornly withheld, in the ill-founded opinion that if I apologized, then the other person would have won and I would be the loser. And in situations where things really got heated, I quickly graduated from never standing up for myself to becoming very adept at giving as good as I got, throwing caustic barbs laced with venom and contempt. More often than not, I found myself in situations where insults were carelessly launched in the heat of the moment – belatedly comprehending it was too late to make amends after the fact. The damage was done – once my verbal missiles found its target, the damage was done and any apologies were paltry compared to the hurt caused.
Conscious of this destructive behavior, I took steps to find balance. I was determined to always fight fair, holding internal debates about disputes, reasoning and dissecting until my conclusion led me to either stand my ground because I had fair cause, or concede I was in the wrong and apologize. So that was my ‘fighting style’ by the time Matt came into my life. I was not a ‘screamer’. Nor was I a ‘thrower’ nor a ‘slammer’. I would work it out in my head, before I said anything cross. In time, Matt learned to give me a (wide!) 10-minute berth if I was upset. Anything less would be met with “just give me time to work through it and allow me to be upset and let it out of my system by myself!”.
Thought I was doing a fair job of it until a couple of months ago, where at the end of a ‘discussion’, Matt pointed out he always seemed to be the one saying ‘sorry’. I disagreed and pronounced that I was very good at apologizing, pointing out how I often expressed regret whenever I was cranky and snappish. “But what about when we fight?” he pushed. “Well, I do apologize…” I offered. “When?” he pushed a little more. “When I think I’m wrong.” Oh-oh. As soon as the words came out of my mouth, I realized I wasn’t as good at apologizing at all! But still, I didn’t give the exchange serious thought until a couple of days ago, something happened, I reacted, Matt snapped and I went quiet. Retreating. Thinking. Dissecting. He was right! My reaction was inappropriate for the situation. But when I opened my mouth to apologize, I found the words got stuck in my chest, reluctant to be released. Ugh! I AM really bad at saying sorry! I battled it out in my head. What was stopping me? Pride? Shame? I needed to get it out (because it was the right thing to do) and I needed to do it instantly, before the moment ‘passed’. With that in mind, I apologized as honestly and sincerely as I could.
Coincidentally, later on that day, I came across an excerpt about another aspect of being contrite: acknowledging and showing respect for someone else's point of view, and showing remorse for hurt caused. Food for thought. It made me recognize that whilst I had enormous respect for Matt’s views on things, I needed to work on the recognition and confession part of the equation. And so, something else to add to my “work in progress” list.. that and "work on not being so darn stubborn!". Let’s just hope I remember next time Matt and I have another ‘discussion’!
Wednesday, 11 April 2012
For as long as I remember, especially up until my mid-30s, I had always been the type to agonize over every detail about every single thing. When I was a child, it was a means of survival. This essentially mushroomed into something akin to a dispositional wart by the time I was a young adult. I would get so worked up about things, it would gnaw at my core and manifest into ulcers; firstly in the mouth, and then, at the ripe old age of 20, in my stomach. Mind you, I must have also come across as if I had a mental disorder, flip-flopping between being a ‘pleaser’ and then becoming hysterical over the most inconsequential of trivialities.
Growing up, both my parents were specialists in sweating the ‘small stuff’. Mom would deal with her’s by not talking about it directly but her displeasure would always manifest in the form of little digs and spiteful comments at the perpetrator. The actual cause would, however, ALWAYS remain a mystery as she NEVER wanted to talk about it. Dad’s style was much more straight-forward. He would detonate at the slightest of perceived slights. Let’s just say my childhood memories are institutionalized inside an overloaded Pandora’s memory bank of screaming matches and physical, emotional and psychological warfare. Going to school and staying there for as long as I physically could was my only refuge (shame it didn't translate to fantastic grades!).
I knew I didn’t want to be like them. But I also did not know any other way to deal with things. I would oscillate between sweeping it under the carpet and pretending things didn’t bother me, and getting bent out of shape over other things, hiding behind the guise of ‘standing up for myself’. It was an exhausting way to exist.
When my stomach ulcer manifested, I knew I had to start making serious changes about the way I saw and reacted to situations as I had obviously, much to my dismay, become a frightening synthesis of BOTH my parent’s dispositions. All sorts of self-help and journey books were bought over the years as I felt the only person who could help me was me, myself and I. Additionally, I did not really want to talk to anyone about what I was going through. I felt like a failure, a total misfit.
Anyhow, the multitudes of books including “The Road Less Travelled”, “The Alchemist”, “The Celestine Prophecy”, and “Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway” were all very helpful albeit a protracted ‘journey’! But it really wasn’t until nearly a decade later, when Matt had come into my life and one day bought me, “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff”. My first reaction was hurt. I was like, “What?! You think I get flustered over little things?! But what about all the times you told me I was perfect?!”. Then, I felt vulnerable. That he saw through my struggle even though I thought I had been doing such a good job in muddling through it. And then, relief. Here was a guy who not only saw me, warts and all, but still loved me, empathized, didn’t judge, AND wanted to help. Plus it was a BIG deal for him to pick up that book for me from the sort of aisle he would normally avoid like the plague. NOW that HAD to be love!!
Well, fast forward nearly 25 years since I first decided the road my parent’s chose for themselves was not for me, my journey to find my inner ‘zen-ness’ is an ongoing process. Some days, everything I’ve learnt and practised flies out the window and I have spectacular meltdowns. And then, on other days, I wonder what the fuss is all about and I actually succeed in not 'sweating the small stuff'!
My goal: To remember (as often as possible) not to let things get to me and be mindful that I am in control of how I perceive things and my sum reaction. Oh, and in the big scheme of things, its ALL small stuff.
Tuesday, 10 April 2012
After some 9 months since arriving in Singapore, the time is fast approaching for Matt and I to sit the Singapore “Basic Theory Test” (BTT) – a compulsory requirement if we want to continue driving on the roads here after 12 months. As Matt moved here before I did, his 12-months’ grace actually comes up this month!
Although he booked slots (for tomorrow!) a month or two ago, neither of us actually signed-up for any of the multitude of online BTT practice sites until yesterday afternoon! Don’t ask me why but talk about lastminute.com! This kind of behavior though, is not uncommon for Matt who is so ridiculously easy going and sees no problem with leaving things to the VERY last minute. I, on the other hand, being the control freak, am the polar opposite; suffering cold sweats and heart palpitations at the thought of leaving things to the last moment.
Being the practical Capricorn, I’ve never been one to keep journals for emotional scribbling – especially after an unfortunate incident where my deepest teenage angst were exposed and ridiculed. Rather, for countless years, my diaries have always been filled with to-do lists, appointments, notes-to-self - all meticulously ticked and highlighted according to classification and importance. Christmas and birthday lists were (and still are!) planned and bought (on average) a month or two prior. Mind you, this was BEFORE having children! My diaries helped me marshal my life and jumbled thoughts in an order that avoided any sort of lastminute.com type of panic attacks. Icing on the cake? I almost always had a Plan B (and sometimes a C, D, E and F)! Crazy, right? I KNOW!
I realise right now, you may be torn between feeling a rush of pity that someone could be as geeky as me; and yet at the same time, filled with awe at my exceptional organisational skills. Or maybe, you might be asking yourself how a lastminute.com-averse person could allow myself to be in a position where I’ve now spent the last 9 hours literally sitting mock tests after tests, incessantly clicking answer after answer, whereby I fear I may have lost all feeling in my right hand! That is, of course, in-between waking the girls up, getting them breakfast, making their lunches for school, getting them to school, going for a 50-minute run (aka procrastination), having lunch with Matt, making lasagna for dinner, going back to pick up the girls from school (TWICE!), answering texts of Whatsapp, Facebook and my iPhone, chatting to my gorgeous BFF (remember the one who told me I looked emaciated-but-in-a-good-way after I caught the ‘man flu’ and couldn’t stomach food for a few days?), having dinner with the girls, taking Matt his dinner, putting the girls to bed AND working on this piece (ie MORE procrastination!).
Okay, maybe 9 hours is a bit of an exaggeration. But maybe this is a sign that after 16 years together, Matt’s easy going ways have finally rubbed off on me a little. It is conceivable that I am learning that not everything can and should be planned military style, AND sometimes, doing things lastminute.com-style has its advantages.. For example, I won’t be able to spend as much time obsessing over every single detail. Another? Not over planning and letting things happen organically and staying open to new possibilities (which hopefully doesn’t include failing tomorrow!).
I am not saying I’m going to ditch my lists. I will ALWAYS keep and maintain daily, weekly and monthly lists filled with reminders, birthdays, important dates, to-do lists, etcetera, etcetera – with three increasingly busy daughters and a failing memory, I need these reminders more than ever and at the end of the day, its how I manage to stay on top of things (plus it enables me to also ‘gently’ remind Matt of HIS ‘to-do’ lists!). The highlighting and classification have (thankfully) fallen by the wayside though, with entries now hurriedly scribbled on the run -- with whatever pen/pencil (regardless of color) is lying within arm's reach!
Meanwhile though, I really need to get back clicking on answers as I practise a few more hundred times before this test in 12 hours time. Wish me luck!