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Thursday, 27 September 2012

42. In the big scheme of things..

Okay.  You know how sometimes, you go through periods where for a few days in a row, everyday just feels like “one of those days”?  Well, I did.  Just.  Have spent the last 24 hours in verbal warfare with my bank (should I name and shame?) because their ineffectual management of my accounts have resulted in a few other things not going as smoothly as it should – in spite of all my behind-the-scenes control-freak-management.  Should I start from the beginning?

The growing urgency of my over-flowing to-do list has kept me up for the past two weeks and for the better part, I’ve managed to keep on top of it by dealing with one task at a time – otherwise I just get overwhelmed.  So, right now, top of my list are:

1. Final arrangements for Matt’s 40th birthday boys fishing trip this Saturday
-   organize beer, Redbull, Berocca; organize food for barbecue at our’s after the trip for ‘the boys’ and their families; organize and pay charter boat people for fishing equipment; organize stuff I will need to make everyone breakfast rolls as per Matt’s request

2. Re-submit Tia and Paige’s applications for next school year for UWCSEA
-   sort and scan past school reports, passports, ID cards, passport size pictures, and awards.  Keep under 1MB; fill out forms online; organize payment

And I could go on and REALLY bore you with the rest of my list which include the need to get all four tyres changed, fine-tuning our upcoming adventure to China, another Barbie next weekend, Paige’s birthday party, research into a new business idea.. Sorry, I DID say I would stop.  The problem with my list is this: it only takes but one ‘step’ in the ‘grand plan’ to go awry before I feel like the ‘wheels are falling off the cart’.  And then I freak out.  Have a meltdown.  Then stop sleeping.  And EVERYTHING becomes a big deal! And I wonder how my very capable friends with full-scale demanding careers manage to juggle family and work. And then I remembered something.

Two days ago, I had a lucky escape while on my weekly Mount Faber ride.  I was on my fifth round of my seventh rotation.  Going downhill, but not super fast as I was stuck behind a bus crammed with tourists.  Anyhow, I would like to think I walk, run and ride like a driver in that I am always looking ahead and around me – just in case.  So I had my wits about me as I spotted a lone woman waiting to cross the road after the bus at the end of this particular hill, especially because I always turn right to continue my rotation, in opposition to the bus’ route and am always mindful of this corner for unexpected traffic.

I am unsure if she saw me or, if she saw me but assumed I would follow the bus and also turn left.  Either way, I gently eased on my brakes and signalled – just as she walked straight into my path!  I swerved.  Missed her.  But at the angle I turned, my pedal hit the road.  My bike stopped short.  I kept going – until I landed in the middle of the luckily-deserted-road.  I should have been very hurt.  There should have been blood, a graze or two and sprains.  But I got really lucky and escaped with only a couple of attractive looking bruises..  Even my bike survived another two rotations after the fact!

Remembering the incident made me stop my internal-rant about the stupid bank and incompetent staff.  Compelled me to take a deep breath.  Forced me think beyond the immediate.  And this is what I 'saw':  the fishing trip and subsequent barbecue will fall into place.  It always does.  And if it doesn’t all go like clockwork, it will still work out – somehow.  Furthermore, a 24 or 36 hour lapse in submitting the girls’ school applications is neither here nor there.  They will get a spot when it’s the perfect time for them to get a place in the school.  As for the bank, maybe its time I seriously consider a substitute.

Meanwhile, maybe its time to re-read the book that Matt bought me oh-so-many moons ago: “Don’t sweat the small stuff.. and its all small stuff”.


Monday, 24 September 2012

41. Everybody has an opinion

On our way to school the other day, Faith and I had a conversation that went a little like this:

Faith: Mom, what type of shape would you say my face is?
Me: What?  Why do you ask? 
Faith: I was just wondering..
Me: Sweetie, too much time and energy is wasted on ‘experts’ telling you who you are and what you should be or do.  You and your sisters are very lucky...  You are all healthy and beautiful.
Faith: Hmm..
Me: Okay, my point is this, the problem with these sort of questions is this -- depending on who you’re asking, everyone will have a different opinion.
Faith: Okay.  I get it.  But if you HAD to judge what shape my face was…
Me: In my opinion, if among all the different shapes available, and there was one called “beautiful”, that would be what I would pick.
Faith: Aww… thanks Mom.

The above is actually the abridged version of our conversation -- I had gone into a lengthy soliloquy discussing how differing people will often have contrasting opinions on a subject or person based on their personal history and experiences.  Everybody has an viewpoint about this and that.  It cannot be helped.  What differentiates us from one another is whether the belief is informed and how we allow that bias to direct the way we behave on a day-to-day basis.  That said, at 40-something, I have long given up getting my knickers in a knot about other people’s opinions, regardless of how keen they seem to want to share them!  Well, at least I try not to..

For as long as I can remember, the majority of people I met have tried to guess my heritage.  Depending on who I spoke with, they often exclaimed such surprise at my Chinese or Spanish lineage; as they expressed their varying opinions of what THEY thought I looked like.  And to be honest, it got under my skin.  AND then, when I first became a mother, no doubt like many new moms, I was fiercely protective of anything said about my babies.  People, both strangers and the-more-familiar, would come up and share their unsolicited opinions about the girls! JOY. 

For example, for Faith, I’ve had someone comment on how her naturally curly hair was just baby hair and it was all going to fall off and become dead straight!  Even now, people are a tad too keen to comment whether the girls look like Matt or me.  My standard response?  I tell them that I THINK my girls look exactly like THEMSELVES and are beautiful.

Thankfully, over the years, I am learning (I was going to say “I have learnt” but realized it wasn’t entirely true!!) to not to be so sensitive about other people’s opinions.  Even the ones who don’t believe me when I tell them “no, I don’t perm my children’s hair”!  I have learnt that human nature is that once people have decided on something, most of the time, they have no interest in changing their mind – because it would mean having to admit they were wrong to begin with. 

But in spite of all my posturing about ‘opinion’, I actually drum into my girls that its important to have an opinion; but I try to teach them to be reasonably au fait with their viewpoints as opposed to following public opinion indiscriminately.  As Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius once said:

Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact.
Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth

And with that, I continue to encourage the girls to keep their eyes and opinions open as they make their way through this world of ours.


Tuesday, 18 September 2012

40. Mean girls

As I write this, my blood is absolutely boiling because one of the mothers at school has been talking about me.  Apparently I am a real 'party animal' and am always in bars and nightclubs! This ‘juicy newsflash' reached my ears when her ten-year-old shared the ‘gossip’ with a classmate, who in-turn alerted my heart-on-the-sleeve-sensitive-Tia.  After comforting a distraught Tia who was crushed from what she saw as a vilification of her mom, we talked about the unfortunate reality of certain types in the world.  Then, I rang the source.  Of course she expressed shock and denied liability, oscillating between laying the blame on her child, and insisting she had never EVER spoken about me to anyone in her life! Except, this was not an isolated incident because two separate sources had already blown the whistle on her and both times, I was puzzled because this girl didn’t know me beyond the rudimentary greetings we had exchanged at school!  Was I tempted to call her out on it.  Yes.  Could I be bothered?  No.  Frankly, I am allergic to drama.  I rang her to show Tia the importance of standing up to bullies. BLEH!

Through the years, I’ve had so many encounters with all sorts of bitchy varieties.  Why oh why do I attract them?  Now THAT’S a VERY good question!  Matt says I am an easy target.  A girlfriend said it was probably because I am too ‘open’ and friendly.  Anyhow, whatever the reason, I find it quite maddening!

From the girl in Hong Kong (AND the one in London!) who each wormed their way into my inner circle, only to distort and falsify conversations in order to sabotage my friendships with other people; to the acquaintance who approached me one day just to share her opinion of how stupid I looked with pigtails.  Did I mention Ms ‘charming’ often wore the most hideous of weaves in garish styles and colours?  Ahh, but I must not stoop to her level because two ‘wrongs’ don’t make a ‘right’ and being candid does not give you the license to be unkind.  Although, I AM tempted to walk around with a sign that reads: Haters, take your drama somewhere else!  SIGH.

As a mother, it especially pains me to see any child on the receiving end of spiteful behaviour -- and its even worse when it is your child being bullied.  My gut still turns itself inside-out when I recall how a handful of girls at school made Faith’s life miserable for a few years.  From excluding her to name calling, to actual physical abuse.  We had endless discussions about how to deal with the bullies.  Crucially, we also talked about how their behaviour was more likely a manifestation of their insecurities and possibly stuff they were going through at home as opposed to a reflection of who she was.  To her credit, Faith found the confidence to celebrate her individuality, steered away from the mean girls and found people who didn’t make her feel bad about herself.

Getting back to the original incident that kicked off this rant, the next morning at breakfast, Tia had a few questions. She wanted to know why I didn’t tell the woman I knew about all the other things she had said about me.  I replied there was nothing to gain from revealing the true extent of my knowledge.  She then asked, “What are you going to do the next time you see her?”  My response was no doubt long-winded but I expressed that while it wasn’t a big deal I was not on this woman’s ‘BFF’ list, and that her opinion of me was HER problem, not mine; I wasn’t going to let someone else’s maliciousness make me feel bad about myself or stop me from being friendly.  I then finished our conversation with an old Eleanor Roosevelt quote: 

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent”

That made my little girl break into a big smile as she skipped off to get ready for school. 


Wednesday, 12 September 2012

39. Its a fine line..

It’s a fine line between pleasure and pain.  No, I am not referring to 80s Aussie rock band Divinyls’ song “Pleasure and Pain”; nor am I alluding to the kind of ‘proceedings’ as described in E L James’ “Fifty Shades of Grey”!  Okay, let me start again.  As you may have heard, I have been putting my poor 40-something-year-old body through some punishment for the sake of training for a running event in Angkor Wat in December.  Yes, yes, I’m talking about it again!  How can I not when so much of my week revolves around it at the moment. 

Anyhow, a couple of weeks ago, around the same time Matt got injured, I felt a muscle in my right leg twinge.  In denial, my training continued regardless, but the grumbling muscle finally got the better of me and I booked myself in for a massage a few days later when a spare hour happily appeared in my diary.

“Ahhhh.. this will get me back in proper working order..” I thought as I got ‘into position’ and waited for the therapist.  I was absolutely aching all over and so tired of being in pain.  My masseur du jour entered the room and the first thing she said was: “You run.”  Just those two words and then, she got to work.   “How’s the pressure?” she asked.  I told her she could go a little harder.  My mistake.  BIG mistake.

With that response, the ‘pain-fest’ kicked up a gear but what topped it off was my now-excruciating massage was also peppered with all sorts of pointers from my new ‘guru’.  Apparently, I had ‘bubbles’ all through my system (I thought they were knots!) which were brought on by hot showers and my supposed precarious consumption of peanuts and cold drinks.  She admonished me for using air-conditioning and when I countered I don’t actually have it on during the day, she tarried with a “what about in the car?”  My ‘guru’ then started telling me how one side of me was not longer bloated due to her expert massaging (okaaaaay..) and then started prodding different parts of my aching muscles – I think to determine whether or not I deserved more punishment.  Darn!  I started with aching muscles but now felt like my body was riddled with many more ailments that I had walked in with!

Suddenly, I had a flashback!  Some ten months ago, I was at this very same ‘spa’ and the therapist had, towards the end of my session, started kneading overly enthusiastically around my stomach region.  I remember grabbing at her hands, saying she had to either stop or be more gentle.  That’s when she mumbled something about how my womb had ‘dropped’ and needed pushing back!  I remember pleading with her through the pain that I already had three children and didn’t need my womb to be in the right place as I had NO intention of using it again in this lifetime!  She stopped – albeit reluctantly.

And that’s when the penny dropped!  Holy cannenoli!   The therapist then and the one hovering over me now were one and the same!  Armed with this new knowledge, the session continued with me largely dutifully agreeing to everything she said: “Can you feel how much better that feels?”  Me: “Yes, yes, much better.”

We parted ways with her showing me how to do a dead lift (she offered, I didn’t ask why but just tried to look interested!) and a stern directive to make another appointment to see her within three weeks (okaaaaay…. NOT!).  I made a quick exit citing an imaginary meeting.

I had another much-needed massage today.  Yes, I asked for a different therapist and yes, her technique was much MUCH more suited to my ‘pain threshold’.  That said, perhaps I should start thinking about why I put my body through so much torture.. ah yes, now I remember.  Its because I HAVE to due to my love affair with food.  Oh well, as the saying goes: it’s a fine line…


Thursday, 6 September 2012

38. Letting go

A couple of nights ago, taking Buddy for a quick walk left me incensed.  “You’ll never believe what happened downstairs!”  I raged to Matt on my return.  Continuing my rant, I described the rudeness of our neighbors when I approached them about where they were burning offerings for the Hungry Ghost Festival. 

A brief tutorial for uninitiated: celebrated on the 15th night of the seventh lunar month (according to the Chinese calendar), believers observe the entire month as “Ghost month” where the ‘gates of hell’ are opened for all spirits to receive food and drink, along with offerings (eg paper ‘money’) burnt for them.  As such, here in Singapore, the month of August is very smoky with joss-stick-adorned-sidewalks and sizable steel barrels ablazed with varying types of paper offerings which rise to the skies in a sooty smoggy vapor.  As a large number of people live in highrises (ie residential towers), there are strict guidelines about where you can ‘set up’ so it doesn’t become a fire or smoke hazard.  Or so I thought.

Getting back to my story, our said-neighbors were performing their rituals near the children’s playground instead of the pre-designated area outside the building.  After checking with the now-angry and flustered guard-on-duty (who apparently had just been insulted by the couple when he tried to carry out his duties) I gently broached the subject.  They both just ignored me.  Thinking they didn’t speak English, I tried again in my third-rate-broken-Chinese.  The man responded, “You are Chinese?”  (which I thought was a weird response), whilst his co-conspirator became confrontational.  Wanting to defuse the situation, I offered that I wasn’t trying to be quarrelsome but needed to point out the gas pipe behind them.  And no, I wasn't bluffing.  But my words fell on deaf ears.  I gave up and walked away, exasperated and decidedly peeved.

After venting to Matt, I didn’t want to keep harping on about it to him so I took to Facebook and wrote: “Very very cross at some very rude, inconsiderate and selfish people who behave as if the world owes them a living and they are 'above' everyone else! Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!”.  But then, I got frustrated with myself.  Why am I getting so upset about an exchange with 2 total strangers?  Why was I letting someone ‘push my buttons’ so to speak?  Wasn’t I always trying to teach the girls about not letting other people’s behavior impact how they feel?

Disheartened, I took to Facebook again: “don't want to be this person... or get this worked up about stuff (especially when you consider things from the whole "bigger picture" perspective).. Sigh.. need to set a better example for the girls and be a better person. Luckily tomorrow is a new day.. x”.  And then, I went to bed.

When I woke, in amongst all the shout-outs from good friends, a message from an ‘old soul’ stood out.  She asked: “What hurts more?  What these people are doing or the way you feel about them?”  Her words made me pause and I took a long hard look at myself.  Why?  Because although it would be much easier to lay blame on my errant neighbors, it was important to me that I took ownership of my negative feelings.

And what did I learn?  After nearly a week of mulling over my wise friend’s words, I concluded that ‘letting go’ is a kinder way of living – to yourself and also those who’s paths you happen to cross.  That ‘letting go’ doesn’t mean you don’t care or that you are ‘selling out’ on your values or beliefs.  But rather, realizing you cannot (and should not) try to hold sway over every situation.  And finally, that ‘letting go’ means being forgiving, compassionate and patient with others (because you don’t know their daily reality) – as well as to yourself.  And so the lessons continue.