December has arrived!

It’s slightly strange 2013 has been such a hard and trying year for the family and we are taken a vacation next week. I can’t exactly remember when we last took a (full) family trip, let alone have 8 others for company.

I guess I’ve learnt healing does not have to be a solitary process. You can heal together in comfort.

cbset5Trincomalee, Sri Lanka

December has arrived! The month of giving and receiving (year end bonuses and christmas gifts). So, let the exams begin and end soon. Thereafter, I can frolick in the waters of Trincomalee and watch sunset at Galle.

The Patchwork Marriage by Jane Green.

the-patchwork-marriage

I wasn’t having high expectations when I picked this book up as this is my first Jane Green novel. However, I’m glad to say, it outdid my expectations.

I enjoyed this book especially because, the author changes the viewpoint of the reader half way through the novel. I enjoyed seeing things through the shoes of Emily which made me feel for her character more.

Patchwork marriage, as the title suggests, is about family, love, divorce, kids. And also, teenage pregnancy and all the drama that follows suit.

“Sometimes, leaving the ones we love is the only we can take care of ourselves, and it’s the hardest thing in the world to do, but sometimes it’s the right thing to do.”

Rating: 3/5

Love life – Stricken.

Disclaimer: This is gonna be a heavy post. 

I might be somewhat of a morbid person cause I have a strong liking to watch movies that make me cry and literally hold my heart in my hands. I actually enjoy sitting through a movie where I constantly feel as though I’ve a dagger slashed up against my throat. Where I get so immersed in the film and the characters, that nothing else around me matters. Don’t get me wrong, I can enjoy a light-hearted rom-com just as much, but if you give me an option between a movie that would make you cry and one that you will laugh your stomach out, I’d choose the former.

That was exactly how I felt watching Stricken. It was a very good film I have enjoyed after a long time. A movie that made me cry, laugh (amidst my tears), think and question.

Is cheating nature or nurture? Is terminal illness an excuse for one to cheat? Are you expected to slip in the face of adversity? Are you expected to stay faithful even after your partner has passed on? Who has it harder, the one who has the cancer or the partner battling with losing the love of his life? Would you rather live life knowing how you many more months you have to live or live in the not knowing? Would you still love your husband if you know he’s cheating on you while you’re here battling cancer? How do you feel about the nights you spend in the toilet puking, while the one you promised to have and hold on to, in sickness and in health , ’till death do us apart is satisfying his lust with the body of another woman? The one with a better body and perfect breasts.

Here’s a good review about this film.

If you haven’t already deduced, this film is about love, cancer, cheating and fatherhood. I might even want to re-watch this again. Am I weird? Yes, I think so cause I like to battle sadness with sadness. I listen to sad songs when I’m sad. I hope I’m not alone in this.

Do you enjoy/hate watching movies that make you cry?

On the topic of grief and death, this article (Comforting that collides with grief) is a worthwhile read.

“Of all the things we learn as we go through life, learning how to express grief and sorrow is not among them until you are face to face with it.”

On social expectations, norms and more.

Having been brought up in an Asian society and having lived in Singapore for all my life (i.e. 24 years), I have learnt a lot and of course, am still learning.

My travels have opened my eyes so much, that I’m thankful for all the opportunities I’ve had, despite them being limited. I’ve been to Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, India, Australia, New Zealand and Turkey, so far. The memories I’ve had in New Zealand, for instance, have faded away since it has been well over 10 years (you all should know by now, that I suffer from memory loss). As for Australia, I was there again for about 20 days last May and it certainly were the best days of 2011, maybe even my life. (I’ll be doing a separate entry on this, so look forward to it!). Nonetheless, despite my agenda for every travel being different, each country has given me many takeaways. Aspects of the country to fall in love with, as well as, things I absolutely detest that I might not be revisiting them anytime soon, or ever for that matter. Some incidents have humbled me, some have angered me.  But, all of them, have played a pivotal role in shaping the way I think.

The mindset of almost all Asian countries is pretty much the same. Although, some countries are much more developed than the rest, be it in terms of GDP or the basic needs of an individual being met or the job market,  we are pretty much are in the same boat. Society has over time, developed so many social norms that we inevitably fall prey to the groupthink mentality. The younger generation (i.e. Gen-Y) tries to break free from it. Some succeed, some fail. Some migrate to solve the issue, some are tied down with responsibilities here. Some accept the mentality and try to work around it, some get angered, frustrated and all they do is complain. I’m a firm believer in Gandhi’s, “We must be the change we want to see in the world.” It might take decades, let alone centuries, if at all, for the Asian mentality to change and embrace change, creativity and differences. But, we need to put a step forward. Every one of us.

I’d like to share a few issues with regards to Singapore, at least, that irk me.

Starting with schools, ministries claim that they welcome creativity and yet students are stifled with acquiring knowledge from textbooks. We ingrain into them at a very early stage that studying is a positive trait and should be cultivated. It should be learning, not studying. We focus on doing well in tests, examinations and what-not instead of ensuring every kid learns something new a day. How often when choosing subject combinations or schools for that matter does one take into consideration the passion and interest of the student? We choose subject combinations based on what we perform better in and which will help us get into a lucrative industry when we enter the working world. We let our passions die by channeling all our energy into what we are supposed and expected to do (i.e. academics). There is no room for creativity, for discovering areas of study that interest you and you want to dwell on. You are forced to keep up with the tide by keeping in pace with every 2 hour lecture block you sit for. You get sidelined if you fall back and soon you’ll find yourself struggling to pass, let alone do well in the subject. How many people are looked up to, for choosing to pursue their passion instead of accumulate salutations behind the name? We place such high importance on paper qualifications that we tend to measure a person’s worth by what he has studied rather that what he knows. It’s really sad. Just sad. Of course, there are avenues like Singapore Sports School, Lasalle College of the Arts, Nayang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) and Shatec. But how many success stories do you hear about from here? One or two maybe? Whereas, year in, year out, there is a nationwide buzz when PSLE, O-level, A-level results are released. Each year someone outdoes the previous year’s topper and inevitably becomes the attention of every media channel.   What happens to students who do well in schools mentioned above? Are they second-class achievers for choosing an ‘easier’ alternative?

So, next, when you’re done with approximately 16 years of receiving formal education (since almost everyone is a degree holder these days), you are expected to secure a lucrative job before you even graduate. It has virtually become a norm, for you to ask a graduate or soon-to-be-graduate, “Where are you working/going to work?”. It is almost as if it’s expected for you to immediately contribute to labour market to put your acquired academic knowledge to the best of use, otherwise you might be deemed as deviant or even weird. What happens if a degree holder wants to spend a year travelling? To mountain climb? To learn yoga? To paint? To play the violin? You’re just weird, period. Yes, it is becoming a common trend among Gen-Y’ers to do just that. Precisely why, Strait Times published an article on April 1, 2012 about the younger generation of today taking time off to pursue passions or venture into a different career path altogether. So yes, this trend is being acknowledged. But, my question is, is it truly accepted and embraced? How many employees would like to hire such ‘fickle-minded’ fresh graduates? How many companies offer such flexibility in terms of ‘time-off’ to employees so that they can return back to work with more vigour and zest? Of course, the daring ones or the financially comfortable ones, tender in their resignation and are prepared to venture down the unknown road not knowing what to expect. The rest, simply put, suck it in, and continue with their 9-5 job that they drag their feet but hold on to just so that monthly bills can be paid.

Following which, a couple of years into the labour market, the next inevitable thing to do is get married and start a nuclear family unit. Your kids then get thrown into this cycle and it continues on. We are conditioned to think that marriage is happiness and vice-versa. What happens to homosexuals amongst us, for instance. The gays and lesbians. Are we really ready to open our closed minds or do we keep telling ourselves we are open and ‘try’ to include them? And for a woman, if you’re in your mid 30’s and if you have never been married, society confirms, without a second thought, that there is some biological problem with your body that forbids you from giving birth and hence, explains your luck, or lack of rather, with marriage.

Last month, reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace With Marriage, gave me a lot of insight to marriage. I especially loved Chapter 2 of the book: Marriage and Expectation. Especially, this story from the chapter.

“I had a friend from college who deliberately narrowed down her life’s options, as though to vaccinate herself against overly ambitious expectations. She skipped a career and ignored the lure of travel to instead move back home and marry her high school sweetheart. With unwavering confidence, she announced that she would become “only” a wife and mother. The simplicity of this arrangement felt utterly safe to her–certainly compared to the convulsions of indecision that so many of her more ambitious peers (myself included) were suffering. But when her husband left her twelve years later for a younger woman, my friend’s rage and sense of betrayal were as ferocious as anything I’ve ever seen. She virtually imploded with resentment–not so much against her husband, but against the universe, which she perceived to have broken a sacred contract with her. “I asked for so little!” she kept saying, as though her diminished demands alone should have protected her against any disappointments. But I think she was mistaken; she had actually asked for a lot . She had dared to ask for happiness, and she had dared to expect that happiness out of her marriage. You can’t possibly ask for more than that.”

It made me think a lot about how sometimes, our expectations lead to our disappointments. Yet, we fail to realise it is our expectations that need to be altered. We blame society for shaping our mindset as such, instead of  looking inward to see where the fault lies. Do we bring these expectations upon ourselves or does society play a part? Or is there some other factor playing a part in this?

How ready is our society to accept ex-offenders? Don’t you see a person in another light if you find out he/she is from the Yellow Ribbon Project? Stereotypes are formed with regards to ex-offenders that ‘a leopard never changes its spots’. So, are we really as willing and open-minded as we would like and aspire to be? Do you see a heavily tattooed person under the same light as a person without any tattoos/piercings?

Are these norms and expectations part of culture? Or is culture the convenient excuse used to rationalize such thoughts and behaviour?

Juxtaposing this with America for instance, society, at large, welcomes the outliers. There is room for creativity. Differences are celebrated instead of frowned upon. As Steve Jobs said,

source

With regards to this issue and a lot more, I’d like to introduce to you, Kayla from Gen Y girl. She talks mainly about the work force, the barriers, the obstacles, the challenges ahead.

I take full credit for all that I’ve written here. But, I can’t be held responsible for what you interpret them as. If you have views with regards to this, I’d love to hear. You don’t have to agree with me. We can agree to disagree. After all, I’m all for embracing differences. Cheers!

N, you might be a reason behind this muse. So, like 0.031% credit to you. 😀

On secrets and healing.

I was introduced to PostSecret by my sister some time ago. Today, I decided to read some 300 over postcards that had been complied and published in the form of a hardcover book. A book, Frank dedicates to every person who faced their secret on a postcard, released it into a mailbox, and bravely shared it with me, the world, and themselves.

PostSecret is an ongoing community mail art project, created by Frank Warren, in which people mail their secrets anonymously on a homemade postcard. The concept of the project was that completely anonymous people decorate a postcard and portray a secret that they had never previously revealed. No restrictions are made on the content of the secret; only that it must be completely truthful and must never have been spoken before. Entries range from admissions of sexual misconduct and criminal activity to confessions of secret desires, embarrassing habits, hopes and dreams. Little did Frank know that a project he started to cope with his own emotional crisis, would reach out to so many millions of people from all over the world. It became his personal experience of healing through art.

I healed reading the secrets of these strangers.

-I found these stamps as a child, and I have been waiting all my life to have someone to send them to. I never did have someone. 

-Sometimes I wish that I was blind, just so I wouldn’t have to look at myself everyday in the mirror.

-I am homeless and no one (not even my family) knows about it.

-My father died when I was 12, I couldn’t cry.

-I’m really scared of losing all my weight because then I will be forced to face my fear of men and have no where to hide.

-I stay in a job I hate because I know I won’t pass a drug screen anywhere else. (and I do drugs because I hate my job.)

-Sometimes after dark my friends and I strip down to our bras and panties and run around our local park, swing on the swings and feel so free. Afterwards I sketch it. We call it liberation.

“Sometimes just the act of sharing a painful secret can relieve some of the pain.” – Maryland

-I am terrified I will never get married.

-I’m 25, and I’ve never been kissed. It’s not that I don’t want to… it’s just that no one else does.

“Dear Frank, how I wish I could hug everyone and tell them that it’s ok. It’s ok to be scared and angry and hurt and selfish. It’s part of being human.” – Ohio

-My sister and I explored each other sexually as children. As the older girl I feel guilty that I may have molested her.

-When I was 3 my dad liked me to brush his thick red hair. One day he asked and I said I didn’t want to, I never saw him again. He went away and then he died. I am 65 and I still think it was my fault.

-Sometimes I wish I had lung cancer so my mum would quit smoking.

-I play a game when I’m in church. For every person who passes by me to go up to receive communion I think to myself: “How much money would someone have to pay me to have sex with them?”

-My friends and family think I am this sweet innocent girl. But, they don’t know I’ve posted nude photo’s of myself on the internet.

-Sometimes when I’m having sex with my wife, I’m thinking of my mom.

-I have this fear that I’ll never have an orgasm ever.

-My father was jailed for the rape and molestation of his girlfriend’s daughters. He’s been there several years. I’ve always suspected he molested me, as well. But I’ve never said anything, and I’m scared to find out if my suspicions are true. I’m not sure if my father is the imprisoned one, or if the one imprisoned is me.

-I haven’t spoken to my dad in 10 years.. and it kills me everyday.

-In a crowd (friends, family, strangers) I always wander which of us will die first.

-When I find a picture on the ground, or at school, I put them in my scrap book and write a paragraph and pretend the people in it are my friends. And I don’t feel so alone.

-Three years ago, my dad died. One year ago, I lost my virginity to a guy I dated for a month. If my dad was still alive, that wouldn’t have happened.

-I wish my parents would reach out to me.

-At a young age, I was raped by a boy on the back of a school bus. Since then, I sit as close to the front as I can get.

-I force new acquaintances to address me by my shortened name because it makes me forget my past.

-I broke up with my boyfriend who used to call me darling when we made love because I fell in love with a man who calls me slut when he fucks me.

-I hated my childhood.

-I joined because I was patriotic. But since they succeeded in convincing my life is worthless, I’m just hoping I get shot. – Suicidal soldier

-I know it really stinks. But, I like the smell of my own poop.

-I still haven’t told my father that I have the same disease that killed my mother.

-I only ever played sports to feel like my father loved me.

-I am a Southern Baptist Pastor’s wife. No one knows that I do not believe in God.

-I was seven years old the first time I attempted suicide.

-I was probably the only one who knew he was an addict. I never said anything. He died six months ago today.

-Sometimes when I do Chinese takeout, I order for 2 people so I won’t look like a fat, lonely loser. Then I eat it all.

-I once planned to kill my mother.

-Dear Frank, I have made six postcards all with secrets that I was afraid to tell the once person I tell everything to, my boyfriend. This morning I planned to mail them, but instead I left them on the pillow next to his head, while he was sleeping. Ten minutes ago,he arrived at my office and asked me to marry him. I said yes. – Canada

-I only smoke Pall Mall cigarettes so I can remember you forty times a day.

-I’d rather get skin cancer than be pale.

-The night he died he tried to call me. When I saw it was him, I didn’t answer.

-I sent myself flowers on Valentines day so people at work would think I was dating someone!

-I’m getting a tattoo about love to cover a scar that reminds me of just how much I used to hate myself.

-I trashed my parents house to look like I had a party while they were out of town.. So my mom would think I had friends.

-I know that sending in a stupid postcard to share with a bunch of strangers won’t do a damn thing to change the daily loneliness and unhappiness in my life. I sent this anyway.

-I’ve given away all my secrets and I feel so free. 

“I like to believe that whenever a painful secret ends its trip to my mailbox, a much longer personal journey of healing is beginning-for all of us.” – Frank

-I used to be a lesbian. No one knows. Not my best friend, not my boy friend, no one.

All of these secrets touched me. They made me pause for a minute and think about the person who was behind the secret. I could relate to some of them, and to the other more painful secrets I read, all I wanted to do was hold their hand and offer comfort. Be it give them a reassuring hug, or whisper to their ears “it’s gonna be okay” or to just sit in silence.

Whatever your struggle is, seek comfort in knowing that you aren’t alone.

We’re born alone, we live alone, we die alone. Only through our love and friendship can we create the illusion for the moment that we’re not alone. – Orson Welles

Share your secret with a stranger. You’ll heal, and your secret might help another heal in the process.


What about you?