Monday, June 30, 2008

Inspiring female bloggers and A quasi-creation

When I feel like I'm losing my voice, my personal thoughts or my sanity (or all of the mentioned!) - I blog.

More often than not, I sign in to the user account window and then wonder what to write. Compared to the dazzling, witty, interesting, hilarious, profound, just-plain-kepo-fun of other blogs I visit, mine seems so dull in comparison. Hardly ever any photos. If so, none of the author. Goodness, the author doesn't even reveal herself. How neurotic can one person be?

However! Today, I have found not one, but TWO, great blogs. Ta-daa: Joyce Tagal and Hannah Yeoh. Blogs that inspire me that one day, I may not only be a better writer, but that I might be a better person. And also to have more interesting, worthy thoughts to blog about than what I have now. And both are women and committed Christians. And very much patriotic Malaysians, though educated abroad. (One is still studying in the US). It reminds me that no matter how far in the world I roam, God's calling will always bring me to where he wants me to be, for His purpose. For now, I believe it is Malaysia He is ultimately calling me to.

And because I am feeling extra-creative today, I have a little creation for you guys:

He looked at the aluminium (or was it stainless steel? Don't know, don't care) trays before him bearing heavy loads of fish curry, chicken, steamed egg, boiled vegetables in sauce and other typical Malaysian dishes. Deng was troubled. Today had not been a good day. The boss was upset because a contractor was giving him trouble, and the was lots of tension in the office. The air-conditioner breaking down after dripping water for a week, did not help to improve the general mood. Hot and sweaty, stressed and tense; Deng was relieved when it was finally 12 o' clock and he could shuffle out of the narrow doorway for his lunch break.

"Which one you want?" The middle-aged serving woman standing before him with a metal ladle and a plate of white rice barked. Deng realised he had lost his focus and held up his palm, pretending he had been perusing the choices the whole time. "I want this.....this....and that vegetable." "That's 3.50." He paid and took his plate to the smallest table; only fit for one, two if you were sharing a plate.

He paused to say grace, out of habit. "ThankyouLordforthisfoodblessittoourbody'suseinJesus'nameAmen." Still the plural pronoun, after two years, with Jing and the kids gone? In the back of his mind, he knew that altering it, or dropping the habit completely, would mean that he had given up on them ever coming back and for things to return to the times when they were happy. When he was happy.

Digging into his food took total concentration. Deng was the type who did not like to have conversation over food, which was good considering he had no one to converse with. It required undivided attention to ensure that there was a proportionate mixture of rice, meat and vegetables in each spoonful; so that no one taste was dominant to his taste buds. And of course, to carefully separate the fish bits so that there would be no stray fish bones in his mixture.

Despite this, Deng took no pleasure in eating. It was just a habit, and without it he would not have the energy to work, and gnawing pains or gastric would kick in around 4.30pm. The serving ladies noticed that he always picked the same dishes whenever he came, which was a few times a week. Strapped down in the monotony of their lives, they would speculate about him: that he was a loner who repaired computers and hardware for a living; that he used to be a rich man whose wife had divorced him and left him poor and destitute. The truth was less grand than that, but they were content believing their own concoctions about him, content to let him point out the same dishes again and again, pretending to wait for him to ask when they already knew what he would pick. It wasn't nice to pry, not with a decent guy like that who minds his own business and brings us steady income.

Deng finished his task, the bones and debris were neatly pushed to one side of the plate. He looked around and for a moment someone who was looking closely would have been surprised at the look of desperation in his eyes. It said, "Help! You see this man in a pressed shirt and clean brown pants, but this is not me. I pick the same food to eat everyday, but that's the only choice I make. I did not pick this life, I did not pick this loneliness. And I don't know how to get out. Help me." The expression was gone the next instant.

He got up, and walked back slowly to the office. 12.45 pm. He would be back early. Maybe the boss will be pleased. Then again, he probably wouldn't notice.

Soundtrack: Moby - Natural Blues

Thursday, June 26, 2008

I am self-help guru of the day

A very precious piece of advice that I can give you which I never follow myself is: don't compare. It never satisfies. If you compare yourself to someone who performs beneath you, you feel smug and get an inflated opinion of yourself. On the other hand, compare yourself with someone who is superior and you feel about the size of an ant. A very jealous, furious ant about to explode from pent-up frustration.

How do you save yourself from this petty situation? Why, inflate your self-opinion even further. Think, "What would Gandhi do?" (for the religious-minded, "What would Jesus do?" would work as well, and if it instantly makes you feel ashamed that you are not loving your neighbour at all, so much the better) and feel the irritation seep away from your mind and the clenching envy gurgle out of your heart into the darkness where it belongs. Great people know their purpose and don't waste their time setting their sights on what others have accomplished. They make their own heights and reach them. They don't look around at others, but into themselves - they are their own best motivator. Keep it up, and if your goal is not ruthlessly Machiavellian and self-serving, you might even become outrageously successful one day.

And if your goal is, you definitely will be. For however long it takes for the masses to bring you down, that is.

Another coping mechanism to defuse the stress of comparisons with other people is laughter. Talk to a close friend, vent if you have to, but don't dwell on the topic. Move on to other things and see the humourous side in everything, especially yourself. It's not hard. You are weirder than you think. And when a friend genuinely laughs with you, and not just because they're stalling till the police arrive, it is truly soul-connecting. At the very least you know that there is someone in the world who shares your sense of humour, and that can be a very precious thing (especially if you ever have the misfortune of working or studying in an environment that has been humour-sterilised).

One last thing: get that temper, that energy out somehow. Singing works for me; but for others it may be exercising, doing office work, writing, folding laundry...but make sure it is constructive. Sleeping, eating, and any form of violence towards living creatures and humans is not going to help the situation.

Remember, you heard it at the tea stall first.


On other frequencies:

Have you heard Leona Lewis' "Bleeding Love"? (I don't put the youtube link because from personal experience, no one clicks on them anyway, and putting up lyrics is just plain waste of space. If you are interested, look it up yourself.) Perfect surgeon's song, my dad would probably say. (Yes, that is his brand of humour.)

"You cut me open and I...keep bleeding, keep keep bleeding love...keep bleeding, keep keep bleeding love..."

I will be sure to sing that if I ever get dumped by a surgeon. But even if you're not, the song is so angsty in that "strong but hurt woman...BUT STILL STANDING STRONG" way that it's a pleasure to blast at the top of your lungs. Especially if you ARE bleeding love, in a strictly metaphorical sense. Hmm.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

One Thing I Miss From Home

One thing, O Ye vision of well-preserved 19-year-old gorgeousness, focus on one thing; or the nostalgia and homesickness will overwhelm you and your unstable self will topple and your precious head will hit the hard steps up the airplane bound for Kuala Lumpur.

Alright then, one thing. I will just think of one thing that I miss from home, which I will be able to see and grasp tangibly (and not just caress in my thoughts, as I have for the past 6 months) in another 9 hours.


The yellow 3-seater leather couch in the living room. I remember it being there ever since we moved into that house, more than 9 years ago. Scratched on its base and having slowly evolved from a cheery canary yellow to a matronly off-yellow over time. So many memories of lazy Sunday afternoons, convivial Saturday nights, looooong year-end holidays; are sealed in those plushy, inviting, butt-swallowing cushions!

Now that I reflect on it, so many things have gone down on that couch. The time I frightened my sister half-to-death by lying flat on the top before rolling down onto her un suspecting self. Primary school friends sitting awkwardly as we made a tape for our class teacher's birthday. Later, my true friends sprawling over them as we whispered secrets to each other and laughed like we had no cares in the world (in the larger scheme of things, we really didn't. We knew we had something precious and we were happy.) Family reunions and talk about cameras and printers and jobs and weddings and government and all the miscellanous chitchat you have with your extended family.

Not to mention my personal horizontal bonding time with that couch; studying History, Biology, Physics, Add Math and subsequently The Practical Applications of Human Nocturnal Behaviour, otherwise known as sleeping. (My college friends call it my coma periods due to its fully-focused, almost-unwakeable quality. I prefer to think of it as aggresive sleeping.) Not to mention the piles of Terry Pratchett, The Star, Readers Digest and other reading material that I've read there with my chin on the armrest and the book on the floor.

Good times indeed. I may have changed in many ways (hopefully for the better) but that couch will always hold a part of me. In psychoanalytic terms, I suppose that couch is the part of me that loves to relax, to think about life and my place in it, to enjoy conversations with friends, and to take a lovely afternoon nap:) People who know me will probably say that that last item is a significantly large aspect of me:)

I hope you all have a "yellow couch" in your heart, if not in your living room. Adios! The next time you hear from me, I'll be back in the land of Nasi Lemak (its Malaysian not Singaporean, foreign ignoramuses), Char Koay Teow and murderous sunshine.