Under the auspicious, round moon

The moon is at its roundest tonight. A full circle, a symbol of wholeness, completion, and the coming together of family.

It is the Moon Festival, and as always, whenever there’s a festival, I go over to my grandparents’ for dinner. They’ll be making dumplings, noodles, pork ribs, and chicken drumsticks – the usual feast. My tummy rumbles just thinking about it.

I try to get off work as soon as possible, but I am held back by a coworker who wants a sympathetic ear. I hear my parents chiding me, “I told you to get off work early today.”

Chinese festivals are always like this. No matter how much work you have, if it’s time to celebrate, you’ve got to put everything down and rush back home. No overtime.

When I finally arrive at my grandparents’, the food is cold, and, to my dismay, there are no noodles. But despite that, the energy is still at its infancy. My cousin’s 1 year old daughter claps as I sit down at the table, starting a competition amongst the adults to see who can clap the loudest.

I happily munch away at my food, keeping one ear open to the conversations around me. There is talk of my sister’s new job, her salary, and her declining weight. She begs to differ. There is nothing wrong with her weight.

I stuff a mouthful of dumplings in my mouth. The skin is so soft and the mixture melts in my tongue.

Dumplings can be eaten with tomato sauce, or vinegar. I’m usually not a big fan of vinegar, but tonight, I ask for it specifically. In fact, I have been waiting all week to eat vinegar. Why? Because of the old wive’s tale that eating vinegar delays your period. I know it’s a bit hocus pocus, but it seems to work everytime for me. I whisper to my sister that the reason I want to delay my period is so that it won’t come during our trip to Japan. My sister winks in reply. She already knows.

I look around the table. Not everyone has stayed till the end. My other cousin slipped out of the night to attend church. He always attends church, despite looking the complete opposite of a church goer. He used to get into fights at school, and my dad would drag my sister and I to talk to his teacher, because our English was better than his. Those were the days. We used to hate him. Now we are planning a trip together to South East Asia.

On the other end of the table, my grandpa is putting food on my grandma’s plate. Ever since her stroke 3 years ago, she’s been unable to do simple things by herself. Her face has swollen from not bring able to move around too much, but despite that, she’s still loud and vocal. Grandpa chuckles everytime he gets told off.

There’s mum, dad, my sister, my cousin, my neice, my Aunties and Uncles, my grandpa and my grandma. Twelve of us on Friday 13th, minus my church goer cousin.

Looking around the table tonight, I realise each of us has our own little stories, our history and future. No matter what happens, or where we drift off to, we will always come together, on a night like tonight. This is the beauty of the Moon festival.

There is no straight path out of a broken heart

I thought that sadness was something linear, like the passage of time. That it would decrease as the weeks went by and I would feel better each day.

I thought sadness looked something like this:

Sadness graph - A linear line showing how sadness decreases over time

But the more I got to know sadness, the more it looked like this:

Sadness graph - a spiky graph that shows sadness zigzags up and down

A zigzaggy shape, with spikes that go up and down.

Sometimes the sadness builds up to extreme anger, then dies down again. Like a broken heartbeat.

It’s strange to think that time heals everything when time and sadness don’t move in the same direction.

Time moves forward. Sadness moves up and down.

Time wants me to get up, go to work, eat lunch, catch the bus.

Sadness wants me to stop.

Time says it won’t wait for me.

Sadness wants me to go to his house, knock on his door and beg for an apology.

Time says I don’t have time for that.

Sadness wants to go back in time.

Time knows it can’t go back.

Sadness argues that he still cares.

Time proves that he doesn’t.

Sadness lives in fantasy.

Time lives in reality.

Time forces me to do the things I don’t want to do.

Perhaps that’s why they say time heals everything.

It’s a force against my bad judgment. It’s the pull of linear events that interrupts this rumination.

It’s the moon to my tide.

Before today, it terrified me to find that there was no straight path out of a broken heart. The way out was fraught with thorns and fallen branches. One step forward opened fresh wounds. One misstep took me to a dark place. In the midst of all the pain, the path left behind, became deceitfully safer than the path forward.

As I was contemplating which path to take, time showed up and whispered to me:

Hope is in the future, pain is in the past.

So fixing on the road ahead, I took one step forward and saw a faint light.

It is not much, but it is where I am, in my journey out of heartbreak.

The friendship pact

The friendship pact is one of those promises that you make with your friends about the future. That wherever you are, whatever time of year it is, you pick up your bags and meet at a designated place for that year.

My Dad has a friendship pact with his University classmates, and every year for 40 years, those who can make it, and those who are still alive, come together, from wherever they are in the world, some in America, some in New Zealand, to honour this pact.

Only one classmate out of the 20 or so classmates will never be able to make it to a reunion. He was shot dead in the head for poisoning his neighbour.

Last year, my entire family got a chance to attend this reunion in China. To be honest, I wasn’t really looking forward to it. I was more excited to see Shanghai and Hong Kong, the big, modern cities, rather than the local destinations that we would be meeting at.

But as always, low expectations turned into pleasant surprises, and this local destination became the highlight of my trip.

As soon as we arrived in Sanming, China, and my Dad spotted one of his classmates waiting by a post, he transformed from “an ordinary Dad” to an animated, loud schoolboy, exuding life and vibrancy. One by one, as more of his classmates found each other in the crowd, and embraced, there was an excitement in the air that brought this little town to life.

They talked in furious frenzy, from the platform all the way to the train ride to our hotel, until the train staff had to tell them to keep it down.

The intangible happiness that their friendship brought, was something that could not be mirrored on our solo trip to Shanghai or Hong Kong. Bustling and crowded as these modern cities were, there was only a surface-level of enjoyment that washed away after a few nights spent there.

The places that we went to at this local destination was truly magical. For one of our activities, we bamboo rafted across the lake. We were surrounded by boulders taller and bigger than skyscrapers so we had to crane our necks to take in the whole view. One of my Dad’s classmates burst into song, and the melody traveled across the boulders and echoed around to the back and the front of our pack.

Another of my Dad’s classmates caught a fish in his hands and he stared at it in wide-eyed wonder, like a schoolboy who had caught his first catch of the day.

Left and right I caught glimpses of these rare expressions that brought warmth to my heart. Whether bamboo rafting, or squeezing through narrow caves, there was an energy all around that was so special that I wish I could’ve put it inside a treasure box and carried it back home.

Our last night ended with a performance. The room was booked and the stage was set. As the youngest member there, my task was to play the drum roll while everybody else passed a bag around. Whoever it landed it on when the drum roll stopped, would have to go up on stage and perform. This was a case of anxiety for everyone who was nervous about performing, so the bag got thrown around like hot potatoes.

But when the “unlucky ones” got on stage, they performed beautifully. There was Chinese folk dancing, ballroom dancing and singing. Someone else had a go at playing the drum and somehow the bag landed between my sister and me, so we had to go up on stage and perform. Unlike the others, we had not prepared for our act, so we chose to sing Avril Lavigne’s Complicated, a horrible choice because our voices shook while we tried to sing the fast-paced chorus. I was also wearing large bathroom slippers, so they were protruding out from the velvet stage.

Since that day, I have brought back with me the memory of that trip. Those memories were locked in my mind, but now I’ve opened the lock and let them out. Instead of wishing to belong, I have made plans with friends to share experiences together. Instead of planning in my head, we have been planning together. Instead of talking, we have been doing.

My friends and I are going to Japan in November, and then South East Asia next year. And then mid next year, we are hoping that we can all make a permanent move to a new country. We are helping each other save money for these trips, by introducing each other to part-time jobs that we can do outside of our day jobs. We are sharing a common goal and most importantly, we are doing it together.

Our friendship pact is just beginning. But I hope that it will grow old with us, just as my Dad’s did.

Speaking from the heart takes time

Last week was the first time I had told the man who broke my heart how his actions had affected me in silent ways.

Everyday, I would get up fearing the world and the perfectly beautiful strangers around me. Everyone seemed to be loved by somebody, and I hated seeing it for fear that it would cast a shadow over my own unlovable self.

Until the past week, I had kept silent, letting my emotions fester in their own pit of agony, with the occasional outbursts of anger. At work, I made multiple mistakes, was distracted and always zoning out. I carried myself around with as little energy as I possibly could, retiring to bed early and waking up late.

Truthfully, I was ashamed of being sad over something that wasn’t real. I questioned why I was angry, even told myself that I shouldn’t feel this way. I never told my friends or family how deeply it cut. Only downplayed my sadness.

Whenever I spoke to him, it was always in a friendly manner, as if I had to appease him for some wrongdoing I had inflicted.

Sometimes, my anger would come out, for small, petty things, like when he cut our meeting short, or if he seemed bored or inattentive.

This gave him the impression that I was always a temperamental person and only confirmed his decision about me.

I was afraid that confronting him would only make things worse, that I would lose him forever. So I always apologised for my short outbursts.

In truth, I was deeply hurt. Just kept pretending. Not knowing where or who to turn to.

But last week, the fear of losing myself to anger and sadness became far greater than the fear of losing him.

So I spoke out.

It took me many tries, a few angry starts, but I got to the truth in the end.

I told him that I had suffered mentally in the past few months by pretending that I was ok. I told him that time doesn’t heal wounds, only covers them. I told him all the above I have just mentioned here.

And then an unexpected thing happened.

By giving a voice to the shame I had felt for being in love, my anger and sadness melted away. Like watered-down glue, they peeled away from me and stopped lingering in the open wounds of my heart.

I started emerging from the brain fog I had been feeling for the last few months. I started caring about my work, my dreams, my goals, my life.

I am still tinged with sadness, but it is not the anxious kind that needs to be tended to straight away. It is more a calming sadness. A sadness that knows it needs not do anything. A sadness that knows that in time, it will heal. But this kind of healthy sadness only comes after speaking truthfully.

I have realised that speaking from the heart is necessary and always takes time. It pays off if the person on the other end is willing to sit there and listen to you patiently, without rushing you in any way.

But he is not that kind of person.

Even though I would still like to talk things through, I am not holding my breath.

I am excited for the future, humbled, and most importantly still not cynical of love.

The secret book club

Since things haven’t been turning out as I had hoped they would, I’ve a little more spare time on my hands. So I decided to do something a little unusual today.

I placed an ad in the local newspaper asking for kids to join a book club.

Now I don’t know how well or disastrous this will turn out, or whether anyone will even respond to my ad, but I thought it would be good to at least do something to encourage kids to read.

I used to work in the library, and during my time there I read to kids, and did lots of fun activities with them. The most memorable moments were when the kids would come up to me and talk to me while their parents were exhausted and napping on the couch.

I remember with joy when a little four year old boy came up to me and we had a full on conversation about everything you could ever talk about on the planet. He had so much to say and I was really surprised by how well he could hold a conversation.

I even made a little friend while I was working there. To this day we talk on FB once or twice a year. Our conversations are quite brief, I don’t think she can stay on FB for long, but I actually think it’s quite funny that once or twice out of the blue, I’ll see a message pop up and it’s from her.

Anyway, wish me luck. I really hope this book club thing kicks off. I guess what I’m really looking forward to is seeing some of the kids make friends with each other and have huge smiles on their faces.

The afterlife

What led me there was a curiosity to know what was on the other side of pain.

I’d been seeking out some kind of solace, reading stories about the afterlife.

It sounded like a wonderful place to be.

Some people say that they feel unconditional love. Others say they see their loved ones waiting to take them home.

These stories really give you hope.

But then on the sadder side, they make you see how insignificant our worries are.

That all you feel is peace. There’s no intensity of happiness or sadness. You’re like energy in space.

I don’t want to be just a mass of energy. I want to be human. I want to live. So much of my humanness comes from having feelings and emotions.

People tell me to meditate. Like Buddha. But I am not a god.

Once when I was very young, I felt at peace. Nothing could make me sad. Not even when a friend moved away forever. Not even when a friend wanted to talk about something. My happiness just being alone in my own world stopped me from connecting with people to the fullest.

I didn’t like it. I realised that I didn’t want to feel nothing. I wanted to feel something! So I asked to have emotions, to care about people.

I appreciate the humanness of my thoughts. Knowing that I can feel a scale of emotions from sadness to anger to happiness. It’s like the scales on a piano. It sounds more beautiful because of the range.

A voice is more beautiful because of its range of octaves.

I admit I’ve been playing on a sombre scale for some time. And need to explore a happier scale. Perhaps a bit of Ode to Joy. Beethoven.

 

How is everyone feeling today?

Last night, I spoke to my friend about our friendship and he agreed that we can be friends again. It has been such a confusing period of time in my life, and I’m not sure if I can go back to trusting him completely like I used to.

I’ve always been a keen observer of my feelings especially when it comes to the aftermath of falling out with friends or with romantic interests.

I’ve always done the right thing. Kept myself at a distance from the source of hurt, even cutting off contact with people who have hurt me completely. But I’ve realised that in doing so, I feel bitter and cynical about relationships. It doesn’t make me feel happy. The pain is always there, just a memory away for the next person to come along and dredge up those thoughts. I’ve even started feeling scared of meeting new people in case they trigger these old hurts.

This is the first time I’ve decided not to cut off contact with someone who has betrayed my trust. It’s the first time I’ve decided to work through it. To make the pain fade away rather than cover it up and not talk about it. I even phoned my parents and talked to them about how I feel. I never willingly do that. I don’t even talk about these things to my group of friends! And now I’m writing about it on my blog!

I just don’t want to hide anymore. I really do hope that I can shine a light on my fears. They’ve really held me back from being fully productive, and living life to the full. They make me feel as though I don’t deserve whatever is good and happy. But I have too much I want to do. I can’t let this fear that’s coming from one aspect of my life affect the rest of what I do.

I don’t want to put all my happiness in a friendship, but I believe that friends form a big part of our happiness.

I’m really only just starting to know what happiness means to me. It’s different to what I once thought it was. Probably a result of me turning 27 in the next 2 days!

See you on the other side of fear!