There is no war in love

I’ve been thinking of home lately. Not my parent’s home here in New Zealand, but the old one, my first home back in China, and even the one before then; the home my grandparents first lived in.

Taking me back to their home gives me a sense of pride in the midst of all my failures.

Lately, my senses have been dulled and worn down by the pain of heartbreak, by the shame of self-pity, and the doom of seeing no way out.

But when I think back to where we came from, I am reminded of the strength that existed before my time and which will always be a part of me.

My grandfather saw his neighbour gunned down next to him.

Waking up in a world full of uncertain tomorrows made life more sweet and precious. There on the sidewalk, with the blood of his neighbour’s son, uncertainty crafted his strength.

As the oldest, he raised his sisters from the poor to the strong. He was a strict man, a gentle man, and a practical man. He wouldn’t have spent his waking hours wallowing in self-pity. One hour of pity meant one less day of food.

He knew the difference between love and war.

War was hunger, getting shot at and families parting.

Love was in my grandmother. Taking care of her, looking after her, giving her a better life.

He did not see war in love, even after my grandmother had a stroke that forced him to give up his love of travel.

He cried when he had to give it up. But he cried harder when he almost lost my grandmother.

He was strong in this kind of way. Strong enough to know what was truly important.

Yes, he is still alive. Still, after all these years, there is a twinkle in the corner of his eyes, a gift from the universe for his unwavering optimism. That is the only thing I have inherited, his twinkle.

A few months ago, my mum told me that the twinkle in my eye had gone. How sad that made me feel, to have lost the one thing that connects me to my grandfather’s strength.

But what existed before will always be there. Although faded, weary and momentarily hidden from sight, a little spark, a little patience, will ignite it once again.

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 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!

A little ray of sunshine

There are times in our lives where we need something to jolt us out of our sadness. For the past few months I have been sadder than usual, and missing the company of a close friendship that has fallen apart.

It’s difficult for me to know what to do in these situations. I really wish that I could have that close friendship again, but at the same time I feel as though I’m the only one trying to mend it, and it doesn’t make me feel good about myself.

But today, in my usual sad mood, I recieved a little ray of sunshine. A friend of mine messaged our group of friends and told us that there was a travel deal going on.

Does anyone want to go to Japan? was the question I saw when I opened up my phone.

I’m still in the middle of work, but I have to let him know within 2 hours. So without checking with my boss, without checking the itinerary, I make a spontaneous decision and say Yes!

Who knew that I’d start the day feeling sad, only to end up booking a flight to Japan!

The spontaneous decision has jolted me out of a much needed wake up. I like it. I want more of this feeling. And although I know my sadness won’t fade away right now, I’m just glad to have a brief reprieve from the sadness I’ve been feeling in my heart.

I’m sitting here all alone at work, listening to the traffic rushing outside and making sure I finish typing this before I go home.

Sadness is not my forte. I want to get out there and start moving. I hope today will be the start of a happier me.