Pre-‘Guidelines for the New Year’ Post

Every year, I write a Guidelines for the New Year post. Not on this blog but on my other blog where I’ve been posting more regularly for the last 12 years. This year however, I’ll be posting my Guidelines post here.

While I was happily writing that post, I suddenly realised that I had forgotten what my own Guidelines were this year! Not only that – I’d also realised that in all the years writing my Guidelines post I’d failed to reflect on whether or not I’d lived that year according to the Guidelines I’d painstakingly set out! I was appalled at myself. Appalled! Nevertheless, this pre-‘Guidelines for the New Year’ post is where I’ll rectify that humongous oversight.

This is where you can find this year’s Guidelines.

So, this year, I reminded myself to say yes, which I think I’ve done a pretty good job of abiding to. One of the things I’ve said yes to, which at other times in my life, I would have said nuh-uh, was agreeing to freelance work (while holding down a 9-to-5 job).

The guideline to be mindful every moment of the things I say, do and feel was a reminder to be present in and appreciate each moment and I don’t think I did that as well as I could have. I also didn’t practice gratitude as often as I should when truthfully, there’s a lot that I’m grateful for.

I’m positive my 9 day trip to London and Paris in early-December qualifies as my one grand adventure for the year! (More on this later)

To learn at least one new thing. Does learning to not detest escargot count? 😉

And finally, the guideline to remember and to remind myself that this is my life to do with what I wish which means I can keep it this way, or change it to how it deserves to be, is why I’m at another crossroad in my life and will be making a leap in January 2017. Joyfear.

So, reflecting on 2016, I have to admit that for me, professionally, there were more downs than ups and the ups were mainly from the freelance work I said yes to. On the other hand, personally, it’s been a fairly memorable year – new friends, the grand adventure – which makes me a little eager to see what 2017 will bring. Just a little eager because, you know, joyfear. Also, I’m looking forward to more blogging next year. Much, much more since I already have several themed posts up my sleeve 😀

So, before I end my pre-Guidelines to the New Year post and also because this post recommends I “prompt my readers (yes, I’m looking at the both of you) for their thoughts when I’ve finished my roundup, tell me – which of my posts this year that you’ve read made you go “This woman is awesome! I want her to be my BFF!”?

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May next year be half as sweet as these candied apples at the Christmas Market, Champs-Elysees

That’s What Friends are For

I pressed `PLAY’ on the VCR, leaned back against the sofa and got ready to watch the tape.

The opening credits began – Memories of Redang…1st to 5th July 1997. For the next 140 minutes, I was transfixed, watching someone else’s version of my memory.

Dhalita, who came up with the idea to record our entire mini-break, came onscreen and said, “Say something lah, in 50 years when I watch this video, I want to know what we did today!”

Cheese, the self-appointed leader of our motley crew, obediently began to narrate the mundane, “This morning, we woke up, brushed our teeth, had breakfast…”.

I giggled. I’d forgotten he could be funny.

As I watched the video, I alternated between smiling, laughing, going “Haiyoh!” and slapped my forehead with the palm of my hand. Definitely not the reaction I was expecting from myself. I was almost enjoying reliving the events that happened on the trip so long ago. Every single time the faces of the people I used to love came onscreen, I expected my heart to contract a little, but it didn’t. Instead, I watched their young selves and smiled at the memory of the people they were, the people I knew.

I didn’t even remember that we had a thank you-gift giving ceremony for Leen who’d single-handedly organised the entire trip for all of us. But there we were on the screen and Leen had just accepted our gift of a super-comfortable pillow that she hugged the whole bus ride back. “Say something lah,” we urged. “Thank you,” she said into the camera. “I shy” and she hid her face with her brand new pillow. Typical Leen.

I surprised myself.

For all of 138 minutes, I didn’t shed one tear.

Then the montage came on in the 139th minute and Dionne Warwick’s `That’s What Friends Are For’ played in the background. As she reached the lyrics…

And if I should ever go away
Well, then close your eyes and try to feel
The way we do today
And then if you can remember

Keep smilin’, keep shinin’
Knowin’ you can always count on me, for sure
That’s what friends are for
For good times and bad times
I’ll be on your side forever more
That’s what friends are for

I rested my head on my knee that I had bent to my chest and cried a little.

Not long after that trip, our motley crew drifted apart. I’m no longer on speaking terms with almost all of those people that I went to Redang with and I sometimes lie awake at night and wonder why. Now, whenever this song comes on the radio, I’m transported back to those carefree days and nights on the island and a tiny, tiny part of me wishes that I could be with all of them for all their good times and bad, to be on their side forever more and to show them that that’s what friends are for.

How to Get Noticed by (nosy) Relatives at a Wake

We entered my Uncle’s house. The Uncle who’d just passed away the previous evening. My father’s sister-in-law saw us and immediately went to my father, clutched his shoulders and wailed. My mother and I excused ourselves as we walked pass the relatives who were already there, sitting cross-legged, on the kasah that was scattered on the floor of the living room.  We sat in a corner of the room furthest away from my Uncle’s body.

I’d gone back to Kuching that weekend to spend time with Auntie Jenny and Uncle Steve, who’d come all the way from England. The possibility that I’d be on the way to Simunjan, a 2.5 hour drive away, that hot and sultry Saturday morning with my parents, was unplanned for. Truthfully, I was reluctant to go. I didn’t know my father’s relatives and the customs. I was afraid that I’d accidentally say or do something inappropriate. After mulling it a bit, I decided not to worry about it though because surely everyone would be busy planning for the funeral and I’d just be another face in the crowd.

Unfortunately, despite trying my hardest to be unobtrusive, relatives descended upon me mainly because

…of my tattoos. You would think that coming from an ethnic group that prides itself on its tattoos that having them would be commonplace. Apparently not among this group of Ibans. Except for me, no one else had visible tattoos. I kept catching the older relatives glance not too discreetly at my tattoo-adorned wrists and ankles. The younger relatives were just outright staring as they sat on the wooden benches chain-smoking.

…I barely speak the language. Growing up, I learnt the native language my mother spoke, not my father’s. The only thing I knew how to say in my father’s native language is makai (eat), ngirup (drink), jalai (walk) and aku enda mereti (I don’t understand).  Thankfully, Iban and Bahasa Malaysia have similar words so when one of the relatives spoke to me in Iban, I tried to catch any Bahasa Malaysia-sounding words and extrapolate the conversation from there. Even then, the relatives tended to speak to me three or four at a time and this made following any conversation difficult. In the end, I smiled and replied au (yes). I had some weird looks when I kept repeating au, but I was overwhelmed.

…I am still unmarried. My relatives (and even strangers, unfortunately) love asking about my marital status. I didn’t think this question would even come up though since it was a wake and the last thing anyone should be talking about is who is married and who isn’t. I was wrong. Again. A grandaunt asked my father how many children he has and was I the oldest, youngest or middle child. She then asked him if I was married and when he replied that I was bujang (single), that’s when my ears perked up. She followed up with asking if my younger siblings were married and when he responded in the affirmative, her eyes widened with surprise (I suppose). This discussion between the grandaunt and my father attracted the attention of the other relatives and the word bujang kept coming up. I inched away from them as stealthily as possible and went outside where no one was talking about my state of singlehood (I hope).

Maybe next time, at another gathering of relatives, I’ll cover up my tattoos and get a quickie marriage so that the relatives will notice someone else instead.

Weekly Discover Challenge: Night on the Island

In response to the Daily Post’s Weekly Discover Challenge: Shared Journeys, and also inspired by Pablo Neruda’s Night on the Island.

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Source: Island Night 

“Walk with me?”

She startled and turned to look at him. When did he sneak up behind her? She looked back at her friends who were milling on the beach around the barbeque pit. Someone had a guitar out, strumming the chords to Extreme’s More Than Words. Everyone seemed preoccupied, unlikely that she’ll be missed.

She got up from the log she was sitting on and glanced at the hand that he reached for her. “Sure,” she replied. She clasped both her hands behind her back and started walking. He looked at her retreating back, dropped his hand and followed her.

“Where shall we go?”

“Let’s just walk and see where this stretch of the beach leads us.”

Her feet faltered. She was afraid. A little bit.

“Don’t worry, I just want to talk.”

“Okay, just talk.”

They continued in silence, the sounds of raucous guitar playing growing fainter as they moved away from their friends. The wind felt cool and she closed her eyes, letting it caress her face. She stopped, feeling the sand beneath her feet. My feet will be silky smooth with all this walking on the beach, she smiled to herself at the thought.

He’d stopped walking too. She looked at him and he was staring back. Though it was dark, she saw yearning, clear as glass, in his gaze. It made her heart clench. She didn’t know how to respond to yearning. Was she supposed to yearn back? And when both yearned – was that then love?

She resumed walking. So did he. With every step, he moved a thread closer to her until their hands brushed. She refrained from jerking her hand away, trying to feel pleasure in fingers mingling with other fingers. All she felt was anxiety. She adjusted her steps.

Soon, they found themselves at a jetty that was close to one of the more budget-friendly resorts that consisted of wooden houses on stilts, situated among the swaying coconut trees.

“What about sitting at the jetty?” he asked, pointing to the wooden structure that emerged from around the bend.

“Okay, hope there’s no mosquitoes.” Maybe if she made jokes, their talk won’t be serious.

“I’ll chase them away from you. I’ll make sure they won’t bite,” he responded seriously. She gulped. That was not the reply she’d wanted to hear.

She started to kneel down to brush the sand from the jetty but he bent down first and cleared the sand and waited for her to sit. She looked at him and rewarded him with a tremulous smile, “Thanks.”

“Anytime,” he said and brushed sand from the spot he’d chosen to sit, which was too close to her. She scooted a little away.

Normally, she liked silences but not this one. This silence was prickly and she didn’t want to be bloodied by it. “So…,” she started.

“I like you.” No hesitation in his words. “I like you very much.”

She wasn’t surprised at the words, only that he’d chosen a moonlit night on an island to declare this to her. It was romantic but she wasn’t looking for romance. She sighed and looked at him.

“I…I don’t know,” was all she could think of saying.

“Don’t you feel anything for me? I make you laugh. I look out for you. We’re together most of the time. Whenever I enter a room, I immediately search for you and I know you do that too. You must feel something for me,” he pleaded.

“I do feel close to you but I think it’s just as friends. I don’t know if it’s more than that. You make me nervous. If I felt more for you than just friendship, why would I be nervous?”

He smiled. “At least you admit that I make you nervous. That’s a good start. Nervous is good, I can work with nervous.”

She scoffed. “Good for you maybe, but not for me! I don’t like this feeling. It’s uncertain! I don’t know where it’s leading me!” She covered her face with her hands, suddenly feeling tired. The emotions overwhelming her. He was overwhelming her.

“Hey, hey…don’t…don’t cry,” he reached out for her hands.

When their hands touched, she felt a jolt. Her heart twisted. She looked at him and he stared back, his mouth slightly open. It felt as if her hands had found their home.

Weekly Discover Challenge: Through the Broken Door

In response to the Daily Post’s Weekly Discover Challenge: The Story Behind a Door

A weathered, blue-painted wooden door in Kolkata, India.
Source: http://www.brettcolephotography.com 

I stood in front of the door, if you could call it that. It was made from pieces of planks haphazardly joined together by shorter pieces of wood nailed across the planks.  The door was probably blue once but it’s more brown now. There are iron handles halfway down the door and it was one of these I reached towards. I was afraid. Afraid that the entire structure would fall down on my head so I rested my left hand against the other side of the door and swung the door inwards.

Beyond the door, was an unexpected sight. To my delight, this poor excuse of a door was protecting, of all things, a playground.

Joy overwhelmed me and I ran to the slides (it was green), ran up the steps, sat down on the top and pushed off. WHEEE! I shrieked as I slid towards the bottom. I landed with a thud then quickly got up and rushed towards the swing set (they were red). I fit my bottom into the seat and pushed off into the sky.  When I swung back to the ground, I got ready to push off even harder and swung up even higher. WHEEE! I was on the swings for at least 10 minutes and my legs were getting tired.  I slowed the swing down and jumped off so that I could run towards the seesaw (yellow!). Being on the seesaw by oneself was not easy but I did it somehow. I sat down and pushed up then the seesaw jolted downwards then I pushed up again. I got bored after a while, seesawing is more fun with two people.

Then I saw the trampoline (a bright blue! Maybe the door was this blue once?). I ran to it with all my might and scrambled onto the trampoline.  I’d never been on one and as I jumped, I contorted myself into shapes in the air I wouldn’t have been able to do on solid ground.  I’m a bird!  I’m a plane! I’m a ballerina!  I did somersaults and splits!

Then mid-air I looked at my watch and saw that it was 8.29am and scrambled off as unlady-like as I scrambled on and ran past the green slide, the red swings and the yellow see saw towards the wooden door made of multi-planks.  I put my left hand up to hold the door as my right held on to the handle, swinging it inwards.  I walked out onto the street, along the brick walls and went to work.