Fabric of Life

A friend of mine (PL) recently gave me a keychain with a cute fabric elephant, a souvenir from her trip to Phuket from the Mayagotami Foundation. The tag said, “Saori weaving is pure improvisation from the heart, with no premeditated pattern in mind. Saori is profound inner journey yet we can enjoy it socially, working alongside Weave & Give”.

This led me to think about my own life, or rather myself as a piece of fabric, which is still a work in progress, so to speak. We go through life making choices on a daily basis, some big, some small. These choices impact our lives and others either directly or indirectly. Choices somehow shape who we are in terms of our character, and make us unique individuals. With every choice, we weave another string into the fabric of our being. I believe that the people we meet and let into our lives also contribute to the strings of our personal fabric, through experiences, shared memories and the way different people make us feel  – soft, hard, textured, sequined, beaded and in different colors.

At the core of it all, we are all special. Some of us are more quirky, creative, analytical, pragmatic, optimistic, sociable, fearless or reserved. I would like more of us recognize our own unique personal traits, accept them and embrace them. I have found greater acceptance of myself in the past few years; it took some time to build up this level of self confidence and I must admit that having a childhood in a loving, secure environment probably helped blessed me with this innate state of being. There have been times of adversity in my life; it is all relative when I compare what I have been through with so many others who have had to or are struggling with difficulties and challenges. However, looking back at how things have come to pass, I am grateful for these lessons in life and the opportunities they presented to make me assess who I am and what I capable of. Many of these experiences have reassured me that you are what you make for yourself, particularly in taking charge of your own happiness and self worth.

During difficult times, it may be very challenging to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Many times I had asked myself whether it would get harder, how much more would my psyche or heart be able to take? I remember it felt like I was drowning in a pool of mud and there was no possibility of pulling my way out, when it just keeps sucking you in deeper. Screaming in an empty room for a sign. For some relief. Some miracle. Then the roar of silence and feeling that crushing weight of emptiness. Time would tick by. Hours would pass. Then days, then months. All this has tempered my own fabric; adversity had stretched it, but it was never torn.

I examine my own fabric of life and remind myself to be grateful. I am very grateful for the life that I have, for the family that I have, for my health, for all the blessings God gives, and for the friends who give so generously in friendship and touch my life in ways they may not realize, whether they are near or far. With the bad, there is good, and I have learnt to appreciate the latter and actively seek to weave more happiness, joy and love into my own fabric, and hopefully into the fabric of others.

What does your fabric look or feel like?

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Fabric of Life

A Date to Remember

Today (in a month’s time) marks the date that could have been my 15th Wedding Anniversary.

May 17 was brought up by my mother and aunt during their recent trip and it came up by random surprise during our dinner conversation at a popular noodle restaurant last week. I nearly choked on my fish ball and managed to retain my composure. I did not remember the date at all, to my own shock, and admitted this fact to them. While my Dad continued eating in benign amusement, Mom rolled her eyes and my aunt simply stated “It must have really meant nothing to you.”

Oh my.

I remember that A had kept quite a few of my CDs, including one of my favorites at the time, a Julia Fordham album, which was also greatly loved by my closest friend, W, whom I shared the ‘I Forgot The Date’ story with during dinner earlier tonight. Her husband, Y, quipped, “You dodged a bullet there!” and chuckled, while my friend grinned with soft knowing eyes. Even his mother asked, “Didn’t you meet him at a book store?” to which I meekly replied, “Yes, at Barnes and Noble,” as I sat there, bewildered on how she could remember that detail.

I decided to play some of Julia’s songs as I write this, after returning home and opening my closet and staring at the top shelf, where I know my wedding dress, made of white French lace gifted from my Mom, is kept rolled up in layers of tissue in a bag, tucked deep in a corner. I decided not to look at it or try it on. I now recall getting the dress custom made by a talented young local designer, who was just starting out at the time. Getting a similar dress made by him now would probably cost a small fortune. Come to think of it, there are several lovely outfits made by this designer that I still keep, yet avoid wearing.

If I had gotten married 15 years ago, it would have been a simple ceremony in Miami, followed by a dinner reception at a charming French restaurant that had big trees with magical fairy lights. And we would have had our first dance as husband and wife to “At Last” by Etta James, selected by my then fiancée.

I barely remember the diamond engagement ring in great detail – I think it was a decent sized solitaire, with French baguettes on either side – which was returned to A, and our matching wedding bands were supposed to be pavé diamonds… or was it channel cut diamonds? Again, my memory fails me and I’ll be damned to ask my mother for these details, which she would surely remember.

I somewhat recall going through dozens of beautiful wedding invitation samples, brought back from a trip to Miami, all of which were discarded with the final chosen design, along with the many heavily earmarked bridal magazines, years ago. I recall feeling relieved that the wedding invitations had not been sent out when I decided not to go through with the wedding, although many of my extended family and closest friends had been asked months prior to save the date. I recall some of the many disputes A & I had, along with having to mediate with our parents, during our clash of Chinese and American cultures, related to wedding arrangements, dowry and other expectations.

Where did the time go? What happened? Why did I not marry A? These are questions that swirl around me.

If I had married A, would I still be married to him now? Would we be entertaining our friends like W&Y, who would visit on holiday, at our beach side place in Miami, or on a yacht in the Caribbean? Maybe. Maybe not. Who knows? I refuse to speculate or dwell on the What Ifs.

“Love Moves in Mysterious Ways” per Julia Fordham.

A Date to Remember

Family Who Matter

Who are the people most important in your life now?

For me, it is always my parents, who are extremely loving, supportive and understanding in everything that I do. Growing up, I was much closer to my father and I admit that I still enjoy typical first born privileges, being the proverbial apple of his eye. Going into adulthood, I developed a closer relationship with my mother, who understood me as a woman, and is able advise on matters which only mothers and women can relate to.

I speak to my parents often and we share what is happening in our lives almost on a daily basis. I seek their advice, enjoy listening to them recount what they do at home, what they are cooking, eating, which tv series they follow, what is growing in their abundant garden and the various activities they do with friends and family. My parents have a much more active social life than I do, and it amuses me to no end the dramas they encounter. Oh, such is life in a small town!

I cherish moments and experiences with my parents and for many years, we vacation as a family together, sharing the love for travel and an adventure for food. My parents are quite well traveled and have an uncanny ability to find excellent food in peculiar places or restaurants all over the world. Whenever they visit, they bring my favorite home cooked dishes, lovingly prepared, along with a multitude of foodstuff to wreck my diet. I happily indulge as food is part of the love they share with me.

During this particular time of ancestral remembrance and worship, I fondly remember the grandparents who are no longer with us. My paternal grandfather was a gentle quiet man, who loved orchids, played the saxophone and knew how to perfectly butter toast. My paternal grandmother was a strong woman to be reckoned with when she was around, an amazing cook who enjoyed sipping on brandy and smoking cigarettes right up to a ripe old age and was generally very domineering in life; I believe I inherited some of her dominant personality traits. My maternal grandfather was a towering figure (literally) who also enjoyed cooking, experimenting in the kitchen and was a strong, wise man with a good sense of humor.

While I was present at both my grandfathers’ funerals, I did not attend my paternal grandmother’s funeral as she passed on and is buried in Australia. I pray to them, with gratitude of the years of having known them, for giving me wonderful parents, and with the belief that their spirits are at peace, and that they continue to watch over us as our guardian angels.

I am blessed to have an adorable maternal grandmother, who is 95 and lives with my parents. She constantly frets over all of us and worries that I would never settle down to get married. One time years ago in an attempt to guilt trip, she started crying, telling me that I should get married so that a man would “take care of me”. I was so shocked that my singlehood affected her so much. I had to explain to her that getting married is not the ‘end all and be all’ of a woman’s life, and that there is much more to life than having a man define who I am.

Citing examples of people she knew who have been in abusive relationships, married to men who are useless (i.e. cheaters, gamblers, alcoholics, unambitious lackwits, spineless doormats), I managed to convince my grandmother that it is better off for me to be single and happy than be married and miserable. Nevertheless, she still grumbles on why I have to be so picky in choosing a life partner, which I laugh off in good humor. Sometimes I remind her that my father has set the bar so high, it is hard for any man to measure up.

With love and gratitude to family who matter, Amen.

Family Who Matter

Are We All Lost Stars?

If you have listened carefully to the lyrics of Adam Levine’s ‘Lost stars’, I am certain that many of you have pondered over the quest for meaning from time to time, particularly in moments of self reflection. I have been thinking about this lately, along with the purpose of my life.

I recently became a full time student again, pursuing a master’s degree in teaching and learning, while working part time. It has been a challenge being a student again, although learning during this first term has been interesting and fun because my professor is an excellent teacher. As one of the older students within my class, I initially felt self conscious of my age. However, my classmates are mostly friendly and outgoing, and their energy and drive for attaining a common goal has been infectious and a good source of encouragement. I see their passion to share and contribute towards society on a long term basis as an inspiration.

On the personal front, I have met several interesting men over the past few months. I have grown attracted to one in particular, a man who is smart, has a wicked sense of humor, and is incredibly sweet, considerate and good looking. It has been fascinating to get to know him better, and as he has been able to keep me interested in him, I have been slowly letting my guard down in order to develop this friendship better.

I had just shared with MB a poem on ‘Reason, Season or Lifetime’, which I include below for your reading pleasure, if you are not familiar with it. I wondered which one he would be, and then decided against categorizing him so quickly. This is going to sound so corny, but one night after I had just finished a long conversation with M, Madonna’s ‘Crazy for you’ came on, and I found myself grinning like a teen, thinking of him. While I welcome this breath of fresh air into my life, in the back of my mind I am constantly wary of when the commitaphobe in me will strike. I realize this with sad pragmatism, as I have not been able to overcome this twisted self destructive part in me yet.

This poem reminded me that the people we meet – whether at school, or at work, or at a party, or even at a grocery store – often do leave an imprint on us; sometimes faintly, sometimes a more significant impression. We should remember that we personally impact other people too, and should be mindful of our words and actions; this is a responsibility not to be taken lightly.

 

People come into your path for a reason, a season or a lifetime.

When you know which one it is, you will know what to do with that person.

When someone is in your life for a REASON it is usually to meet a need you have expressed.

They have come to assist you through a difficulty…

To provide you with guidance and support…

To aid you physically, emotionally or spiritually…

They may seem like they are a godsend, and they are.

They are there for the reason you need them to be.

Then without any wrongdoing on your part, or at an inconvenient time, this person will say or do something to bring the relationship to an end.

Sometimes they die…

Sometimes they walk away…

Sometimes they act up and force you to take a stand….

What we must realize is that our need has been met, our desire fulfilled…

Their work is done.

The prayer you sent up has now been answered and now it is time to move on.

 

Some people come into your life for a SEASON.

Because your turn has come to share, grow or learn.

They bring you an experience of peace or make you laugh.

They may teach you something you have never done.

They usually give you an unbelievable amount of joy.

Believe it, it is real. But only for a season.

 

LIFETIME relationships teach you lifetime lessons.

Things you must build upon to have a solid emotional foundation.

Your job is to accept the lesson, love the person, and put what you have learned to use in all other relationships and areas of your life.

It is said that love is blind, but friendship is clairvoyant.

 

Thank you for being a part of my life…

Whether you were a reason, a season or a lifetime.

 

~ unknown author

Are We All Lost Stars?

Strange Love, Twisted

It is said that Love Makes The World Go Round. Of course, this mainly refers to romantic love.

I look around at couples who are partnered and married and wonder what kind of romantic love they share, and at what stage of love they are at. I have had many discussions with friends on the difference of loving someone versus being in love with someone. In my opinion, in relationships, we begin by falling in love. This then matures into an enduring kind of love through time. Sustaining love in a relationship takes work; it is like a fire that needs constant stoking and replenishment, with trust, commitment, thoughtful words and endearments, kind gestures, meaningful action, sharing the good and the bad, compromise and sacrifice by both partners. As a relationship ends, two people are no longer in love with each other. However, some may still continue to love the other, in their own way. For some, their love withered and died.

In ‘The Mountain Shadow’ by Gregory David Roberts, there is a line that struck a chord in me: “Regret is a ghost of love”. As I listen to the beautiful soulful voice of Patti Labelle singing ‘If Only You Knew’, I reflect back on my own experiences with romantic love and the regrets I have in love.

Well then. Yes, there are a few. But nothing significant that keeps me awake at night; they do not hold me back from living life to the fullest. Am I heartless? No. Have I ever been truly in love? Yes. Do I have a twisted view of love? Definitely.

The most profound kind of love that I have experienced so far is reflected in the story of two of my favorite books – ‘The Fountainhead’ by Ayn Rand and ‘Shantaram’ by Gregory David Roberts. It is difficult for me to articulate the depth in which these two books strongly resonate in me. Maybe one day in the future I hope to be able to do so fully.

For now, all I can say is that in my own experiences with love, there was joy…and also pain and heartache. Pain in the uncleaving, pain in the yearning, pain in knowing that such exquisite love with a soul mate is not strong enough to keep us together. Pain in having to let go so that the other person is able to continue his journey to achieve his goals in life, even if that meant it was not with me. Heartache in giving up a man, whom being with at the time was a distraction in fulfilling my own goals.

I do know that ever since I read ‘The Fountainhead’ in my teens, it has defined me and my view of love in many ways. The men I fell in love with and the type that I am strongly attracted to, have been similar to Roark. As for the list of men I have been involved with, they were ‘fillers’ at best, which would explain why they did not last long. Never mind the fact that I have a short attention span. Good looking men, men with delicious muscular physiques, charming men with money, are great for a while. What keeps me interested is their ability to stimulate the cerebral part of me.

I chuckle now as I recall the multitude of men I have met, who have as much personality and wit of a cucumber. Like, seriously?

For those of you who have yet to fall in love, or be in love, or be in a(nother) loving relationship, stay hopeful. I do.

For everyone else out there, I wish for you to be as blessed as I am, to be surrounded by love from family, friends and pets.

Strange Love, Twisted

Darling, hold my hand?

The song “Hold my hand” by Jess Glynne has been dominating my thoughts of late, and I have found it to be uplifting, energizing and motivating. Coincidentally this song seems to be playing on the radio often and I have been humming along, singing the lyrics I know with gusto.

Living alone, I do not have someone here to ‘hold my hand’. So I decided to hug myself (telling myself it’s okay) and hold my own hands, clasping them together as I sing the chorus of this song.

I acknowledge to myself that I am a strong woman, who is able to encourage myself from a deep well of inner strength, and brave enough to reassure that me, myself and I are okay. Also, I believe that God is everywhere, so I am truly never alone. I am grateful that at times I am in the company of family and friends, who are there to hold my hand, albeit briefly. This song is a reminder that I am ready.

Ready for what, you ask?

Ready for amazing achievements this year. Ready for more joy, happiness, love and success. Ready for anything and everything. Ready for whatever my heart desires and my mind imagines to be possible, to come my way.

Are you ready too? If you need a hand, I am thrilled to offer you my (cyber) hand or hand in spirit, and give your hand a gentle squeeze.

I saw a delightful quote during the last days of December 2015, and think that it is a wonderful blessing to bestow, from one of the world’s greatest writers. This shall be something that I shall endeavor not only for 2016 but for every year to come. I hope that you will find inspiration in this too.

 

“May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make some art – write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.”

~ Neil Gaiman

Darling, hold my hand?

Ip Man 3: What I learnt from this movie

I recently watched the Chinese movie, ‘Ip Man 3’ and enjoyed it very much and would like to recommend it to you. Donnie Yen is incredibly spectacular, as an actor and as a martial artist. This movie had several long fight sequences, the most notable ones for me were: the power punch up with Mike Tyson’s gangster character, and the extraordinary skillful final fight scene with the fellow Wing Chun challenger. This movie also touched on a young Bruce Lee’s first meeting with Yip Man in Hong Kong.

I have seen several movies based on Yip Man (also known as Yip Kai-Man), the legendary martial arts Grandmaster, and while this version showed a more sensitive and vulnerable side of the man (yes, I shed some tears), my favorite story so far is the version entitled ‘The Grandmaster’ starring Tony Leung, in which the most inspiring and heart-rendering character was played by Zhang Ziyi. Perhaps the notion that a woman is capable of being a Grandmaster is appealing to me – martial arts being mostly dominated by men, almost exclusively for centuries in China – and I am all about women’s empowerment.

Here are some of the lessons I learnt from watching ‘Ip Man 3’ and some commentary/trivia related to the movie, to share with you:

1) Martial arts is not about fighting and being that bad ass. Knowing when to use it is just as important as how.

2) Yip Man sums it up best, for qualities in a true martial artist – Simplicity, Patience, Compassion. These virtues were demonstrated frequently in the movie. I should remember to practice these virtues more frequently…

3) “Use your martial skill for the good of humanity” Yip Man had supposedly said. Again, this lesson of doing good or contributing positively for humanity, no matter how big or small, is something we should take heart.

4) Donnie Yen can fight and look hot in traditional Chinese clothes.

5) Whoever the plastic surgeon was who did work on Donnie’s face, this doctor is pretty good; I remember being startled seeing the double eyelid work many years ago during a close up of him in the cinema and I still remember the exact scene where he was soaking in a wooden hot tub (yup, you can see everything in high definition).

6) Mike Tyson was a BEAST in this movie. He reminds us that he was a true world champion boxer and he still has the power and skills.

7) I must admit that I chuckled when I read a back story that Mike injured a finger while filming the fight scene – oh come on, people do get injured in action movies…

8) Seriously, respect (with fist bump to the heart) to Mike for speaking Cantonese, which by the way, sounds better than my attempts; this man won back my heart when he sang in the ‘Hangover’ movie and he continues to amaze me as he leaves his troubled past behind.

9) Way back in the day when Mike was dating or married to Robin Givens, I remember seeing a picture of her in the tabloids and got excited – she wore the exact same pair of Dior sunglasses I had (which I still own).

10) The actress who played Ip Man’s wife is not outstandingly pretty. Yeah, ok she played a sick woman, but I cannot see her appeal. Apparently she is Aaron Kwok’s ex-girlfriend (and if you don’t know who he is, please look up this Heavenly King! He is one of my favorite few Asian men/actors).

11) The kid who played the son was super irritating when he kept crying so loudly. As the supposed son of a kung fu master, shouldn’t he be braver? My Mom explained to me that the boy was still young and it was ok to be frightened. While I see her point, I am unable to comprehend why the kid had to keep wailing for such a long – and I mean a distractingly irritatingly looooong – time.

12) Compare that pathetic kid to the child version of an Aaron Kwok character in one of my favorite Chinese movies, ‘Storm Riders’. That kid did not even react when his father and the entire clan were murdered before his eyes. Solid stone cold.

13) Apparently Yip Man’s two sons served as advisors for this movie; I wonder if they are as extraordinary as their father.

14) Yes, Yip Man was a REAL person! So was Wong Fei-Hung.

15) I wonder where they shot the part where Ip Man fought the Muay Thai fighter; was it an old building that still exists or a set that was built? The attention to detail was superb, from the old fashioned elevators to the small tiled floors and walls.

16) A lot of the décor in the movie was nostalgic and charming, especially the wrought window grilles.

17) Cheongsams are not only for slim fit women; fat women can wear it and look good too.

18) Did Yip Man smoke in real life?

19) I wonder where those Chinese single day tear away calendars originated from and who invented them. My grandmother is so traditional, she insists to have at least one set every year at home. And it must be decent sized (at least half an A4), not one of those small dinky ones, as the small font makes it too difficult to read.

20) Triads and martial art groups still exist in Hong Kong today as it did back in the 1950’s. I wonder what is the current relationship between these two factions.

Ip Man 3: What I learnt from this movie