Friday, December 20, 2013

Sounds like a plan

St Google, patron saint of the interwebs, has said that in walling away one's heart against sorrow, one also runs the risk of shutting off any lurking joy or any chance encounter with happiness.

At times I am not sure that it is such a bad trade off.

As I think of reinvention, I wonder what is it that I need to change. Who is it that I want to be.

I think often of the fool's errand of hoping a different result by doing the same things. Hence by deduction, the only way I can live differently is by doing the opposite of what I tend to. Or more extremely, being a different person than I was before.

I came across an old letter I wrote but didn't post to a friend in HK. Written more than 11 years ago, I was saddened that it ranted about more or less the same issues of low esteem, of desperation for acceptance, of not applying one's self and the lack of courage. How clueless i was and how lowly I aspired.

I still can relate to that frightened young woman. She has never truly grown up or grown out of her insecurities because she never really had to. Until now.

Soul searching has never been easy for the lost especially when the spirit and compass are broken.

My habit of relinquishing decision making to others is a thinly veiled ceding of responsibility stemming from a dislike of making the wrong decision and having others blame me. Apparently I dislike being unpopular hence I take no chances and stand on the fence. Unconfrontational and eager to please, I let people use and step all over me, thinking that I am being kind and accommodating. A fool and a doormat. Neither heard nor respected. Wearing my heart on my sleeves.

Hence the first course of action is to kill that weakness. I found out the hard way that in the end, nobody would stick up for me. My battles are my own and I have to wield my axe and be my own hero.

Second, to never expect kindness or charity repaid. It should be dispensed for its own sake to the deserving. People will judge and precious few would offer empathy when tables are turned. Harsh but my first priority is to safeguard my own interests and protect my own happy. unless its for dogs, then provide freely.

To stop worrying about other people's feelings especially to those who have not extended the same courtesy. To collect whatever that is left of my pride and nurture it back to life. Nobody respects a weeping mess.

To make decisions and bear responsibilities. Be it financial investments or dinner.

To have courage against loneliness and rejection. this basically means getting a dog.

This does sound like i am turning into an ice queen. For now perhaps that is what I need to be. Being an emotional mess has not done me any good in the past few months. Now by sealing off the emotions I can get back to functioning again. At least that is the plan.



39 Degrees North: Nicholas Was from 39 Degrees North on Vimeo.



In my last post I referenced being enough. The fallacy that being who you are is good enough is perpetuated by well meaning parents (well some anyway), feel good gurus and a beauty industry that can't make up its mind whether it is selling to normal women or destroying them.

The preoccupation about weight and looks both disturbs and disappoints me. More so now than ever in my life. People are shallow despite whatever intellectual veneer they put on. It is hypocrisy when they themselves cannot claim to any outstanding intellectual or physical superiority.

As I am coming to grips with reality, I get more 'truth' and 'advice' thrown at me. The last thing I ever expected is to be told that I need to go on a diet, that I will have a chance to succeed. That I am SO fat. That I don't qualify as attractive.

Yes it hurts. For one's self to be reduced to a dress size to be worthy. And I don't buy into the faux concern of "its only to be healthy" crap because I don't see anyone asking about my mental health or creatinine levels.

Despite the magazine articles that say girls should have a positive self image, the reality is that if she does not fit a certain size, she would need a gigantic personality to make it up. Or money.

Men can look like Larry King and still marry a Playboy bunny. I am sure they click on an intellectual level.

It is not that I have been ignorant to this truism but what I didn't expect was the people I actually once respected and thought to be above this rubbish are the ones dishing it out.

So it is then. The way the cookie crumbles.

Judging and disdain can go both ways. people forget that beauty wanes, money dries up and youth fades.

I would be waiting. With "advice" ready and blades sharpened.


The Forest for the Trees

Lying with my back on the ground, to my left and right, the trees tower so tall. Like redwoods. And the cacophonous wilderness chatter chatter chatter curious, jeering, encouraging, judging.. Or are they sounds echoing in my head.

Like Enid Blyton's Enchanted Forest ..they go Wisha wisha wisha..wish a..?

Wish that I am enough, with my strengths and mostly failings. Yet it appears being human is the one thing that we have to guard ourselves against.

Wish that I can accept things that I can't change. That burying the dead is not so hard.

Wish that courage can be found in facing an uncertain future.

Wish that when the sky fell, the moon and stars didn't all fall in together and bury me further into the dirt.

Wisha wisha wisha

So now that I have to wriggle my toes and climb up again, I don't know which way anymore. All lessons learnt only make me suspicious of the world and people and my own choices.

This week I awoke with a distinct fear that I may not live. It is one thing to contemplate ending one's life, which admittedly is a popular pastime with the morbidly depressed, but to actually face with its actual possibility, it's a different kettle of mackerel altogether. To die on one's terms is presumably preferable to having it imposed on one, which would leave most people quite annoyed and indignant no doubt.

A fear then sets in. Not so much of the end itself but all the things left undone. Suspending Belief for just a second, contemplate the chance that there is no rebirth, kingdom of god, spirit world - assuming just for a little while that THIS is all you have, the fear and regret that time has been squandered in procrastination can be quite moving. Of course I can't speak for everyone. Some are very happy with their mark in life - be it beautiful offspring or sponsoring clean water in Rwanda, legacies and life experiences make time on earth worth something.

My past 10 years have been mostly about existing. Easing myself in a work-life environment where I thought would eventually lead to a house with a picket fence, kids terrorising the dog in the yard, friends over for currypuffs, annual holidays to play snow or ride elephants, you know, a domestic goddess, the hostess with the mostest. No surprises that I am not living like a Weasley but what on earth made me think that I deserve a story book ending. Fairy tales are cruel things to inflict upon the young and not so young.

I thought that by now I would have everything figured out. I just expected things to fall into place magically as they should. The loud buzzer and red lights flash WRONG and just like vaudeville - a long curved cane yanked me off my feet and deposited me right where I am now.

Its humbling to start back from ground zero again when the redwoods loom above. But maybe its my second chance to start again. Alone and afraid, this time a little wiser of the world.





Wednesday, December 18, 2013


The impermanence of sunlight in London.

Unexpected snow in Lao Cai.

Family members age.

Familiar actors die.

Love fades.

The old gets discarded for the new. Any empty wine bottles for sale?

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Words of the wise

“God uses broken things. It takes broken soil to produce a crop, broken clouds to give rain, broken grain to give bread, broken bread to give strength. It is the broken alabaster box that gives forth perfume. It is Peter, weeping bitterly, who returns to greater power than ever.”

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Life lessons

So ok. I guess we can deduce that I have officially bottomed out, age 36.

Although in all frankness I feel 45. When I do hit 45 i would most likely think this is all rather silly but that's a far away still. It is a sobering thought to wonder if I will even make 45. Touch wood.

"Be who you were 10 years ago" somebody said to me.

Was it bravado or foolishness that set me on my journey across the seas and into time. Oh those were the best years of my life. To be young and not know any better. Bright eyed and bushy tailed. When one did not need the glasses, for everthing was already rose tinted.

Its hard to be idealistic when one then knows better. When the big bad wolves and the psyco axe murderers come for you and pounce when you are not looking. And the rosy hues give in to gun metal grey.

And as a coping mechanism, one stays cocooned in a tiny universe where the predictable is safe. Until of course the gossamer tears and the realities of the world start pouring in. And ones universe implodes with a sudden plop.

It is one thing to be driven by fear in life. Another by regret. I need to purchase a bottle of courage and a vial of recklessness seeing that I have nothing left to lose.


Friday, November 22, 2013

Inception Intervention

The dreams are back.

This time I was in a square surrounded by tall buildings. I was with a friend. It was cold as she had a red scarf on. The weather was grey. It was like a movie shot in instagram.

Then in front of me I saw an abandoned building, with countless people standing within its open collums and walless floors. I sensed that they were protesting about something and then there was a loud cheer and everyone made ready to leave. There was one guy in a sky blue bubble jacket. I could see him from afar.

Without warning the centre shaft collapsed and the man in blue together with the crowd around him plunged down as one by one the floors gave way and we all heard the drop down the stories, through the ground into the basement floors .. falling and falling.

Then the buildings around me started to fall apart, bricks falling like dislodged lego crumbling bit by bit then whole facades collaped down into the square. I lost my friend. Then I realised my mother was with me and I lost her too. And my friend's mother.

All around me people screamed and screamed.

I was there, a participant in the spectacle, watching as the world imploded as though its foundation was rocked by an invisible earthquake.

Then just as sudden I realised that I was now, completely alone. With nothing. And the feeling of helplessness, uncertainty and complete horror of not knowing what to do was so crippling. I woke up shaking and unable to crawl out of bed for a good half hour.

If that was just my dream. I cannot fathom the misery of the survivors of typhoon haiyan.

Then I too despaired.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Lonely tree

There’s a loneliness that only exists in one’s mind. The loneliest moment in someone’s life is when they are watching their whole world fall apart, and all they can do is stare blankly - F.Scott in The Great Gatsby

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Caterpillar looking to be a Butterfly

Helplessness is when you wake up in the morning and for two seconds, lights filters in and then reality hits and your wretchedness fall on you like a ton of bricks and you are pinned down under the weight of all that is wrong with you. The worse part is that you believe all of it and you deserve it. And you lie there staring at the ceiling going through the motions to reinforce why you deserve to feel like this and yet try to find reasons compelling enough to get round to functioning.

At times this takes 20 minutes, at times a few hours.

At these times, the point is existence is questioned and faith dissipates. And you feel beaten. and weak. Forgotten and derided. When the bad has wiped out every thing good. Which contributes to the vicious cycle. And you know that you will always be alone. Even in a crowd. The one outside looking in, with longing and envy.

When I was chided as a child for not having a backbone, little did I know how close to the truth it was. Perhaps some are born with more gumption. But as water eventually erodes the cliffs, human resolve will whittle away eventually no matter how strong. And mine has been flimsy at most. Still how to regain that which has been lost, especially when what is lost is essentially myself?

Friday, November 08, 2013





Every night, I am visited by dreams. And they are anxious dreams, tiring dreams and very often the most violent ones involve water.

Tsunamis are a common theme. Of being trapped with the tidal waves all round and above me, and I wait in terror for the final crash that never comes. In all, the fear is palpable and they linger even when I open my eyes. I don't think I would be any less scared in a real situation.

Yet recently I dreamt of water again. I was at the edge of a very tall rushing waterfall. The spray rendered everything white. Despite the size, it was all silent. I stood at the edge and I threw myself off the cliff. The one time I have ever dreamt of actually meeting the water. And it was peaceful and intentional. I didn't see myself crash at the bottom, but just disappearing in the mist.

I remember thinking, how nice..



Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Perennial questions

I think I must be the most clueless person in the world. I once described myself as a tumbleweed. Many years since then, I am still a tumbleweed. I thought I would have figured it by now. You know. Life.

Most people have, well according what they have been posting on Facebook anyway. Career and offspring feature prominently.

I came across a youtube video of a crying girl asking her teacher why wasn't she not born like everyone else with hearing. Her teacher simply asked her, why be like everyone else.


I guess that is in essence what this conversation is about. How we define happiness and does it fit in with everybody else's. Some say its service to others. Some say its sacrifice for family. Some say one should only live for one's self.


In the end I would say, in all honestly, that I want to matter.

For my life to have meaning beyond being just a face in the crowd, sized up by salesmen if I am worth their sales pitch or by cashiers if I am worth their smile.


Yet even what matters is so personal. In this world, money matters. Image matters. The superficiality matters as much as we want to deny it. My stints in marketing and communication reinforces this. And yet it feels shallow to want to matter to people who care for so little.


All round I hear how people are reduced to dollar values and the spirit counts for small change. The increasing number of feel good sites and forwarded inspiring stories fill the holes in our hearts because as a community we are running low on faith and hope. We all crave for good news.

How can someone with so little courage dream of making a difference. I guess I should try to start small.

I have the rest of my life to wing it. A tumbleweed looking to bring meaning and to actually matter. Sounds so crazy it may even work.



Friday, October 18, 2013

People Watching

After months of solitude, the hermit has had enough of her own company (God, is she depressing). I have since christened my neighbourhood Starbucks as my office. Wifi, caffeine and many a distraction. What's not to love (besides the coffee).

Hipsters bump chairs with insurance sales people who try to talk above the loud businessmen with their mobile phones - oblivious to the student looking to stay as long as she can with her homework and a tumbler of discounted Americano.

My least favourite patron is the loud contractor businessman who unabashedly suck up to Datuks and in a heartbeat spew insults into his Samsung handheld presumably to some underling. Yes la. We know you are important hot shot la. Ok, so its a million dollar deal. Still not your money right?

Which makes me wonder if this is the real face of business in Malaysia. That it is brash and loud and manipulative. The sub-prime mess was a result of an unconscionable Wall Street yet I am not sure if lessons are suitably learnt.

The rethoric of all encompasing economic reform is jarringly different from the financial pages which still is all about one upmanship - how do you make more money, safeguard your intrest and get ahead of everyone else.

While our social entreprenurs talk about sustainability and social responsibility, a running theme in every feel good TedTalk there is, our bankers are still telling us how to run our businesses and build debt, governments tell us how to live our lives (chicken too expensive, dont each chicken lah) and society still reveres the financial tycoon who fights tooth and nail to delay the implementation of minimum wage.

I reject the notion that making money has to be at the expense of society. Microfinancing and crowd sourcing are wonderful new paradigms that make up today's economic and social narrative. It still begs the question of how many of our current industries will support and participate in a new economy where there is no place for corruption and old world bad behaviour. I feel my MBA materials are obsolete already.

The businessman with the Samsung handheld looks at me and shifts his eyes. Somehow I am not feeling optimistic.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Once Upon a Time

Once upon a time, I was called a Wordsmith.

Perhaps it is time to be called one again.

Friday, October 11, 2013

What Does Travel Mean to Me? Good Question.

I just found out that Tourism Selangor is running a competition surrounding  What Travelling Means to You. This is just as I am compiling an account of a family trip to the East Coast of Malaysia.  While timing is extremely tight, I am nevertheless intrigued by the question.

Despite being a pedestrian all my life, I have been so fortunate to have had the opportunity to travel quite extensively, being allowed to share space, breathe in new surroundings, learn about people and have them change me in return. 

It is rejuvenating as it is humbling. It is a reminder of how I am a citizen of the world and yet how little I am. 

The meaning of travel has changed for me personally throughout the many years. 

Travel is putting myself out there and saying "show me. I am here to learn".  

It started as unadulterated awe of being able to bear witness to monuments that only seemed to exist in dog-eared Sejarah textbooks. Let me tell you a secret. I actually felt woozy when I stumbled upon the Hammurabi Code of Law at the Louvre, a long long way from Taiping, Perak.  It was awesomeness overload. Plus a confirmation of my geek-hood. 

Yet looking back now, my best memories are those  simple, unexpected and emotional connections to places and people encountered along the way.  

My best recollection of Seville is having the bar patrons laugh when I professed that my future profession was to be an Avocado as oppose to an Abogado thereby reducing my legal ambitions to a pear. From maneuvering a gridlocked roundabout in Dhaka to feeding eagles over an emerald sea in Langkawi, the emotional associations are so palpable, they remain surreal and larger than life, long after the Polaroids have faded. 

Which brings me to the conclusion that when I or anyone else for that matter travel, we don't just visit, but we bring the location and our hosts back with us - the joy as well as the heartbreak, the beauty and the tragedies. It demonstrates our capacity for compassion, it allows us to understand and it spurs our aspirations, so we end up learning about ourselves as much as we do our destination.

Upon my travels end from abroad, I absolutely love coming home to be greeted with the cheery "Selamat Pulang ke Tanahair". More than anything, travel never fails to remind me of where my heart truly is. 

Friday, September 20, 2013


You don't experience rain when you live in an apartment. Not really. Sure you hear the wet pattering against the roof tiles and rattle of window panes rapped by wind and water. Yet being 22 storeys high, you hear the descent in full glory yet never the impact. No heavy sploshing of water hitting the ground, no cacophony from a torrent crashing against cement floors, car hoods, rubbish bins and wooden doors.

You would miss out on the after-glow as well. No intoxicating breeze of newly shiny grass or even the sticky steaming damp rising from a drenched lawn or puddled tar road. No crumpled newspaper boats in the longkangs, long way from home.

When it rains, here in my box in the sky, I only hear the fall of heaven, not the embrace of the earth.

Maybe its time to make my way home.


Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Blogging is dead

Well that's what people are saying. As attention spans shrink and content expand, who has time for long posts? People who write them that's who.

So yeah. Here I iz. I am still seeking. Seeking what there is to seek. The usual suspects: Purpose, sanity, redemption, glory and world domination. One would think that I would have found it by now but then I suck at keeping my head above water long enough.

There will be some changes in the blog in the weeks to come. I have an exam in a couple of weeks and I am running out of distractions hence this is it.

Lets hope these crusty fingers can still scratch out an awesome analysis of why our economy is going to the dogs.  Actually WRITING answers is so stoneage. 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Older and wiser, we hope

I celebrated my birthday this week. This prompted a good deal of self reflection. My 2013 LE1 exercise.

In short, I am yet the woman I aspire to be. That much I know.  

The feeling of being a lesser person for not being true to myself has been gnawing at me for the best part of the last 2 years.  I am one of those hand-wringing, eyebrow-furrowing matrons who try too hard because I didn't think I deserved anything if I didn't pay a price for it.  So I kept paying and paying fearing that if the hamster wheel stopped, so would everything good in my life.

Fear’s best bedfellows are of course anger and hate. This may explain why I believe that in a parallel universe, I make a kick-ass Sith Lord.

But Darksides aside, the soalan cepu emas remains - how does one begin all over again with all this hard coding.  Doing the same things expecting different results is the proverbial fool’s errand, especially if its something so personal as finding purpose and redemption.

So this year I made the biggest decision of my career - by putting the breaks on it.  It has taken every ounce of courage, optimism and faith to leap without a parachute.  

Still, despite the struggles within, it would be ungrateful to not acknowledge that I have been blessed, painful mandible not withstanding. 

So back to the list, here is what I learnt when I was 35:
·         Toxic people are infectious.  They turn you into them with time, just like zombies. RUN.
·         Let sleeping dogs lie.
·         The biggest problems are ones that blindsides you on some idle Tuesday (nod to Baz Luhrmanm here). So don't sweat the small stuff. And that includes laundry. 
·         Always keep a hot pack and a cold pack at home.
·         Man proposes, God very quickly disposes.  So PRAY.
·         Putting together a perfect suji cake and devil curry.
·         Never put up with people who won’t respect you as a person. This includes people you had a high regard for. 
·         Don't owe anyone an apology. Freaking stop with the sorrys already.
·         Happiness is an autographed Neil Gaiman book. Gloating euphoria is TWO!
·         If you wrap sprigs of mint in a wet paper towel and stick them in a ziplock bag in the fridge, its stays fresh for many cups of tea.
·         Darjeeling dust direct from India tastes superior to the packed rubbish from England
·         Love and respect are not entitlements, but rewards. Dispense wisely.
·         Never be afraid to ask questions at the risk of looking like a fool.
·         Never enter a store sale when you are broke. You WILL find something you can’t live without which your conscience will not let you buy. Don't seek heartbreak.
·         When on tour, eat where the tour guide eats, not where the rest of the tourists go.
·         From Dhaka- do not let despair blind you to what beauty lies within.
·         From HY, everything is a choice.  Including happiness.
·         Articulation and mastery are the keys to greatness.
·         Professionalism is a concept. Personalities rule, from the guardhouse to the top floor corner office. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
·         Everything is a sales pitch.
·         Guilin is beautiful.
·         P1 is incompetent and a corporate bully.  I hope the company collapses and directors be made personally liable.
·         Do not engage with angry activists/politicians/office warriors in love with their own voices. They are blinkered to only one point of view.  
·         Whittard teapots remain gorgeous.
·         Smiling is the most elegant way of baring teeth. So smile at thy enemies.
·         You cannot support others when you need supporting yourself
·         The Mahabaratha is epic! heh.
·         Do not procrastinate with what you want to do when you are still able to. Life is unpredictable and too short.  

Sunday, January 13, 2013


And it is 2013. It feels like a watershed year. Spent the tail end of the previous year working over my master plan and am now spending most of the time working up the courage.

Fragility and frailty of life as experienced by the people I know and of the people I have met, all make for uncomfortable reminders of mortality. Sickness, breakdowns and deaths - seeing the circle of life played out accords little comfort to fellow journeymen, and dont we all have our one-way tickets.

As years blur into each other, time takes liberties on the body, mind and spirit. And as so often happens to the middle aged, we collect responsibilities as we once we collected dreams. Being trapped by fear and duty, it becomes easy to justify the paths not taken.

Tolkien articulates this best as Lady Eowyn describing her fear

A cage. To stay behind bars, until use and old age accept them, and all chance of doing great deeds is gone beyond recalls or desire

A bit high brow to be quoting Tolkien so early in the year. Still its the hallmark of bonafide geeks who don't go out much. I digress.

But it's one thing to be knowing yet another to be doing. And deciding. A career change, going back to school or fleeing to the hills, I would have the priestesses of Delphi on retainer if they still existed.

The most debilitating human ability next to worry is regret. And I have made oscillating between the two close to an art. More than stressful work, I am quite convinced that an idle mind will send me rolling into the grave much sooner.

Still here I am. Like a boulder at the edge of a precipice. Brimming with potential energy yet too weighed down to fly off the cliff. Perhaps all that is needed is a swift kick.