Tag Archives: living

Tenderness

It was not the dazzling show of virtuosity, or the lightning-speed passages which captivated my physically tired self on a Friday evening.

It was the second movement of Mendelssohn’s First Piano Concerto which had me feeling most moved, most emotionally engaged, and most present.

It was when I heard and saw the notes from the piano emerge – featherlight tones, their sound ringing out to reach the deepest recesses of the concert hall. They carried with them emotion, multitudes of subtlety within their frequencies. And I felt my inner world move with them, sighing with them, feeling more anchored with them than with the booming bass and dazzling melodies of the opening movement.

And I found myself thinking about how rare it has become for our world to appreciate and embrace such tenderness. Which is probably why we need music (and art) like that to remind us. To remind us of the beauty and necessity of tenderness.

What can we do to cherish more of such tenderness?

What can we do so that being soft-spoken and non-assertive are not seen as negative, weak traits, but part of a larger, beautiful and accepted self?

Perhaps, as with most changes we want to see, it’d have to begin with ourselves.

 

Lessons From July: A Good Struggle

2 days late, but I was writing in my journal on the 1st of August and came up with a few things that July has taught me, and thought this main one to be blog-worthy.

The lesson on The Struggle and The Emerging… and the Going Back Again.

Yes, struggles like these are probably never going to completely go away. We find periods in our lives where we seem to be sinking into them uncontrollably, and by some stroke of luck and seeming effort, emerge from them thinking ourselves to be stronger than before, only to be immersed in the struggle again, once something else happens.

I’m referring to the struggle with self-doubt, of course.

And if there’s one thing July taught me, it’s that this struggle is truly necessary for reflection and growth. In fact, I should be worried if I don’t feel any struggle and am completely comfortable. Because it’d mean that I’m not pushing myself, that I’m not being stretched, that I’m not growing. In work or in my personal development.

The fact that I see my struggles as negative when they occur does not mean that they truly are. Just like we hate the bitter medication we have to take when prescribed, but when we’re well we look back and see how we couldn’t have gotten better without enduring and going through the medication process. Something like that.

The going through of the struggle also showed me how much I want to continue to do what I do, IN SPITE of the difficulties. It did not trigger in me feelings or thoughts of wanting to quit, or give up, or just let things be. It triggered in me the persistence to think of new ideas, to infuse new life into my approaches and interventions, and to put in more efforts to make the necessary connections and to develop the confidence I need to speak about what I do. The struggle did all that. And I am thankful.

I’m sure the next wave of self-doubt will come soon enough – there seems to be no lack of that in our world. Let’s hope that I’ll remember this lesson, on the value of a good struggle.

 

To Know What We Want

On a Friday evening, I met up with an ex-colleague. And we talked about the usual things. And among the things we spoke about, I realised one thing.

Knowing what you want to do with your life is a great privilege.

It’s so easy to assume that everyone knows what they’d want to do with their life. Who wouldn’t know what they want?

But the truth is that it’s much easier to know what we want at the material level than at a deeper level. It’s easier to decide what kind of movies we want to watch, which brands of clothing and bags we like, than to know what moves you, motivates you, and inspires you. And to have the circumstances to realise our aspirations are even more rare.

So today, I am thankful for the simple fact that I know what I want to do with my life (for now), and that I am equipped to live closely aligned enough to those aspirations.

Perfection will never be permanent, and maybe all we will ever have are glimpses of it. But knowing where we are in proximity makes all the difference.

What’s Your Grief?

It was a staff training workshop. The social worker conducting introduced the topic as “Relating to parents of children with special needs”. She spoke about the grief process, and correlated that to the grief which parents of special needs children experience too, as they deal with the loss of the “ideal”, “normal” child, and have to cope with a special child instead.

One of the activities we were asked to participate in is to come to terms with an aspect of the grief or loss in our lives, to use that as a stepping stone to which we can empathise and relate with the parents. We were each given a small piece of clay to work with.

“What does your grief look like?” We were asked, after the lights were dimmed and we were asked to close our eyes to sink into a reflective mood.

I spent the first few minutes of this trying to think of a time of grief and loss in my life. Yes, we lost my grandfather a few years back, but that was not grief. Maybe… the lost of a friendship? But… I think I had gotten over that pretty concretely too.

And then it came to me: What about the loss of Self?

That thought immediately opened the floodgates of memory, to all the times I had to purposely lose my authentic self because I felt she was not good enough, all the times I felt that the self within had to be pushed into a closet and not shown to the world. All the times I had reprimanded that self and asked why can’t you be better, why can’t you be more “normal”?

And while some losses are experienced once, there are also losses that fall into the recurring category. And I think the loss of self is one of them. Recurring on a daily basis, sometimes several times a day.

Every morning, especially on work days, I intentionally lose a part of Self. The part that I might not be too confident about. The part that I feel the world might not accept. The part that is deemed “not as useful” in the “real world”. For practical purposes, I lose my Self.

And I don’t think I’ve ever grieved over it, though from the thought processes then I think I would really like to and it also felt like I needed to.

By this time, the clay in my hands had become a little box.

Probably the box I put my self in whenever I feel that she’s not needed in the world. When she needs to make way for the masks, the little wayangs, the occasional show of extroversion.

And somehow, holding that box in my hand, giving a form and structure to my loss, did help. At the very least, it got the thoughts going.

“Now, mould your clay to represent how you might cope, or have coped, with your loss or grief.”

It didn’t take me too long to follow that one.

The box emerged with wings at its sides.

For her to take flight. Maybe she hasn’t really dared to come out yet. But when she does, hopefully she’ll see the wings there, ready and waiting for her to take and use them, and she’ll soar high above, unafraid of the world seeing her for who she really is.

Maybe. One day.

Times Have Changed

It was Labour Day, and we as a family had gone out for a morning stroll at the waterway behind our house.

It was my suggestion. Mum supported it, as she always does when it comes to “healthy activities”, AKA opportunities for Dad to exercise.

Well our stamina didn’t even last even 30 minutes. As we neared a public transport – the LRT – we happily hopped on and headed for the nearest mall, where we proceeded to enjoy a second breakfast at MacDonald’s. We had a good laugh over our “token walk” on a public holiday, and reminisced over childhood memories related to Mac breakfasts.

It was there where Dad made his poignant comment: “Times have changed. In the past you 2 (referring to the brother and me) would be sitting down at MacDonald’s while I went to order. Now I get to sit while you all go order and collect the food.”

It was true.

Mum had also made a similar comment before, saying how when we were young it was the parents who brought us out and around, and now we are mainly the ones bringing them to new places, deciding where to eat and where to go on family outings.

It really is an allusion to the passing of time. The inevitable growing up of children you once fed with your hands. The undeniable aging of parents who were once towering over you and carried you in their arms while you slept (or pretended to sleep) on their shoulders. The cycle of life. The surreal reality of life.

And through it all, a reminder to cherish the moments we have.