Thursday, October 19, 2006

Winds of Change

Wow! What a ride!! Over the past few months, I have experienced some life changing moments that has rendered me wordless. Whatever that I have known for sure the whole of my life about myself, is all gone. Everything that was right side up is now upside down. Currently, I have a surmountable urge to delete all my past blog entries in my archive, because they are not about me anymore. The person that I was then has ceased to exist.

I believe that God allows things to happen for a reason. I can feel the winds of change blustering all around me and the people in my life, bringing inexplicable occurrances, leaving a trail of confusion in its path. And because I am in the middle of the storm as well, I couldn't be there for those who sought my guidance in their time of need for directions. I have lost my bearings. I have lost me...

However, I am learning new things lately. God is replacing my old knowledge with new ones. I have gained better insight of myself and have learnt that there are no guarantees in life. There are no definites, except for those preordained by God. For those who have yet to be blown away by the winds of change, they simply stand there, watching the rest of us with critical and judgemental eyes. They deem us as weaklings, stupid and shallow minded. That is the way of the human mind. They judge others by their behaviours but they judge themselves by their own intentions. But I truly believe that when the winds of change hit them, it will bring empathic understanding and insight for them. And then they will regret every bad thought they have ever had about others. I know that for sure. Because I have been there.

It is easy for us to be envious of people who we think have it all. They seem to glide through life like as if they are on some golden, buttery road in heaven. Everybody wants what other people have. Only the good things, mind you. They don't want problems and warts. They think they have enough of that on their plates. But since nothing in life is free, and that everything that is worth your while involves a sacrifice of some sort, everyone who is contemplating and reflecting on their lives should consider this statement by Gandhi:

"There are times when you have to obey a call which is the highest of all, i.e., the voice of conscience even though such obedience may cost many a bitter tear, and even more, separation from friends, from family, from the state to which you may belong, from all that you have held as dear as life itself. For this obedience is the law of our being."

The emotional roller-coaster ride for me has yet to grind to a halt. I am still waiting for the next swerve and dips. Although at this point of time, I feel like a complete oaf, screaming my lungs out when I dive into the lowest lows and sigh a big relief when I feel safe again, I am being watched by the eyes of the world. After learning from what I am going through now, I'm not sure whether I can bring myself to watch when it's their turn to ride on the roller-coaster called the winds of change.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Humility

Humility might be defined as taking one's true measure" and then not hiding from the truth of that realization. Humility, is a state that is achieved, not through practice, but through awareness.

Benjamin Franklin, at one point in his life, made it a practice to work on one virtue each week. He was making excellent progress, he felt, in his self-development until he worked on humility. What he found was that, as often as he practiced, and made himself more conscious of humility in his life, the prouder he became of his own progress.

What then is your true measure? In the context of this world, you are one among billions, here for but a single breath. You matter to very few people, and even the few who know you may think about you seldom.

Without humility, we can be as puffed up about ourselves as the gnat in the following story: A self-important gnat, having raised his family for some years in the ear of an elephant, finally decided to move. Shouting at the top of his lungs, he informed the elephant of what was, to him, a momentous decision. The elephant, having previously known nothing of the gnat's existence, made no reply, not wishing to hurt the feelings of his small and totally insignificant visitor.

Even if you see yourself as a part of all creation and lasting for eternity, you, as a single human, are still but a drop in a vast ocean. That ocean is held by gravity to a small sphere orbitting a tiny star among billions of others. Your time as a separate drop, however important you may seem to be in your own world, is so brief that the ocean itself may be unaware of your existence, your forming, or your dissolving.

"All my brothers are better than I!"
"How is that?"
"Every one of them considers me more worthy than himself, and whoever rates me higher than himself is in fact better
than I." - al Ghazzali

Excerpt from Essential Sufism by James Fadiman & Robert Frager

Sunday, October 8, 2006

The Traveller

The traveller on the path to truth must have intelligence, understanding and insight. These are his prerequisites.

"Allah created servants wise and understanding
Who leave the world, the abode of afflictions.
They take to the sea where waves are their only trial,
Where good deeds are ships on which to ride the waves."

The traveller is on the path because there is a place to which he wishes to go. His attention is fixed principally upon that goal, yet he cannot ignore the importance of the preparation for this voyage. When he prepares, he must take heed not to be fooled by the attraction of appearances, and he must not load himself with luggage nor take the stops and stations as his final goal.

The people of the mystic path say that deeds belong to the One who created them. Man is not fully responsible: in his hands deeds may appear other than what they are. Allah says:

"....one is secure from Allah's scheme except the people who have lost everything [and are in total want]." (Sura A'raf, 99)

This is fundamental on this path: to leave all luggage behind and depend on Allah, undistracted by the temptations of the stations on the path. In divine tradition Allah says:

O Muhammad, give the good news to the sinners that I am All-Forgiving. But tell the ones who are truly Mine and sincere in their wish for Me that I am Most Jealous (of anything that they may wish for besides Me).

The miracles that appear through those close to God and the spiritual stations in which they appear are true. Yet, even such people are not safe from Allah's schemes and His tests inciting them to sin - sometimes they are even granted success when they begin to sin, so they think that their states belong to them and that the miracles are theirs. It is only the prophets and their miracles that are free from such tests. It is said that the fear of losing ones faith at one's last breath is the only safeguard that will grant faith at one's last moment.

An excerpt from "The Secret of Secrets" - Revelation of Islamic Sufism & Mysticism by Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani

Friday, October 6, 2006

Month of Temptations

Most people view Ramadhan as a time of fasting, abstaining from eating and drinking and any sexual activities during the day. The enlightened ones embrace this month as a time for bringing themselves closer to their Creator by virtue of controlling their lowly desires and busying themselves with extra religious and spiritual activities to cleanse and enrich their souls. Although the intrinsic value of Ramadhan and what it stands for varies from one individual to another, I found myself looking at me and my life in a very different light than before.

If you were to find yourself lost in the woods and have nothing to eat, you can't actually call it fasting. The difference is too colossal. Fasting is about choices. Everyday we are presented with an array of delicious food (a bigger one is made available to you if you go to a hotel for breaking your fast because you have to pay an absurd amount of money for a large buffet which is impossible for you to sample everything offered to you unless you continuously eat until they chase you out of the hotel!). Even when you go to the Ramadhan bazaar, you have such a wide variety of food to buy home so much so that you are spoilt for choice. But Ramadhan is not just about choices. It is also about temptations.

During other months, we often blame Iblis for tempting us to do things we will often regret. But the thing is, Iblis can only do just that! Attempt to make you do something you are not suppose to do. More often than not, we would succumb to the seduction and live to regret our choices. But every Ramadhan, God promises to chain Iblis and his honchos so that we can have some peace and quiet and proceed to battle on with our lowly desires. We are left with only our desires. This is so that we can understand its characteristics, traits and tricks and learn to withstand and fight our biggest enemy...which is our inner demons. In doing this, we will also get a glimpse of where our strengths lie. With this knowledge, we will be able to administer ourselves better when Iblis is released again.

I can't say that I am immune to the wiles of my nafs. I just try to manage it as best I can. And when my spiritual faith weakens, I turn to God for help and assistance. Truly, we can never win this battle alone. It is easy for anyone of us to view temptation as something that is outside of ourselves. But this is where our achilles heels are. For as long as we are disconnected from our true selves and deny the roles of our nafs in our defeat when dealing with temptations, we will continue to fail.

Since I consider myself as a person that operates on a cognitive level, I decided to employ whatever knowledge that I have to understand my weaknesses and use it to fight my nafs rather than give in. I now understand why certain temptations are just too irresistable to me and with this understanding, I began to see the temptations as it truly is. Trouble! And because I am not willing to face the consequences of bad choices and giving in to it, I don't find it so desireable after all.

I use to wish that I could go into isolation during Ramadhan to get the fullest benefits of it. But that would be unrealistic. After all, Ramadhan is just for a month. What would I do with myself for the rest of the months? It is easy to be steadfast in religious activities in a controlled environment. But the world is not such a place. Therefore, I shall take this month as an opportunity to take a holiday and I shall return to the 'real world' more rested and recharged. Insya Allah.

Truly, there is no might within me except from God. After all, unlike temptations, opportunities only knock once!

Friday, September 29, 2006

As Time Goes By....

After a few days of blogging my latest entry here, I found myself asking a few introspective questions such as "Whose bright idea was it for me to do my Masters Program in Psychology Counseling?" "Why in the world did I decide to become a counseling psychologist?" "What made me do this?" "What am I getting out of this?" " Am I in the right profession?" "Am I doing the right thing?" "Am I any good? And if so, what have I got to show for it?"

I admit, asking myself these questions were a tad too late in coming. After all, in order to gain positively from any introspection, you need to ponder on these questions at a much earlier age and DEFINITELY NOT at the age of 41! However, always the late bloomer that I am, I guess its no surprise to anyone that I only get to this stage of life now.

As I think back to the time when my humanitarian urges pushed me to passionate desire to help and rescue people (apart from the fact that being the first born made me naturally bossy, pushy and demanding), my memory took me back to my early years when I was first presented with the opportunity to give guidance to a young lady whose parents thought that she was a troubled teenager. She was deemed so because she got pregnant out of wedlock by a man who was married....to someone else!

Far from being a judgemental person, I readily helped her by giving her some space in my room (I was still living with my mom) and giving her small doses of advice and guidance daily and nightly, religiously like a prescribed medication. After successfully seeing her through her tumultuous pregnancy and eventual delivery of her baby, I prepared her for independence and let her go on her own way. I haven't heard from her eversince but I never forget to wonder if she is okay now.

Many more years with similar experience ensued continuously from then on and I have never looked back. Luckily enough for me, when I got married to my beautifully noble husband, he was very supportive of my crusade to the point of joining me and sharing my passion with zealous enthusiasm. I swear I don't think I would have been able to do half of the things I've done and helped all those people that needed shelter or help or love or just a little bit of unconditional acceptance without his undying support. He never asked why he should help. He only asked how could he be of help.

Over time, year in, year out, both my husband and I have seen and helped many souls, young and old. We took them into our home and eventually into our hearts. Although the inevitable drop outs are few and rare in between, we have witnessed many succeed in their own lives after leaving our sanctuary. Many have become near and dear to us, sharing our trials and tribulations without a single grumble or sigh of complain.

Most of them had thanked us for helping them through tough times and for making a difference in their lives. Others are quietly grateful and strive to make us proud of them in their own special and unique ways. But little do they know the impact of their presence in our lives. Little do they know how much they mean to us. Little do they know how deeply they had touched our hearts.

It would be a lie if I were to say that they were all stories of success. Some are still struggling to fight their own inner demons and battling the ultimate war with their own lowly desires. But then again, I have never been one to count or value successes superficially. What I value and respect in them is their determination to fight on and strive in improving themselves.

Since most of them were younger than me, they call me kak ana or kakak. When I hear them call me that, it embraces my heart with warmth and sisterly love. If any of them were to read this entry, I want them to know how much they mean to me. I hope that they will understand, in time, how precious their youth is.

It pains me to see some of them meandering through life as if they were tourists, sightseeing in a foreign country, buying insignificant souvenirs just to prove that they were there and coming home only to toss that souvenir away like trash. Life is not about collecting meaningless souvenirs. Life has meaning. A meaningless life is not living. It also pains me to see how some of them continue living their lives selfishly. They only think of themselves and don't seem to give a damn as to how their words and actions affect other people in their lives. They make promises they don't keep and give little value to their ability to speak and communicate. They make words worthless. When they speak, they lie.

However, these rare cases do not represent the angels that has entered my world. There are those that make my heart swell with pride when I see them triumphant in their struggles and actualized their true selves. They go to their destiny with my cheers and blessings.

So, if I was to answer the questions above, I would say this, "It was Allah that put the idea of furthering my studies in my head. I decided to become a counseling psychologist because of those people Allah had sent to me. He has designed me to help people. I do this because I feel sincere with myself, Allah and the people in need, because this is what I was destined to do. I get satisfaction in knowing I can make a difference in someone else's life. Yes, I am in the right profession. Yes, this is the right thing for me to do. Yes, I am good at what I do because Allah has given me all the virtues and characteristics needed to help people effectively and sincerely. And yes, I do have proof to show for it."

I have witnessed how Allah has touched many people's lives through me and my work. And this is what I will continue to do until my dying day. I pray to Allah that when I die, the ones I leave behind will learn from my life on how to live.

"Treat people as if they were what they ought to be, and you help them become what they are capable of becoming."

Sunday, September 24, 2006

What's My Name Again?

Its been a month since I last blogged here and many of those who are fond of dropping in to see my latest entries are beginning to complain. "Apa ni kakak? Dah malas ke?" , they've asked me, laughingly. I wish that was the case... of me being lazy. But the truth is I've been busy like a bee. At least bees produce honey. I have yet to see what will come out of my hectic life style, of late.

Truth is I've started my Masters Program in a local university. And even before I could start my classes, I was offered a job as a consulting counseling psychologist. Add my roles as wife and mother to two young ladies, and you'll be able to imagine how many balls I have to keep juggling in the air!

I was told that this was gonna be a very quiet year for me. As any loyal reader of this blog can remember, a few entries ago, I was bemoaning my bumpy road. But, God has never been one to let me down, and as always He loves to amaze me with His miracles and might. What seemed to be impossible to reach for me was suddenly in my hands, magically. I never had doubts in Him. As for my own judgements, I use to be one that never made a decision without securing all angles.....until now, that is.

No one told me how hard it is to be a student again at 41. No one told me that my brains are capable of going into reverse gear when fed with numbers and statistics! Someone forgot to advise me to re-think my decision to go back to school! At the very least, they could have locked me up in padded room until I came to my senses.

Now, after my last lecture that ends at 7pm on every friday night, my face is the perfect picture of confusion, anxiety, bewilderment, and fear! Sometimes, I forget simple things like my name!! That's how bad it gets when my brains go on reverse gear. I laugh so hard at myself until its no longer funny. Even in my dreams, I am busy with assignments! Talk about "Nightmare on Ara Street." Instead of Freddie Kruger and his screeching long blades as nails, I have Freud and Statistics!! I can't escape from this one. There's only one way to go, and that is straight ahead.

I have never been the kind to run away from challenges. I have every confidence that I will not regret my decision to further my studies. I know for sure that the knowledge I am gaining now will make me more skillful at what I do. I truly believe that I will come out of this a better and wiser counselor.

But meanwhile, I will have to focus my attention on finishing that professor's paper and swatting for my exams in coming November. I guess I won't be enjoying much of Raya this year, although I was looking forward to what's his name coming home from London with his kids. Which reminds me that I need to email something to someone before not sure when. I hope I will remember my name when I sign off.

Which brings me to.....umm....err.... Oh, never mind. I'll remember what I wanted to say tomorrow....I think....Sigh! Good Grief...

Friday, August 25, 2006

Independence Day

Lately, whenever you turn on the TV, you'll be bombarded with all kinds of reminders of the upcoming celebration of our wonderful country's independence day. I must admit that most that I have seen touched my heart so much that it wrings tears to my eyes. I believe that most people would be affected the same way too.

Whenever I look or see something created by God, I am always in awe and questions like "what was He thinking of?" are far from my mind. I never question God for He is All Knowing and Most Beautiful and Most Creative and Most Artistic....this list will go on for as long as anyone would give me the time of day to ramble on. However, when I witness things made by man, acts done by man, creations designed by man, I can't help myself but wonder and say out loud, "What the hell were they thinking?!"

I believe the reason why I'm touched by those ads on TV to remind us of our independence day touched me so because they remind me of how things use to be. Values, the simple way of life, genuine care for each other and the purity of friendship that was once the culture of our nation has somehow evaporated in the heat of all things western and new. Somehow, the price we paid for modernity and so called new age lifestyle has robbed us of our identity. Nowadays, we think nothing of crimes committed that we read in daily newspapers but there are those who feel the urge to travel far and wide to bring aid to those who have their countries attacked by ruthless people who drop bombs like a rain of candies on the innocent.

Where did this indifference come from? Why have we become so unfeeling? Someone on Ally McBeal said,"My problem is big because its mine." I wonder how the world would be like if everyone thinks this way. Oprah once said that the world is the way it is because we allow it to happen. If there's a child out there somewhere in the world who is going to bed hungry or homeless is because we allow it. Because we choose to NOT do anything about it. Sure, I sound idealistic and unrealistic. After all, how can one person save and rescue the world? But do you dare to wonder what would happen if everyone in the world makes sure at least one child goes to bed on a full stomach, in a home eventhough it is just a humble one? What kind of world would we be living in then, if this happens?

William Glasser says that everyone has five basic needs: to love and be loved, to feel worthwile, to have power, to have fun and finally to have freedom. I believe that those who have their basic needs met should at least reach out to anyone who cannot have any of their's met. Don't be complacent just because our country is independent and free from invaders. God forbid, the table can turn anytime and one day we may wake up oppressed by some "bossy" nation. So, show your gratitude by letting the weak lean on you. Say your thanks to God for being fortunate enough to have a choice of where or what you wanna have for dinner. Being independent don't mean a thing until you give something back. After all, isn't random acts of kindness something anyone can afford? Do it while you can. Because one day, it might be you on the receiving end.

Selamat Menyambut Hari Kemerdekaan!

Wednesday, August 9, 2006

Realistic Ideals and Idealistic Realities

Through his theory on Reality Therapy, Dr. William Glasser explains that most negative and/or abnormal behaviours are merely symptoms of unhappiness. This unhappiness stems from many of the basic needs not being met in one's life. In our ideal world, we have significant people in our lives, places and material things and last but not least, our values and belief system. When our ideal world does not match our reality, we will employ all kinds of negative behaviours as a way to control our reality just so that it will match our ideal world. This is called External Control Psychology. Parents scold their children for misbehaving. Teachers will threaten and punish when student don't do their homework. Both parents and teachers can vouch that external control psychology only works for a while. Pretty soon, its effectiveness will wane.

To cite an example of a character taken from a movie, Jack Nicholson's character in "As Good As It Gets" displays symptoms that can be diagnosed as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. He chooses to behave this way, sticking religiously to rituals of latching his door three times, switching his lights on and off three times, and other eccentric looking practices, just so that he wouldn't have the time to dwell on the fact that he has noone to love and noone to love him. He is lonely. What is tragic about this character is that it is based on a real life person! The hassles of performing his rituals daily is nothing compared to the pain of his loneliness.

In my ideal world, my parents are still married to each other, loving each other and our family in perfect harmony. But in reality, my parents divorced when I was just 13 years old. Although they are no longer married to one another, my parents do get along very well. Looks like they are better off as friends rather than as spouses. In my ideal world, my brothers and their families get along famously with myself and my family. But in reality, a few years ago, my brothers and I have had a few clashes. I chose to try depressing, angering and crying. Mind you, none of these behaviours worked! But when I gave up trying to match my reality to my ideals, I felt it easier to accept things as the way they were. And to my surprise, things did work out eventually for all of us. Because I chose to stop trying to control the choices and behaviours of those I love and focused more on controlling my own behaviour and wishing things to be the way i wanted them to be.

This is an example of how we choose our behaviours and the choices we make all in the name of being idealistic. Mind you, there is nothing wrong with being idealistic and having ideals. But it is healthier for us to not behave in ways to control others to behave the way we want them to behave. We get angry with friends, family and children because we hope that our angering will be produce better behaviour from them. That means to be a controlling freak! I admit, for many years, I was just that - a controlling freak. But, thanks to knowledge of psychology and Choice Theory, I have learned that everyone likes to be in control of something or someone, but noone likes to be controlled!

I have learned to accept that although I may have some significant people in my ideal world, it is ok for me not to be in their ideal world. I have come across many people who are often depressed, angry, frustrated and hostile just because their ideals and reality don't quite match. And when they fail to control those they wish to control, the above feelings get magnified a million times. Some of their unhappiness may manifest itself in the form of physical pain that has no physiology to it, i.e; they've gone to their doctors for cures but no medication would work. Aches and pains that has no physiological reasons to them can be termed as fibromyalgia or psychosomatic pains. When they choose to think more positively, they will feel and behave better, and those mysterious aches and pains will magically disappear!

There are those who are close to my heart and mean the world to me who are showing symptoms of unhappiness. They relentlessly try to control those around them and when all else fails, they begin behaving in ways that drive even the most loyal and loving away from them. Sadly, they don't realise what they are doing to themselves. My fervent wish is to be given the opportunity by Allah to help them see themselves and their lives from a different angle.

So, next time when you are feeling angry, upset, frustrated or flabbergasted, ask yourself, "What is it that I really want? Am I hungry or in pain? Whose behaviour is it that I am trying so hard to control? Whose behaviour can I really control? Is this behaviour going to help me get what I want? Is there another behaviour that I can choose that would yield the results that I want?"

Next time a massive urge to control someone other than yourself rises to your throat that makes you wanna just shout in anger, my prescription to you is this: just grab the TV's remote control and switch channels. That way, you won't be chasing all those you love out of your life. And then, only then, will you have all those you love around you and you will feel loved. Below, I have listed out the Seven Deadly Habits that can ruin any relationship and Seven Caring Habits that can enhance and repair any relationship. Give it a go! What have you got to lose?

Seven Deadly Habits:
Criticising
Blaming
Complaining
Nagging
Threatening
Punishing
Bribing or rewarding to control

Seven Caring Habits:
Supporting
Encouraging
Listening
Accepting
Trusting
Respecting
Negotiating differences

"If I choose all that I do, maybe I can choose to do something better."

Saturday, July 1, 2006

In The Light Of HIS Love

He created me out of His Love. He brought me into this world, crying out for His Mercy. He furnished me with the best family and friends, and went on to provide for me in infinite ways. But as I grew up and became more aware of this world and it contents, I forgot him more often than not. However, His Love for me stayed the same. And then one day, something changed. He wanted me closer. Somehow, He wanted more of me.

For the past six years, He has been keeping me close to His side. He kept me on a very short leash and He did it in the name of Love. He taught me how much He loves me. He showered me with intense love that made me cry rivers of tears on His lap. He caressed me with tenderness beyond description.

And today, because of His Mercy, I dance in the light of His Love. Yes, He loves me. He is my first love. He is my only true love.

"Love is to see what is good and beautiful in everything. It is to learn from everything, to see the gifts of God and the generosity of God in everything. It is to be thankful for all God's bounties.

This is the first step on the road to the love of God. This is just a seed of love. In time, the seed will grow and become a tree and bear fruit. Then, whoever tastes of that fruit will know what real love is. It will be difficult for those who have tasted to tell of it to those who have not." - Sheikh Muzaffer, excerpt from Essential Sufism.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Mother's Nature, Father's Time

Last month, we celebrated Mother's day and this month will be Father's Day. Although some may view these celebrations as sales gimmicks for card makers, I beg to differ. Given, there are those who spend money on cards and gifts for their beloved parents and I am sure this practice has brought countless profits for many card and gift vendors alike. I, however, choose to look at these celebrations from a different point of view.

The modern day has designed our lives to be so hectic that even conveniences and appliances such as the microwave ovens and washing machines still render us too busy for simple shows of affections. Of course, I don't even have to tell you how I feel about the recent bout of controversies surrounding showing affection in public in our country. But I still refuse to feel guilty for lovingly holding my husband's hand while walking with him in shopping malls. Subconsciously maybe, I just don't wanna lose him in a mall full of window shoppers.

Spouses aside, the other significant people in our lives are our primary care givers, our parents. We look to our mothers for a sense of security, unconditional love and acceptance, for guidance and wisdom. We can always count on mothers to know their children's shoe sizes and a list of medications and food that we may be allergic to. It is the nature of mothers to nurture and care for their offsprings and are ever willing to jump in front of a moving train just to save their beloved children.

Fathers are our bouncers, making sure we are safe from dangerous predators, teachers of mathematics and science of life and our main financial institution. Many psychological research have yielded results that show when fathers read bedtime stories and be silly with their children, they grow up to be adults that are more eloquent, confident and practical. The world is not such a scary place to live in for a child when the father is always around to ensure the safety and wellbeing of their kids.

Merely saying thank you is not enough to express the multitude of gratitude we feel towards our parents for all the love and sacrifices they have given and done. We always wanna do more but most of us are stumped for ideas as to how we go about doing just that. This is when we cop out by just getting a card and a cheap gift to satisfy our guilt for not spending enough time with them because we have been too busy with our own lives and worries. So, don't blame card and gift vendors. They thrive because of our complacency. They profit because we are always too selfish thinking of ourselves.

We have heard, time and again, that TIME IS MONEY. TIME IS PRECIOUS. If we do indeed appreciate and value our parents, the best gift we can bestow upon them is the thing most precious to all, TIME. When I think back to my childhood days, the most vivid memories are those spent with my parents. Time with my parents became more precious to me when they divorced when I was just 13 years old. My brothers and I lived with our mom and we only got to spend time with our dad on weekends. There are such things as "ex-husbands" but there's no such thing as "ex-fathers". No matter how much time my parents spent with me, it will never be enough. Because, time is indeed precious.

Friday, June 9, 2006

Home And Away

School holidays are here and therefore I predict many parents are going through the frazzled hassles of thinking of ways to entertaining their bored little tots and brooding teenagers with activities that is supposedly to encourage bonding and strengthen family ties. For the life of me, I can't understand why most people would wait for times like these to spend more attention on their children. If real quality attention is given to offsprings daily, I doubt much effort is needed in calling travel agents and going through the rigmarole of traveling to another state or country just to appreciate their own flesh and blood.

I try to focus and give attention to my girls whenever my internal ramblings would allow me to. I'm far from labeling myself as a perfect mother. I'm no Claire Huxtable but then again, neither am I the dysfunctional mom from Malcom in the Middle. But, the main reason my family went to Penang recently was because my soul sister gave me her complimentary 2 nights stay at any hotel in this country. I chose Penang because recently, an old friend of mine had lost his beloved mother and a few days after that he didn't really feel like celebrating his 41st brithday. I wanted to visit him and offer him a shoulder to cry on.

But instead, we were greeted by a wonderful soul whose generous hospitality rendered me humble. He didn't think twice to spend whatever free time he could get from working at his workshop to take us around Penang town and made sure our tummies were filled up to our throats! Penang has changed so much since our last visit there 4 years ago. So much change for such a small piece of land. But our friendship has withstood the test of time and distance.

However, personally, I didn't do anything different from my usual routine when I am relaxing at home. Lying on the bed, in front of the tv, pretending to be Cleopatra. My treats are simple. A good soak in the tub, reading a good book and doing cryptic crossword puzzles. I was so looking forward toward the trip just to meet up with an old friend. But when I was there and after all my initial intentions were done, I had a longing to be home again. I missed my bed, my bathroom, my iMac. I missed drinking decaf coffee from my yellow smiley mug in the mornings. How odd, isn't it? When you're home, you long to get away. And when you're away, you long to be home. The complexities of being a woman, you think?

Although this trip was a real "lonely planet" kind of travel, I felt blessed. I feel like a millionaire because of the friends God has blessed me with. Azuar is my true soul sister. Words are never a necessity, more of an option. We read each other's minds like two psychics! Mohammad is my soul brother. Without his friendship, my life would have been devoid of laughter. These two angels have known me for the longest time. I think they understand me more than I do myself. But what we do offer one another is just by being ourselves. We don't ever have to pretend to be someone we're not. The freedom to be ourselves and the joy of utter acceptance of one another. What bliss!

Azuar lives in KL, therefore we see each other very often although often is never enough. Mohammad lives in Penang and although we see and talk to each other whenever we can, its as if time stood still. The absence is always felt but the presence of one another is always present. Odd but true.

One thing I know for sure is that the reason why we have significant people in our lives and why they are significant to us is because of the way they make us feel about ourselves. No matter where you are, when you have these people around, you are home. And as for my two girls, they enjoyed the "line clear" nasi kandar and the satay celor-celor. They are no longer bored nor brooding. They understand the importance of a good friendship and they look forward to having angels of their own.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

When You Have a Hunch It's Gonna be Good, You're Probably Right

"To love another person is to see the face of God." - Victor Hugo.

"Listening to and following an instinct that things are right is just as powerful as paying attention to a feeling that something is wrong. For instance, you might have the sense after just one date that you will be spending the rest of your life with a certain guy. If that's what your intuition is telling you, it may be true! Women often tell me they realized when they first met their husbands that this was the man they would marry. It happens all the time. If you're going to trust your intuition to tell you when something's wrong, it's also fair to trust it when it's telling you that something is very right.

My sister-in-law knew the minute she met her husband that she was going to marry him. My agent had a strong hunch when he first met his wife that he would marry her. So don't be surprised if you find yourself "knowing" something you can't possibly know - like who you'll be growing old with."

An excerpt from "The Surrendered Single" by Laura Doyle.

Kakak says:

I knew the minute I met my husband that I was going to marry him. We've been happily married for 16 years and been together since 4th january, 1989. Even when I look at other men, I still see my husband's face. What powerful spell he has on me.....or is it just a case of soul mates? What do you think about that hunch you have about that someone? You may be right.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Life is a Roller Coaster Ride.

The last few weeks had rendered me wordless. An experience beyond description.....until now. Somehow, I managed to compose an entry to encompass all that is unspoken.

It started with a fantastic high when I received an offer letter from a local university to do my masters program in psychology. Shortly after that, our pet par-sian cat, Salty, succumbed to chronic pneumonia and liver failure. It was heart wrenching to see him not eat for a week. But, on the eve of his return to his Creator, I went in to whisper a final goodbye to faithful Salty. I assured him that although he was much loved by us, it was alright for him to leave us, if he has to. He died peacefully under the bed in our guest room the next morning. Exactly a week today. I cried hard when I got the news. A multitude of emotions ran amok in my heart; I was sad that he was gone but at the same time relieved that he is no longer suffering. It was a good 5 years with him. He'll never be forgotten by those who loved him.

However, God entertained me with a great comedy skit on the very next day. I was at a seminar with a speaker that blatanly spoke english with broken grammar. I couldn't stop laughing out loud! I tried my very best to stifle my hilarity and save it for the next joke that speaker was gonna crack, but I just couldn't help bursting out laughing. I had such a good laugh that I believe if laughter is indeed the best medicine, I may have cured all my ailments, if any, My best friend tried to convince me to add that speaker's bad grammar to this entry but I fear that it may be contagious! So, I've quarantined his work and hope nobody catches that debilitating hang up.

I likened my past week's esperiences as a roller coaster ride....an emotional one. One moment, I felt devastated that a loved one died and the next moment, I was laughing my heart out. Life is indeed a box of chocolates. You'll never know what you're gonna get.

And as for dessert, it was a lovely chocolate parfait with a cherry on the top! My best friend is on her way to experiencing a miracle happen to her. I pray for her always that she will find her soul mate, as I had found mine in my husband 17 years ago. Its finally happening to her. I couldn't be happier for her. She's my soul sister and now she may have found her soul mate too!

Many don't believe in the concept of soulmates. This is because they have not yet met their's. It's ok. Salty's ok now, i'm ok now. We're all ok now. And when the mundane life kicks us in our guts again, we'll jump in headfirst to change things for the better and dare to dream more. That is not a sign on ingratitude. It just simply means that we are optimistic. We'll do it again and again and again....because love is all we need.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Resilience of the Ice Age Squirrel


Recently, I decided to add Wednesdays as one of my do-not-get-out-of-bed days. Simply because I received bad news even before I could get out of bed and start my day. That day was doomed for gloom for me.

All my life, I've had many challenges and tribulations that may render many maimed for life.That one piece of paper sentenced me to a bleak future.

I don't consider myself a coward who recoils from any form of challenges and obstacles. When significant people tell me to jump, I would never hesitate to ask "How high?". But would you feel when you are asked to jump a certain height and as you're jumping to make the mark, they decided to raise the bar to the point you can't reach it? When such occurrences happen over and over again, during your life span, it is difficult to not feel like giving up.

As I was feeling low and vulnerable, the feeling of imcompetence and inferiority started seeping in through my pores. I resolved to feel redha for whatever He has designed and planned for me. I can do that. But, I also needed to be told what to do next.

Then came the revelation, imbedded in a simple cartoon flick meant for kids. I was given a glance of the Ice Age 2 trailer promo and zoomed my eyes to the tenacious little squirrel and his acorn. I saw how he never gave up getting his hands on that acorn and kept on at it. Suddenly my next move was clear as crystal to me. NEVER GIVE UP ON A GOOD THING!!

Looks like those people who have no faith in me would have to do better than a piece of paper to stop me from my passion! They can either embrace me into their circle and have me as one of the best contributors in the field or they can continue to try to be an obstacle in my path and I will forever be a thorn in their side and the loudest critic to their unproductive and most often self-contradicting ways. Cakap tak serupa bikin!

As far as Allah and my conscience is concerned, I am not committing a sin. I am helping many souls in need of guidance and wisdom and He has given me abundance of those. It would be a sin if I don't help those people when I am capable and willing to do so. How am I suppose to answer when Allah asks me "Why didn't you help them?" I do it in the name of Allah the Most Merciful and Loving and He pays me very well....

So, from today onwards, this little squirrel has become my biggest IDOL! And it will stay that way until I don't need him anymore. Thank you Allah for this wonderous clue. I understand now. Alhamdulillah...

Tuesday, April 4, 2006

Dial M for Marriage

Whaddaya know.... Come this October, my husband and I will be celebrating our 16th year wedding anniversary. Most will consider us lucky to have lasted this long. But to those who know us better, they will sigh a big relief and mutter "Alhamdulillah...". However, my husband and I will still be holding our breaths, palms up in prayers and grounding our feet down to prepare ourselves for many more years of hard work, heavy loving, hundreds of forgiving and wheel barrows of earthly understanding of one another.

My husband and I (henceforth termed as "we") don't believe in luck. But we are staunch believers in The Divine Contract and the concept of soul mates. We believe we are soul mates. We believe that those who don't believe in soul mates haven't met their's yet. When they do, they will.

We believe that hard work means the dance of deflection we tango every now and then, especially when one of us is testing the other's patience, leaving the other feeling like a potential homicidal maniac. We believe in faking forgiveness until it becomes sincere. We believe in transparency in communication but not transparency in items of clothings (except in the privacy of our bedroom, of course!).

Although we can't say that we have the secret of eternal marital bliss, we do try to keep to the basic tips on how to make a relationship work. Here are a few rules for a Happy Relationship. This excerpt was taken from a fantastic book titled The Muslim Marriage Guide by Ruqaiyyah Waris Maqsood:

1. Tell each other you love each other.
2. Never both be angry at the same time.
3. If you have to criticise, do it lovingly.
4. Never bring up old mistakes.
5. Never go to sleep with an argument unsettled.
6. Neglect the whole Dunia rather than each other.
7. Pray together at least once a day.
9. Remember it takes two to quarrel.
10. When you have done something wrong, admit it.
11. At least once a day, say something kind or complimentary to your partner.
12. Do not go to bed more than 10 minutes after your partner.
13. Listen when your partner is speaking.
14. Remember that your spouse is more important than the tv/match/video etc.
15. Notice when your partner is wearing something new, or has a new hairdo.
16. Remember anniversaries.
17. Thank your partner for their gift or effort on your behalf.
18. Last one up, make the bed.
19. Notice when your spouse looks tired, and do something about it.
20. Never run your partner down, or criticise them in public.

And finally:

Good humour sometimes wins battles that force and reason lose.

Patience is the ability to count down before blasting off.

'My wife has a terrible memory; she remembers everything.'

'Spouses have a keen sense of humour; the more you humour them, the better they like it.'

We have to learn to be our best friends, for we fall too easily into the trap of being our worst enemies.

Matrimonial indigestion is something we marry that doesn't agree with us.

Love at first sight is about as reliable as a doctor's diagnosis at first handshake.

When a wife is not talking to her husband, she is trying to tell him something.

Discussion is an exchange of intelligence. Argument is an exchange of ignorance.

A good mother is not a person to lean on, but one who makes leaning unnecessary.

The philosopher who said that work well done never needs doing again, never lived with an untidy spouse or children.

Happiness is getting the tissue out of the box before you sneeze.

and last but not least:

It is impossible to sneeze and keep both your eyes open at the same time. Don't believe me? Look forward to the next sneeze and see if you can keep your eyes open!

The point is, my fellow humans, although some of us have mastered the skill of multi tasking, to get anything done well, we need to focus. What you choose to focus on will determine the success or failure of your relationship.

Friday, March 24, 2006

A Measure of Faith

Recently, I had the pleasure of watching a rerun of Simon Birch. For anyone who hasn't seen this movie, I truly recommend this flick. It's about a little boy who was born so small that all his mother had to do to deliver him during labour was to sneeze! Although this movie was not based on a true story, I was inspired and moved all the same.

This story magnified the sins of a society that judged a book by it's cover. Simon was sadly misjudged and unappreciated by his community and those who were suppose to be significant to him - his parents. They didn't care for him because of his deformities. But God's love for him reached him anyway through his best friend Joe and Joe's mother. Wanna know why? Because the same society was also judging Joe and his mother. Joe was born out of wedlock and no one knew who his father was. Except for Joe's mother, of course, who took that knowledge to her grave. Simon helped Joe discover who Joe's father was, in the end.

But what was intriguing to me was the amount of faith Simon had in his Creator. He believed that his deformities were for a reason. He believed in the Divine Design. He believed that everything and everyone was created for a special reason. Simon blatantly pointed out, even to those who were not willing to listen to him, that God has nothing to do with bake sales or a priest sharing coffee and doughnuts with his parish. He also pointed out that faith is not about where you pray but it's about whether you believe that God is actually listening to you when you are praying. When he was told to go pray in a corner as a punishment for speaking out his mind, he said that faith had nothing to do with the floor plan! I laughed out loud at the courage of this little mite and quietly wished that I had half the guts he had to speak his mind.

It is easy for people to believe that someone has faith when they dress the part. But the devil can dress the part too! However, there is something that the devil had sworn he can't do, and that is to sway a heart that is filled with faith and sincerity. So, when you have faith and sincerity in your heart, half the battle against the devil is won. The other half, is left up to you. When you decide that you believe, then you will and you become a believer. Now, what you choose to do with that faith is the thing that determines how close or far you are from your true self and God.

Tuesday, March 7, 2006

Speaking of Integrity

"It's important that people know what you stand for. It's equally important that they know what you won't stand for". These are words of Mary Waldrop and I agree with her.

A few weeks ago, I decided to open a profile on myspace.com to promote better behavioral health among youths and matured adults alike. The experience that was waiting for me didn't meet my expectations. I began to receive all kinds of emails and friends requests from a myriad of types of people. I have to admit that some of these personalities scared me stiff! I mean, some of them had some porn pictures attached to their profiles. Obviously they were swingers on the look out for a romp in the hay with someone who might be on the look out too! But the thing is, I AM NOT! I received one particular email from a young man who wanted to befriend me. I replied saying that I don't mind for as long as he doesn't mind being friends with a 41 yr old married women with two teenage daughters. His reply was, "Does'nt your husband mind?"

I went on to explain the reasons for me setting up a profile at that site and that my husband totally supports my career and my intention of promoting behavioral health. I also told him that if it wasn't enough for him to consider me like a kakak to him, then maybe he needs to look else where. I also chided him lightly that maybe next time he shoud read the profiles of all the people he wants to befriend and make sure that they are single and available before taking the next step. I don't know. Maybe there are many married people who are still on the look out for better mates, but I ain't one of 'em.

Most of my counseling clients are couples with marital problems. There was even one husband who came to me to ask for my approval to divorce his wife because he has another woman on the side. I told him that he was acting irresponsibly and that if he wants to pull the trigger to ruin his marriage, he wasn't gonna get my approval for it. He stopped coming for counseling because I was honest enough to point out his lack of responsibility and he wasn't ready to face the reality of himself. I have no regrets as to how I handled that particular client. His wife is doing very well without him. And that in itself is the best reward I got out of that experience.

Many are afraid to stand their ground and stick to their principles of right and wrong when the so called perpetrator is someone close to them. But this is how integrity is measured. Because, at the day of Judgement, we will not be asked what we have read, but what we have done. There is no right way to do something wrong. No matter how you think about it, you will agree, too.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Dreams Do Come True



Ever since I was 5 years old, I use to follow my dad to his rehearsals with the RTM Orchestra. I use to dream of one day having the opportunity to sing with an orchestra with my dad as the conductor. Seeing all the big stars singing beautifully accompanied by a big orchestra always made me green with envy.

People who say that dreams do come true are often called optimists. Pessimists are those who never saw their dream materialize. Some believe that luck plays a big role in making dreams come true. I use to be one of those people. However, my idol, Oprah Winfrey educated me otherwise. She says that Luck is when Opportunity meets Preparation. God just proved to me, recently, that Miss Winfrey was right.

At the end of my 40th year, after 35 years of waiting for the opportunity, my years of preparation proved worthwhile when I was asked by my dad to sing a few songs for his tribute concert at Istana Budaya last 17th and 18th December, 2005. I had a time of my life!

Many anticipated that I would be nervous and freaking out of my skin from the pressure of performing alongside my dad. But I wasn’t nervous. I was excited! This is a chance of a lifetime. A moment in time that I have been waiting for over 35 years! No way I was ever gonna let nervousness get in the way of my fully experiencing the golden moment!

I made sure that most of the significant people in my life was present for the concert because I needed them to assure me, after the concert was over, that it DID actually happen! Just in case I was just imagining or hallucinating the whole event! Ha ha haaa!

Anyway, what I know for sure now is, dreams do come true. Some people spend their entire lives chasing a dream that proved to be elusive. I didn’t chase it. I just prepared for it, just in case opportunity ever showed it’s face, I was determined to be ready for it. So people, believe me when I tell you this. Dreams do come true. And when it does, you will realize that you can do anything your free will desires. Once upon a time, people say that man can’t fly. But now we have man walking on the moon, right? Dream it. Do it! Love it. Live it! Go to your destiny, baby!