Thursday, May 31, 2007

A Letter to my Heart

My dear Heart,

You have been a witness to the strength of the soul and the weakness of my body. You have endured pain and agony in my search for love and undying loyalty. You have cried a river of tears for my trials and tribulations. You have calmed my thoughts and allayed my fears by filling yourself with love for Him. You have never disappointed me when I needed unconditional acceptance or sincerity. You have always stood by me and felt what I needed to feel.

In return, I shall take you to a place where many have found peace and tranquility, love and forgiveness, faith and compassion. Together, we shall embark on a journey to a place we have never been before. I promise to be there for you, as you have done for me all throughout my existence. Truly, when Allah put you in my chest, He gave me love, He gave me life. Through you, I feel. Through you, I live.

To feel pain, love and suffering is to know that one is alive. So, be grateful for everything while you can. Syukur dalam syukur.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Silencing My Heart

My mom never fails to remind me what a talkative and inquisitive child I once was. Always asking questions like,"Why is the sky blue, Mak?" and "Where does the music come from in movies where the actors are singing, Ayah?" I guess it was part of my learning process, to be curious and to learn from those who know more.

I also remember speaking my mind quite often, which usually got me into trouble with my mom. One vivid memory is of one when I was barely 8 years old, telling Anita Sarawak what I thought of her performance on one television entertainment program that her dance movements were weird looking and that I didn't like it. Imagine my parent's red faces, apologising profusely to the star performer on their child's inappropriate remarks. From that experience, I learned tact and discretion.... NOT! Until today, I still put my foot in my mouth from time to time. However, I never mean to purposely offend anyone. I guess it boils down the science of speed of sound. Its slower than the speed of light....bulb moments.

A very wise and old man once told me to be sincere in everything I say and do. Now, at the ripe old age of 42, I realise that it is easier to shut up when you hear your thoughts so loudly spoken in your own ears. But, how do I make my heart shut up?! Yes, my heart is capable of saying things too. And although I may not utter those thoughts out loud, I am uncomfortable with some of the things that crosses my heart. Because when my feelings not represented by my words and actions, I don't feel sincere.

I will be leaving for Mekkah in a few days from today and I worry for the state of my heart. I need it to shut up and be pure. I need it to be focused on my ibadah and be sincerely accepting towards everything and everyone, regardless of circumstances and the choices made by people around me. Alhamdulillah, I stumbled upon a chapter in a book entitled "Purification of the Heart" and since it helped me, I thought it wise to share this wisdom with everyone who has the same challenges as I.

"Ibn Atai'illah said, "If you're aware of your humility, then you are arrogant." But scholars say the following, "If you are not like the real people, at least mimic them." It is better to simulate humility than to be an outright arrogant man. Imam Ghazali says, "If one wishes to master calligraphy, then he must go to a master calligrapher and repeat what he does."

"Imam 'Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani once said, "All the doors to God are crowded except for one: the door of humility and humbleness." Having humbleness is one of the secrets of success, although it is hard on the soul. It is said, "Among the most noble things of this world is a rich man who is humble." - Excerpt from chapter on Boasting & Arrogance from Purification of the Heart by Hamza Yusuf.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Anatomy of Love

Before I met my husband, when my friends asked me what kind of a man would I consider marrying, I actually spelt out a list of criteria. He has to be tall, lean, fair skinned, moustached, wavy haired, bespectacled, malay but not melayu, has a good sense of humour but knows when to be serious, experienced but ready to settle down and be loyal to me, speaks good english, not necessarily highly educated but is intelligent and resourceful, spontaneous but careful, knows how to have fun but also capable of focusing on important issues. When my friends heard this, they actually said, "Mana ada orang macam tu kat dunia ni?! You are asking for the perfect man. He doesn't exist!" I replied, "Kalau macam tu, I tak kawin pun tak pe!"

I reckon the reason why I felt as though I have met my husband before when we first laid eyes on each other, was because of this profile. Also, I have always believed in the concept of soulmates. Allah AlMighty had said that He had created every creation of His in pairs and that each has their own predestined mate. Funny, how this concept has recently been supported by an article in a magazine Psychology Today. Here's an excerpt of an article written by Helen Fisher, Ph.D entitiled The Laws Of Chemistry:

"Among the myriad forces that sculpt our romantic choices is what I call your "love map," an unconscious list of qualities you begin to build in childhood. Your mother's wit and way with words; your father's interest in politics and tennis; what your siblings like and hate; the values of your friends and teachers; what you see on television. All your childhood (and adult) experiences shape and reshape your template of the ideal romantic partner.

"By the teenage years, each of us has constructed an idiosyncratic catalog of traits, values, aptitudes, and mannerisms that appeal to us. Then, when the timing is right and we meet a person who registers on our love map, a cascade of brain chemicals is triggered that tells us with euphoric certainty that we have found the one."

The One, is who I mean by soulmate. This concept became the foundation of my belief system and I preached and freely shared this point of view shamelessly with anyone who was willing to listen. However, one day, during my 7th year of marriage, I woke up one morning and felt nothing but disdain towards my husband. However, to imagine not being his wife was enough to break my heart! I felt utterly confused! Why was I feeling this way? It would have been easier on the heart if I could easily walk away from him. But somehow, I couldn't. Helen Fisher explained further in her article when she went on to say:

"But I have come to believe that there's more to mate choice than your childhood, your background, your values, and your degree of good looks. These variables act in tandem with a silent partner: your biology. What sparked my thinking on this was a classic study now commonly known as the sweaty T-shirt experiment.

"Women are unconsciously attracted to men with a different immune system; they do it by smell. If you are attracted to someone whose immune system is different from yours, why wouldn't you also be attracted to those with other genetic differences? Mates with distinctly different genetic profiles would produce more genetically varied young."

Somehow, around October 2006, I stumbled upon the smellmate concept and when I read the above passage, I was glad that I wasn't going out of my head after all! I've realised that the reason why I couldn't walk away from my husband was because he smelt right! This smell concept also proved that my brothers were not good for me as a mate. They smell foul to me. But only to me! Because they sure smell good to their respective wives! One has 2 children and my youngest brother has 4 children to boot! They definitely smell good to their wives!

"Perhaps mate choice operates like a funnel. First you see a potential partner and size him or her up - physically. Too big, too little, too old, too young, too pink, too green, too messy, too neat. If they make the cut, then you talk. A bad accent, a dumb remark, a tastelesss joke, a touch of arrogance, or some other idiosyncrasy may nip the budding romance. But if this stranger comes from your background, is of the right age, shares your level of intelligence and education, appears humorous and socially adept, has your values, fits within your love map, and the timing is right, you proceed. In these ways, similarity regularly reigns.

"Then comes your needs, psychological and physical. Many exchange good looks for money or rank. We are often attracted to those who mask our flaws and accentuate our better parts. Roles are important, too. As you size up him or her, you ponder whether you'd be comfortable as the wife of this college professor or the husband of that cafe singer. as you weigh the myriad social factors, I suspect that unconscious biological mechanisms are subtly pulling you toward those who complement you genetically.

However, how do you explain the many couples of soulmates that I have met who still have misunderstandings towards one another? Helen Fisher explains: "Perhaps some of the ubiquitous marital friction stems from the need to choose our partners suitable for producing and raising babies - but not altogether understandable as companions."

There you have it! The explanation of the anatomy of love. But there is one crucial thing that I want to share with everyone as to why I chose to marry my husband. There was this one time, before we got married, that I was upset about something that made me cry. He lovingly caught a drop of my falling tear with his finger. That simple but loving act made me feel something I had never felt before.... I felt PRECIOUS! That was when I thought, "I'm never gonna let this man go. I'm his forever."

17 years of marriage and counting. And believe me when I say this: Yes. It does get better with age. Just like wine and cheese. The sex, the love, the understanding, the communication.... the works!

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Bali High

Last week, I had the pleasure of holidaying in Bali with my family. Although I have seen enough of Bali through Astro's Travel and Adventure channel. I wanted to see, touch, feel and experience the whole thing myself.

By the time we landed, we had missed the sunset. We were already bone tired from the 3 hour flight and the hassles of logistics prior to our arrival in KLIA. We were hungry, sticky and really in need of a warm shower and a good night's sleep. We were greeted by Pak Wayan, a local who works for Nusa Dua Resort & Spa. En route to our hotel, the local scenario was a blur. Our tummies were growling out of hunger and thirst. Yes, we were served a meal on flight, but there's something about being on a holiday that makes you feel hungry all the time, no matter how often or how much we ate. Just thinking about that made me dread the diet that I have to be on just to shed off whatever I had gained on the trip.

When we reached Nusa Dua, we were almost crawling to our room from fatigue. The resort was so huge that it felt like a good kilometer to reach our rooms. But the view from our verandah made the long walk worth its while. It was simply breath taking.

We spent the next day touring Ubud with Pak Wayan. He urged us to haggle the prices of good we wanted to buy, something I hate to do because I am just bad at bargaining. Lissa has somehow gotten a hang of it. She even takes it to a tearful level! Yes, she would be willing to get teary eyed just to get the price she wants. That woman really knows how to shop! JC and I were just plain confused with the currency exchange.... everything was priced thousands of rupiahs.... My husband had stopped counting how many times I whipped out my mobile phone just to use the calculator. Finally, I decided to just resort to the best calculator of beloved husband. I ended up asking him, "How much is this in Ringgit, Yang?" I lost count how many times he rolled his eyeballs everytime I ask him that question. I'm still laughing out loud now, as I am typing this in, because it was so funny!

On our third day there, my husband and I indulged ourselves to a spa treatment. The experience was just like the ones I have been seeing on Astro! As seen on TV stuff! It was romantic because they put us in a room together and although we were in the room with each other, we hardly spoke to one another because we were made speechless by the fantastic massage! Magic fingers.... those girls had magic fingers....

On our departure day, we managed to squeeze Kuta before going to the airport. But by that time, I was already homesick and missing the KL smog. How pathetic is that! I couldn't wait to leave Bali.

One thing I've learned from this trip, just as I had from my short Penang holiday a few moons ago, home is where the heart is. Right, wa...?