Sunday, July 29, 2007

The Evolution of Me

Funny how the nicest of people who say that they are understanding and very tolerant of others are closet social bigots and a bunch of insincere and judgemental lot! But before I elaborate on that (or rather vent out my frustrations), let me start from the beginning...

My earliest memories on my sense of dressing brings to mind my kindy days. There was a lovely floral dress with smocking stitch on its front, made by nenek that I use to love. I would wear it to kindy every chance I get because it made me feel nice and pretty. Another favourite ensemble was a red cat sleeved jersey top and a purple bell bottomed pants. My mom use to cringe everytime I wore the latter. She said people just simply don't wear clashing colours. That was back then.

During my teens, there were a few pieces of apparels that I would wear religiously too; an olive green ribbed dungarees, to name one. I use to cut long t-shirts till they bare my navel, and wear them with self-made distressed denims. During college years, I'd be dressed mostly in baseball shirts and cap (with pink panther on it) and my ankle high canvas boots with pink flourescent socks. My hair was worn long, very curly and coloured light brown. When my career as an entertainer took center stage, my show outfits would mainly consist of garments made of black velvet with gold touches. Hence the beginning of my love affair with the colour black.

When I turned 30 and became a mother of two beautiful girls, my image changed yet again. I started wearing the hijab, but still remained in bright colours. That only lasted for less than two years. I then started to dress all in black because I felt that the bright colours drew too much attention to my garments instead of my personality. Its been almost 10 years now that I have been clad in black....most of the time.

Throughout my vogue journey, I remained the same. I am still me. I wear hijab so that it would be convenient for me to pray, no need to tote a bag filled with telekong. All I need is a pair of clean socks and I'm ready to say my gratitude to Allah. I wear black because I am already married and therefore have no need to draw any attention to myself. I love the black jubah and I wear it everyday because it allows me to take myself out of the fashion "market" where people dress according to what is in trend...and makes them feel good. My feel good factor lies in my state of mind, and not in what is fashionable in haute couture magazines. I also find that I get the respect that I feel I deserve as a wife, from other men, when they lower their gazes because my black hijab cautions them that I am not someone they can fool around with.

Which brings me to another part of this topic... I'll let my readers lable what it is... I haven't found the word for it yet.

My earliest memory that somehow defined who I am, was during my first week in primary 1. While entering the school hall, I overheard some people saying, "Itu anak Johari Salleh!" And I thought to myself, "So... That's who I am to the world? Does having my own name matter? Does having my own personality matter to these people? Would they be interested to get to know me for who I am individually or would they just prefer to lable me as the daughter of a famous symphonic maestro?"

Things got worse when I began my singing career. It doesn't matter how well I sang. It didn't matter that my career was different from my dad's (I am a vocalist. He is a musician!) People just saw me as "Anak Johari Salleh" and that irks me until today. Mind you, I am proud of being my father's daughter. But I am also proud of being my mother's daughter and she doesn't get enough credit for it... And the worst part of this all is that the general public just assume that they KNOW me just because they know who my father is. They think THEY KNOW ME just because they've read some fiction about me written in some tabloid newspapers and media gossip magazines.

People assume that just because I am an entertainer, I have no values and no religious upbringing. People assume that just because my father is a musician, I can play all types of musical instruments and read music. People assume that the person I am when I am perfoming and entertaining on stage is the same person in private. These people are confused. They don't like to be defined by what they do professionally and yet they judge others that very same way.

Fortunately for me, I have many, many very good people in my life. I believe what goes around, comes around. I have had some of my friends report to me how some people who think they know me say, "Apa?! You ingat Johana tu baik sangat ke? Just because she wears a black hijab and all...?! I know her lah...She is not as good and nice as what you think!" And the best part of this is that, this person who actually made these exclamations is not even close to being in the inner circle of my life! Imagine that! There are also some people who are almost green with envy due to their perceptions as to how lucky I am. After all, in their eyes, I seem to have it all. Looks, intelligence, wit, talent, wonderful husband, beautiful and smart and talented children....whatever! Dear God! They're near ready to hang themselves out of pure agony of jealousy! Yeah, sure! My life is a real bed of roses. No problems, no challenges. Just smooth sailing along the way.... And after all, the audacity of turning out alright although I rose from the ruins of a broken home, right? I should be in the dumps, somewhere; lying broken and unloved.

But, the thing is, I am still here. I am fine. I am more than fine. I have a very long list of things that I am grateful for in my gratitude journal. Life sucks, I'm sure... But not for me. I ain't complainin' one bit!

So, here's the bottom line:

1. I wear black because I am no longer available for the taking. I'm married.
2. Cloth i.e; my black hijab has nothing to do with my sprituality and faith. It just provides convenience for me to perform my solat because I hate to be bothered with toting telekong everywhere I go. And please don't even dare to suggest wearing those telekongs in public suraus. They stink! If it smells bad, it ain't clean, ok?
3. Nobody knows me best, except Allah. Not my parents, not my siblings, not my relatives. Noone. Na da. (What my husband and my soul sister knows is none of anybody's business, ok?) Even I am still clueless of myself sometimes. So please lah... jangan nak berangan, lah.... You wanna be famous? Teringin nak jadi bintang popular? Go ahead. Been there, done that, was that. Tak heran dah laaa... Here's a friendly word of advice: The grass is always greener on the other side...Because you don't have to mow it, water it, weed it. Its greener simply because its problems and responsibilities are not yours. If they were, you won't want it, you won't be grateful for it... Like how you're not grateful for what you have now, lah.... Wait till God takes all His blessings away from you. Baru padan muka...

So, get with the program, sistah! Your envy is showing its head. And, dang....its uuuuuugly!

If you have integrity, nothing else matters. If you don't have integrity, nothing else matters.

"Unfortunately, nothing is permanent in this world, including problems."

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

On Being A Sister

When I was 2 and a half years old, my little brother Eri was born. He was my first friend. I swore to myself that I was gonna really protect and take care of him. By the time my second brother Nahar was born, I was already 9 years old and was already able to help my mom in caring for his physical needs, like making his milk and changing his diapers. I was already 17 when my other brother Awie, from my father's second marriage, was born. My little sisters Yanie and Elli arrived when I turned 19 and 29, respectively.

Along the way, I came across a few other people whom I have taken close to heart as my adopted siblings, like Amran, Osh, Tish, Taj, Yusran, Luqman, Laton, Azareen, Zairin and many others. When they call me kakak, that endearment is sincerely felt in my heart. Most of these people also call my mom Mak or Mak Aan.

I take my role as a sister very seriously. I'm grateful that my husband understands this and embrace these people into his life with open arms. These people come to me whenever they have any challenges or when they need a sounding board. Some just come to my house just to hang around so that they can be themselves, when sometimes even their families prove to be not understanding.

Being a sister is not easy. My relationship with my biological brothers, Eri and Nahar, has changed. Things were different between us when we were still in our mother's care. Sibling rivalry was never an issue, but differences in characters and personalities often result in misunderstandings and rows. Alhamdulillah, these disagreements and misunderstandings were short lived. As we evolved and grew into adulthood, gotten married and now each have our own little families, we look at each other differently.

Being a sister is not easy. I have to strike a balance in protecting them from harm and from themselves, and at the same time giving them enough freedom and elbow room to learn from their mistakes. It makes my heart swell with pride to see them excel and become who they were designed to be by Allah. It pains me when I see them struggle with their inner demons and the external forces that has the potential to ruin them for good.

What I have come to realise is that being a sister is not a popularity contest. It doesn't matter to me if the advise I dole out to them when they ask for it may not be something that they wanted to hear. But I have to do whatever is best for them, although it may be a bitter pill of reality. Good friends don't get in your way unless you're on your way down. Sisters do the same. Attached to that is unconditional acceptance and love. I don't have to like the choices they make. I just love them the way they are. Because God does.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

How to Be Realistic About Love

"Most people ask more from relationships than relationships can deliver. For many of us, they're the last refuge for redemption, the place we go to be saved. We come across people who are happily married, and it's like a mystery - a rather wonderful mystery. Why? Because it's unusual. To be realistic, one has to acknowledge that a committed relationship, even a good one, involves a great deal of frustration and hinges on how well you can bear that frustration. And, honestly, whether we find a good relationship has a lot to do with luck." - ADAM PHILLIPS, author of Monogamy.

At the beginning of my marriage, I thought I was realistic about love. But after 17 years have passed, I realise that my expectations of marriage and everything it entails were as realistic as the happy endings in Mills & Boons books and fairy tales' happily ever afters. I use to throw such a tantrum whenever my husband forgets our 'meeting anniversaries'. We even had a big fight once just because he forgot to buy me a Valentine's Day card! Pathetic, right?

I'd like to blame Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and every story I have ever read that ended with the two lovers being passionately in love with each other. It didn't just stop there! I also expected my husband and I to be so into each other every second of every minute, every minute of every hour, every hour of every day, every day of every week, every week of every month, every month of every year....for all eternity! Everytime we broke into a fight, I would feel so unloved and thought that the relationship was doomed to end.

Where did all these beliefs come from? Did they really come from reading fairy tales and Mills & Boons romance novels? How did I come to believe that those strappingly handsome heroes with those sexy sirens on the covers of romance novels had anything to do with reality? After all, these books were not found, and can never be found on the shelves of Non-Fiction books.

When I first laid my eyes on the quote above by Adam Phillips, I felt tickled pink! I found myself chuckling. His words rang true... How did I manage to handle the frustrations during the 17 years of marriage? I guess a lot had to do with what I was telling myself in my head regarding what was happening around me when the frustrations were felt. I mean, if I want to be happy, I can't allow any negative beliefs to creep into my head and poison my thoughts. It'll be like imbibing a little poison every day... a slow but certain death would ensue.

Yet, it is still a wonderful mystery to see us last this long and by the looks of it, we will be together a lot longer than I thought we would. Alhamdulillah. God has proven some of my thoughts to be wrong. And as for the luck bit of the quote, I still don't believe in it. But then again, that's what I say today... Tomorrow is another day. Now, that is being realistic.... right?

Friday, July 13, 2007

Welcome To Coffee With Kak Joe

Salaam and greetings to all my faithful subscribers,

Seeing that Coffee With Kakak has somehow turned out to be personal in nature and full of anecdotes, instead of the initial plan of making it as an outreach for my private counseling practice, I have decided to create another specifically designed for professional purposes. And since that old blog was created for me by someone else, I didn't have the control to manage or edit it's settings whenever I see fit.

For those who have been enjoying my entries at the old blogspot, I'd be honoured if you would continue to do so here at this new blogspot, as I have no intention whatsoever to stifle my creative writing urges and will persist in making entries here whenever the impulse or inspiration moves me to do so.

However, for those who would like to learn more about mental health or would like to seek assistance in dealing with life's harder challenges, please visit the link below:

MY Confidential

I believe it is not premature for me to thank everyone who has been reading my blog entries faithfully over the past few years. By sharing my life's trials and tribulations, I pray that someone somewhere had learnt something that I might have missed myself. By making these entries whenever I am going through difficult moments, I am left feeling quite fulfilled and never quite by myself.

Being an Aquarian Dragon that I am, I often feel compelled to somehow save the world. I know I cannot save everyone but I know I can save someone, insya Allah. And that'll do.

To those who have just entered Coffee With Kak Joe, thank you for adding me to your favourite tabs. And to those who are about to click on the link to MY Confidential, I greet you with a great big WELCOME!!

Peace be upon the world!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Best Wedding Gift

On 7th of July 2007, my beloved pet brother, Ahmad Fairuz aka Osh married my soul sister, Azuar aka Wa in a simple but emotionally moving ceremony in Taman Tun Dr. Ismail mosque. Although my husband and I have already gotten them a small wedding gift, as an afterthought, I want to bestow upon them the Last Sermon of Prophet Mohammed as their north star, the beacon of light that will guide them through the challenging times that may lie ahead for them in the journey called Marriage.

The Prophet Mohammed's Last Sermon

"O People, lend me an attentive ear, for I know not whether after this year I shall ever be amongst you again. Therefore listen to what I am saying very carefully and take these words to those who could not be present here today.

"O People, just as you regard this month, this day, this city as Sacred, so regard the life and property of every Muslim as a sacred trust. Return the goods entrusted to you to their rightful owners. Hurt no one so that no one may hurt you. Remember that you will indeed meet your Lord, and that he will indeed reckon your deeds. Allah has forbidden you to take usury (interest), therefore all interest obligations shall henceforth be waived. Your capital is yours to keep. You will neither inflict nor suffer any inequity. Allah has judged that there shall be no interest and that all the interest due to Abbas ibn 'Abd'al Muttalib (the Prophet's uncle) be waived.

"Every right arising out of homicide in pre-islamic days is henceforth waived and the first such right that i waive is that arising from the murder of Rabiah ibn al Harithibn.

"O People, the unbelievers indulge in tampering with the calender in order to make permissible that which Allah forbade, and to forbid that which Allah has made permissible. With Allah the months are twelve in number. Four of them are holy, three of these are successive and one occurs singly between the months of Jumada and Shaban.

"Beware of Satan, for the safety of your religion. He has lost all hope of that he will be able to lead you astray in big things, so beware of following him in small things.

"O People, it is true that you have certain rights with regard to your women but they also have rights over you. Remember that you have taken them as your wives only under Allah's trust and with His permission. If they abide by your right, then to them belongs the right to be fed and clothed in kindness. Do treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers. And it is your right that they do not make friends with anyone of whom you do not approve, as well as never to be unchaste. O People, listen to me in earnest, worship Allah, say your five daily prayers, fast during the month of Ramadhan, and give your wealth in Zakat. Perform Hajj if you can afford to.

"All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over a black nor a black has any superiority over a white - except by piety and good action. Learn that every Muslim is a brother to every Muslim and that the Muslims constitute one brotherhood. Nothing shall be legitimate to a Muslim which belongs to a fellow Muslim unless it was given freely and willingly. Do not therefore do injustice to yourselves. Remember one day you will meet Allah and answer your deeds. So beware: do not stray from the path of righteousness after I am gone.

"O People, no prophet or apostle will come after me, and no new faith will be born. Reason well, therefore, O People, and understand my words which I convey to you. I leave behind me two things, the Qur'an and my Sunnah and if you follow these you will never go astray.

"All those who listen to me shall pass on my words to others and those to others again; and may the last ones understand my words better than those who listen to me directly. Be my witness, O Allah, that I have conveyed Your message to Your people."

- This sermon was delivered on the Ninth Day of Dhul-Hijjah 10 A.H. in the 'Uranah valley of Mount Arafat' in Mecca.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Hari Friendship Sedunia

Friendship... is not something you learn in school. But if you haven't learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven't learned anything.
- Muhammad Ali

The real test of friendship is: can you literally do nothing with the other person? Can you enjoy those moments of life that are utterly simple?
- Eugene Kennedy

True friends stab you in the front.
- Oscar Wilde

A true friend never gets in your way unless you happen to be going down.
- Arnold H. Glasow

You can always tell a real friend: when you've made a fool of yourself he doesn't feel you've done a permanent job.
- Laurence J. Peter

Friendship is a single soul dwelling in two bodies.
- Aristotle

It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

It is not so much our friends' help that helps us, as the confidence of their help.
- Epicurus

A friend is one who knows you and loves you just the same.
- Elbert Hubbard

It takes a long time to grow an old friend.
- John Leonard

Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art... It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival.
- C. S. Lewis

If it's very painful for you to criticize your friends - you're safe in doing it. But if you take the slightest pleasure in it, that's the time to hold your tongue.
- Alice Duer Miller

She is a friend of mind. She gather me, man. The pieces I am, she gather them and give them back to me in all the right order. It's good, you know, when you got a woman who is a friend of your mind.
- Toni Morrison

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

"Purification of the Heart"- Last But Not Least...

"If you desire to live such that your religion is safe and your portion is full and your honor is sound, guard your tongue and never mention another's faults remembering that you yourself have faults and others have tongues."

Watch your eye. Should it ever reveal to you the faults of others, say to it, "Oh my eye, other people have eyes too." - Final page of Purification of the Heart.