Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A Desperate Search For Strength

I'm in Penang tonight. Arrived here this afternoon. I'm here to give a talk at a counseling course for a governmental department. Its just a work trip; if it was anywhere else. But its in Penang. And the last time I was here, it was to pay my last respects and say farewell to a very dear old friend. My soul brother. Mohamad Abdul Rahman Zubaidi Al-Hasawi.

The days nearing the date of my trip were filled with anxiety. Will I be okay? Am I really over grieving his demise? All these questions were haunting me like the sound of his laugh and the hilarious jokes he used to crack at the moment we least expected him to.

As I saw Penang Island as the plane approached it, I was still okay. When the plane landed and I made my way towards the airport exit calmly. I waited for my ride to take me to my hotel. After a little unpacking, my friend Yasmin picked me up and took me to Masjid Jelutong, Mad's final resting place.

I made a beeline towards the graveyard situated behind the mosque. And then suddenly I realized I can't remember where his grave was. I called Zubair, Mad's younger brother, to ask him Mad's grave site. Through his description, i found myself standing at where he was laid to rest. I sat down, recited Al-Fatihah for him and all who were buried there. And then I started talking to him.

"Mad, I miss you. I never realized how much you were my pillar of strength until you are gone. Please pray for me. I need strength to move on. I need strength to do what I need to do for my future. Please help me. I feel so alone and weak..." I sobbed years of tears.

In my head, I heard Mad's voice talking to me. Consoling me. Motivating me, Accepting me without question. I heard his laughter. I heard his jokes. I saw his face. I saw him smile...

Yasmin suggested we prayed maghrib at that mosque. I left the place feeling a lot stronger than before. Because Mad's voice in my head stayed with me from then on... "Ana, I am always with you. I never left you. I never can. I never will. Don't ever forget that..."

At 4.33 am, I am still wide awake. The reason for my sleeplessness alludes me. I don't know why. I miss my girls who are at home in KL. I love being in Penang by myself and enjoying the quiet and solitude. But it also pains me that Penang is no longer with Mad there.

Yes. Mad is no longer in Penang. Mad is always with me. Has always been there for me. Only I was too blind to realize that. I've regained my strength, somewhat. I know I have. I just need to remember never to forget him. I had never misplaced my strength. I only forgot I had it. I am strong. I am strong.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Death of a King, Birth of a Legend.

I was a child of the 70's era. When the great rivalry between the Osmonds and Jackson 5 made headlines in pop magazines such as Tiger Beat and the likes of it. Although Donny Osmond's colgate smile always melted my heart when he sang Puppy Love, it was almost impossible to ignore the extraordinary vocal and dance talent of Jackson 5, especially Michael. Yeah, we were on first names basis back then. At least, that's how it felt like back then...

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out why Michael's career skyrocketed throughout more than 3 decades while Donny's died a slow death after he married and had children. Michael was focused. He wanted to be the best. But most of all, he wanted to make a difference in the world. And that he did. When he died, the world stood still. His presence was felt in the music world and his absence changed the music scene forever.

When he came to Malaysia for his concert, the locals here got the opportunity to be in the presence of greatness. His talent and charisma touched our hearts and made us cry in awe. No word to describe what he was blessed with. He sang to huge crowds and audiences but always managed to embrace our hearts... Amazing... Truly awesome!

No matter what others may have thought of him, I only had, still have and will continue to maintain only good things of him. I truly believe he was a boy who was forced to grow up so fast that he had no chance at being a child. And when he finally had the means to enjoy his life and have friends like he would have had if he had not been too busy touring and performing with his brothers, he was seen as quirky, weird, strange and perverted. The tragedy was that this man was trying to hard to recapture his lost childhood. He was sincere, straight, innocent... and maybe occasionally naughty... as anyone would expect of a 11 yr old boy. His need for friends was twisted to look abnormal and even sexually perverted. I question the people who fling these false accusations and cruel names. Who is the one with the dirty mind?

Its sad to see how human beings are so skeptical when they are confronted with innocence and sincerity and goodness of a person and yet gullibly believe all the lies and tolerate cruelty, sadistic remarks and wily schemes of opportunists and extortionists.

Here is the proof of Michael's innocence. He died young. He died on a thursday. He died in the month of Rejab. He died barely a year from the date of his conversion to Islam. Only the good die young. As for those who continue to utter cruel remarks and hurtful jokes of a man who no longer can speak up in his own defense, your time will come. Let's see how many people will attend your funeral and cry over your deaths.

Speaking ill of others is a dishonest way of making yourself look good.

Mikaeel Jackson Abdullah. May you be among those who reside by Allah's side.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Unconditional Positive Regard

Unconditional positive regard, a term coined by the humanist Carl Rogers, is blanket acceptance and support of a person regardless of what the person says or does. Rogers believes that unconditional positive regard is essential to healthy development. People who have not experienced it may come to see themselves in the negative ways that others have made them feel. By providing unconditional positive regard, humanist therapists seek to help their clients accept and take responsibility for themselves. Humanist psychologists believe that by showing the client unconditional positive regard and acceptance, the therapist is providing the best possible conditions for personal growth to the client.

David G. Myers says the following in his Psychology: Eight Edition in Modules:
"People also nurture our growth by being accepting—by offering us what Rogers called unconditional positive regard. This is an attitude of grace, an attitude that values us even knowing our failings. It is a profound relief to drop our pretenses, confess our worst feelings, and discover that we are still accepted. In a good marriage, a close family, or an intimate friendship, we are free to be spontaneous without fearing the loss of others' esteem."

Unconditional positive regard can be facilitated by keeping in mind Carl Rogers’ belief that all people have the internal resources required for personal growth. Rogers' theory encouraged other psychiatrists to suspend judgement, and to listen to a person with an attitude that the client has within himself the ability to change, without actually changing who he is.

The concept of unconditional positive regard also has a simpler meaning outside of the therapist's goal to elicit change. It is the simple act of one individual accepting all traits and behaviors in another individual, as long as is it does not entail causing significant harm to oneself. The key word here is "significant". If one states that "This person's behavior annoys me, and thus is causing me 'significant' harm", then unconditional positive regard is made subject to so many objections that it cannot exist. Thus, finding a person's behavior/beliefs reprehensible when they pose no threat of harm to oneself or others, is incompatible with unconditional positive regard. To treat a flawed individual's otherwise harmless behavior or beliefs as cause to reject the individual's worth, morality and right to merit interaction with oneself, is a violation of the unconditional precept.

- Wikipedia

Now, you may wonder why I have decided to write about this topic, considering the series of previous blog entries I have made over the past few weeks. All will be revealed in good time. Meanwhile, let me begin with my expectations of acceptance and understanding.

The winds of change has begun swirling around me again. Only this time, its just about me and my life. Nothing to do with anything or anyone else. But being a mortal that comes with relatives and relations, its only fair for me to expect some kind of understanding, acceptance or at the very least, a tad of empathy for what challenges me in my daily life. When I say I can't take it anymore, please believe me. After all, no one knew of my years of silent suffering and patience for I had not allowed a single squeal escape my lips. I also had not asked for assistance or support from any of the significant people in my life who are called my family. Until now.

When I called to open up to you, you promised that we will talk soon. But when the time arrived, I felt really let down. I did not receive the acceptance, understanding nor support that I need most at this present moment. Don't bother offering it to me now. I don't need it from you anymore. Once bitten, twice shy.

Stop and listen to what you are saying. Do you realize who it is you're preaching to? I am not ignorant nor deaf. I am not unlearned nor incapable of logical reasoning. Have you checked the facts that you've adopted as your pillar of truth? Funny how you can be so understanding, sympathetic and empathic to others but not to those of your own blood. Really weird.

Please believe me. Please let me do my own growing up and maturing. I am no longer 4 year old. Forty years has passed since. Please see me as an adult that you are as well. I will have your perspective on life when I reach your age. But meanwhile, what I have is all that I have to work with. When I know better, I will do better.

Now, after a long journey of self-acceptance and years of struggling self-doubt, I need to rely on myself. I realize now that I can't rely on anyone else. I don't need blessings or permission from anyone to fight for what I believe is crucial in ensuring my past mistakes and bad choices will not be a part of my future. Forgive me if you don't understand why I appear distant. Please do not take it personally if I stop asking for your opinion or thought on what I need to do. Excuse me if I cease to care anymore. I need to focus on my own recovery now. You've lived your life. This is mine. I need to do it my way. I know what is best for me. Only I know the ins and outs of my life. No one else does. This is why only I can do this. I need to do this.

You may deem my decision as a mistake in the making. But I am no longer afraid to make mistakes. I've learned a lot from all the mistakes I have made in my past. No regrets. No regrets. Only lessons and maturity, I have earned, through tears and heartache.

This is who I am. This is what I am. This is what I need to do. Accept it. Or else just shut up and walk away. I'll be ok. I'm a student of life, with God as my Teacher. I have lots to gain and nothing left to lose. So be it.

Monday, June 15, 2009

A Mother's Love

Mak and me.

Allah is my Creator, but my mom gave birth to me. She endured pain and discomfort, just to deliver me safely and made sure I was as perfect as can be. She fed me, bathed me, clothed me, showered me with love and tender touches that only a baby would recognize it's mother.

It wasn't easy for mak to be the best mother in the world. Her own birth mother died at a very young age, leaving my mom at the age of barely 3 years old, with a little brother, at the hands of two extremes. Her maternal grandparents were too relaxed in their approach to caring for my mom while her paternal grandparents were too strict. Growing up with an emotionally distant father and a jealous stepmother must have been very painful for her. But that somehow, did not make her bitter... That is my mother. She may not have been the touchy feely type of mom, but she did her level best to show her love for my brothers and I in other ways. Regardless, we felt loved and cared for. We never doubted that we were her top priorities.

I've seen her sacrifices. I've witnessed her undying devotion to protecting her offsprings. Bringing up three children single-handedly must have been very challenging for her, especially during those days when divorcees were treated like second class citizens. She smiled in public and cried in private. We were her closest confidantes. She knew she could trust we would never judge her.

Throughout all the trials and ordeals that rained on her, nothing pained her more than to see others hurt her beloved children. She becomes the fearless lioness that guards and protects her cubs from predators and opportunists alike. She thought nothing of pawning her fine jewelry just to make sure there's enough food on the table during tough times.

When I became a mother to my children, I looked to her for guidance, tips and cues. I remember when I was in labour with my second daughter, Jelissa; my mom was at my side, holding my hand to lend me her strength. I looked to her and asked her to forgive me for all the sins I may have done unto her unintentionally. I realized then how hard it is to be a mother, tougher still to be a good one at that. My plea for forgiveness made her cry.... She stroked my forehead and said there's nothing to forgive.

Nothing can ever sever the ties that bind between a mother and her children. No amount of medals or awards can replace the pride and honor of being a mother. Now that I have my two precious daughters, Jazelia and Jelissa; I understand that its a no brainer. A mother would die for her children, give up her life for the health and happiness of her beloved babies. It wouldn't even be considered an effort even, what more a sacrifice.

I learned how to be a mother from my mother. I hope I can pass down this wisdom and experience to my babies who are growing beautifully by the day, becoming confident, stylish, intelligent and virtuous women to be respected and admired.

With my baby who first called me Mama: Jazelia Jasmene

With my final and precious baby: Jelissa Jasmene

Ya Allah, please protect my babies from harm and hurt. Guide them to your path until they reach their home in Your Presence. Fill their hearts with sincerity, love, compassion, kindness, and strength of faith. Furnish their minds with intelligence, wit and spiritual knowledge and understanding. Allow them to be as successful as any women of faith can be. Provide for them the opportunity to be of great service to You. Forgive them their sins and transgressions. They are as pure and innocent as You first blessed me with them. When my time is up, I know You will have them in Your best care; for You are The Most Loving and Most Merciful. Ameen.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Once Upon A Daddy's Little Princess

Once upon a time, I was daddy's little princess. Just like all the other little girls in the whole wide world, my father had the super hero abilities to amuse and make me laugh until tears of utter joy moisten my eyelashes. I had him around my tiny little finger tips. And he, in turn, had my heart. I wanted to grow up and marry someone just like Dad.

As I grew up, my reliance and expectations of him increased exponentially. In my eyes, he was perfect. Strong, funny, reliable, trustworthy, understanding and protective. Everything a young girl could ever ask for in a father. Everything any woman would want in a man. I fashioned my ideal man according to my father's virtues.

And then, one day, my world collapsed. Everything around me fell apart. Everything inside me died. Betrayal from the person I least I expected to violate my trust. I became the reason for all failure. I became the informant. I became the source of all accusations and blame. My voice was too small to be heard. Adults never listen. They just turned their ill-based assumptions into a pillar of dogma. Unshakeable. Irrefutable. End of story.

My wish came true. I married a man who fits the very description of my father, perfectly. Happy ever after, right? That's what I thought. Until the rose colored glasses I was seeing the world through broke into a million tiny shards; leaving me with bare vision of the ugly reality of my life. The imperfection of man. Smashed idealistic denials. Stripped to the bone to bare naked pretense. All the while, I was busy picking up the little tiny shards of perfections and idealism, trying desperately to piece them together as my very sanity relies on this effort.

I had to be punched across my face by someone, who has no place in my life to begin with, in order for me to grow up. That day, I became an adult. In the midst of my 44th age. Does this mean I have been childlike in my thinking? Or just denying the truth in order to maintain some kind of normalcy in my cognitive processes. To just pretend, even for just a little longer, that I am still the precious little daddy's princess.

I called out to my hero. I believed that he would rescue me from harm and apprehend my attacker. But then, instead, he just turned on his heels and walked out the door, leaving me wounded and alone. I heard what sounded like shattering glass. Only it wasn't glass that was broken. It was my heart. It was abandoned. But the abandonment didn't happen on that day. In fact, it happened 30 years ago. When he walked out and left my brothers and I with just broken and empty promises. And because my childhood wish was granted, I found myself being married to someone who is exactly like my father.

So here I am. Finally did my growing up at 44. Life has not been a cruel teacher to me. Life left me many signs to read and learn. It was I who stubbornly chose to only see what I wanted to. Believe only what I needed to believe. Deny everything else that wasn't consistent with my ideals. But now, I see things and people as who, what and how they really are. I don't care so much for the whys of it. That will only open a jar of excuses and more lies to justify the original sin.

I am no longer daddy's little princess. I was never a princess. Once upon a time, I had a daddy. But now, all I see is the shadow of an exiting father. No one else is left for me to rely on except for myself. I need to be my own super hero. I need to have super powers. I have two precious little princesses of my own. I have to be there for them. I want to never let them down. I want them to trust me that I am reliable and dependable. Should I ever find myself depleted of strength and stamina, I shall lean on my pillar of dogma and hold on fast to my responsibilities.

This is what I learned on my own. I CAN mould and shape myself in order to show my precious princesses how they can be strong and able as well. We can only rely on ourselves. Others may disappoint us. There is no such thing as a perfect parent, except in the eyes of a 2 year old child. Fortunately enough. She's all grown up now. No more room for lies and denial. She sees it all clearly now. For the first time in her life.

Happy birthday to me. I'm 44 years old and I was born 2 weeks ago. Congratulate me. I can see clearly now. What a world! What an ugly world...

Saturday, June 6, 2009

True Lies

I've been brought up with certain values and beliefs, reflected precisely by the quotes below:

"The most common lie is that which one lies to himself; lying to others is relatively an exception." -Hietzsche

"Truth exists, only falsehood has to be invented." -Georges Braque

"It is better to be defeated on principle than to win on lies." -Arthur Calwell

I have accepted the givens in life: No one is honest all the time. No one is loyal all the time. No one is loving all the time. No one is anything all the time. But lately, the evident lies that had been uttered with or without my knowledge has begun to irk me to a point where I find myself depleted of tolerance.

I believe that I have conducted and behaved myself with the best integrity and honesty as I can truly muster. I've dedicated my life to helping others sincerely, without expecting anything in return. If I can't do something sincerely, then I'd rather do nothing all together. This holds true even in my speech and expression. Unconditional acceptance has been taught and ingrained in me by my training as a counseling psychologist.

But when the lies people tell themselves in their heads everyday begin to hurt me physically, mentally and emotionally, that is when I decided that enough is enough. I mean, although we are all encouraged to practice patience and tolerance towards others, how do we know where to draw the line that separates us from being a person of high integrity and tolerance to an enabler for others who choose falsehood over truth?

I understand that people lie to themselves in order to keep uncomfortable cognitive and emotional pain at bay. I mean, no one can stand to live with themselves if they can't like themselves at the very least. But when the lies they choose to live by are acted upon and used to assign blame and accusations to others, we need to stand up, state what we would and would not stand by, and just walk away. Some of these lies are the root cause to murders and personality disorders.

For those who have never had a chance for introspection, a moment of tranquil silence to evaluate their beliefs and the opportunity to differentiate between what truly is and what is fabrication of the dark side of their creative minds would make a huge impact on their perspective on life and reality.

Although at this point in time, I have wounds of hurt to heal from betrayal and lies uttered about me, I'm ready to move on. Sticks and stones may break my bones, but hard words cannot hurt me forever. I may reel from the punches of false accusations. I may trip and fall as I stumble upon lies and falsehood built up against me. I may have had no choice in being a victim for one moment. But I refuse to prolong that torment for ever.

"There has already been published by the bucketfuls such brazen lies and utter fictions about me that I would long since have gone to my grave if I had let myself pay attention to that." -Albert Einstein.