Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Words

Sunday, August 29th, 2010

Words are important.

We can use them to connect as well as to disconnect, to understand and to confuse; to build camps of Us and Them; to bind in solidarity and to divide with disinterest.

Indeed, we are gifted beings. Blessed with independent, creative thought and the gift of translating these into words. Yet when we use words to drive our varied agenda, we miss just how correlated words are, to who we are.

Words are important.
We must always mean what we say; and say what we mean.
Because that’s what gentlemen do.

I am Woman, You my All.

Sunday, August 8th, 2010

I was asked recently, a question about my seeming success. The enquirer wanted to know if my husband struggled with the fact that “I make so much”.

I was taken aback on a few counts. The first was being confronted by this rather archaic, provincial thought. The second being the assumption inherent in the question, that I pulled in big bucks. The third, was that if women made big bucks, they would have to “play it down at home”.

This conversation, difficult to have as it were, was in itself not a bad encounter, as it did spawn the inspiration for this blog.

I remember reading this quote once. It was one of those brilliant writings, profound yet illuminating in the kind of way that changes you forever. I knew that I would someday, use it to lend that understanding it once gave to me. Indeed, I’ve used it once before; and shall honour it again here.

“Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.”
- Martin Luther King Jr.

To say it’s easy being a woman and hold a career that counts for something; to be financially not just independent but dependable in Singapore 2010 seems straightforward enough. There are many. Everyone must know a mother, sister, aunt or best girlfriend who embodies all these to impeccable perfection.

What isn’t always as straightforward and easy… really is what needs to be in place for this to happen.

Asian cultures have often seen women as not just child-bearers but educators and nurturers. Even in the workplace, women in senior positions are counted on to display more nurturing qualities than their male counterparts. Fact is, while some man is being MD or CEO of his Fortune 500 enterprise, someone is looking after his children and keeping his household together. Maybe it’s his mother, mother in law, his wife or a domestic helper. Either way, a woman is looking after the other jobs so that he can focus on his.

Not too dissimilarly, it wouldn’t be surprising to state that successful career women will need the same support systems. Families, governments and corporations can play key roles in this.

One. Families need to know that when we strive for equality and celebrate individual merit in the women in our households, we do not hold it against them when they become successful. This means not blaming mothers for being absent; or who can whip millions of dollars but not a cake. Fathers, In-laws and Husbands, your understanding contribute greatly to how our girls and women perform in the world.

Two, as long as Asian families still see women as the main care givers (not to mention all the other feminine roles Nature so ordain; like child bearing …) and men as providers, social dynamics will always strain against Progress. The reality is, both men and women need to be both care givers and providers. Policies, from domestic help levies, to child-care subsidies, to time away from work….etc all help to spread out these expectations as we figure our way towards real equality.

Hence, I am aware I am privileged to have the support I do. I take it for granted too often and have to remind myself that for each of those times I’ve been great in any thing I do, there are many who have gotten me there. Including those who just made sure they were there to cheer me on and to love me even if I weren’t great afterall.

No one really ever does it all alone. Least of all, me.
So while I am proud of what I am and have, I celebrate you.

You who let me sleep through the night feeds so I could actually function the next day…my husband
You who used to proof read my thesis and submissions so I could get the grades I did… my sister
You who worked shifts so I could study full-time….my mother
You who taught me lessons of love, life, forgiveness, wrongdoing and accountability, and the importance of an educated mind, soul and heart…my dad
You who gave me opportunities and believed in me…my boss
You who worked alongside me and kept me hopeful…rachel
You who kept me grounded through all flights of euphoria, hysteria, psychosis….elin
You who always reminds me that “I have the best things money can’t buy”…erene
You who shared your best friend with me and for that I’ve been blessed forever since…cynthia

Indeed, what famous words. I am all I am because You let me.

Velocity of Life

Sunday, July 25th, 2010

The message at church today was about Letting Go. Of life, of goals, of dreams, of all the many things that we have to come to see as what defines us.

The unknowing might think of Christians as a bunch of unenterprising lazy bums.

But that just misses the entire understanding of the truth of what it means to serve a living God.

One of the truths of life and this is true whoever your God is, is that we all live a finite life. Time does stop; for each and everyone of us. While the rest of the world ticks along, the truth is, all of us, have a moment in time when our existence as far as we know it, in the flesh, ceases in this world. Perhaps this finiteness spur us so much to do much to immortalise our time here. We build relationships, create bonds of love, friendship, kinship and a many varied reciprocities so that our existence on this earth matters. We craft careers. Spans of decades measured in deal sizes, cabinets of files to gigabytes of accolades. We thrive on interaction with those we care about and with those we want, to care for us. We do this on Facebook, at the office water coolers, at the smoking corner and build our social connects one conversation at a time, one shared interest at a time.

And all this is Good.

For now.

As the hands of time tick by and robs us of our loved ones, of wealth of health and often of the very things we have come to value the best because we had laboured so hard for – how scared and humbled could we be, simply because, we truly control so little of all that loss?

When a fallen tree could simply take your life away one beautiful afternoon when you least expect it, will knowing that you’re covered by insurance, truly make that last breath , an easier one?

Unlikely.

So I truly found myself seeking a difficult truth today. One that isn’t easy at all. It’s called letting go. Without giving up. Letting go of all the things that tie me up and wear me out. When the best of me is spent everywhere and with the last of me, almost always beaten, I seek divine clarity and rest. A kind of grounded wisdom to know when my fists are clenched ever too tightly. Trust, to let go. Rest, to know where to seek a refreshing newness that will bring a positive revivalism that’s life-giving. In order that one never gives up. No matter how hard it gets.

The same principles of building goals and relationships and all the things that matter. Just that this time, with the Power of the Knowledge and Purpose, of who is at the centre of it all.

Quite simply – Less of me. More of You.

The Place

Saturday, July 3rd, 2010

I just came from a memorial service. Of a 20 year old girl who lost a 2-year long battle to cancer.
I didn’t know her.

But I know her aunt dearly.

As I sat behind the family, silent tears streamed down my cheeks as I laid eyes on the beautiful portrait smiling back at us. A picture of youth frozen in time.

Isn’t it so? That death, when it robs us of those young, who seemingly have so much life ahead of them, just seems so much more poignant? Certainly so. The poignancy of a life short-lived. When there’s so much of life yet to be experienced and discovered.

My prayers are with the family tonight. That surely God’s grace must pour in abundance during this very difficult time. That more than ever, as the family comes together and grieves, together, they too will find comfort.

It’s hard to say this, particularly when the flesh that bleeds isn’t our own. But I know without a shadow of a doubt, that for all things good and bad, God has created one as well as the other.

Nothing we suffer and endure, goes on without Him knowing.

Vague Vogue

Sunday, June 27th, 2010

The Cookie-Cutter Fashionista…is that me? I wondered as the words lay mockingly across this old issue of Vogue.

You know that feeling? When you longingly admire a particular look on a celebrity and covet that same wave of envy you now feel, for yourself? If only you had the same bag, or get-up?

Banal, but definitely familiar.

It occured to me how many purchases could have been saved had I had the clarity to know that I could dress like anyone but I could never be them. There’s no need to emulate any look, not even if it’s an expression of the sincerest form of flattery.

Note to self. Stop cookie-cutting. And Start Investing in Me.

Greatness Inc.

Friday, June 18th, 2010

Ever wondered why things that attract us visually engage all our sensory nodes, slowly releasing a hormonal response mimicking at first delight, then desire to be close to and then a pride to be part of?

When we get thrilled about the world of ideas, about making intellectual connections, about divine meaning, it is the seeking circuits that are firing. Nature imbued us with an unquenchable drive to discover, to explore.

The possibility that we all can be the CEOs of Greatness Inc.

Where in Greatness Inc, we agree to offer the best of us to any given person, to any given job, in any given situation, in a way that because it is good, pleasantly surprises, captivates and wins over hearts, minds and souls.

Greatness-creation is an art.

It’s habitually making what’s abstract, i.e. “success” imaginable by first treating it as a concrete possibility. A simple meme, at that, that can be passed on, medium-agnostic, culturally-blind and universally understood and loved.

My World Today

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

Many people have asked me how I’m finding motherhood.

“Agreeable”, has always my wry answer. I was always a little careful not to enthuse or coo too much. I am not sure why. Maybe it’s thinking how many amongst us are single still, or married with no children, sometimes not by choice. Of course while I could contain my response, my big broad smile always betrays the true depths of my profound joy.

Or maybe I think this could be one of those questions, with a quality not unlike the proverbial “How are you”. One that’s become a greeting rather than a true inquisition so the socially polite really shouldn’t take so seriously as to launch into any lengthy response.

Perhaps.

But here’s what I honestly have to say about “motherhood’”. And why I can’t quite answer this en-route to the water cooler or before the lift door opens again.

Motherhood makes me kinder. almost. Because I want others to be kind to Lucien. Something in me, once the invincible, now believes in the breaking of tiny hearts and know that little hands rubbing big fat tear drops must never be left uncomforted.

I started to believe in simple things again.

Like how I want to make the world a better place, or at least create the possibility of it. Because I wouldn’t , couldn’t, shouldn’t be here forever; I want to leave a place of much grandeur behind. One that aspires, tries hard and never gives up on the human endeavour for ever ascending greatness. In a manner that seeks grace, is never boastful, always encouraging, never reproachful.

So whenever I see someone find it themselves to say Sorry when they can actually get away without doing so, when they are able to squarely acknowledge where they’ve faltered and seek forgiveness in earnest apology, I am moved. Not simply because of the humanity of it all but because this tells me, that this dream of a better world, is possible. Because Greatness already exists amongst us.

Similarly, every thoughtless arrogance and deliberate act of superiority dampens this possibility. In each of these acts, an opportunity to do good goes untapped, our god-given ability to raise ourselves above any situation, made ineffectual.

And we’re all guilty. Me especially, and that’s why this dream of being part of a better world, needs to start with me.

And that’s why it’s not so much how great motherhood has been for me, but how being responsible for Lucien has been such a gift in many ways. Because I am gaining so much in return.

And it’s all very “agreeable”.

My Time This Week

Saturday, May 8th, 2010

This week is by far, one of the most intense and tiring yet. In several good ways for sure; new hires coming in forming what is our new team, successful pitches resulting in lucrative deals that unfortunately will require too many man-hours to deliver…and several more housekeeping duties that have been neglected too long.

The usually resilient me actually felt my immune system come under some attack. Nothing a dose of antihistamine and a hair cut couldn’t put right, but it was a sign my body had sent a warning signal.

So while I am habitually up at my pc at this unearthly hour, at least unlike the previous Friday mornings, I am not toiling at work but am doing something I truly enjoy. Writing and filling up this empty white space here in a way that unclutters my head.

So I heard it said earlier this week and I pondered upon it a long while. The word “midnight”. A word that used to describe the “middle of the night”. Rather early it is, was my first silent retort. Yet, mid-day being noon felt so natural.

Clearly, we have a clearer perspective of Time in the Day than we do of Time in the Night.

Time, a quality so precious you cannot even save it. People who use the term “time-saving” do not know how wrong they are. You cannot save Time. You may at best, “free up” Time. And we can really only free time up in 2 ways.

1. Get someone to do something for you so you do not have to do it yourself, thereby freeing your time up to do something else you really want to
2. Stretch waking Time

No wonder “midnight” for us these days no longer refer to the “middle of the night”. We have adjusted our “waking” and “doing” hours to how our societies have organised its activities. I for one, would not imagine I could sustain closing each day at 9pm and waking up at 5am even though doing so would provide a very healthy 8hrs of good sleep (this is the stretch where the body repairs and rests best by the way). Simply because, this is completely isolated from the rest of the society and circles where I operate.

What could I do at 5am? What businessses would be ready for me; who would entertain me? Could I get a breakfast, find a cobbler to fix a broken heel, maybe get a birthday present for a friend? No. I probably couldn’t. So we sleep till the world around us wakes up and gets busy. And we go to sleep when the businesses of the day shut.

So it is a welcome change that retail supermarket chains like Cold Storage and NTUC have recently gone 24-7. On the one hand, while their business model is based on serving, to quote a grossly over-used marketing term, “time-starved” busy professionals, it’s also to serve those of us who feel we want to break free from the impositions of our work-sleep-live-play times.

Like how the Internet has made this distinction between Waking and Sleeping hours irrelevant.

You choose when you want to connect/shop/pay/bank/blog, amongst a range of real activities. Decades from now, should brick and mortar businesses begin to operate less hours in the real world and more in the cyber world, will our ideas of “mid day” and “midnight” change?

A Change of Heart, for Good

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

There are always many great things Old people can teach us.  I attribute this to the time they’ve spent on this earth.  They appear to take on a kind of wisdom that somehow the younger of us, no matter how we philosophise, will not attain.  Perchance with the proximity of ashes to ashes, dust to dust comes an ability to sieve through what truly matters.

So I have been reminded often about the perils of the “Apportioning Blame” mentality.  You know, the one where you go “I am so frustrated because this didn’t happen, he said this, she didn’t do this…?”

In many ways, there is comfort in being  the victim.  It immediately validates an emotional response (which throws  Responsibility out the window).  Being upset and angry provides the adrenaline and release we all need from time to time.  A rant never hurts.

But it does. It can.  It first festers within and encroaches with deep roots that threatens to bring death to many things.  The first of which is Time.

Being a parent now makes me so acutely aware of the inevitable mortality of us all.  This ecosystem has no place for Blame, nor self-defeating over-rationalized psychoanalysis.

We have Today.  A quality that’s begone the very moment you realise it’s there.

Give Life

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

This is one of my worst fears, it’s way up there. Worse than the comtemplation of my own death.

And someone I know is going through it right now.

Many have written valiantly about raging against the night.   Do not go silently into the night, they say. This endeavour surely must demand of all our human strength, or it wouldn’t have been so often penned. 

How many of us truly can be courageous when ill, when our loved ones fight against diseases and we see their bodies writhe and their spirits broken?

When faced with these situations; when I have a chance to comfort someone whose loved one is in pain, I always find that I am at loss for words.   What can possibly comfort? What can lift the pain and in its place, give not so much hope but a sense of divine surrender, that reminds us that a divine God is in control and that all suffering shall not be in vain? 

Speak words that Give Life, I told myself desperately.  Place the right emotions in my soul so I can speak the right words, were the pleas in my head.

And so He did that I may speak. 

A warm feeling like fresh thick blood, still warm from where it’s been cut, flowed inside me. I cried. I cried as I struggled to say, trust that she will not be tested beyond her abilities, that His Grace is sufficient for her.    

Can our hearts be open to receive the promise that will comfort and heal?