I sit typing this as the day draws to a close. 11:15pm, that’s when I started. I have to complete this post by 11:30pm because one of my goals for this year is to get more sleep. With Zac waking us up at 5/530am every morning, the only way I can get a nice stretch of sleep is by, well, sleeping earlier than usual. Somehow, my children are allergic to sleep AND I DO NOT UNDERSTAND WHY.
35 years and almost 12 hours ago, on this day, I was born. It’s been such a ride, so many highs and so many lows. The lows were horrible, difficult to live through – so many deaths and illnesses and poverty and emotional scars. But the highs? Oh, so many beautiful memories. No matter how bad it gets now, I know and remember that it could have been worse.
And so I am very glad to be here today.
In my youth, I dreaded growing older. When I was 18, I shuddered at turning 25. And look at me today, 35 and proud of it. I think it has something to do with being so much more comfortable in my own (ageing) skin. I know who I am and what I am and you can take it or leave it. I am no longer in the business of trying to make everyone happy – I do not give a shit to what you think.
A few weeks ago, I had a bit of an existential angst. Or moment of realisation. One of those things. I was thinking of something else and randomly, it dawned upon me that my birthday was coming up and HOLY SHIT I AM TURNING 35. That’s like one foot into the door of middle-agedhood. And I had a sudden panic attack. 35 and what have I done with my life?
And that’s really me in a nutshell, always wanting to do this and be that and getting frustrated that my situation does not permit me to do so. That’s why I decided that this year will be the year that I am patient with myself, that I do not ask too much of myself.
Knowing that there is so much that I seek to achieve, and also knowing that I am hopeless at organising my life (see what I mean by knowing myself well), I downloaded two apps on my phones. They are habit trackers: I set habits like “Go to bed at 11:30pm”, “Practise yoga” and “Write/Create” on certain (or all) days of the week and then when I attain these habits on a daily basis, I mark it off with a tick. It makes me accountable to myself and also, hey, it’s pretty cool to see the boxes checked. Let’s hope that by the time I turned 36, I am still going to bed at 11:30pm, practising yoga everyday and writing.
Usually, I would spend my birthday with my favourite boys. This year, however, husband took on a new job and he started yesterday. Which meant that it was impossible for him to take the day off and spend it with me. No biggie. I decided that since it was my birthday, it would be a day for me and took the day off.
I dropped Aidan off at his childcare centre, all sobbing and clinging on to my leg. I half wanted to grab him and bring him home with me but steeled my heart and walked away. Left the littlest at home with my mother and I went for an hour’s yoga session. Stretched out the kinks, pushed my body a little further than it has been used to for the past four years and it made me feel so good.
BONUS: the gym’s hairdryer is DOPE and it made my hair all perfect and nice, in a matter of minutes. MINUTES.
I then met my favourite girlfriend – she whom I have known since we were 13, spotty and really awkward – and we had lunch and tea together. We hardly meet, what with our brood of five between us, but it’s always a joyous thing when we do. It’s a most wonderful, funny and heartwarming and honest and giving friendship.
In the evening, I sent my mother home and went to pick up the man at his new far-flung office. We drove home in happy conversation, had dinner and then had cake again. Aidan sang me a line of the birthday song after I threatened to withhold cake from him, Zac ate so much he farted twice and then we put them to bed.
And now they are happily snoring in their beds and I am writing.
It’s a simple day. No gifts, no flowers, no big gestures.
But I am happy.
This year is not looking like it will be easy, what with the man’s new job/long working hours/traveling/office location and my steadily increasing workload. Some days I think about it and I despair. Just a little. But I know I will get through it.
I always do. I’m a survivor. I’m strong.
Happy birthday to me.
As I sit here, on the penultimate day of 2015, typing this, I find myself hard pressed to find the right words to describe the year. Not sure if it’s my faulty mummy memory, or the fact that the year has seemingly zoomed by, there is a sense that I don’t have much feeling for 2015.
Was it a good year? Well, yes and no. It certainly has its challenges. The husband was still navigating his way around some changes that cropped up on the work front. On my work front, I was given more and more responsibilities to handle, tasks that mostly worked my weaker muscles (and hence frustrating me to no end). The jump from parenting one child to two was also intensely apparent to me and there were times when I felt like I was constantly stretching myself, trying to be the best at everything I did.
Somewhere in the middle of the year, I thought I was swimming against the currents – I was perpetually chasing deadlines at the seat of my pants at work and then I had to drop everything at work to put on my mothering hat at the end of the day. It didn’t help that my two were constantly falling sick, picking up virus after virus. I’d be lying if I said that I was not resentful of the husband for his long hours at work – but that’s mostly my tired self rearing its ugly side.
So it wasn’t like I was shitting unicorns and rainbows, if you know what I mean.
And YET. I can’t say that it was a bad year. It was challenging, yes. But it was not bad. Because I have seen bad happening to the people around me and I know what bad is. Ours isn’t bad, no, not by a mile. At the end of the day, we still have it better than most.
But that still doesn’t sum up 2015 in any way. How does one sum up a year that seems so…grey? Oh speaking of grey, maybe I will always remember 2015 to be the year that Dr Shepherd died. Hah! Okay, lame joke. Although I will admit that I was really, really gutted. Still am, actually. BOO HOO HATES SHONDA RHIMES.
So, 2015. I’m not particularly sad to see it end. It was not a great year, nay, it was a strange year. Terrorist attacks, downed planes, Orchard Road in flames, abused cats, social media lynching, deaths, illnesses…all horribly confounding.
What am I looking forward to in 2016? Slowing down my pace, enjoying watching my children grow up. Gritting my teeth and getting work done. Squeezing in more yoga and gym sessions. Cooking more. Being less emotional and having greater clarity of mind. Figuring out what I want to do with my life. Sleep earlier. Stop stretching myself in all directions. Accepting me for who I am and understanding that the mum me is still me, with some variances in priorities.
Wherever you are, I hope you will have a wonderful 2016. May it bring you bags of blessings and may we all stay safe, healthy and happy.
Thank you for reading me.
(From the other side…okay, lame joke.)
I don’t know if anyone is still around reading this, or if anyone even cares. But evidently, I will continue to write even if nobody else is reading…because that’s who I am and what I do. Just ask my husband. I can talk and talk to him even if he is obviously in shutdown mode and not bothering to process what I am saying. By George, I will talk!
Anyway, same old story of my life. Work gets in the way of pleasure, unfortunately. There is so much that I want to do and so much that I want to write about but I haven’t got the time nor energy to do so. When I am home, my two tiny tyrants take up my remaining battery life. By the time they are asleep, I am stoning on the sofa, a mini Cornetto in hand.
This year has been quite a sombre one for us. Many changes in the household, many uncertain realities. We are still trying to navigate our way, trying to see through the fog. It has not been easy, it has not been smooth-sailing. There were times when we raised our voices, when tempers flared, when we didn’t like each other (or our kids). It wasn’t pretty.
But life – and marriage – isn’t about prettiness. It’s about grit and getting through the tough times together, and emerging better and tougher than before. If we can live through those two years of crazy, heartbreaking infertility, we can live through anything.
Plus, there’ve been so many terrible things happening to good people around us. My heart aches for them, but I am also heartened and inspired by their strength.
Needless to say, Christmas this year has been a little quieter. We took time out from work to be with Aidan and Zac, and it’s been both extremely satisfying and tiring. We’ve laughed and we’ve shouted (yikes) and we’ve rolled our eyes countless times.
But that’s family for you.
So we are off to celebrate Christmas with both sides of the family. We are very, very lucky that we are loved, and that our boys are so adored. No matter what happens, no matter how tough the times may seem, we know that it’s really not that bad. It’ll all pass. We are still luckier than most and we must remember it.
Whoever you are, wherever you are: I hope that you are loved and that you are able to savour peace and joy.
Have a blessed Christmas. May 2016 be a better year for all of us.
Once in a while, something happening in the block that we live in scares me.
Once in a while, we would hear a man shouting so loudly that it echoes across the block. There would be sounds of things – doors, cupboards, tables – being thrown or slammed. And sometimes, there would be sounds of somebody sobbing or screaming in return.
The ruckus would go on for a bit and I would freeze in the midst of whatever I was doing – bathing my baby, or putting him down for a nap, or cooking. And then just as I resolve to do something about it, the noise dies down into a strange silence. And I am left wondering if I had imagined the entire episode.
Most of the time, it happens in the day. Sometimes, it happens at night. Each time, I would wonder what was going on.
It happened today.
The man’s voice seems louder, somehow. The crashes, too, sounded explosive. I stopped for a moment, my heart beating fast. As I tumbled into the room to ask the husband to do something, I saw that he was leaning out of the window, trying to ascertain where it was coming from.
That was it.
I told him that I was going to call the police and handed the baby to him.
“You don’t even know which floor it is,” he pointed out.
I dashed out of the room. “I don’t care. What if someone is being killed right now.”
As the shouts continued, I rang the neighbourhood police centre and a lady picked up. I explained that there seemed to be a domestic spat and I was worried. She took my name and my number, and promised to send someone over to check. As I hung up the phone, there was a sudden silence.
It was over.
I don’t know if what I did was right, I don’t know if it would help in any way. I mean, by the time the police showed up, they would have absolutely nothing to work on. Maybe I should have gone out to check, floor by floor. Maybe I should have tried to ascertain which apartment the fighting was happening in.
Oh, I don’t know. I reacted instinctively, I wasn’t thinking straight. But I knew that if we did nothing, someday, someone would get hurt.
That afternoon, Aidan asked me why I had called the police. I didn’t even realise that he had overheard our conversation. I explained that something bad was happening and I wanted the police to help. And I decided to turn it into a learning point for him.
“We need to be the people who help, if we can,” I said. “It can be simple ways. Like if your friend is crying in school, you can give him or her a hug and ask him to play with you. Or if someone is being bullied, you can step forward to help him. We help when we can.”
I don’t know how much of it went into his head but it’s a good start.
My heart is still heavy from the episode today. Whoever it happened to, I hope that he or she is fine and safe.
And just like that, December has descended upon us.
I love December, I really do. There’s so much to look forward to. Christmas, New Year’s, our anniversary. Taking time off from work to catch up with our friends. Family gatherings. Time to cook!
This year, I am feeling especially hopeful and excited and pensive, all at the same time. I know, what a strange mix, isn’t it.
The truth is, this year hasn’t exactly been that great. So many worries and anxieties and stress on the home front. For starters, the littles have been sick more often than not. We have spent most of this year battling colds and coughs and fevers, trying to eliminate phlegm and snotty noses. It was almost as if we were bouncing from illness to illness, with very little recovery time in between. Our paediatrician was mentioning asthma and allergies and respiratory problems. The boys were on meds and puffs and nebulisers. Every other weekend, we found ourselves at a clinic.
It was really tough. And it wasn’t just physically tough, but mentally. Seeing our babies ill is so hard on us emotionally.
Then, there is work. Some days, I feel really torn about what I do. It’s not that I don’t enjoy it, but there’s a lot about this job that I detest. To be honest, I often feel as if I am not cut out for public service, I am not the model employee that my company is seeking. Look, let’s just say that administrative work is NOT my strongest suit and yet it is something that is highly valued here. And yet I want to try to bring about change, to help improve the system somewhat.
It also doesn’t help that work leaves me exhausted at the end of the day. Dealing with young people for hours and hours, tackling the mountain of paperwork – I come home feeling drained and then mum guilt sets in because, hey, I expended all my energy on other children, leaving none for my two. How is that a balance? But I suspect that this will be demons that I am constantly fighting in my mind, being the kind of mother that I am (read: wants to handle everything by herself, thank you very much.)
And I feel like I have not been fulfilling what I want to do in life. Maybe it’s an existential crisis but I did wake up one morning thinking, Holy fuck, I am turning 35 and what have I done with my life? I am scared of lying on my deathbed one day, regretting my life.
Thankfully, not all is doom and gloom. It ISN’T. There’s loads to be cheerful about too. Like the fact that we are getting a brand new kitchen! Well, that’s only because our current kitchen is falling apart. Like, it is LITERALLY falling apart. We’d wake up everyday to see little sand particles on our countertop. THE CUPBOARDS ARE FALLING APART! Therefore, a new kitchen is a necessity.
So, yes. December. A time to look back at what I have or have not done. To plan ahead for 2016. And there are plans. I am determined NOT to let life go by just like that, existing day by day.
No, I want to live. And damn it, I am about to hit middle age and whatever dreams I have ever had, I had better start putting them in place. Yes, I had dreams of becoming a mother but that is not ALL. There’s more to who I am and I am trying to figure out how I can turn these dreams and ideas into a solid plan.
Clarity of mind. That shall be my goal for next year.
But in the meantime, I am going to enjoy December and all its cool weather, festivities and joy.
I literally grew up here.
Back in the ’80s, My aunt and uncle owned the snack/drinks store at The Cathay and my mama worked for them. Weekends were spent at the cinema. In the mornings, I would board SBS number 25 with my mum for that one-hour ride into town. Of course, buses were not air-conditioned then but I don’t remember being put off by it. In fact, I loved to sit by an open window, feeling the sting of the wind whipping on my face. I still love that sensation now, come to think of it.
At the store, my uncle was kind enough to let me sit on the counter top, behind a dizzying array of snacks that were on offer. He used to let me scratch those lucky draw cards that came with cartons of packet drinks, which was SO! MUCH! FUN! for a tot. And when I was done with running the business, the cinema attendants would quietly sneak me into the theatre. Inside the darkened theatre, I would perch on the steps to watch movies.
One movie that remained steadfastly in my memories was The Fly. Because it FREAKED ME OUT SO BAD. I was terrorised and had nightmares for ages. In fact, I can still vividly remember some scenes from that movie. TRAUMATISED, I WAS.
Mmm, not the best movie to show a preschooler, on hindsight. Clearly nobody thought, then, to think about the movies that a little person could sit in on. (Note to self: Do not screen shows featuring man transforming into a human-sized, gooey mess of a fly to my children.)
When the owners closed the cinema for renovations, my mum and aunt and uncle lost their jobs. And when it eventually reopened again, it had become nothing like the Cathay that I knew. Everything was so new and snazzy and shiny and bright.
BUT. The greatest thing was that the owners re-hired some of the old cinema attendants whom I grew up with. There was once my cousins and I went to watch a movie at The Cathay and the attendants recognised them! It was so amazing.
Come to think of it, it was a pretty simple childhood that I led. But wow, some of the memories that I still retain after so many years – who would have known? Something to keep in mind as I totter along this parenting journey which has no instruction manual and no back button to push.