Failed!

So it’s August already and I might as well say it now. I failed at Camp Nanowrimo. Me and the word “Nanowrimo” really don’t seem to jive very well. It’s sad.

But a part of me knows that I had sort of already declared myself defeated (internally) before it actually happened in real life. Funny thing is that I did try at first. Yet I kind of expected it. 

And when that distasteful blowup occurred with family lately (an incident that I suppose I should address to some degree of greater detail at some point), I guess I gave up keeping on with the writing. Because it all made me feel so lousy. Like, why bother doing it when I’m such a horrible person inside?

See, the thing about this family issue was that it hits at one of my core beliefs that family is everything, and a huge part of my heart is broken when I realise that sometimes the things I felt about my family weren’t always valued as much by the people on the other end. Also the glaring reality that family members still to this day do not really understand what I am all about nor seem to actually care that I have an avenue to express my feelings or be myself. 

Well, this is something that has been brewing under the surface for awhile now, so I guess it’s no wonder that an eruption would take place at some point.

Whatever it is, it feels like there’s a splinter that just got embedded on the inside of my heart. And although melancholy does sometimes help writing along, something of this magnitude isn’t something you’d want to hope to have even if it is for art’s sake.

Perhaps I have myself to blame? For all these unfinished writing endeavours. For even starting in the first place yet being halfhearted and torn about it all. Ironic too that the theme of my writing project had been imperfection. Oh yes. Seemed like a brilliant idea at the time.

And then there are all these relationships I’m supposed to have nurtured better. Which I am apparently not doing too well at either.

It’s never fun when things explode or implode in front of you. I feel like I just had both.

Nobody reads this

It's just a hunch, but I'm almost pretty sure that none of the people I know in real life are actually reading my blog. Or even know that I have this one out there.

I could do the narcissistic thing of posting about it on social media like what most people might do. In fact, I had done so in the past. But then it feels so much like asking for markah kesian from the school teacher. I'd rather people stumble upon the blog than me having to stuff it in front of their face and make them feel obliged to comment or do anything about it.

But this isn't saying I don't appreciate you, my random reader. If even one person out there reads any of this and derives something positive out of it, at least I can feel that this is all worth it.

Anyway, whatever the case may be, I'm still committed to writing here and keeping this blog alive. For now. Unless and until something tells me to stop. That moment hasn't come yet.

Time and again

Ironically enough, it's become extremely hard to write anything that I feel is heartfelt and of significant worth nowadays. I've been feeling so ever since I made writing my official career path, I think.

Funny, isn't it, since you'd think that because you're devoting more time perfecting your craft, you should be better at it and everything should come so much more naturally than it did in the past?

But this is how it's been. Regrettably too, might I add.

I revisited the old, first proper blog I ever wrote, Veritas Project, recently. It surprised me just how differently I used to write. So uninhibited. So candid.

In some ways, I wish I was back at that place and time of my life, and that I had utilised those moments more fully to revel in the emotions of that season more, to write more wholeheartedly. Because now that I am where I'm at in life, here in my 30's, there's a great difference in the things I'd write and how I'd write them.

Yet, of course, I'm not discounting the value of experience and where it has gotten me. I write now through the lens of someone who has seen more, who realises what she is capable of, and who now knows so many more precious things about the world and the seasons and rhythms of life.

Time and again, though, I keep returning to this point of contemplation that I need to put forward a more genuine version of myself whenever I write. Particularly when I blog for a wider audience, like I do here.

The difficulty here lies in the fact that having been a journalist in the not-so-distant past, my writing disciplines have been shaped to habitually involve the practice of self censorship. We do it all the time in the newsroom, although the reasons for doing so may differ each time. The words we allow to escape our keyboard are filtered: tapered down in its depth of feeling, politically correct, shifted and sorted to take on a supposedly neutral form, appealing to the average reader. Which is, in reality, probably no one.

Here in Blogdom, everyone is writing nowadays to garner as much Likes as possible. Building a band of followers that will faithfully swallow whatever you put out for them, just because they feel like you know them. You are like them.

For that is what is being peddled. Writers putting on a front of being an expert and knowing something special. Teasing readers with minimal prose, abandoning the art of it all, and replacing it with GIFs, memes, haphazardly compiled lists of things that nobody needs but everybody identifies with and wants to know about. A place where words are money, so make as much as you can, with as little beauty infused into those sentences. Because, what is the point in poetry? It is unnecessary and underappreciated.

Then there are those writers' circles, those exclusive associations formed amongst writers on social media platforms. Where writers rant and rave about the perils of the realms of publishing and lament the naivety of rookies seeking their way into the fellowship. Spouting advice like, "If your writing is rejected by publishers, it's because it's worthless. Please move along".

I somehow cannot fit into this landscape.

As it is, I already have trouble believing that I am a writer, and even more so calling myself one. And all this… this massive community of successful people before me; corporations who make profits from the words crafted by others; the formality of it all; the formatting of pages, columns, fonts; the rigours of being part of the publishing process… all of this feels stifling to me.

I want to go back to that spot where simplicity and freedom of expression were. That quiet corner in the middle of nowhere that I could sit at for as long as I needed to, use as many paragraphs and pages as I wanted, and express precisely how I feel without fear of judgment or ruthless editing.

Where it was just me and you, my darling reader.

I still want to tell my story. But (and this may be hard to believe, coming from a person with a history like mine) I am having trouble finding the right words.

Turntable 

I think the way expectations are set up for apologies makes it way too easy for “I’m sorry” to be said and for grievances to be brushed off. 

That since it’s expected of gracious human beings to forgive, it is entirely possible to do whatever you like and then come apologising for it later on. 

Because if the other person doesn’t forgive you, then it’s all on them. 

You’re not perfect, are you? So you should forgive. It’s an expected response. 

Never mind that you don’t like the options left to you because of someone else’s mistakes. You were given options… so can you afford to be ungrateful? 

Suddenly, even though you’re not the one who made a slip-up, you can quickly turn into the one to blame. And it’s something that can even be taken offence of. 

Such a sad state of affairs. Sometimes I wish being kind wasn’t my life goal. Then I can be ruthless and rude and not care about consequences. 

Camp Nanowrimo excerpt: Eczema & me

If you’re wondering how things are going for me at Camp Nanowrimo, thing’s aren’t going too great. As expected, I have fallen behind. I guess I was trying to inject too much creative writing into the project. I shall be attempting to craft more candid, straight-up kind of writing pieces to fill in the gaps. And hopefully, I will catch up somehow. The prognosis is rarely good at this stage: I typically give up. But… well, fingers crossed. 

For now, though, here’s an exceprt of something I wrote in the spirit of catching up. It’s still within the theme of my project, of course, and also features me getting a bit vulnerable in my writing by sharing with you about my personal life. 

Enjoy! 😉

*    *    *

Eczema & me

Apparently I was diagnosed with this skin disorder even before I was one year old. As far back as I can remember, I have been quite literally plagued with skin problems. Many times, it seemed like there was hardly ever a moment of reprieve.

What this means is that I am almost always scratching or having a previously clawed wound in the midst of the healing process at some spot or another on my body. On those even more unfortunate times, I’d also be battling some curious allergic reaction in addition to my typical eczema woes.  

Nowadays, it appears to be rather common for children to suffer from eczema. But back in the days when I was growing up, it was less so. So I endured a fair share of teasing and getting ostracised. I guess that’s because it not only looks unsightly, but some have the mistaken belief that I might pass on some allergy to them if they hung around me. I recall being called “kucing kurap” by a peer in primary school before. 

Seeking to alleviate my discomfort, my parents made it a point to write letters to my teachers requesting that I’d be exempted from Physical Education (P.E.) activities. So I’d often find myself sitting it out while my classmates played netball, ran in circles around the field, etc. Oddly enough, I do remember joining in on certain days… but as to why I participated during certain P.E. periods and not others is something that has since been forever lost from my memory.  

“Don’t scratch!” is probably the most frequently used phrase that I heard growing up. Usually, I would ignore this instruction. That’s mostly because you just have to scratch an itch. Those who believe it’s possible to completely endure it have obviously not had enough of them throughout their lifetime.  

Besides providing a sense of relief, scratching eczema patches is also hugely therapeutic. This is especially so when it’s a large patch of dry skin that has recently healed and is covered in scabs. There’s something strangely satisfying about peeling off an entire surface of scabby skin with your fingernails, one piece at a time. You’d have to experience it for yourself to understand. (FYI, I’ve talked to a friend who also suffers from eczema and he has verified this fact too as he finds it is also true in his own life).  

A common reaction to the discovery that I have eczema is to recommend a cure for me. I suppose most people mean well when they do this, but to be honest, I find it rather annoying. That’s probably because my parents actually took up some of these suggestions in the past and I had to experience all sorts of things in the name of getting me healed eczema. I don’t recall any particular one working out in the long term.  

So, in many ways, perhaps it’s to save myself the disappointment that I never heed any of the advice that people give me about eczema. (See earlier paragraph. Perhaps I’ve grown too fond of scratching as a technique for coping with life).  

The other thing about having eczema is that you fall under the category of People Who Ought To Be Prayer For To Receive Supernatural Healing within the Christian community. Believe me, many have prayed. The eczema endured, just as surely as God is eternal.  

What conclusion does this leave me with? I cannot accept that God is cruel enough to want to continue afflicting me because doesn’t He love me? But then comes the often proffered classic Christian perspective: “This is a test which God puts you through to refine your character and make beautiful things emerge from your life”. Oh and there’s also the “by the measure of your faith it will be given to you” angle whereby it’s supposedly my lack of faith which defines whether or not my eczema will vanish after a wholehearted prayer of a devout believer.  

No matter the reason, the fact remains that I. Still. Have. Eczema. Today.  

However, I should add that it has gotten much easier over the years. Partly it’s because I’m so used to having these skin woes. But it’s probably also due to the fact that there has been much less eczema patches appearing on my body as there used to be when I was a child.  

They say you can apparently “grow out of it”. And then when you don’t, they’ll say, “Oh, since you didn’t get rid of it before you reached adulthood, it’s now permanent”. Why not just tell me from the get-go that this is because my body functions in a certain way and that my best shot is to figure out a way to manage it that works well for me in the long run? 

Honestly, living with eczema isn’t too bad. As long as I don’t let flies lay eggs on my open wounds such that maggots start wiggling out of them (an unfortunately true story of a fellow hospital inmate that I was woefully made aware of while being admitted to the children’s ward), I suppose I will be alright.  

Sometimes I do face the setback of not being able to wear skirts or shorts whenever I want to because of weepy eczema patches on my legs, but it doesn’t happen too often (or I medicate quickly enough that the situation doesn’t persist for too long OR I completely ignore the issue and wear the desired item of clothing anyway).  

Although I do have some ideas about what triggers my eczema breakouts, most times I cannot say which of those causes is responsible for a particular episode. So, in many ways, que sera sera, and I continue to live life and not worry about abstaining from this or that unless something really huge occurs.  
And, as gross as it sounds that I like to scratch and peel of layers and layers of scabs, I’d like to make it known that I usually clean up my own mess afterwards. Especially on shared spaces around the home such as the bedroom mattress.  

There are far worse ongoing health issues to be stuck with, so I’m not complaining about my eczema. I just do what I can to live with it. Perhaps someday God will heal me of it. Or not. I just hope that I don’t pass it on genetically to any of my offspring so they can be spared of the agony.  

Awkward alien

Image source: Flexo

Becoming a Work At Home Mum (WAHM) is a double whammy. Not only are both those roles tough to navigate, there is this additional problem of becoming an awkward alien. 

What do I mean by that? 

Well, basically everyone else in your life who isn’t a mother and/or isn’t living a homebound lifestyle (which is probably like 90% of your social circle, if you’re in your 30’s like me) will be unable to understand you and the things you go through on a daily basis. This transforms you, essentially into an alien. And this then leads to some pretty awkward situations and conversations. 

To give you an example, here are some questions and/or comments I had to field lately: 

“So you guys don’t eat out much anymore nowadays, right?” 

– Hmm, while that is the truth, what this question reeks off is the underlying assumption that because I am now at home, therefore I must be cooking all the time. And also, since we have less household income, that we would probably want to be frugal and eat in seclusion, thus morphing into kataks di bawah tempurung.

“So when are you going to go back to work?”

– Thing is, I am working. Just not in a way that most people would comprehend since I don’t have fixed hours or fixed clients (except for one that I have been doing work for since last year). Read: I freelance. It’s not much compared to what I used to do in my old full time position, but I like to keep my career alive and options open. AND I’d like the freedom to be around to raise my son rather than let someone else do it for me. 

“Ah, so it helps you keep your mind active lah, gives you something to do.” (In response to finding out that I am taking on freelance work wherever I can.)

– I guess you can’t blame a person who hasn’t really spent day after day at home at all hours, because they would not have realised just how much there is to do at home. Even if I don’t come up with a list of things to do, or my son doesn’t throw a tantrum or mess up something and give me things to clean up after, there will ALWAYS be things to do at home. My home is my office, and whenever you are in the office, your working mode will be on. Which pretty much means I am almost always working on something and the chores never end. This isn’t even taking into consideration my actual freelance work. And, the fact is that just managing the household requires plenty of brainwork, because instead of doing it mindlessly, if you are a mature, educated adult, you will always want to find ways to improve things at home, be it the efficiency and speed of accomplishing chores, the organisation of furniture, storage solutions or other things. 

There was also this incident where I was having a conversation with two other ladies around my age. The two of them were going on and on about how kids are like this or that, citing examples of nieces and nephews and children of other friends. Perhaps it was them trying too hard to identify with me, the only one in the conversation who was a mother. Mmm. Don’t get me wrong, I love talking about young children since I have one myself, but there is an invisible boundary somewhere, which once crossed, makes it uncomfortable and unnatural to carry on discussing this topic. It is especially so when the people keeping the topic going are those who don’t have kids in the first place. 

Just to clarify, being a WAHM doesn’t make me hate all these other more normal and sane people in my life (yes, I’m probably getting more and more queer with each passing day, if I have not yet morphed into an oddball) . But it does make it feel like a large chasm just opened up between us. And that makes it a bit harder, though not impossible, to connect. 

Well, I guess I should apply the same rules of conversation as a WAHM that I had used in the past: Always seek to understand more than to be understood; to ask about the other person and to care for them, rather than to expect them to be concerned for you. 

And then, all will be fine, and no one will suspect what an awkward alien I really am. 

It’s just that… it would be nice if everyone in general understood the WAHM situation better so less misunderstandings and explanations would need to be provided. 

Response ability 

Should we merely to point out to our loved ones their weaknesses or actually help them change and improve on it? 

And if it is the latter that we are to do, is it considered meddling too much into their personal life/development? Or is it part and parcel of our duty to them, because no one else would take the trouble? 

Well, if they do want the help, then that’s all really great, but what if they don’t? Do we insist on working to change them because we know it will benefit them in the long run? 

Or… Do we just tolerate their behaviour while only gently prodding them to make the change on their own time and based on their own readiness? Because if they don’t see the need for improvement, why should we force it out of them? 

After all, if we do actively try too hard to change them, then we are not loving them just the way they are. 

Then again, is love meant to be just that? Accepting of a person in their entirety, but with no effort to help them shape the best version of themselves? With that thought, the question also arises: “Best version” on whose terms, anyway? 

What a neverending line of thought. Perhaps it’s enough just to work on my own weaknesses.