We’re deficient in some way

I’ve just read two very good books by Mitch Albom; Tuesdays with Morrie and The Five People You Meet in Heaven. I know these aren’t recent books in the market but they were books I purchased a few years back and chucked them on my shelf because I wanted to do other things like watch more movies or television series. The pages have turned a little yellow with brown spots and I’ve had to wipe the dust from them. I don’t regret picking up books again because I feel like I’ve delved into a character’s world and experience. Now I wish I had more time to do everything – to read especially.

Tuesdays with Morrie made me think about what matters most in life. It’s an autobiographical piece based on Mitch Albom’s professor, Morrie. Morrie is a beautiful soul and just reading about him makes you wish you had met the man. The things he talks about exudes a wisdom that stems from contentment in this world. I especially loved reading about the things Morrie liked to do and how simple he was. Disclaimer for the next sentence: this isn’t a spoiler because it is given that Morrie was going to die. By the time I got to the end, I was crying like a baby because of the way Mitch wrote about Morrie’s death. It made me think about the loss I went through when Suzie passed away. I will share more about it in this blog piece.

The Five People You Meet in Heaven, howevermade me think about my life’s purpose and the little incidents that make sense when you look at the bigger picture. It’s a fictional piece inspired by Mitch Albom’s uncle, Eddie. It is one of Mitch’s best works and I like how he perceives heaven. I like how he arranges the chapters such that the books begins with the ending and shares these little moments about the main character, Eddie, and how it relates to the five people he meets in heaven. By the time I reached the fifth person, I was sitting on my living room couch and tearing up. It was a very touching, simple moment filled with innocence.

In this post, I will just be reflecting on the chapter on materialism in Tuesdays with Morrie.


One of the things Morrie talks about is materialism.

“Mitch,” he said, laughing along, “even I don’t know what ‘spiritual development’ really means. But I do know we’re deficient in some way. We are too involved in materialistic things, and they don’t satisfy us. The loving relationships we have, the universe around us, we take these things for granted.” – Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

These particular chapter got me reflecting on my own life. I wouldn’t say I’m very spiritual but I am a practicing Catholic and I do have Catholic guilt once in a while. I used to be very involved in the Church but life demanded more of my time and well, Church wasn’t exactly a place where everyone welcomes you. I’m not here to paint the Catholic church in a good or bad light. At the end of the day, people are people. It doesn’t mean God is any less and it certainly does not mean my faith should be any less. In moments where my faith is tested, I remember when God was there for me and how He saw me through; for me, that is enough.

Back to my point on the quote. Morrie mentions that we are too involved in materialistic things and they don’t satisfy us. I have to agree with him on that. For me personally, in this day and age where social media has become the growing trend, it is hard to break out of it. We always want more likes on that photo we just posted. It could just be an ordinary photo but we are obsessed with popularity. If it’s not about the likes, it’s about making a point to be noticed at least. To put our lives out there; to show off that we’re having or we’ve had a ball of a time. We want to get our hands on the latest gadgets, fashion, etc. We want to climb the career ladder and succeed. We want more money but yet we don’t know how to give a generous percentage of our salary to those who need it more.

For myself, having worked my first full-time job and receiving my first pay – I wanted to use that money for self-development purposes. This year, I picked up Muay Thai. Next year, I hope to pick up Archery; or to even go back to part-time studies to pick up a new degree. Aside from that, I want more clothes because the weight gain did not do any of my old clothes good and I don’t want to always feel like I have nothing to wear to cover the fats. I said I wanted to help the Church or the animals but yet, a small percentage of my money has been donated. The rest were only for myself and my responsibilities. I have all these materialistic things but I do not feel filled. I am not saying that if you donate money, you’ll feel satisfied. You get a good feeling in your heart for any generous act; but if you’re doing these generous acts to always feel good about yourself then the act itself is not purely generous. What I’m trying to say is that I’ve been focusing on the wrong things in life. It’s okay to put some time and money into self-improvement activities/classes, but we also need to put effort in things that matter such as our loved ones.

I am so eager to attend Muay Thai classes every night after work because I want to get better at it faster and I also want to lose that excessive weight as rapidly as possible; but I feel sad when I no longer come home for dinner with my family which has been the tradition since forever. Dinner is not just a time to eat together, but it is when we come together as a family to share about our time or funny encounters. Our dinners can last for hours if the conversations flow and if everyone is in a good mood. But these days, dinner with my family has become so rare.

On the topic of social media – I often feel annoyed looking at people’s things because I just feel everything is the same thing. I feel the lack of adventure whether it is an actual adventure or just something new. I know people are perhaps, just simply documenting their day but it doesn’t affect me because it’s impersonal. It’s distant. I miss the days where friends just met up for a meal and conversations flowed without anyone whipping out their phones to “document” it. It’s great to capture moments but it’s more important to stay in them. I guess this is why I stopped taking too much care of my social media because it doesn’t matter as much as the actual thing/person I am documenting.

This whole secularism/materialism thing is so addictive that even when you’re aware of it, it’s so hard to break out of it. It feels like you’re swimming against current because it’s the way everyone is. I don’t feel pure happiness in my heart and I hate feeling the negativity weighing me down all the time. I want to be free of such heaviness and the solution is simple, but it’s somewhat tough to act on.

I think the only way one can be free is to really be self-sacrificing. When you have nothing left, but yet, you have everything. I hope that I can work towards that slowly. I want my spirit to be as free as Morrie’s.

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I was Lia Wolfheart, heart of the wild

I love reading this book, Captivating, about a woman’s heart by Stasi Eldredge. Her husband, John Eldredge, wrote the accompanying book, Wild at Heart, for a man’s heart.

In the introduction of Captivating, she mentions about a time she and John were camping in the Tetons with their three sons and how they canoed through pitch darkness. What seemed like an adventure had suddenly become a test of skill as a couple. To provide some context, they knew dusk was settling in; in less than twenty minutes night would be upon them and the river and the woods. They’d be in the river alone with only a general idea of which direction to manoeuvre. They went ahead anyway because it was a sense of adventure. They planned to go ashore along a cove closest to the road so they wouldn’t have to walk too far to find their car. As they were reaching their destination, a bull moose appeared exactly where they had planned to come ashore. Knowing the dangers of deaths by moose, they knew they could not come ashore there and that they had to find an alternative. At this point, it was pitch black and they had to canoe up, searching for the right channel that would keep them out of the main current. In that moment, John must steer with skill and Stasi must paddle with every strength. One mistake would basically sweep them and their boys off downriver into the night. But they did it and that required teamwork. At this point, Stasi Eldredge mentions that she was no longer Stasi. She was Sacagawea, Indian Princess of the West, a valiant and strong woman. This was directly lifted from the book itself.

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“Stop taking photos of me” – Cristy. Photographed by Marion Frayna.

 

Every woman desires just that. They long to be captivating and to play a purposeful role. I know I do. I’ve always longed to be one of those Charlie’s Angels kind of girl. I loved watching those powerhouse movies starring chicks who were kickass and could just take down bad guys. Totally Spies, Kim Possible, Charlie’s Angels, Nikita, Agent Carter etc. I would often fantasise how I’d be as kickass as they were.

 

Marion and I share a dream of creating stories together one day. I’d often imagine the type of character I’d like mine to be. I guess it’s no surprise that when I did play Dungeons and Dragons with him and a group of friends, I chose to be a wood elf druid, Lia Wolfheart. I didn’t choose to create that character because of my love for animals alone, but also because of how powerful I’d be when I get to turn into elements. Aside from Dungeons and Dragons, I’d imagine myself as an assassin spy who took down bad guys or a vigilante who brought justice to those who escaped a sentence, especially towards cruelty to animals. It seems silly to talk about these dreams out loud because it’s a fantasy. But enough about all of that and back to the topic of what I wanted to write about.

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Photographed by Marion Frayna

On Friday, 25 November 2016, Marion and I decided to have a cycling date at East Coast Park. We left my house a little late and the journey itself was long. We reached East Coast Park around 5pm. The skies were teasing us the whole day with dark clouds looming over the horizon. We heard thunder too but we decided to just stick with our plans and go for it. As usual, we got the two-seater bike. It’s also because our legs were still sore from Muay Thai so we thought that sharing a bike would be a better idea than having two individual bikes. Marion took the front seat and I took the back. We cycled without a destination in mind for awhile, along the beach. I told him I wanted to try cycling us so I took the front seat instead. Although I had better control than Marion did, mostly cause I cycle more; Marion had more strength and I grew tired easily. So we changed seats again and decided to find the hawker area where they sell BBQ Sambal Stingray. We cycled to the hawker area and decided to just have an early dinner. It was already 6plus at that time. We didn’t have a bike lock or chain with us so we had to leave it outside. Because of that, we chose the outside seats with a single umbrella to shelter the table should it rain.

We were halfway into our dinner when it started to pour. We didn’t move to the seats inside. The rain got heavier and it was beating in to our food. It was also beating in to the seats and our butts were getting soaked. We continued finishing up our food in discomfort – there was nothing else to be done. If it was one thing we learnt as a couple over the years, it is to rough it out.

We were done with our dinner and the time was now 7.15pm. We knew we had to make a move soon or there would be overtime penalty charges. The rain was now a thunderstorm and we could see the lightning flash across the sea where the ships were. It was dangerous but we didn’t have much of a choice.

I turned to him and asked if we should just ride under the rain. He said “okay, we might as well”. I was surprised by his answer because Marion hates the rain. He doesn’t like the feeling of being drenched and the discomfort that comes along with it. I have often asked him to come play in the rain with me when an opportune moment arises; he has always said no. So we walked into the rain with a single small umbrella and we stepped into the puddle that surrounded our bike. I held the umbrella up as he carried the bike out of the puddle. I think he thought I meant to push the bike out but I actually meant to cycle out.

So I told him to hold on to my backpack and to carry the umbrella for me as I got into the front seat and cycled us back. The rain was so bad that it kept getting into my eyes. So I took out my sunglasses and wore them at night so that it could at least keep most of the water out from my eyes. We looked ridiculous. Imagine this – Marion with the umbrella in his hand sheltering us, me with my shades at night cycling us back. We tried to take a short cut but there was a dead end and I was afraid because there was lightning and being out in the open like that was dangerous. My vision was also reduced by the rain. Although I was the one in control of the bike, Marion was paddling with me to stabilise it and he was giving me the directions of where to turn. We stopped by a kiosk and bought two disposable ponchos before continuing on. At this point, it was already 7.22pm and we needed about 10-15 minutes to get back to the bicycle rental.

As mentioned before, Marion had a lot more strength and a lot more speed so he took over this time. Thankfully, the rain was beginning to subside and we could see better. We eventually made it in time.

He did it. I did it. WE did it.

We looked like fools but it was one of the best moments I shared with Marion. It was indeed an adventure and it was fun. I felt like we were working as a team and that I had an active role in this instead of sitting in the sidelines as he did all the work. As much as a woman likes to be the damsel or the princess once in awhile; a woman also likes to be the heroine. Like Stasi Eldredge, I was no longer Cristy; I was Lia Wolfheart, heart of the wild. I felt strong and valiant.

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I was no longer Cristy. I was Lia Wolfheart, Heart of the Wild. Strong and Valiant. Photographed by Marion Frayna.

Marion could have easily told me to take a back seat and to let him do the work but he knows my heart and he knows I am meant for more and that I am more. With drenched clothes and the tumultuous and unrelenting rain, I felt so free and so close to nature. I felt all my worries being washed away. It has been a long time since I played in the rain like that. The last time I did that was when I was walking home from school (my Millennia Institute years) and the rain was so heavy that I didn’t see a point for an umbrella anymore so I took it down and started dancing and twirling in the rain, just like in the movies.

Sometimes, as we grow up into adults, we forget to see the world with child’s eyes. On Friday, we were just two kids on the greatest adventures of our lives and it was perfect.

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Cristy and Marion – The El to his Mike; the Ron to my Kim. 

 

 

 

My Guiding Light

There’s a song on Spotify that I’ve listened to a few times; every time I listen to it, I think of Suzie. It’s called ‘Guiding Light’ by Foy Vance featuring Ed Sheeran; it goes like this –

These lines in particular –

Cause the Sun is low,
And I yet have still so far to go,
My lonely heart is beating so,
Tired of the wonder.

But there’s a sign ahead,
Though I think it’s the same one again,
And I’m thinking ’bout my only friend,
And so I find my way home.

When I need to get home
You’re my guiding light,
You’re my guiding light.

The first time I listened to it, I had to hold myself back from crying. I was on my way back home from work, crossing over to the North-South line from the Circle Line. There were crowds every where and I didn’t want to be noticed even though I knew every one was busy with doing their own thing. So I held it in and kept the music on replay.

In case you were wondering why I would do that – it was because it pleased my heart. It gave me hope to know that I would see her again at the end of my life. This would be the song I would think about in my dying days. I imagined how I’d be in heaven and that she’d come running over to me, wagging her tail excitedly. I imagined I would cry at the sight of my beloved companion, I would scoop her in my arms again and I’d kiss her and never let go. I don’t know what heaven is like, and I don’t know if we have emotions there or if we remember our identities or relationships on Earth, but I do know that it’s a beautiful thing to imagine so and that it gives me some hope that we only had to part ways temporarily and that our reunion would be permanent.

Today’s the 26th of November. It’s a year since Suzie’s passing.

I didn’t wake up wanting to cry. I didn’t get up remembering the horrible night or days before her death, nor did I want to. I didn’t wake up with that overwhelming ache and grief. I woke up with hope and joy.

Yes, the ache never leaves. It will always be there lurking around in the deep crevices and corners of my heart. I believe that there are several rooms in my heart that my loved ones occupy and that with each departure, the rooms become quiet. Sometimes we welcome new loved ones and they occupy those empty rooms and we start to feel the wholeness again; but each time you visit that room, you reminisce how the room used to be, how the furniture of the previous occupant were arranged. Same room, different orientation. It is that way with Suzie. Although her room is empty now, her spirit resides. Some days I walk past the room and I feel the silence but the day is busy and I don’t have the luxury of time to walk in to reminisce. Other days, I walk past the room and I stop by for a couple of minutes. And there are the rare days where I don’t even intend to go up there but I stumble across a familiar item elsewhere in the house and it brings me to a memory of her; the ache starts to intensify and the emptiness becomes greatly felt. It is those days the flood enters my house. In those moments, I look for something stable to grab until the flood subsides. I’ve learned that when you fight the flood, it just tires you out more.

I haven’t found a new occupant for Suzie’s room and I hope that one day, I would be able to; maybe even a few more occupants sharing that room.

Suzie may have departed this world but my love for her remains as strong, if not, stronger. It’s hard to forget my furry companion who looked at me with eyes full of love. She gave me a friendship like no other. She was both my daughter and my bestfriend. I protected her with my life, I saw her through her deteriorating health together with my family; we were with her every step of the way. My only hope is that we gave her everything a dog could ask for during their time on Earth. That she felt greatly loved and deeply cared for. That despite her being fussy, she had enjoyable meals. That she loved every minute of the wind in her face during car rides and running through the fields at Sembawang Park.

I remember her last car ride – we were on our way to Sembawang Park, her favourite. We wound down the window and Tita held her as she propped herself up to get the wind in her face. She was so silent unlike her energetic, youthful self. It almost felt like her thoughts were a recollection of her best days, her golden years. I captured the moment; a part of me knew we were reaching our final destination, metaphorically speaking. I guess I just didn’t want to forget that moment.

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31 October 2015 – Suzie enjoying the wind in her face on the way to Sembawang Park. Photographed by cristyamanda

All life ends eventually; death is inevitable. I knew what we were getting ourselves into when she came into our lives. I am thankful that I had her for 11 years and for her love and friendship. I know she no longer suffers and that she’s running free. As silly as it may sound, a part of me wishes I had one more day with her. I guess we’re always bargaining for more. I know her remaining time in this world was borrowed time and we were just fortunate to have had her for this long given her condition. To feel her near me again, to hear her paws rattling on the wooden tiles, to hear her flapping her ears or the gentle sound of her bell against her collar as she moved from one place to another, to have her poke her head through my room door when she wanted to get in – I wish that every day, but I know the danger of wishing for too much and being far away from what’s real.

I know that her death is as real as her life and that she’s no longer here with us physically. I know that I love her with all of my heart and that she knew I did. I know that she loved me back and maybe that is enough for me.

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Suzie’s first picture on the grass on 12 May 2012. Photographed by cristyamanda

To Suzie, gone but never forgotten. One day when I have kids and other dogs in my life, I will tell of your story and how much you mean to me. You are deeply loved and greatly missed and you’ll continue to live on in my memory. When the time comes for me to leave this world, and I am lying afraid in my deathbed; please be my guiding light to heaven. Until we meet again… I love you.

When you try your best but you don’t succeed

We tried to get our Coldplay concert tickets for two consecutive days and we were so close yet so far away.

Marion and I said that the first concert we’ll ever go together would be Coldplay and when we found out they were coming to Singapore after a long time, we were thrilled. But then there are some inconsiderate people out there who have apparently hacked into the system to get tickets way ahead of time and re-sell these tickets online. It’s very disgusting behaviour because for a first-world country, our citizens act like they have no money and need to resort to black market dealings. When the haze was so bad back in 2013, and the N95 masks were all running low on stock – instead of offering it to others who need it, people bought all of it, if not, most of it, off the shelves and resold them to make a higher profit. To the point that when it’s a matter of health, our Singapore citizens can resort to such a disgusting behaviour.

Yes, I’m upset that I lost out. Yes, I was being a typical Singaporean being kiasu about getting my tickets. Yes, I’m jealous that others who may not as big as a fan of Coldplay got the tickets. But I can overlook all of these emotions if things were done fair and square. If people hadn’t hacked or tried to make a profit of it. If it’s anything that is my pet-peeve in life, it is this – inconsiderate behaviour.

So I guess, for now, goodbye Coldplay concert. We came so close but yet so far away.

We were so upset about it that we decided to just watch a movie tonight. I don’t even go out on a Friday night but here I am watching a movie with my sweetheart on a Monday night. It’s always nice to “come home” to loving arms when your day sucks so bad. Despite the disappointment I felt, I’m glad I got to spend time with Marion and just relax on a Monday night at least.

29,200 days

When a loved one dies, people try to comfort you and some of the things they say is that the body is just a vessel to store the soul; and that your loved one is still very much present. Although I believe that to be true, I feel the concept is hard to grasp because it’s intangible. Everything that is spiritual is intangible – one must be very attuned to their being, their senses and their emotions to truly feel the spirits.

About a year ago, my most beloved companion passed away. It was the hardest moment in my life – to watch her suffer and then to watch her go. I felt myself wanting to be selfish by not letting her go but at the same time my heart was so broken watching her suffer. I don’t know what sacrifice is really about but I do know that it was a very difficult decision to make. Either way, I couldn’t win this. As she went from life to death, I felt that life stopped for me for awhile. I was dazed and in so much pain and I didn’t know how I was going to pull through. I just kept thinking ‘look at it in parts. If you can’t take it a day at a time, take it an hour at a time. If you can take it an hour at a time, take it a minute at a time. If you can’t take it a minute at a time, take it a second at a time.’ Those were some very painful seconds.

My survivor instinct kicked in – I told myself life had to go on so I suppressed the emotion as much as I could. I would have random bursts of emotions and I would bury my face in my pillow as I cried to my heart’s content. I went to see a counsellor because I didn’t know how to deal with my grief and I was so angry with myself because I couldn’t get my shit together. I was angry because all I wanted to do was to have Suzie with me, but I couldn’t. I tried so hard to recall how she felt on my legs when she curled into a ball and fell asleep on my lap. I tried so hard to recall how she smelt like, I kept smelling her collar as much as I could because I was so scared to lose her even in spirit. Everyone kept telling me that they can hear her walking about in the house or that they had dreams of her. Mine came less frequently. Not only was I angry that I couldn’t feel her as much as I could when she was still alive, I was jealous that everyone still got to experience her presence even in death while I couldn’t. I was so angry because I know that deep down, I’m not okay.

I don’t walk around with the deep grief in my heart every day. Most days, I am okay. At the back of my head, I still have thoughts of her but I am okay. Then there are random days where I’m not doing anything at all – I could just be sitting down in silence – then I start to recall a random memory of Suzie and suddenly the grief becomes so powerful that I feel so overwhelmed that I start to break down in a silent cry all over again.

The thing is, I don’t want to forget her and the price I have to pay for that is that I will never be able to escape this grief. But I know that’s a good thing because it only meant that I have that much of love for her. Even in death, the love endures. What’s difficult for me is that I am still a needy human – needing to feel her by my side, needing to kiss her, needing to hug her etc. It’s hard to fathom the spiritual to this because I’m so needy of the physical, the tangible. I wish I could snap my fingers and just like that I can replay all those memories again in real time.

It’s so silly that I still cry over her but yet it’s not. She wasn’t a human, but she was everything to me. She wasn’t the best damn dog in the world but she was the best to me. She was so flawed – she had so many health problems since she was a puppy. She was skinny and she was so problematic with her food. Some days she gave so much of a headache just trying to get her to eat. But she was mine and I was hers. She was the perfect fit.

“As long as we can love each other, and remember the feeling of love we had, we can die without ever really going away. All the love you created is still there. All the memories are still there. You live on – in the hearts of everyone you have touched and nurtured while you were here.”

His voice was raspy, which usually meant he needed to stop for a while. I placed the plant back on the ledge and went to shut off the tape recorder. This is the last sentence Morrie got out before I did:

“Death ends a life, not a relationship.” – Tuesdays with Morrie, Mitch Albom

It is no wonder I still grieve. The relationship hasn’t ended and it will never end. So one day at a time – I have about 80 more years until I am reunited with you again. That’s 29,200 days. While I’m at it, I will make it count.

See you in about 29,200 days, Suzie. I love you forever.

I looked hard enough..

And I saw –

Blessings.

This morning, I walked into Starbucks and I wanted to grab a tall hot Soy Peppermint Mocha. On the display shelves, I saw a mug with a cover I quite liked and I’ve been wanting to get a new mug for the office cause the one I currently have on my desk doesn’t have a cover which means dust keeps getting in.

The mug was $32.90 and I felt that pinch.

“Do I really want to spend money on just a mug?”

“Do I really need it?”

Well, I bought it anyway. But the blessing was that the lady didn’t charge me for my drink because she said the mug will cover the cost.

Small blessing right? But still a blessing and for that I am thankful.

Today I am thankful because my e.l.f skincare arrived in the mail today. They told me it’d come on 8 Nov but it was earlier than expected.


My current skincare products – Herbalife – are finishing up and I’ve been researching for good cruelty-free skincare. E.l.f skincare is, to my knowledge, not available in Singapore stores but I managed to purchase them via iHerb. They are relatively affordable and I am thankful for that.

I’m doing this because I’ve been quite negative as of late. Been running on low energy at work and moody. It’s high peak period in the office and I haven’t had an output for my stress. I’ve just started my Muay Thai training again but after not doing it for a month because I was sick and recovering from a recurring throat infection – to start again, got me breathless and hyperventilating.

I’ve been feeling this emptiness in my life since Suzie’s passing. There’s a stirring in my heart that I can’t quite seem to satisfy. It’s pointing me somewhere but I’m still discerning and taking my time with this because I cannot act impulsively.

Life has really got me down these days and to be thankful for the smallest of things is a treat. So today, I’m thankful for these small blessings.