Breathless in 2014……….

31 Dec

If I could think of one word that describes 2014, it would be breathless. Breathless like a fish out of water gasping for air in the face of death. Breathless like standing on top of the himalayas so high up that it feels like I can touch the clouds. Breathless like the magic of shooting stars showering up high in the night sky.

I ushered in 2014 with anticipation of change. My year started with by 40th birthday celebration. I decided that when I turn 40, I would like to celebrate it with people that meant the world to me. My birthday started with a dinner with my beautiful children on the eve before. Followed by lunch and then dinner with close friends and a surprise cake lit in a dark room when I arrived home. Without a doubt, my 40th birthday was simply magical. My birthday party was at none other than Marini’s on 57th….up high on top of one of the tallest restaurants in the world with 15 of my closest friends. Seeing all my good friends together in one room was breathless!

Travel was a major theme in 2014 for me. Florida with my family that made be feel like a breathless child giddy on the roller coasters. New York, the city that never sleeps that mesmerised me with its vibrant ways. Sydney with a dinner cruise that left me with a smile and with new friends. Snorkeling amidst beautiful fish in Koh Li Pe was an amazing experience. And the last but not least, Nepal with one of my best friends was simply mesmerising. At that very moment, I felt like I was standing on top of the world- almost literally!

2014 also saw me going through a spiritual phase. It saw me examining my own religion and various other religion around me. It led me to the conclusion that religion is morphine for the masses. It led me seeing that it did not matter what religion one belonged to- but what mattered was what lies in your heart.

It goes without saying that 2014 saw me doing a fair bit of charity work. The joy of helping a friend cook food and feed the poor and homeless is yet another breathtaking feeling. Raising money to promote the status of women in society and helping organise a forum for women to learn about their rights were fulfilling experiences.

Of course, the glitz and glam of 2014 was not without some tragedy. 2014 saw me with a cervical cancer threat. The biopsy thankfully turned out to be benign but left me with the sad knowledge that I am one of those persons with a high risk of cervical cancer from a virus that I contracted from my ex-husband. The pain and frustration made be feel breathless and hopeless.

2014 saw me battling with a bad back with painful mornings. This however, led me into a more healthy lifestyle and a new love for exercise!

2014 was a year which taught me that “I” am important. I learnt the hard way, that I needed to think about myself and what I wanted out of my life over others in order to find my own happiness. And so 2014 saw me cutting ties that were toxic and painful as it was, I let go of friendships that dragged me down. As much as it may seem selfish, it was a necessary evil.

Last but not least, 2014 showed me love. Without a warning, love landed on my door step – when I least expected it. It showed me how it felt to be loved unconditionally. It made me see that true love was easy and not hard. It made be feel truly breathless.

As a Malaysian, 2014 has been a trying year. 2014 was plagued with racial and religious dilemmas. 2014 saw airplanes go missing with our loved ones on board. 2014 saw massive floods wipe out our homes and destroy lives.

2014 with all its highs and lows, made me breathless……… and leaves me waiting for 2015 with bated breath!

Just give me a reason…..

5 Aug

The first thing she noticed as she walked in was him. There was something about him. The way he sat on a bar stool facing away from the bar. The way he was seemingly oblivious to his surroundings. The intense look in his face as he typed messages on his phone. His nonchalant body posture at ease with his surroundings. And most of all the fact that he seemed to have not noticed her – someone who had never been to that place. He didn’t pay attention to the boisterousness of their conversations and her insaneness that day.

She heard herself say that she had to make sure she struck a conversation with him. She wanted to make sure she would be noticed and most of all remembered. Looking back- she did not know why she had that urge.

But when she finally caught his attention it was his smile that touched her the most. It was the warmest and most genuine of smiles she had ever seen. That first meeting led to many more. Things flourished. Without a doubt he was an antidote for her broken heart. He made her believe once again that there was such a thing as love and romance- maybe!

They say people come into our lives for a reason, a season or a lifetime. And so she wondered was he a reason- to help her heal and find hope and happiness? Or was he a season- to walk her through a lonely phase in her life? Or maybe just maybe he may just be there for her lifetime. A soul mate to live her life with. Someone to grow with. Someone to hold her hand and walk through life with her. Secretly she hoped that this time- he was for a lifetime!

She had once felt the same way before. It was his shiny grey blue eyes that locked her gaze. He always seemed to be everywhere she went. It was a whirlwind kind of love affair. It hits you fast and quick and you did not know what hit you. But a lifetime hope stopped at a season. Or maybe a reason. She was barely 20 when they met. She was just 35 when he left. The reason was to give her her three beautiful kids. The reason was to teach her never to be impulsive. The reason was for her to learn that love did not make life a bed of roses. It left her wounded! It left her lost! It definitely made her strong.

The first time she met him, her mind said stay away. He is trouble. How could that be she thought. She felt a strong bond to him. It was as if they knew each other from a different life. They were in many ways the same and yet different. They were like the sun and the moon. Like darkness and light. Like earth and fire. This too she felt might be a lifetime kind of relationship. This time however she knew her love alone was never enough. Without a doubt it ended- a reason or a season? A reason for her to help him through a difficult phase in his life. A reason for her to learn to recognise love when it came knocking. A season for her to grow and build herself. For her to find herself. For her to realise that she did not need a man to make her happy. For her to see that happiness was within her.

But do we have a choice whether to accept these people in our lives? Can we choose to avoid them for a reason or a season to avoid the heartbreak when they leave? They are without a doubt necessary for us to live our life. Who they are, why they are and for how long they are is all written in the stars! And so, even if they seemed so wrong, they are right for a reason.

As Buddha says- we ourselves must walk our path!

Love Your Fate -Friedrich Nietzsche-

Dying young….

31 May

They say life and death are the two things that are certain. It is God it seems that determines our destiny – and so I have heard – countless times throughout my life that, our life and our death are written on our foreheads. These writings by God which marks the start and end of our lives are etched in stone when we are mere 3 month old foetuses in our mother’s wombs. Everything else in between our life and our death, they say, is determined by our choices in life.

But as a person in the prime of my life, I, like many around me, never stopped to ponder on death. I woke up everyday taking it for granted. I assumed I will live my life step by step through the countless cycles until I am old- or rather much older than I am now. I am constantly fighting the currents of life that it never once occurred to me that the angel of death may be looming around me. My life as I saw it had a long path ahead. My life as I felt it had minutes hours days months and years left to live. I had many plans in my life. And never did I imagine that time might be against me.

It all happened one day when what was a routine medical check up I did every year turned out to be my warning bell that life – my life- might be cut short. That my life might be suddenly taken away from me. A revelation that was hard to fathom and which hit me hard knocking me off my feet. Why me? I had no answer.

They say- we should live our life as how we want our obituary to sound in our death. I sat pondering that day- what would I be remembered for? What was my significant contribution to life itself? What had I done to make my life worth it and most of all- had I lived my life as best I could. What would my obituary say.

It dawned on me then that in my bid to live life to the fullest – I had not lived life at all. I like many around me, lived life as how we are taught to live it. Study hard and get a degree – we were told as a child. Work hard and make a good living- we are reminded. Marry and have kids- our mothers constantly reminded us. All these things- I did. But faced with impending death, none of these achievements meant that I had truly lived life. My obituary as I saw it would say – loving mother and obedient daughter! Nothing more.

I hear the song “if I die young” faintly in the distance. The lyrics- “funny when your dead how people start listening” kept coming back to me. I realised then it was not about living life as how we want to be remembered in our death. It was not about whether we had done all the right things we were told must be done. But it was living our life to the fullest. It was about embracing life itself. It was about fighting for life itself! For in death we become but a memory and all that remains is our voice heard during our life.

And so- the remaining moments of my life- shall not be about framing words to be spoken in my death but rather touching other lives and hearts – and leaving a mark that will be heard and listened when I am gone!

As Oscar Wilde aptly said- To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all!!

When Death Comes Knocking………

31 Mar

They say that in the 12 seconds before your death, your whole life flashes before your eyes. I often pondered what about my life would I see in the 12 seconds before my death. How could a lifetime be captured in a matter of moments. I cannot for the life of me imagine the 12 seconds that I will see in the moments preceding my death. But most certainly I hope it would be a happy and peaceful vision which would leave me with a smile on my face.

And it was this thought that came to me as I sit at the wake of a man that I never knew in my lifetime. A man that I had heard so much about in his lifetime and even more in his death. Majestic, simple and kind hearted were some of the words I saw used to describe him by a myriad of people. These words would forever paint the image of this man that I have never met and never will. But most certainly when I visited him on his death bed- the words kind hearted, majestic and simple did flash through my mind. It was written all over his face.

My mind drifts to a conversation I had with an ex boss of mine. I walked into his room to chat as I often did. He tells me that he had just finished writing his orbituary. I was appalled. Why would you do that I exclaimed. It was rather morbid, I thought, to write your own orbituary. I want to live my life as how I would like to be remembered in my death, he said. Always live your life as how you want others to remember you when you are gone, he said. This lesson I learnt then made me ponder about my life and what I would be in my death.

And so today I wonder, what would my own orbituary say. Just hours ago, I was seated between two men. One of whom said- I only know her as the caring mother, caring for her kids and her horses. The other said, I have not seen that side of her- I only know her as the person always inviting me out for drinks. At that moment I could not but help to think that what I am differs in the eyes of each persons around me. What I truly am, I hoped, would be the essence of my orbituary and the memories of me that I want to leave behind.

I recall asking a friend about 2 years ago- what would be the one word he would use to describe me, if he were to write my orbituary and describe me in my death. A blessing, he said. At that moment, I laughed and shrugged off his comment. But in the days that follow, I did hope that I would be a blessing to all those around me. And since that day I do endeavour to be a blessing to all those around me simply by giving my all to life itself.

They say life and death are the two things certain in life. How we live our life will define our death. As a famous Indian proverb goes- When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced. Live your life so that when you die, the world cries and you rejoice.

For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one!- Kahlil Gibran

The Everest beckons……

22 Feb

I open my eyes and see the sun emerging. I walk out to the balcony of my room and am mesmerised with the view. The sun rising. The Himalayas in the distance. The snow capped Everest stands visibly looming over the valley below. The view takes my breath away.

I feel like I had reached the end of the world. The place where journeys end. Where souls find peace and enlightenment. I cannot help but think that I must be blessed to reach this corner of the world – something that I never imagined I would have achieved in my lifetime.

My mind drifts to the people that reside here. How wonderful it must be I think, to wake up daily, and see the sun rising over the mountains. To feel the positive energy surround oneself. To imagine that one is closer to God and enlightenment. They say that the Everest has a spirituality that allows one to reach enlightenment. And I feel excited to take a closer view to see this majestic mountain with a hope that my spirituality is renewed.

Just days before, I visited the famous temples surrounding Kathmandu. Nepal they say is a country with more temples than homes. And so, I had a fervent desire to understand and feel the powers that these temples are said to possess. Many say they find their path upon visiting these temples. I could not wait to feel the cure that these temples would bring to my soul that was in search of a spiritual meaning. After all Nepal was where Buddha was born.

I am born a Muslim. As a child I was never really forced into practising Islam. I never really understood the rules and regulations that seem to plague Islam. In my twenties, I went to an Islamic university where I learnt about Islam and it’s rules. I still had no answer to the many odd rules that Muslims are subjected to. Don’t question I was told. Just follow and trust in God.

Soon after, I reached a point in my life where I often question about religion. God I believed in. God I loved. But religion – the many types and facets of it boggled me. How do we know which was the true religion. How do we know which is the right path to follow. I desperately wanted to understand the many different paths towards reaching God.

And so with a hope to find an answer I land in Kathmandu with a dear friend of mine. In the days that followed we visited many temples. Buddhist temples that practice Buddhism the Tibetan way. Buddhist temples that practiced Buddhism the Nepali way. Hindu temples of lord Shiva and Krishna. The sacred river where ashes of cremated Hindus were sent flowing towards enlightenment.

As I look around I discovered that people here were no happier than those in other parts of the world. Their average wage is usd2 a day. They live day to day maybe even moment to moment. Their wants cover the basic necessities of life. We noticed that they did not have many vices- they hardly smoked or drank alcohol. The shops shut down at 10am. People arose to the sound of the bells in the temples and strived to say mantras whilst spinning wheels in hopes of finding enlightenment.

It was here that I realised religion was truly morphine of the masses. People turned to religion to help them find their way. Religion helped them have hope. Religion gave them an aim in life. Religion was an outlet to release their troubles and pain. But does religion really do all that?

One thing was certain. The people here appeared calm. They appeared at peace with themselves. They had smiling faces. They did not beg for help from foreign tourists. They were a picture of zen. Life in Nepal they say moves slowly. And truly so- these people had no desire to rush through life. They cherished it bit by bit. What is their secret I wonder? I conclude that is must be the aura of the mountains overlooking them and making me feel like I was closer to heaven.

I never got close to the Everest. I was not blessed they said. The Sherpas that are blessed to live on the Everest practice compassion and selflessness. Maybe I lacked one of these two qualities. Maybe I was not ready to experience the enlightenment that the Everest holds. But in that brief moment I stood staring at the sunrise amidst the Himalayas- I found peace!

A suitable candidate

6 Feb

I follow him to visit his childhood friend’s father who had just recovered from a heart attack. The wife of the ailing man asks him about his relationship status. When do you plan to get married she asks. He just shrugs her off. She comments “dont tell me you want to marry a divorcee”! My heart drops. Here I am a divorcee coming into the dating scene with hopes of finding love once again. The words of this lady crushes me. My date looks at me sympathetically but doesn’t say a word. He ends the visit quickly and we leave. We do not utter a word about her comment.

He asks me if I have any suitable single friends to introduce to him. Plenty I think. But do I look like a match maker I wonder. He looked right through me not even considering if I was a suitable candidate. A divorcee is bound to have lots of issues and is not the marrying kind he says. Hence she is the last resort.

He asks the other man why he would not marry her. She is beautiful he thinks and well spoken. She carries herself well but she is in love with the man. He asks the man why he is not willing to commit to her. He says- too much baggage. She is a divorcee. This comes to her a year later. It breaks her heart. Just like every other woman she too had hopes her marriage would last. She too has hopes of finding love.

He says to her we can be nothing but friends. They have known each other for several years now. He showed an interest in her. He took the trouble to spend time with her. They did things together almost like best friends. She
stood by him and cared almost like lovers. His words pierced right through her. She could not understand it. Divorced and forty made her undesirable ! Both factors beyond her control. What a cruel world she thought.

A divorcee never wants to be divorced. She is shunned and looked at as less than perfect. She is labeled a failure. She must have screwed up they say and can never be good enough. This stigma is regardless of the reason. Although we pretend that there is no longer a stigma to being divorced, the reality is the reverse. The bottom line is — you’re no longer good enough. It is taken that one failure means you are a doomed spouse. The bottom line is that Everyone deserves to be loved and most of everyone deserves another chance at love

We come to love not by finding a perfect person, but by learning to see an imperfect person perfectly! Sam Keen

Life…….

18 Nov

Last Sunday I had the chance of walking around town looking for homeless persons to feed. Just hours before that, I had spent my Sunday morning helping to cut vegetables and onions to be made into a scrumptous meal for those that we felt needed were hungry. And so, with hopes in my heart to give some happiness to these poor souls I endeavoured to sacrifise my Sunday which I would otherwisehave spent horse riding and hanging out with my kids.

My sudden urge to sacrifise my precious day off was as a result of a phase that I was going through. It was a soul search. A need to find the meaning of life and existence. My existence. I felt that there was something lacking in my life and so I decided that maybe feeding the poor would fill that void in my soul.

As I walk around handing out food, it dawned on me how life is meaningless to some. I see old persons abandoned by their loved ones sleeping by the pavement hungry and dirty. The food that we hand to them brings a smile to their faces. A smile that spoke a million words.  On another occassion, a hungry man whom we had given food to early came back to look for us for another packet of rice. Gratitude exhuberated from his face when we graciously gave him that extra packet. He says – “May God Bless you!” and I wonder, why has God not blessed these poor people. What have they done to live a meaningless life. Sadly I wondered why was God seemingly cruel?!

Just a week ago, the meaning and value of life had passed through my thoughts. This was following a friend’s mother being diagnosed with cancer. Shortly thereafter, my staff cries to me telling me about her mother that had just had a stroke and was on her death bed. 2 days prior another staff suddenly received a call that her father had had a heart attack. He died before she could see him. And so, in the last one week, I wondered what was life. None of us can anticipate death. But it seems that many of us do not appreciate the life that we have until it is too late.

Going to bed that night I look at the three tiny figures asleep next to me. My children are lives that were bestowed to me. Innocent little souls with no cares in the world. I make a prayer that they will always be protected so as to have food on their table and a roof over their head throughtout their lives. At this point I think of the sad tales of tiny children being kidnapped from their homes and maimed and made to beg. Their life taken away from them and left with no meaning. Once again I wonder, why did God not protect them.

I will never know the answer. Such is the mystery of life. Some say it is karma ie a repayment for our past sins. But then, are we not taught that God is merciful and compassionate. My mind drifts to one person I tried giving food to. He sat on a five food way, in dirty shabby clothes, holding a rosary (tasbih) and was saying prayers (dzikr). He refuses the food offerred to him and continues his chanting. At that moment, I wondered whether prayers was the answer. When would God answer this man’s prayers. It seemed to me that he just sat there and prayed all day. More than many of us and yet his prayers are not yet answered. But then again only God knows why.

In this day and age, many of us forget to stop and realise that we are blessed with life. Many of us forget to enjoy life and live life. An interesting quote I hear from my yoga teacher comes to me. At the end of every lesson she says- your body is only yours. Take care of it. Love it. And so too life.

Life indeed is the greatest give of all. The ability to live life to the fullest is a blessing. We are blessed with life to live to the best we can. Cherish life. Celebrate life. Give to nurture life.

As Kahlil Gibran said:

Your living is determined not by what life brings to you as by the attitude you bring to life; not so much by what happened to you as by the way your mind looks at what happens.

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