the rhythm is a happy place

 Saturday, 17 March, 2018 @ 19:47 

yo

i live with skin allergies and eczema so it was always inaccurate to describe my skin as smooth or “like butter”. this picture was probably one of the last times when it was close to being those things. right now, it’s at its worst due to a combination of singapore’s temperamental weather, stray cat hair and stress from work. as i run my fingers across the patches of skin that are slowly healing, i remember when my grandmother (she’s a lovely woman who means well), once stroked my arms and while caressing it, she had chided and lamented: how could any man love you with your skin like this?

it was funny then, and still funny now. why is it that love is oft associated with the superficial, and not that which is unseen and beneath the surface of things? and as a child, when you’re surrounded by this attitude, it tends to stick to you. words used to cut me so deeply. i let them carry so much weight and power over me. i have many memories of people not seeing what i had wholeheartedly believed was what was the most important to possess: a heart that hoped to fit everything inside it. there’s an entry in my garfield diary where someone told my twelve-year-old self that my glasses made me look ugly.

but beauty is, in the eye of the beholder1. we each, are, the beholder of beauty. but the measure of beauty that tends to perpetuate and is taught to us, prefers perfection over essence. this is why i believe in the love, compassion and generosity of music and sound. the rhythm never judges you or your body. whatever the genre, or style, the beat means no harm. you’re either with it and in it, or tuned out and without it. and all it wants is for you to be moved to move.

i had bgirl2 dreams in university — i have classmates that can tell you more about this. truth is, i never really went out of my way to share my love for dance until last year. then last week, i received some news that made me feel like i’ve won some sort of lifetime achievement award related to dance. it makes me so happy and shy, like someone in love — so all i’m going to say is, it’s an honour kilo lounge. i love you!

the rhythm is beyond your skin and your body, it is a happy place that can be found by every one of us, so we can dance and be absurd together.


  1. the earlier citation of this saying is attributed to a woman, and i’m not surprised. 

  2. https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=bgirl 

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“Furreal” Friends

 Sunday, 4 February, 2018 @ 18:32 

To desire friendship is a great fault. Friendship should be a gratuitous joy like those afforded by art or life. We must refuse it so that we may be worthy to receive it; it is of the order of grace. It is one of those things which are added unto us. Every dream of friendship deserves to be shattered… Friendship is not to be sought, not to be dreamed, not to be desired; it is to be exercised (it is a virtue) — Simone Weil

most third culture kids don’t understand forever. we prepare ourselves for change and understand the inevitable end of things. we’re never in one place long enough to know about commitment, and it’s even more difficult to understand if you have a non-traditional family like i had. my early friendships in grade school were my first encounters with heartbreak. i quickly learned that attention is a currency of friendship and forever is a commitment you have to choose to make. sometimes, it isn’t reciprocated, and you’ll just have to deal with that.

such is the reality for children of unorthodox upbringing and family backgrounds: we grow up with lofty ideals and make our own way in the world, mostly by trial and error. with very little guidance, we grow up with a tough exterior, but inside, we’re fluffy and full of air. we need to be shown what love looks and feels like, because we’re not as sure as others are about it.

after moving to manila in my mid-teens, i thought i’d end up a loner, always flitting from one group to the next. but i found myself thrust into the company of a very mixed group in my all-girls high school — and we found comfort in each other’s weirdness.

through the years, it has been these friends and the friends i’ve made and kept since, who have taught me most about commitment. about love. about forever. through weight loss and weight gain, from petty misunderstandings and bad teeth, to being dolled up and sweating it out in stretched a hummer or being broke in hong kong…i’m grateful for every single one of my friends who have stuck around. with the challenge of distance and the millions of distractions we face daily, the bonds we’ve kept, unmade and strengthened through the years, is without a doubt my super power.

this is why when i first tried my luck on dating apps, i included the photograph featured a few posts prior, where i’m doing a kind of power pose and am surrounded by my beautiful friends in a random alleyway in hong kong. and though a freak-geek can be strong on her own, amidst a pack of freaks and geeks — she’s unstoppable. i’m not on any of the dating apps anymore.

while it definitely works for some, it really isn’t for everyone; it wasn’t for me. i’ve learned that the least and easiest one can be is a lover, while the most difficult, is a friend.

here’s to friends1 and friendships! this playlist is a bit different from the mixtape (click on the gif!).


  1. now streaming on netflix! 

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thinking small will kill us all

 Monday, 15 January, 2018 @ 8:39 

i’m bedridden today and using this rare pocket of time with my thoughts to reflect on current affairs, especially the ones in the news: about racism, the gender pay gap and sexual misconduct/assault cases in hollywood, because — as some friends know, i’ve concerned myself with these issues based on personal experiences. but i have learned to grow with these. to live and let go, instead of letting it break and reduce me to something small. i was very lucky to be mentored and guided by someone who was so open and loving to people that she led a kind and compassionate example to my then budding feminist/human rights activist-undergraduate-being. she asked my male classmates questions, without condemning them or judging them for their thoughts and opinions. she listened, paid attention and gave them space.

so that openness has always been where i come from in these matters. it’s not like i have never been triggered or hurt by some of these conversations —friends have used my passion to push my buttons when we play table top games—and i still get riled up in some situations. but i have been very lucky that these same friends and many friends both old and new, of all genders, are willing to have compassionate conversations about these issues.

i’m of the camp that feels that, it’s all semantics. i can label myself (one of the ‘ists’) to give you an idea of who i am, but this is reductive and easy to get attached to. these labels, are very small things which we tend to use as a crutch. because life is scary. the universe is so vast (and most of it remains unknown). but so am i and so are you. we can conquer our fears by taking baby steps in the vastness. one of my fears was being part of this conversation so publicly. i conquer this fear by finding my voice and saying: i am1. and that i love and i care. i care about humanity. i’m not ashamed to say that.

in this big space, we must continue to show compassion to every side of any given situation. it’s so easy to point fingers and go OMG he’s bad / she’s bad because of x and therefore we should y, when it’s this very behaviour and oversimplification of issues — how we reduce them to matters of the mind, instead of addressing them as matters of the heart too— is part of the reason why humanity continues to be in this mess. we’re not listening. we’re not reaching out to people. we ruthlessly tear things apart and take situations and words out of context. we go in for the kill2 without asking ourselves, do i need to kill? must i? what does this particular situation require of me or us, morally? all reactions are appropriate, but what is the most appropriate action?

i’ve mentioned semantics so words are words, but history and knowledge play an important part in all this. we cannot deny that things happened. sometime along the road of humanity’s story, there were groups of people who thought they could wield power and privilege and keep it all amongst themselves forever, when each and every one of us living should be and could’ve been sharing it all this time3. before we started to hurt each other, we were surviving together. that’s what we used to do — in small pockets, in little groups, in tiny tribes. then tribes melded and grew, mindsets changed, communities became unmanageable, while quietly, our individual egos grew. selfishness ate into our greater consciousness and conscientiousness. our mirror neurons4 grew rusty. groups of people were oppressed by other groups of people and here we are in 2018: angry and in varying degrees of “woke-ness”, on the internet, where we are further dehumanised.

these aforementioned people in history— those who changed things for humanity—are to be remembered. everyone and everything, from the oppressors to the oppressed. we must acknowledge they existed. that they, all, each and every one, felt pain. but whether the current issues are related to nationality, race, religion or gender—we should be learning and growing, in our hearts as well as our minds — just as we have been. we must forget our selfishness. we must abandon hatred and bigotry (funny that that word contains “big”, but connotes and denotes smallness). we must leave behind this smallness, and move forward with the mindset of surviving together once more. let’s think and feel outwardly. we must think and feel big. we must choose to. there is more than enough space.

now that we are having these conversations about institutionalised ills and evils, now that #timesup — we must not forget compassion. i understand the feeling of just having woken up to these realities and it’s like a flood. a tsunami. it’s easy to drown in all of it instead of trying to swim, to stay afloat, to build and then sail the boat (wow i rhymed!). we’re all allowed to feel whatever it is we feel, to be overwhelmed and to be angry, but to wallow in these feelings, to be divided even more than we are, filled with hatred and anger in our hearts… that, is unsustainable. thinking small will kill us all.

(i guess i love my rhymes— like i love my humans— in the billions and diverse af. ok ok, enough.)


  1. check out tom shadyac’s documentary of the same title 

  2. an idiom 

  3. i didn’t want to get into the specifics, you get the idea. 

  4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mirror_neuron 

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Feel It All

 Sunday, 7 January, 2018 @ 13:15 

Cat version 2018

Every New Year’s Eve you ask the same question: Why aren’t you doing more of what you love? And every year it’s the same answer.

It’s because you’re scared.

Some time in the last week, I greeted someone I cared about with the line, “Happy New Fears”, but I look at it now and think: “Eh”. That’s not necessarily accurate or anywhere near what’s true. Your fears may take a different shape, but their essence is the same. No matter their form, they are simply what stop you from experiencing the fullness of life, and choosing what’s practical instead of what’s possible. They are what hold you back from love —all its terrors and indescribable joys.

Recalling a powerful imperative from the seemingly ancient blogging platform Livejournal, and I think it was Kathy Gener’s personal mantra for a while… I choose life. And to add to that, I choose to feel it all and to write as much of it down as I can. Because otherwise, ‘what a waste’!

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Let The Right Ones In

 Saturday, 14 October, 2017 @ 17:21 

What was once a painful experience, is now something I can face and look at with love.

I’ve learned that by sitting with the pain, by going through all the emotions that I felt in relation to it, from resentment to anger to sadness, and then to calm when I had finally let it go… It’s allowed me some space and to detach from drama.

Whomever we were together, isn’t me or isn’t my former partner anymore. Whatever happened, happened. It’s not here in the present moment.

Whereas I used to feel so much negativity, I breathe and am at ease with where I am right now. There is a fierce hope that he is happy and loving kindly, but there is awareness that I had and still have no control or influence over him, so I can only send my love and kindness his way.

If the pain and the difficulties that arose towards the end of our relationship come to mind, I shift my attention to the present, on the impermanence of things and the spaciousness of the heart.

There is always love to give. Here’s to love, to letting go, and to letting the right ones in.

The following playlist I dedicate to you, wherever you are.

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What Happens When Your Heart’s Been Hacked?

 Saturday, 1 October, 2016 @ 8:06 

Singapore rocks

Keeping quiet is either a skill or a virtue. In some contexts it is neither. In our world of noise, Quiet is an endangered thing and often, exalted. There are particular instances however when quiet simply means an injustice has passed unchecked. As someone who works in awareness-raising and advocacy, I have come to accept that I have always been in the right place to speak up about this issue and not at all because of my profession. It is simply that I don’t want anyone else to feel as I have and that, is a valid enough reason.

I had not written much else about my last relationship partly because I didn’t feel secure enough to do so. If I wasn’t sure about where I stood, why bother sharing my story? Why bother making myself even more vulnerable with many fingers pointing back at me? Who wants more scrutiny? If you asked me to talk about this same issue early last year, I would have stared at you bewildered, shaking my head profusely. What issue? I wouldn’t have known what you were talking about. And if you knew me before this happened that would have been the first sign that something was amiss.

baby

Baby Zen

My life’s mission is to be very self-aware — as a geek and bookworm, self-awareness was one of those things I realised helped you move past your own baggage so you can tune in and connect with other people. My self-awareness could also have been a response to my younger self’s sensitivity to the harsh criticisms of family members: I had become so used to hearing relatives talk about me as if I wasn’t in the room that I learned to listen to what they had to say objectively. I learned to remove myself from the emotional pain their talks could have inflicted. Let’s call this “Baby Zen”.

What is the opposite of narcissism? A dictionary suggests the word I am looking for is ‘self-annihilation’, but the word I am looking for is not a loss of self as much as it is an enjoyment of scrutinising one’s flaws.  It is something more akin to self-deprecation — but with dignity. I even liked reading any criticisms my teachers had to say in my report cards. One that stuck to memory was how a teacher had described me as a ‘domineering child’.

Domineering. This word used to make me giggle. The word I would use to describe myself now is strong, or even self-possessed. For most of my last relationship, both of those words were removed from my vocabulary. I didn’t feel strong and rarely felt self-possessed. I was dispossessed. Who was I? Who was I becoming? A part of me stopped to care. That’s when you know something has to change, when someone who is normally so energised by the magic of life, they are no longer shaken awake by its throes, but is instead removed from any feeling whatsoever, dulled into a state of apathy.

I describe emotional abuse as insidious because there is no other word that accurately describes it. Merriam-Webster’s definition is, “causing harm in a way that is gradual or not easily noticed.” Other definitions include:

a) awaiting a chance to entrap
b) harmful but enticing : seductive
c) having a gradual and cumulative effect : subtle d) of a disease : developing so gradually as to be well established before becoming apparent

All the above is true.

You won’t know the power of a person’s emotions and words over another unless you feel it for yourself: How your chest tightens at the sight or sound of their name. How your stomach knots and sloshes; your mouth almost always feels like a desert. There are parts of you that flinch in situations related to the other person. Often, there is a lump in your throat the size of an island and you feel like you are on the verge of a panic attack. Occasionally, there is fear alongside uncertainty. All of it is gradual. All of it accumulates to a harmful, but enticing state of being. A romantic martyrdom.

I don’t want any praise for speaking up about this. I don’t want revenge either. I don’t want any of my friends to defame or demean my former partner. For those of you who know him: Don’t stop being there for him. He needs you most right now. He probably doesn’t understand why I needed to cut him off. I can imagine that he still doesn’t understand how much he has hurt me in the past, and with his recent messages and actions — how he can continue to do so in a text message the size of a candy wrapper.

You may be of the “Love Language” that believes it is enough to shower a person with all the gifts in the world, but how you treat them, how you respect them, and how you speak to them, these are the less conscious ways of showing how you love or care. Those are also the things that stick; the psychological imprint of these are what you take to your grave.

I hope that others become more aware of how difficult emotionally abusive relationships are. Unlike physical abuse, the damage happens under the skin and straight into the heart of a person. Their spirit and their soul is made vulnerable. I like to call it “heart hacking”, because just like a computer, before any malicious attack, the person was a fully-functioning and beautifully complex system. Then they are changed into a dysfunctional, diminished version of themselves.

I’ll stop the analogy here because one website writes that “once a computer has been compromised, it can never be fully trusted again”. And in spite of being hacked, I believe that human beings are much more resilient than that. I am more resilient than that.

This is what happens when your heart is hacked: A person burrows themselves inside you, so deep into your psyche that you don’t even recognise the malice or harm that they can and will cause. It takes more than self-awareness to undo this heart-hacking. It takes the support of friends, family and people who care about you enough to make you see what you don’t see. Can’t see. Don’t want to see. Refuse to see.

Just some of the beautiful people who brought me back to life

Just some of the beautiful people who brought me back to life

This was meant as a counter-measure for possible heart-hacking in the future. This is data so you can make better decisions next time, or at the very least, help someone else make better decisions.

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A Rainbow Zebra Begins The Year

 Thursday, 1 January, 2015 @ 19:26 

I am writing this in the last hours before the second day of the new year. I feel as though I am being chased by a deadline, despite officially being on holiday. This is likely because I have had to take some time in the past week to check my work e-mail. I also purchased this domain a few months ago and haven’t had (or hadn’t tried to make) time to write anything for it (let alone my private blog/journal). Too unfocused. Too “busy”. I have been meaning to maintain this website alongside my day job, something to keep my creative fire alive.

A thought kept scraping my insides at the end of December: if I do not do something for it today, then when will I ever?

I wrote all of this on the way to a new place. The white glow diffused by the mobile device I used to write on, was almost blinding against the darkness, as the van sped northward from Bangkok towards our destination: Chiang Mai. Apart from the intermittent presence of the street lamps and car lights, everything else was cloaked in an opaque grey-blue. The eyes could barely see anything, but the mind (lazily) wanted to describe it as beautiful anyway. Some of our travel companions had fallen asleep, and anyone awake was glued to their own virtual trap. Thankfully, despite the driver’s silence, you could feel an alertness in the way he maneuvered the van on the bumpy road. This seemed to pacify us into two different states—either in silent contemplation, or deep slumber.

Earlier in the evening we made a brief stop at a city called Diamond Wall and had a light supper, which for me, was Thai-style wanton noodles and corn milk (yes, corn milk—there’s a first time for everything.) Then my partner and I decided to walk toward the 7-11 to find some chewing gum. Immediately distracted by the newness of the variety available, I overlooked a stray dog curled up on the floor near the magazine stand. It would have taken my visually-impaired self much longer to spot him there, but my perfect-sighted and equally dog-obsessed partner called my attention to it.

IMG-20150114-WA0000

The stray was, sadly, shooed out of the store before we reached the cash register. I followed him outside and observed that despite being expelled from the premises, it was vigilant and rooted itself just outside the entrance, waiting for a chance to sneak back in.

This road trip officially began in Bangkok, where I felt the truth behind the oft-remarked kindness of Thai people come to life, and tattooed itself to my memory. My partner, Nikolas and I traveled here to spend New Year’s Eve with our friends, Picha and Thom and for a reprieve from the stresses of life in a city like Singapore. We spent our New Year’s Eve with our friends at a quaintly-themed restaurant ‘town’ called Chocolate Ville. Kitschy, yet charming, after our festivities, we agreed it was a perfect close to the year. We enjoyed a feast of Thai and ‘western’ cuisine, toasted to each others health and happiness for 2015 and even caught a fireworks display (Picha didn’t think they would organise anything special at Chocolate Ville, so despite the expected feature to most NYE celebrations—it was a surprise to us).

After all that fun I could not help but add to the festivities by purchasing a helium-filled balloon. I had originally requested for a cartoony white pegasus, which I had seen floating about in the venue, but as you know things get lost in translation and I ended up with a stoned-looking smiling rainbow zebra instead. It was with us throughout our meal and I brought it along on our cab ride back to our hotel. It spent the night hovering above our heads as the booze sloshed in our system and knocked us out for the last time in 2014.

IMG-20150114-WA0007

This afternoon (on New Year’s day) after some breakfast, we packed for a late check out and I tied the zebra to a loop on my backpack. We made our way to the hotel lobby and when I realized I had not tied it securely to my bag, I held on to it as we stepped off the elevator. I had a difficult time wheeling my suitcase and holding to the balloon. Then, my grip suddenly loosened, and within seconds, the zebra found itself pressed against the high ceilings of the hotel lobby with me gaping after it in horror. A doorman had seen what happened and having witnessed my ashen face, assured me, in broken English, that he would try to help.

Zebra got stuck

The business of checking out was a quick one, so we had time to order a latte as we waited for my zebra to be rescued and also for Picha to pick us up for our road trip. Nikolas and I continued to stare at the ceiling, in awe of my carelessness and grabbed at the photographic opportunity (as did some of the guests hanging around the lobby). Many minutes passed and I was ready to abandon Rainbow Zeb and leave him till he deflated. I could not imagine how anyone could help bring him down. I assumed the staff would forget or simply choose to ignore my distress. Note: anyone who is short will know this but being small allows me to stay in an incubated state of “cute”, but at twenty-six, I was certain I had finally run out of luck. After what felt like thirty minutes, though it could not have been more than five or ten, four men emerged from a hidden door in the wall with PVC pipes and some tape. They stuck the two very long pipes together and wrapped sticky tape at its very end.

Part 1 of The Rescue

One man then climbed on the luggage trolly as two held it steady on either side. The other two supervised and provided instructions. It was both comical and inexplicably heartwarming how this relatively large group of men (a total of seven, towards the end three more men came out with a tall ladder) had taken the task of retrieving my balloon so seriously. And yet, they did.

Screen Shot 2015-01-13 at 8.50.42 am

I am still in awe that this actually happened, and it reminded me that all it takes is one person with a moral compass and steady conviction to gather a group to work together to do this kind albeit small thing for a stranger and her weird-looking balloon. Or maybe, reality is, it was a fancy hotel with high standards and they wanted my ugly balloon out of there.

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