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One Fine Day

Two Fridays ago, I decided to check out a patisserie during my lunch break and satisfy my sweet tooth. It became a day that will stick with me for a while.

When I got there, the sweet aroma and sight of a wide variety of delectable sweets on display made me linger and hesitate in picking out which one to try first. Just then, an elderly woman came and started eyeing those tarts and profiteroles, and she voiced out exactly what I was thinking. Opening my mouth to politely reply end up costing me more than I bargained for. Was it worth it? You tell me.

* * *

I could sense she wanted company.

After a hesitant pause, she asked me if I minded joining her while we each partake a piece of our chosen dessert. It was a lovely, cool sunny day, far different from the drab, rainy weather we experienced during the past Sydney summer. I wasn’t rushing to go back to work and being aware of how much the extroverted elderly people long for conversations, and feeling generous of my time, I obliged. I didn’t expect to stay for more than twenty minutes but she talked non-stop for two hours!

R. turned out to be a very interesting woman! An intelligent, well-read 84 year old, she shared with me her interest in history, travel, arts – living art, she emphasised – including classical and rock music!

Decades back, she left England as a school dropout and, penniless, grabbed the opportunity to migrate to Australia and start out a new life.

In those two hours, she shared with me her life stories that showed an enlightened, broadminded father who taught her from a young age that though people look different, we are all the same underneath; of her adventures in Asia and Europe; her experiences living as a white person in South Africa during the apartheid era and raising a mixed-race son; and dealing with people with narrow-minded views and beliefs.

These days, she spends her time taking walks in Parramatta, where she now resides after living for a long time in Cremorne; reading books she borrows from the local library; watching plays in the local theatre; and watching ethnic festivals when they’re on. She and her husband parted ways and her only son died three years ago. He was schizophrenic.

Her memory is remarkable! She would repeat full names and describe the personalities of people she met on the ship on her way to Australia, during her other travels and those she befriended while living here and the details of their conversations. I can’t even remember the first or last names of most of my teachers!

With my eyes fixed on her while I slowly sip my skim mocha, she recited a couple of poems to me, sung a tune or two, suggested books for me to read, shared her love for the Aboriginal people and people of all cultures, and scoffed at prejudiced people, and politicians and politics.

In one of those rare moments where she paused, I managed to quickly share my newly-discovered interest in chanting, which I thought would impress her. Surprisingly, she then recited a sacred mantra she knew by heart. I listened in amazement.

Under the glare of the early afternoon sun and while gushing at the delicious sweet snacks we were having, we discovered we have many things in common, like the love of:

  • Rock music
  • Led Zeppelin, Robert Plant, Jimmy Page
  • Bohemian Rhapsody, Freddie Mercury

Wow, an 84-year old woman who loves ROCK! I’m as amazed to hear this as when I hear of rock music-appreciating Gen-Ys, like my friend Fran, as most of these young kids these days generally have no idea what real great music sound like! 🙂

She must have been one cool woman during her time. She still is ‘cool’, actually. She mentioned she watched the unforgettable concert film, ‘The Song Remains the Same,’ which she loved. Not to be outdone, I let her know I watched it three times! She was duly impressed!

I could imagine her musical drummer son, whom she recalled fondly, playing Stairway to Heaven with his acoustic guitar which she bought for him, to veer him away from the hard drumming that he played. She said she encouraged her son when he was still alive to play and listen to higher vibration music, like classical music, to help him with his mental condition.

You could tell she looked after herself. Her facial skin is not that lined for her age and her powdered face still shows a beauty she must have enjoyed at her youth. Her current short, light brown hair becomes her. Spanish gay friends she met and befriended would call her élégante. But she’s no longer that, she says, because she’s now old.

She narrated her love of nature and hearing the sounds of the birds in the morning. She says she was raised an Anglican/Protestant but she had left it all behind and now considers her god as the moon, the stars, the trees.

She survived breast cancer. She has firm ideas about how the female breasts should be regarded and voiced her disapproval of the way men view women’s breasts.

At 16, she fell in love for the first time but it was ‘unconsummated,’ she says. I didn’t dare ask her when and with whom it finally happened, but her mother certainly drummed into her the risks of having premarital sex.

With no inhibition, she casually dropped the word ‘sex’ like we were long-time best friends! I kept asking myself over and over while she continued talking, ‘Did I hear it right, did she really say ”sex”?’  Hence, damn it, I missed hearing what must have been the juicy details of her life!

She’s not wearing spectacles or contact lenses so her eyesight is obviously still good, her hearing is much better than mine, she walks unaided and still does her own shopping, and I’m sure there are other things she ably does by herself.

But I feel a tinge of sadness. Though her mental faculty is still enviably sharp, her physical body is showing inevitable signs of ageing and decline. She has poor body circulation, she says. Her wrinkled wrists and neck, the exposed body parts of which her beige, old long-sleeve winter coat couldn’t hide, are covered with big brown spots. She may not need eyeglasses but her eyes often become watery. She has no family to look after her or to keep her company. She must have friends but most are probably long gone. She might have once rocked it, but at this stage of her life she can no longer be a party animal that I, ahem, still am.

I tried to get up from my seat to slowly say ‘bye, thanks for the chat,’ but she didn’t take notice  and continued talking leisurely, not really minding that I was late getting back to work. She couldn’t let this opportunity pass by so easily, I suppose, to share old stories that are still alive in her long memory and are waiting in anticipation to be shared to a willing listener. I slowly eased half of my behind off the chair and poised to bolt. At my third attempt to interrupt her storytelling, I got up to say firmly, ‘I have to get back to work.’

She gave me her number for in case I feel the desire to have a chat with her again. I sensed she didn’t really seriously count on me contacting her ever. She must have offered her contact number to many others, with the small hope that one of them would call one day.

Reality for me is, I don’t get to hang out with thinkers like her too often. People who read to learn and broaden their perspective; people who question established beliefs and biases; people who defy the norm and follow what they feel is the right thing to do, not just believing things are the way they should be done just because the majority think so.

She apologised for talking too much. I replied that I enjoyed our talk immensely and I learned a lot. She paused, looked me in the eye and firmly said, ‘no, you didn’t learn from me; I learned from you.’ I tried to quickly recall what it was that I could have possibly said of value but none came to mind.

‘I must learn more about the Philippines, especially before the time of the Spanish colonisation’, she says. With dismay, I offered the information that the thoughtless Europeans who invaded my country of birth, destroyed most of the ancient and written artifacts that must have depicted a rich life and history of the ancient Filipinos. She replied that they did the same thing in South America.

I made a mental note to re-read Philippine history and silently chastised myself for not taking to heart my history lessons in school.

She assured me she’d let me talk more next time.

***

Ever since that fateful day, I’ve been thinking about how I enjoyed sitting at a sidewalk café during a perfect autumn weather, discussing life over Lebanese halva with a stranger, a woman of substance.

There’s a lot more for her to share, for sure. Stories spanning more than eight decades and ideas and opinions formed while living a meaningful life, with details too interesting and too eventful to narrate in two hours.

Still, I find myself begging the question, ‘Should I see her again?’

Hmmm… perhaps at another one fine day, I might give her a call to suggest repeating for me over coffee and a baklava the juicy details of her life that I might have missed hearing the first time. 😀

The Mark of an Authentic Leader

Heart image from istockphoto.com

Don’t you wish we could see through each person professing to be a leader?

Throughout our history, often unknowingly, we’ve allowed liars, thieves, cheaters, wimps, abusers of power and unscrupulous people to rule.

If it was only possible to discern who are authentic before we vote certain politicians into power, or before we place our trust on certain people and let them lead us, our world would certainly be a much better place. People who we vote to put in government, some people we put on pedestals and some of those who lead us at work betray our trust and expectations.

We’ve been victims of spin, propaganda, misinformation, manipulation, deception and treachery by our so-called leaders. They are so-called leaders because they are NOT authentic leaders. I’m beginning to think, though this is just my opinion, there are no good or bad leaders. Good leaders are authentic leaders. Bad leaders are only wannabes.

I acknowledge being a leader, a genuine leader, is not easy. Leading—be it a country, an organisation, a committee, a large group or a small team—is a tremendous responsibility. It’s hard work! Would-be leaders who want to lodge themselves in power, or current leaders who want to hold on to their position should do what they professed to do, and do what they were voted or hired to do. As the saying goes, if you can’t stand the heat – get out of the kitchen, for those who easily crack under the pressure.

I’ve certainly worked with and for wonderful leaders. I know authentic leaders are out there fulfilling roles that are rightfully theirs and some potential authentic leaders waiting in the wings. However, we also know there are crackpots, unethical or clueless people who, due to misrepresentation or, sometimes, luck, are currently in leadership roles who have no clue how to lead people in a genuine way.

Like the word love, leadership has no one, consistent definition. I’m still on the lookout for the best meaning as I haven’t found THE ONE. On the web, you’ll find that various meanings are attached to the word leadership, like position, roles, functions, styles, capabilities, principles, skills, characteristics, behaviours, qualities and essence.

Managing and leading, as you know, are two clearly different things. Changingminds.org says “managers focus on work; leaders focus on people” and that “managers have subordinates; leaders have followers”.

Being a good manager doesn’t automatically mean being a good leader. A good leader isn’t just being a boss or being a manager. Being a boss is a status, and being a good manager can be taught. However, being an authentic leader, it seems to me, and contrary to common wisdom, is born, not made. Whatever is the truth, one thing cannot be disputed: you have to have certain qualities, or essences as I prefer to call them, to be bestowed the honour of being called an authentic leader.

Authentic leadership is described by a respected spiritual teacher, Andrew Cohen as caring a lot about “a higher purpose, a higher principle, a higher goal that we are willing to make the most important sacrifices for the sake of what we are aspiring to accomplish. It means we care so passionately about others also reaching that goal that we unhesitatingly sacrifice our own peace of mind, comfort, and security in order for them to succeed.”

Leadership expert and author, Robin Sharma, says one can lead without a title. Joe Farcht, another author on leadership suggests building personal leadership precedes building organisational leadership. In my thinking, to be an organisational leader, you must first pass some tests. Once you pass and continue to embody the essences, then you receive the invisible stamp or mark of authentic leadership – the heart.

In my increasing quest to separate the wheat from the chaff of leaders, I hand-pick five essences of an authentic leader. I’ve only formed five because there is a set of traits “embedded” within each essence. If you’re missing any of these, I’d say learn or acquire them first, if it’s even possible, before you boldly attempt to take on a leadership role. I believe you don’t have to have leadership experience to be a successful leader. If you have the mark of a leader, then other essential qualities of a leader not embodied within these essences can be learned, acquired or honed before or while acting in your role.

I’d like to add that there is one extra and interesting characteristic that I have not included within the essences. If you have this or if you know how to use this, can not only help you but also those around you and those you lead. If used inappropriately, it could backfire, but if used effectively can help improve morale.

To be continued…

Disclaimer: I’m no expert on authentic leadership but I have a keen interest in this topic, as well as in personal leadership.

Fun + Games + Giggles + Laughter = Young Mind and Heart

“No, we’re not going out of the house with you dressed like that! It’s too revealing! Wear something more appropriate!”

“What is wrong with th… ?”

“No!”

“What if I put…”

“No!!”

The only time I attempt to dress “youngish” and not my age, my Gen Y daughter stops me in my tracks.

On her Facebook wall on my last birthday, she dobbed me in to her friends:

“busted my mum trying on my clothes when she’s 2 sizes bigger. Walked past her room to find her struggling to get my top past her elbows, bwahaha.”

How is that funny, Michelle??

* * *

Trying too hard to look young or sexy, made obvious by inappropriate dressing, surely backfires. On a page on Oprah’s website, it says, “The number one mistake women make is shopping by size, not by fit”. Author of Before You Put That On, Lloyd Boston, advises, “Get the clothes that fit, not the number you want to be and your clothes will look so much sexier.”

The word “sexi-er” convinced me. Lloyd, I’ll remember that next time I’m tempted to buy a size 8 top!
[Note though that it says “your clothes” will look sexier, not necessarily you! Lol]

I’m at that stage where I’m starting to see the ravages of time. Having just added another year to my ever increasing age, I think I’ll have to start asking people not to scrutinise my face. People my age have long been conscious of sagging facial skin and drooping eyelids, plus the increasing “threat of invasion” of white hair on our head.

It was about a decade ago when I start to stammer when replying to people’s questions about my age. In spite of believing age is just a number and my recent pronouncements of not shying away from admitting it, I still get tongue-tied when asked. I’m failing one of my new year’s resolutions already (of being authentic) and we’re only in January!

So I worked out a sure-fire plan to help keep our attitude and mindset as young as when we were, say, in our 20s or even 30s, to continue—with the emphasis on “continue”—to keep ourselves perpetually young in mind and young at heart, even if not in face and body.

These may not work for everyone but I’m sticking to these from now on to ensure we have as much fun while we can and we’re able and to minimise stress:

Watch your language

• Stop calling yourself “old” and stop using that word to describe people who were young once.

• If you ever need to ask someone their age, choose to say “how young are you?” You know it’s a good trick to make someone, including yourself, smile.

Be a student for life

• I joke that I’m a mature student of love (okay, I’m half serious). Whether it’s learning about love (as it’s such a broad topic), acquiring a new skill, reading, learning a new hobby or studying for a course, keep your curiosity about new things alive.

Keep your sense of fun

They say high school is one of the most fun times of one’s life and it was for me. Maintain your sense of fun and love for games just like when you were younger.

• If you’re physically able, go ahead and dance, play sports or board games or, if you dare, even naughty games! Fun!!

• Giggle a lot; laugh heartily, loudly and often (though not too much or you risk your co-workers’ ire, if you work in an office). Crack jokes but, of course, make sure not at the expense of others.

• See life only as “role playing” — at home, at work and on Earth. This should keep our ego in check and make us not think of life and oneself seriously. I’m serious!

I know this is easier said than done, especially if you’re in a middle of a serious illness or problem, or a tragedy, but then again a lot of people take a lot of things seriously even at times they shouldn’t. [See “Solutions focused” below.]

Indulge in music

There was a period of about 10 years that I stopped listening to music. Big mistake!! Music soothes our soul — those in the know say!

• One suggestion—regardless of your age—while listening to music, bop your head, let your body move to the rhythm and feel the music. Heaven!

Spring to life

• Exercise can’t be over-emphasised. One of my goals this year is to be more physically active. Kickboxing, bring it on!!

• Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy and wise. My parents used to drum this saying into us when my siblings and I were growing up. I struggle with this still as I come alive at night.

Glorious food

• If you haven’t started, develop an “eat-and-drink healthy-consciousness”. This means no meat, no sweets (ok, not too much and not too often is another one of my goals), saturated and trans-fat a big no-no, use salt sparingly and avoid sodas (unless you’re having it with vodka, lol).

Self-love

• Affirm: I’m one of a kind… and so are you!

• Go to health retreats and give frequent special treats to self.

• Acceptance of your shortcomings, weaknesses and imperfections.

• Learn to accept and love your body, however difficult it may be to do so. Read here on how to have a healthy body image. It’s not too late!!

Solutions focused

For most of us who believe there is spirit life after physical death, we take our life on Earth so seriously. We forget it’s only temporary so therefore our respective and collective situations here are also temporary.

If tragedy strikes, of course we allow ourselves time to grieve, cry and feel pain for a while. Then we start to recover, feel better and eventually start to get over our sad situation. It’s when we drag our feelings of misery, resentment and/or self-pity for too long that can really have a detrimental effect on our health.

• Reduce, if not eliminate, negativities that we sometimes allow ourselves to indulge in. [See “Keep your sense of fun” above.]

• See problems as opportunities to learn and grow, as they say. As John Lennon puts it in Watching the Wheels, “There’s no problem; only solutions.”

• Don’t let any bastards get you down (well, at least not for long).

It’s not at all surprising that the things you can do to delay (for as long as possible, at least) one’s physical decline are also, it appears, the same things that you can do to keep your heart and mind forever young.

Image pinched from an email. If I reach her age, I promise to act like this but not to dress like this. 😀

Does young mind + young heart = immaturity??

I don’t think so. You know why?

Fun + games + giggles + tears of laughter + enjoyment = young mind and young heart.

I admit Maths isn’t my strong point, but I’m positive the above formula adds up.

* * *

Last weekend at a friend’s party, instead of spending my time conversing with adults, I spent the whole time playing Wii with a 10-year old!

While the adults in the party were probably thinking what you’re thinking, my young friend, Yashar, is now convinced his khale (auntie) is cool!

Post updated on 22 January 2011.

Grabbing the Reins

istockphoto.com

As 2010 draws to a close, I’m prodding myself to grab the reins of my life.

I’ve let myself stay on auto pilot for years and kept doing certain things that aren’t working on continual loop. It’s what others call ‘insanity’ — doing the same things over and over knowing you get the same, predictable, undesired results.

Year in year out, this is what I do: daydream, plan, procrastinate, get distracted, lose focus. Repeat.

I have stuff on my ‘Wish List’ that only remained ‘wishes’. With 2011 almost upon us, I resolve to change this once and for all and turn my long-held dreams into tangible reality.

Mind you, most of them are not really big dreams. They’re mainly simple things like wanting to practice Tai Chi or Qigong, learning to play the African drums, be more health-conscious, perhaps booty shake it like Shakira (lol) etc.

In my inaction, I’ve undermined my own self. With my long-overdue show of self-love, however, that is about to change. First, I take responsibility for my inaction and its inevitable non-result; I acknowledge it and now it’s time to get off my derrière and just do it.

I’ve examined my life and I know there are aspects of it that seriously need fixing. I have dreams that I know I have the power to bring into fruition.

From now, this is what I’ll consciously do: desire, intend, commit, focus, persist and—when it materialises—celebrate! Repeat.

Marianne Williamson, author of ‘A Course in Miracles’, wisely tweets ‘owning your desire will start the cosmic engine‘. Even before I read her tweet, I know 2011 will be a very interesting year for me in terms of goals because of my strong intent to make things happen this time.

Taking stock of my life journey this past year, a few things were noteworthy:

1. unintentionally becoming a wannabe jet-setter. This, of course, created a big hole in my pocket, but I’m grateful for the experiences and to the various people who helped make those trips worthwhile, fun and memorable.

2. actualising my desire to write, express, share, unzip, unload and reveal where I stood on certain issues by starting a blog. Writing is one thing that I’ve actually managed to do something about but to date it’s only a hobby.

3. being in a pleasant office environment where any potential dramas and conflicts are ‘repelled’ by the good-naturedness and strong work ethics of the young people who work there. I’m lapping it up at the moment while it lasts.

The last few months of 2010 found me:

4. unintentionally becoming a vegetarian. Losing my desire to eat animal flesh was an unexpected but welcomed change. This has become a precursor to my New Year plan to improve my physical fitness.

5. falling in love… with farm animals and joining Meat-eater Anonymous!! Recently, I mentioned sensing ‘love is in the air’. I caught the love bug but I wasn’t expecting this type of love!

6. advocating for love and compassion for animals

7. de-cluttering my space at work and home (ongoing)

8. re-starting a savings plan

9. appreciating people and situations more, and more and more loving life!

However, it’s my dormant and unactualised ‘wants’ that I’m focusing on next year. I’ve started to list my desires/goals/wishes for the new year. Without solid plans and just empty dreams, many will remain in limbo, like I was in the last many years.

Right now I’m ‘stirring’… and have started to do and put things in place in preparation to actualising my intentions for 2011. And I’m getting excited!

Tanjoubi Omedetou

G’day!

I’m offline for a few days. While I’m taking it easy, I ponder the following lines from a Japanese song. It’s so fittingly funny, it’s hilarious!

♫ Tanjoubi Omedetou To Me! ♫

“Always one extra candle
Always getting more wrinkles
Always adding one year
And always gaining some weight.”

LOL.

Click on the video and sing along!

ENJOY!

CHEERS!

Click here for the lyrics.

Till next post…

Put your Empathy where your Mouth Is

Suddenly, drastically, I’ve become a ‘meat shunner’.

A ‘meat lover’ all of my life, I’ve now become an ‘animal lover’.

It literally happened overnight after watching Earthlings, a one hour and a bit documentary about the cruel, callous and disrespectful way humans treat animals for food, clothing, entertainment, experimentation (research) and sports.

This five-year old film touched me emotionally and intellectually.

The result: I can never look at fried chicken; roast lamb, beef or pork; a whopper burger, beef steak and other meat and seafood with hungry eyes ever again.

I resolved to change my eating habits and attempt to become a vegetarian, if not a vegan, after only 20 minutes into the film.

Aside from the horrific images, there were three things from the film that stood out for me. Mind you, these are not secret information or new revelations. We all know these but we haven’t taken this knowledge into our heart and mind:

1. Animals are creatures who have a right to co-exist with us on Earth, free from deprivation, torment, maltreatment, pain and suffering.

2. Animals are beings who ‘live, breathe, eat, play, show emotion, experience pain, hunger, thirst’ like humans.

3. Animals are pitifully, horrendously and mindlessly maltreated and killed long before they arrive at our table, on our plate and into our mouth.

Some claim Earthlings is just a propaganda tool. I think those who say this are missing the point. It’s clear that killing animals for food or for other uses, whether painlessly or otherwise; or killing or maltreating animals for fun or in the name of research is seriously barbaric, inhumane and primitive.

So out of my belated respect, empathy and compassion for my fellow ‘earthlings’, I’ve started eliminating all meat and meat products in my diet.

There are those who say the animal carnivores are more cruel toward other animals. Perhaps the animal carnivores have no choice but to kill their fellow animals as a source of food for survival. Humans, however, do have a choice and can make one.

What can you do?

The next time you take a bite of that suckling roast or barbequed meat, spare a thought at what the animal may have endured before reaching your plate as described in ‘Earthlings’:

• “branded on the face with red hot irons [cows]
• dehorned with pliers and tail docked [cows]
• ears clipped, teeth cut, castrated – without pain killers or anesthetics [piglets]
• de-beaked and hoisted upside down and throats slit to bleed [chickens]
• electrocuted [food and circus animals]
• burnt [pigs]
• beaten
• shot
• tied at the neck and kept restricted to keep muscles from developing [calves]
• shackled alive, suspended on a bleed wheel where their throats are slit and immersed in scalding tanks to remove their bristle, with many still struggling as they are dunked upside down where they are submerged and drowned [pigs]
• skinned alive for furs and all leather goods
• harpooned [whales].”

And for dolphins unlucky enough to get caught in the waters of Japan? Some are cut in half while still alive!

Excluding the whales and dolphins, these are factory farm animals. What do you think happen to strays or once-loved pets which are impounded? Some are packed very tightly in gas chambers and gassed as this method is less expensive than the quick and lethal but more humane method of injection.

For the love of animals, face the inconvenient truth: partaking a piece of animal flesh—albeit in sanitised, spiced, cooked, packaged or beautifully-presented form— is tantamount to being complicit in their continued deprivation, suffering, abuse and painful death by human hands.

I no longer want to take part, even indirectly, in this sadistic and disrespectful treatment of animals.

I now refuse to be a part of the meat industry’s continued existence. [Watch Earthlings, Sam!]

And this without fully knowing yet the meat industry’s role in climate change and on the damage to our environment, water and air.

I feel genuine pity to those whose livelihood involve killing or butchering animals. Get out of that hellhole called abattoirs or slaughterhouses. Surely, there is a better way to make a living.

We are thinking, compassionate and loving human beings. We have the power to spare the animals their lives. Let them die a natural death and not directly or indirectly through our hands.

In human hands, animals suffer in millions, daily, all over the planet. It’s time to stop creating hell on earth for animals.

Open your eyes, heart and mind.

It’s time to decide and choose: either you’re FOR the animals’ rights or AGAINST them.

As far as the animals are concerned, there is NO in between.

For more information, check out:

Animals Australia

Exposed: The long, cruel road to the slaughterhouse

Why Eating Meat is Like Butchering the Rainforest

Animal Visuals

James Adonis, who I thank for sharing the link to the video which led me to open my eyes to this long-ignored reality.

Lover and Loves

As part of my process of sharing my thoughts and of tackling love themes, here’s a just-for-fun, amateur poem about my loves and interests.

I am a LOVER of…

Words
I string them together as musings for my blog
Place them side by side
To play scrabble or Upwords

Non-fiction books
Magazines, blogs and e-news
Voraciously devouring
Every written thing I could

Fun
Like playful banters
Tongue-in-cheek jokes
Giggles and laughter

Food
I’ve got a sweet tooth
How else did you think
I ballooned?

A good drink
Guess what I’ll evoke
In the right atmosphere
It’s vodka and coke

Roulette
Winning big a few times
I won’t admit though
To losing a few dimes!

Music
Metal and rock classic
Singing my heart out
To my neighbours’ detriment

Philosophy
Often preoccupied with things of the mind
As deep meaning in life I seek
But the answers go over my head!

Life
Now seeing the world afresh
My new canvass is spread out
For me to colourfully illustrate.

P.S. I have other loves, of course!
I’ll share one of them with you in my next post, a more serious topic.

Unzipped

Once more with feeling…

istockphoto.com

[This was originally a guest post but have since got the rights back to publish in my blog. I thank Joe for allowing this.]

For those of us who desire to be more comfortable in our own skin but don’t have the courage to do so, writing is the next best thing.

Well-known author and poet, Paulo Coelho, tweets writing is a socially acceptable form of getting naked in public.

When I started my personal blog, a few people told me I was being brave. I didn’t realize it then, but they were really telling me I was needlessly exposing myself to the entire world.

For a nude prude like me, showing too much flesh doesn’t come naturally. So why the sudden disregard for modesty?

To answer that question, let’s compare how I see getting undressed to writing for blogs:

1. There is supposedly an art to undressing; while writing is definitely an art.

2. Unbuttoning your clothing is like uncovering your innermost thoughts so you can prepare to write.

3. Removing your top is like getting rid of unnecessary mental baggage and putting it on paper.

4. Unzipping your trousers or your skirt is like opening up yourself and your life, and risking being scrutinized.

5. Slowly removing your undergarments is like slowly stripping away self-consciousness and the fear of embarrassing yourself, as you risk being criticized.

6. As you dance to the music and strut while peeling off each layer of clothing, in writing you silently peel away your personas and reveal facets of your more authentic self that you don’t dare show many people, sometimes even those close to you.

7. Being naked makes you feel vulnerable; but so does writing and disclosing your secret life.

So what good does exposing figuratively and/or literally in public do for writers? Writing is liberating and therapeutic. In the right place, so is undressing and being naked.

I quite enjoy writing and wish I did it sooner. I’ve been laughing a lot, sometimes almost to tears, reminiscing funny incidents that have happened in my life. I’ve also cried my eyes out, though not too many times, remembering sad and painful moments that are best forgotten.

I highly recommend it, writing I mean. I can’t say the same for getting naked, but you’ll surely laugh yourself silly looking in the mirror and seeing how funny you appear. Either that or you’ll cry your heart out dwelling over real or imagined imperfections.

My life, little parts of it at least, is now an open book, or should I say an open blog. So in my husky voice I dare say, “Look at me in all my naked glory – moles, scars, warts and all!,” while I stumble as I strut in my red stiletto shoes and pretend to be comfortable writing my life away.

P.S. I don’t really have warts. 😛

Interesting reads:

Writing (by Paulo Coelho)
Art of Writing
Writing Naked

Conscious Acts of Love

istockphoto.com

A friend kindly shared this with me about her better half:

Every morning, when I come downstairs after getting ready for work, Gary has fed our bird, got our dog’s food ready, put bread in the toaster for me, or whatever I’m having at the time, and is eating his own breakfast.

On occasion, he will say I love you, and it’s always wonderful to hear it, but all these things he does, he does to say I love you!

* * *

Words of love are sometimes expressed far too casually. Acts of love is my preferred ‘default’ mode.

People somehow feel insecure when you don’t affirm your love through words and take for granted other deeper, meaningful ways you demonstrate it to them.

To people who know me but have never heard me tell them I love them, let me count the many other ways you can be reassured:

1. See it in my kindness and random displays of thoughtfulness.

2. Hear it in my giggles and laughter in my constant attempt and desire to amuse you or those times when I’m amused by you.

3. Smell it in my willingness to help, even in small or insignificant ways.

4. Taste it in my quiet and sometimes inaudible words of appreciation for every little or big thing you do.

5. Be touched by my support and encouragement (more often than not) for what your heart desires to do.

6. Accept it in my periods of generosity and little hint of selfishness.

7. ‘Get it’ in my deep reservoir of patience and appreciate not many are as patient.

8. Listen to the gentle way I speak, which others mistake for meekness.

9. Observe it in my being polite regardless of your status in life, and rare* outbursts of anger or rudeness.

10. Know it each time I give in and indulge you, even if it seems I do it more often than you.

11. Notice it in my tolerance of many things, even in those times I shouldn’t tolerate them.

12. Understand it in the absence of nagging, especially in those times you’d more appreciate silence.

13. Sense it in my being considerate and understanding, even if sometimes you don’t know why I do what I do.

14. Detect it in my instinct to tell the truth and be as honest as I possibly can.

15. Appreciate it in my sense of fair play and devoid of any thoughts to deceive or use you.

16. Feel the love in how I treat your loved ones and friends.

I could go on and on…

My point is love can be expressed in more ways than one. Words of love don’t guarantee true love. I ‘ooze’ love through these every day and sometimes deliberate actions. Acts of love, if done consistently and consciously, are more real and convincing.

I wish more people were like Gary in the quote above. No matter how often you say it, marry loving words with consistent loving actions.

These are my perspectives on love. What are yours?

* I’m lucky that only few people rub me the wrong way.

I Love You

istockphoto.com

There!

It’s easy to write it but many find it difficult to say – not the least me.

I love you.

I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you.

Easy!

Copy and paste.

I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you.

So easy.

I may be one of the remaining few who considers LOVE a sacred word.

‘I Love You’, even more sacred.

Love is not to be uttered willy-nilly.

I’m a generous person but when it comes to spoken expressions of love, I’m stingy.

The words don’t come freely out of my mouth, unless I mean it, truly feel it… at that moment.

I don’t write it, only to cross it out.

I don’t give it, only to take it back and forever.

I don’t say it, only to retract or to pussyfoot around it.

I don’t claim to have it and then I disappear or turn my attention to someone else.

I may turn mute when it comes to expressing love but one clear thing I do though is to show love in action.

My next post will show you how I ‘ooze’ love—everyday—if only you learn to read the signs, most of them non-verbal.

Love spoken but not often showed is not a lot better than unspoken love but showed often. Me thinks.

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Love is a Paradox

I must have gotten up from the wrong side of the bed, or perhaps it was the right side – you decide. I had a sudden thought to blog about a paradox.

This is an easy yet difficult subject, which only a few have mastered.

A subject that is simple, yet so complex.

I, myself, at this ripe old age of, well, old, is an inexperienced student and still learning.

I’m talking about LOVE.

istockphoto.com

There is the romantic, the familial, the neighbourly love…

There is the love for God, for friends, for pets…

Then there is universal love which is all-embracing and signifying unconditional love for all…

And there is self love.

There is no single, universally-accepted definition of love. Love is described in many various ways by very many people.

Is it just me or am I missing something? Is love an enigma?

Those who profess to know the full meaning of the word LOVE, speak.

Love is a word that begs to be defined succinctly.

Love is one powerful, emotion-evoking, all-encompassing word.

Love is most longed for, most dreamed about and most-sought after.

But we all know love is also misunderstood, misused and abused.

So do you really know what love is and what love is not?

Help me answer my questions.

Help me understand love and all its complexities.

Recognise love where I think I see falsity;

See love when it seems none exists;

Find love where it may hide.

[This is the first of many posts about this love-ing feeling.]

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[British/Australian spelling used.]

Wherefore Art Thou, Florentino?

This blog is to close the chapter of my ‘F’ story. One person, at least, is curious to know what happened to Florentino.

I wasn’t part of the elite group that Florentino and the girls who surrounded him belonged to. They were the smart ones but, Florentino, as I mentioned, was the top student of the class.

My class standing in first grade was average (story of my school life, really). Mrs Lavastida, somehow, managed to lure me occasionally out of my shell.

One day, Mrs Lavastida decided to pit one student against another, to see who could read well in English and fast. Being secretly competitive, I wanted to impress everyone, most especially Florentino.

I raised my hand. I knew I could beat those slow ones! Mrs Lavastida kept ignoring me, however, and called everyone else except me. And the later the lines of text to read, the harder they got, at least for a first grader.

It seemed my hand was raised forever when, finally, my teacher noticed me. She called my name and I eagerly stood up. As I was checking out the next sentence to read to give myself a head start, guess who she decided to pit against me??

She could have called one of those who, after a few lessons, still couldn’t read. But, noooo, she had to pick Florentino!!

Florentino already had his turn and it dismayed me that she called him again. Discouraged even before we started reading, I knew it was a lost cause. I was only halfway and struggling through my line, and Florentino had stood up, read his sentence lightning quick, sat back on his chair and bowed his head, perhaps to try and look magnanimous.

Any fantasy I had of impressing him and getting his attention away from the bevies of cute little girls who liked him, went down the drain.

Later on, it occurred to me that I had no chance to compete with the smart kids in that class. Most of them went through nursery and kindergarten, which meant they started school a year or so before me. They were well ahead of me.

Out of my girl classmates, only two stood out for me and I still clearly remember them: Anna and Irene.

Anna was the smartest girl in the class. She wasn’t what you’d call beautiful, but she was pretty and well-groomed. She belonged to the long list of girls who liked Florentino.

Irene, on the other hand, was my neighbour. She was pretty too. Dark with short hair, she lived in the same complex where I temporarily stayed. She belonged to the second list of girls who were indifferent to Florentino. But, if you read my previous blog post about Florentino, I was on both lists, right?

As a six year old, this is how I saw and assessed the situation:

Try as Anna might, Florentino only had eyes for Irene. But, Irene, as much as I liked her was, I suspected, a tomboy. Not that there is anything wrong with that! It’s just that poor Florentino had no idea. I noticed Irene was the only one he was very friendly with and kidded around with her a lot.

I don’t know if Irene turned out to be a real tomboy or if she outgrew her tomboy phase. I don’t know what became of her and Florentino. Sometimes, I wonder what became of my first grade classmates.

As fate would have it, my parents found a new place for us to stay, farther from my very first school but closer to another school, a public school. It was also farther and away from Florentino… forever.

Next post: A Paradox

Wish You Were There

Thinking about my recent trip to the Philippines, I can say I had a lovely, fun and relaxing time.

The highlight for me was spending time in an island, goofing around with my family in my ‘2-piece’, while trying to cover myself with a towel. 😀

Family

Having most of my family in the Philippines and the US, time spent with them is always cherished. I spend as much time bonding and just having a laugh with them each time I travel to see them. We’re a big clan, both sides of my family; we laugh loud and often.

This is also the time I try to show off my ‘comedic’ skills, assured with the knowledge that no matter how unfunny my attempts at making jokes are, my family won’t and can’t disown me. 🙂

We had a family reunion of some sort. As always, there were lots of food and, of course, laughter. It’s hard to stop and make real conversations though because of the limited time you have while on a brief holiday/visiting relatives and the many people to say hello to, and hug and kiss. Not to mention that a lot of time is spent taking photos to capture each moment and making sure there are new pics to choose from for our Facebook profile photos!

The plan from now on is to spend as much time with my family, as often as I’m able, especially with my parents. My parents are both in their early 80s. I’ve always appreciated the fact that I, together with my brothers and sisters, have both parents while growing up and are with us for a long time.

Let us not take our parents for granted. Count the many who have lost either or both parents early in life. I am one of the lucky ones and I truly appreciate it.

I intended to share some photos of the trip here earlier but I was preoccupied, so only took the time to do this now. You can view them here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/earthianne/

There are no close-up photos of me so as not to scare you away!

Luscious Me!

There is a certain race of people who considers me fat. They call me fat. They’re wrong and I would say unimaginative!

Even if one is fat, how hard can it be to lose excess weight? If I make it sound so easy, losing body fat isn’t really rocket science:

Image from istockphoto.com

Eat more of the power foods like fruits, vegetables, fish, certain nuts and grains. Less of the wrong foods like fat-filled, sugar-filled and too-much-salt food.

Have a small portion of food when you feel hungry and don’t overeat. Make sure you drink plenty of water and no carbonated sodas (including diet drinks), and limit your alcohol intake.

Complement this with regular and vigorous exercise and—voilà—you have a body that is the envy of women, and a physique that men ogle at and admire.

I am not saying it’s a good thing, to be ogled or stared at. I mentioned about my being a nude prude in my Unzipped guest post and my not being keen on going to beaches in my last post, Wish You Were Here.

During my recent foray on a beach, I bravely donned a 2-piece swimsuit (well, a skimpy boy shorts with a top is a 2-piece swimsuit to me). It wasn’t a very revealing piece of swimwear, really, but enough to show some excess bits – the unwanted bits.

However, I might as well have gone naked as I was stared at, scrutinised, looked over from top to bottom and back again! The experience was disconcerting, and I now have to think twice before wearing a swimsuit ever again in public. I’m talking about my parents, brothers, sisters, cousins, nephews and nieces, and other close and distant relatives who I only see about once or twice a year! Whether they were staring at me in admiration or derision, I couldn’t tell without my eyeglasses.

Do you think this experience has spurred me on to lose any excess weight and apply self-discipline in my fitness regime? Because that’s all it is, really. Aside from knowing the basics of maintaining a healthy weight as described above, you need to fix your sight on your goal, if losing weight is your goal, and instill the discipline to keep at it.

To answer my own question above: no, maybe not. Over my lunch of cheese-topped grilled fish with prawns and fries, with half-touched salad on the side, a non-Filipino colleague-friend assured me, you’re not really fat; you’re more like… ‘beautifully plump’!

Thinking about this unique description, a picture comes to mind: that of a plump fruit — luscious, delicious, sweet!

Uhmmm… I’m beginning to like this new description. It not only makes me feel ‘sexy’, it makes me want to eat!

From now on, call me those beautiful, mouth-watering names. Just don’t call me ‘fat’ because I’m not* and ‘fat’ is just plain boring!

* * *

*those who genuinely like me can’t see it. 🙂

Disclaimer: For a more reliable information on health, nutrition and exercise, please do your own research and get advice from medically-qualified people.

Wish You Were Here

I’m staring at my tiny feet half-buried in the white, powder-fine sand…

I feel the heat of the late morning sun. As my family and I start to walk to join others already frolicking on the beach, I pull a face of discomfort and cry out for my slippers. It’s a short walk, but I can barely tolerate the hot sand scorching my bare feet.

Grasping my mother’s hand, we rush toward the water. I feel relief as I step on the cool water, the wave washing over my feet. Members of my family laugh and enjoy themselves. I shiver and my jaw quivers, while I play in the water for just a little bit. My mother wraps a towel around me and it’s a welcome relief.

We walk back to where the rest of the clan is and find them enjoying freshly-grilled fish for lunch. This time, I notice the now cream-colour sand clinging to my cold, wet feet. Feeling sticky, at this moment I decided I don’t like going to the beach or swimming or walking barefoot in the hot sand. (LOL)

* * *

Though hazy, this is my very first recollection of going to this much-loved island when I was little. Wish I could tell you more but that’s all I remember.

I wasn’t really intending to be here at this time but I’m back. I’ve only visited the place three other times since. Now much, much, muccchhh older, I make sure I bring my own slippers (or thongs)!

As I sit in my cossies in this island facing the Pacific Ocean somewhere in the southeast, surrounded by dalisay and coconut trees, or walk alone and along this short stretch of seashore, I contemplate Rachel Snyder’s invitation and consider my next move.

In this tiny but easily-accessible island, one can appreciate the crystal clear, blue-green sea. It’s a perfect place for sea diving, I was told; or to snorkel and ogle at its rich marine life; or do more simple pleasures like enjoying the views, while sipping fresh, sweet coconut juice; or explore a hidden cave for the more adventurous.

Ahhh… holiday!

Yes, Earthianne, has been on holiday mode and taking a break from working and blogging… but only for a short time.