WhatsApp was blowing up today with all the back and forth messages celebrating International Women’s Day. A friend sent a message with the line “Always Awesome, Forever Fabulous’. I immediately told her I was stealing it. I’ve been lately feeling low and unworthy and this line just perked me up.
“Always Awesome, Forever Fabulous”, huh? I know I know, easy to say difficult to follow. And don’t I know it? Maintaining awesomeness and fabulousness is hard work. There are always competing priorities, emotional messes, and emergencies. The basics of daily life are hardly a breeze – our jobs are demanding, parenting is a challenge even on the best days, and relationships require effort. Then there are social obligations, family issues, office politics, career changes, planning for the future. And let’s consider the courage needed to live a life of one’s choosing. What about the bravery involved in standing up for yourself, making decisions, and dealing with the consequences of those choices? Hard work, indeed. But so worth it!
My friend’s words have inspired me to be kinder to myself in 2018. Just because I want to continuously improve myself doesn’t mean what I am now is not good enough. I am already awesome and fabulous!
2018 has started exactly as I expected – a runaway bullet train hurtling towards 2019 at record speed. We are half way through February; I’ve broken all my resolutions, but I have come up with several new plans for a less chaotic, more ordered life. I have accepted that my house, my head, my life has too much stuff. Stuff that did nothing for my happiness; it was just stuff that needed to be kept organised, updated or tended to in some way. I figured the easiest way to deal with it was to just simply get rid of it.
I have also realised that incremental change is the way to go. I find it easier to execute small, bite-sized projects, record a success and get motivated for more improvements. Here are some of the things I call “quick wins” that you should consider for a less cluttered 2018.
When you have kids, you learn to cook pancakes. Then you teach said kids to make pancakes. After a couple of disasters big and small, the family pancake factory is up and running smoothly. This makes for many pleasurable weekend mornings and long, leisurely breakfasts.
This recipe is based on Mark Bittman’s Everyday Pancakes.
Sunday December 31, 2017. The end of the weekend, the last day of the last month of the year.
2017 was not a great year by any measure, plenty went wrong. But I am a glass half full kind of person so I must say plenty also went right. I am grateful for the blessings showered, the opportunities to travel and learn, the deepening of friendships and the recognition of a journey of self awareness.
I am thankful for people in my life who make me laugh. I am thankful for being able to see the light of humor in a dark year. A special shout out to Fowl Language for seeing the humor in parenting and assuring me from time to time that I am not alone.
City-dwellers travel far and wide to seek out nature and enjoy its resplendent beauty. Sometimes we are lucky to find it in our very cities, waiting for us to reach out and experience. Whether it is the faraway Pulau Ubin or the Fort Canning Park in my backyard, nature’s treasures are everywhere.
I am thankful for role models at every stage of my life, especially strong women role models. Many times I have asked “What would she do?”.
These days one of them is Michelle Obama. I want to be Michelle when I grow up. I want her smile, her body, her wardrobe and mostly I want her marriage.
Food is a part of my culture. Most conversations begin and end with talk of food – what did you eat, how was it, when shall we eat again, can you share the recipe? It goes on…
I am thankful for the abundance in my life, the adventure of food and cooking. My children are young but well on their path to be culinary explorers – they enjoy new foods, like to help out in the kitchen and are regular viewers of Food TV channel. Other kids watch cartoons my kids watch Giada, Nancy Fuller and Iron Chef America.
A white wall and sheet of stickers. That is the genius of the art installation Obliteration Room by Yayoi Kusuma for the Children’s Biennale at the National Gallery, Singapore. Whimsical and fantastical, a treat for the child in everyone.
I am thankful for the art on my walls, in my children’s doodles, on city streets. Once you start noticing, art is everywhere – you can see it, touch it, hear it, smell it, and taste it.
Travelling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller (Ibn Battuta). I am thankful for some terrific travel experiences in 2017 – from scuba diving to 20 metres in the Mactan Island (Cebu, The Philippines) to trekking in a high altitude national park in the Himalayas. 2017 was the year of Asian travel that took us to Hong Kong, Indonesia, India and The Philippines. I can’t wait to explore the continent more thoroughly. So far we have travel plans for Japan in early spring, The Philippines and Malaysia in summer. I’ve lived in Singapore 10 years, and most of my travel has been in the United States and Europe. How ridiculous is that? Time to change that. I long to see the temples at Angkor Wat, the fall colours in Korea, and beaches of Vietnam.
What would I do without my girls – sisters, cousins, friends? Whether I need to vent or cry, go crazy and let my hair down, go for long walks or lunches, get inspired, distract myself from troubles, or just talk and laugh about everything in the Universe, my girls have been there for me and with me. As I grow older I appreciate my circle of women friends even more. The funny, brilliant, interesting women are indeed my treasure.
Hope and Opportunity
I am thankful for beauty and inspiration in the most unexpected places. I spotted this summer garden at an Indian army transit post situated near a high mountain pass (~16000 feet). The makeshift garden was put together by a soldier far away from home, with planters made from recycled tin cans and love. It spoke of a yearning for beauty and normalcy in such a desolate place. It filled me with hope.
Yesterday my 7-year-old daughter stood crying in her bathroom. “Why do I take so long to shower?” Who knows what goes on within an exhausted and hungry 7-year old mind? Scientists! Forget the gravitational waves, genetic sequences, circadian rhythms, cell regrowth. The real challenge is trying to understanding a child’s emotion-fueled actions. My little girl’s tirade ended with “I will never be perfect!” My “be-who-you-are, love-who-you-are” instinct went on alert instantly. I hugged my little girl and told her nobody is perfect but we must try to always be our best, do our best.
Why are we so hung up on perfection? And what is perfection by the way? Is it Tartine’s sourdough? A sunny day at the beach? Kids snug in bed at 7.30pm? Burrata from Puglia? The third Brandenburg concerto? The structure and design of a single leaf? The beauty of the Himalayas? A girls’ night out complete with a party bus? Mom’s dal? Flight sequences in films by Hayao Miyazaki? A home cooked meal shared with friends? Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album? The Harry Potter books? The silence after snowfall? A coral wall?
Inspired by my daughter I went exploring on what people had to say about perfection. I guess the most famous quote belongs to Vince Lombardi – “Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.” Hmm… I would settle for excellence any day.
Dali was a bit more severe. He said, “Have no fear of perfection – you’ll never reach it.”
Some felt perfection was in the realm of the Gods (Carolina Herrera, Michael J. Fox), some felt perfection takes time and cannot be rushed (Voltaire, Alexander Wang). Some focused on the fallacy of physical perfection (Kate Winslet, Tracee Ellis Ross, Mila Kunis).
Nobody probably knows about perfection more than Nadia Comaneci and she says she never thought of the score. If she did, she probably would have messed up. She just aimed for perfection.
I belong to the group that believes perfection is an illusion and what matters is hard work (Drake). As Margaret Atwood says, “If I waited for perfection I wouldn’t write a word. But I would like to think I worked my hardest and gave it my best.”
I recently found myself in need of some fool-proof and positive coping mechanisms in my life. Ways in which I could independently deal with the physical, emotional and spiritual after effects of an unexpected life event. I realized that I need to have more than one way of dealing with stress/sadness/loss/ or any other unwelcome negative feelings. Also, that I needed to do this myself. I may have amazing friends and family to lean on but I would have to carry the responsibility for my own recovery and wellness.
I didn’t cry even though I felt it would help me. I didn’t lash out because really there was no one and nothing to blame, sometimes life just does what it wants to do irrespective of your plans, thoughts and feelings. I was surely in denial for two whole days and acceptance came slowly but when it did I was ready with a plan to move on. Here are somethings that worked for me.
This by no means an exhaustive list, just a few things that worked for me. Look out for the positive things that can help you deal with the uncertainty in life and the chaos it can bring.