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Finding The Happy

Looking for joy in all the right places

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mourning

A kind of hush

It has finally hit me this morning, not quite in its entirety, that this is my last stay in the place I grew up. The flat I called home. The flat that my mother called home, my aunt called home, my grandmother called home. The flat that Shawn, for a little while, lived and grew up in when he just a wee babe, when he was just Arddun’s age. The flat in which my uncle courted my aunt. The flat my father used as home for a while. My nest for 24 years. My mecca, my centre when I returned to Singapore.

I don’t want to leave this place. I don’t want to sell it. I don’t want to rent it. I don’t want to see it languish and die. I don’t want it to lose its market value, its historical value, its sentimental value. I don’t want to lose its memories. I don’t want to give these walls away. These floors away. This unique layout away. I don’t want anyone else to say they now own my mother’s blue kitchen and her built-in robes, I don’t want anyone else to love the views I grew up in, and to call it theirs.

It is unrealistic. It isn’t how I feel every day, but it’s how today feels.

I have seller’s remorse, and the ad hasn’t even hit the papers. But every which way my heart turns, my mind races up to remind and justify. On paper, very logically, in theory… this it the right thing to do. This is the right time to sell. And maybe it might turn out to be the best thing to hold on to the flat for a little while. And maybe it would be the worst thing to do. It is 50-50. My mind tells me that this, like a bandaid, is a milestone in my life that needs to be ripped and gotten over with – the sooner, the better before even more tendrils of connections form.

But as far as bandaids go, this one is hurting very, very much.

 

Flipsides

This morning, I got reminded that in 2½ weeks, I’ll be back in Singapore.

It was a good kick up the backside (although that was hardly what the reminder was about!) because it helped me distill exactly what my priorities need to be. I need to prepare the house for my in-laws’ arrival, which includes updating my Arddun childcare notes. I need to get a bunch of appointments and decisions made. I need to put my freelance work on hold. I need to stop trying to achieve every single Tupperware sales target put in front of me.

Did I tell you? I’m a Tupperware Demonstrator now. It’s turning out to be quite a bit of fun, and I’m liking how I get to swan off to party and mingle with grown women. It is also a time suck, at least at this beginning stage. I’m learning all the time and while selling Tupperware isn’t rocket science, it’s been over a decade since I last had a sales job. The temptation is to throw myself entirely into this new business but again, I have to remind myself constantly what my priorities are. All this, while half day-dreaming about what it would be like to be a Tupperware manager just so I can name my own team. (Shortlist so far: Silicon Velle.)

There’s a more sobering side to my return, of course. I’ve had a few cloud-like thoughts wafting through the brain cavity all morning, so I’ll try and pin them down here.

I’ve been thinking about what it’s like to never forget someone. And I’ve been thinking about what it’s like to remember them. Until my cousin’s sudden death a few years ago, and then my mother’s death this year, I never knew there was a difference. But the truth is, while I will never forget my mother; while the stark fact of her death has been branded into my soul and the burnt bit is still healing, it takes a huge amount of effort for me to remember her.

And that’s because remembering takes courage. It takes time. It takes up oodles of emotional memory, and you’re left panting after. I have a photo of her sitting on the buffet in the middle of the house, and you cannot miss it. And I can have whole conversations with her while Arddun is asleep and I’m doing the housework. But once I find my mind flashing back to the past and remembering what once was… I find myself pulling the plug. Making the images vanish. Because it is just so easy to sit there and feel paralysed with sorrow. And I don’t want to be paralysed, because I need to move.

“Give me unction in my gumption, let me function function function…”

In 2½ weeks, I’ll be back in Singapore. I’ll be sleeping in my mother’s bed. I’ll be bidding the rooms good-bye. Because this time will really be the last time. I love my husband truly, madly, deeply… but my mother and this house had always been my unconscious safety net. “What if Tony got hit by a bus… what if he goes all Rod Stewart on me one day and leaves me for a 20yo twinkie…”

My love for my husband is a choice. Every day, I wake up and choose to be with him. They say you don’t get to choose your relatives – NOT TRUE. Because out of all the men in the world, I chose Tony to be my family. I chose him to be my closest peer and kin. I continue to choose him daily.

My love for my mother is biological. It isn’t a choice – it is in my veins and permeates my soul, because I am of her. I think that with all mothers and daughters, the depth of love is variable – you get out as much as what each of you put in. But the starting point of that love and bond is biological.

Severing my ties with my family home is going to be one of the hardest things I’ll have to do this second half of the year. (The first, of course, was saying goodbye to my mother.) Going back to Singapore means having to Remember. God give me strength, because I’m sorta quaking at the prospect already.

 

Birthday bash

Today’s my mum’s birthday. If she were still alive, she would have turned 56.

I was half dreading this day, because I knew I was going to feel quite mixed up about it. There’s an awful jumble of feelings that come from remembering a dead loved one’s birthday. There’s that sense of wrongness which builds up to the day, and chiefly comes from not doing the usual things. Not hunting down the perfect gift, not wrapping it. Not battling the queue at the post office to send it. Not finding the card. Not texting her in the morning. Not calling her on Skype at the day’s end to find out how she celebrated.

Not being able to jump on the plane and then sidle up to her pew on Sunday to surprise her.

Then there’s the wrongness that comes from remembering someone’s birthday when they’ve passed. She hasn’t turned 56; her body stopped at 55 years, 6 months and 17 days. So what naturally follows is that gut-wrenching, heartrending sense of loss and missing. The kind you’ve been working at mastering and suppressing for the last few months so you can function – and even be happy – without dissolving into a mooching mess.

There was a guy recorded in the bible who had been blind from birth, which means he had probably been reduced to begging because that’s what happens when you don’t have Disability Care in the days of Jesus. And the question naturally followed: why? Was he born blind because of his parents’ sin? What was the whole point of depriving a person of sight and a livelihood from the start? Or the middle, for that matter. What is the whole point of dragging a woman through a very tough childhood and marriage, only to strike her with cancer when she’s finally breathing easier? Why?

And Jesus basically said that the whole point was so that God could be given the glory. A person, blind until adulthood for the sole and magnificent purpose of Jesus walking pass to heal him. Except I sure wish He were here in the flesh today, and that he chose to heal my mother.

What was the point of giving her life, only to take it away at 55? Was it so that God may be glorified through her example in death? Or was it so that others like me could be brought more into repentance?

I remember reading someone’s blog, and the whole blog was about this family who has a daughter with a condition that would almost certainly guarantee her death by age 4. When you know you have that sort of timeline, you don’t mess about as a parent. The doctrines about sleep training, the guilt about breastfeeding vs formula, the philosophies about discipline, the race to each baby milestone completely melts away when you realise that Nothing Is That Important as making sure that child knows she is loved, and that you’re all making great memories together. That blogger’s house was a complete mess some days but as the child got sicker, all they did as a family sometimes was to eat takeaway and watch cartoons with her. It flew in the face of every good parenting handbook out there, and yet I think it was perfect and natural parenting for their sick daughter at the time.

I wish I had known about my mother’s timeline, because I wish I had understood which battles to fight and which battles to merrily concede defeat because they weren’t worth picking up the axe for in the first place. I wish I had not fussed at the fringes, but understood which were the more important things. I wish I had dropped everything and run to her sooner. Hindsight can be such a bitter thing.

There’s the alarm clock, chirping in the distance. Yet another reminder that time marches on. Oh how I miss you, my mother, my confidante, my home away from home.

‘Tis the season

I’ve been trying to make the most of these holidays by diving into my fiction writing again, except everything that flies out from my fingers sounds false and corny. My theory is that I am a little too relaxed. I find I do my best writing when I’m under the pump and there are a heap of Better Things I Should Be Doing out there. Like actual work that pays money. Or my PSLEs.

Most nights when I’ve hit a rut, I write absolute gibberish until the magic starts working and the honest stuff pours onto the page hot and quick like runny lava.

Tonight, however, I drifted over to my cousin’s blog because I’d been looking for a specific turn of phrase she had used. She was the best writer I knew in real life, a record she still holds today. And I read her old posts and I can’t stop smiling because I can hear her voice and it’s like we’re on the phone for hours again all those years ago, and she’s making me laugh until I cry. And I miss her so much.

Death is very inconvenient.

I’m blaming Christmas. It brings out the weepies.

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