Role-playing life

The adult life sometimes feels like a role-playing game. A small part of you is wondering when your mom is going to call out “dinner’s ready!” so you can just stop playing and go home. At the dinner table, while listening half-heartedly to your parents talking about their work, you think about how you could have played better today, and how you plan to play tomorrow, or another day.

Your precious idea

The idea in your head. The precious one. “It’s big. World-changing. It means something.”

“At least it’s going to be life-changing for me.”

Yes, that’s the one.

But it’s so precious so you have to be cautious. Put it in a beautiful box and lock it in your drawer.

Don’t disturb it. Don’t expose it to the air, or the sunlight, otherwise it’s going to deteriorate.

But, wait. Is it the idea that we are protecting? Or our ego?

Since I was a kid, I loved writing. My essays were often praised by teachers. But I never sent anything to the local newspaper or any children’s magazine to get it published.

Because I was afraid of rejections. Because I was so used to be praised, be “the best” in a place where I was already the best. Because I knew in my heart, that there’s a chance I wouldn’t be “the best” to get picked.

And it’s the same today.

The internet saved my artistic life. I can write here, in a blog with almost no traffic, at a small corner of the sea of words and characters. I feel safe here. Safe to write, to express. But after a while, I’m tired of singing to the vast of emptiness, and nothing comes back.

I have to choose, between showing real people “I have something to say that’s worth hearing & I can write”, and protecting my ego from ridicule, rejection, and indifference.

And silently blogging might just be another way of protecting the precious idea, protecting my ego.

So where do I turn up the microphone?

My writing process (the basic one)

Mostly it feels like chaos of inspiration and gradually I’m picking out stuff from the mist of it all.

  1. Hunting idea(s). Ideas are like flies moving rapidly in the chaos that’s the composition of my experience and the source of inspiration. Seeing the ideas flying around is one thing, actually catching one so that I can do something about it is another. Ergo, capturing ideas is step one. I have to mention the ideas that are still flying around, refused to be caught, are not getting anywhere, either. They serve as temptation and distraction… “Maybe in the future” reassurance. Or “it will never be” frustration.
  2. Doing something with the idea. I usually start free writing at this point. With one topic in my mind, I write down everything that comes in mind. Usually listening to music tracks that might go well with my mood and the topic. Until this part, I’ve been shutting down my thoughts and letting my thoughtless mind go wild. Later in this free writing process, I will find an angle that fits the best both to the purpose of the article I’m writing, as well as to my own interest. This is also when the thoughts start to come in.
  3. Start writing the article with the found angle and research. This is the part where I will tone down the emotions let by my mind, and let the thinking and logic take over.
  4. Edit. Completely rational side of the brain’s work. I always have to hold myself back from expanding on certain parts because I “feel like to”. I should spend more time and have more patience for this part, for sure.
  5. Hit publish and hope it resonates. That’s my goal and then I get to move on.

This is a process which I use the most often. But it’s just part of what I usually do. Revisiting former ideas is another thing that has led to even better results. From re-writing there are new ideas appearing – could be new possibilities, but also could be more distracting flies hovering over my head.

Attachment

“Life was so simple before,” I thought. “Why do I have to get myself so much attachment in life?”

Such thoughts appear whenever something my husband or baby does that irritates me.

Sure, life would have been easier and simpler. Lighter and freer. I could go anywhere I want and do whatever I want; eat whatever I want and drink as much as I want. The world would be opened up to me and there would be uncountable possibilities…

Too bad we can only see the small portion of the whole picture of our own lives.

But we imagine the could-be life down another road as the shining, bright side of that whole picture.

It’s impossible for me to stop myself from thinking about “what would have been…” That’s my sincere reaction to every relationship I have had. I wanted to stay alone and independent. So there is no commitment, no responsibility. So that I can push the “stop” button whenever I can.

But life is just much too meaningful to live like the only star in the sky.

If I am brave enough, my pain triples and happiness times a thousand.

That’s only possible with strings attached.

The last one to go to bed

I guess I will be the last one goes to bed. Forever.

Sometimes I do think it feels unfair. Why do I always have to be the one who is making sure everything and everyone is ok before turning in or just resting herself?

But on the other hand, it’s my own choice, too.

I choose to do all these things. I don’t do it perfectly but somehow I feel I have the responsibility to do it.

Is it a sexist thing to do? I mean, am I conditioned to do that and behave like the responsible adult in the newly established family which consists of two adult at the same age and a little baby?

I was not like this at all. What changed?

I was the person who’s taking care of her own shit but now I leave everything to my husband. What changed?

Well, I have him now.

I leave the things in my life that he does better. I take care of the things which he overlooks.

I guess that’s just teamwork.

I guess not everything has to be a sexist thing.

I guess I’m certainly conditioned in many ways. But it doesn’t always have to be that way.

The mirror

I’ve never been a person who’d stand in front of a mirror and inspecting her face often.

It was not just because I was not 100% satisfied with how I look. (“How stupid is that? I know… but it’s the problem for another time…) Plus, I was raised that way.

Most children I’ve seen have such a phase: they like to see themselves in a mirror. They can’t help themselves but looking at their reflections. They make faces, or try on household items like a pretty pillow cases or something on their heads… (What? Is that just me?)

I was one of these children.

There’s a big mirror in the hall way of the apartment of my grandparents, where I spent most of my childhood. It’s facing the apartment door and right in the center of the T section connecting all the other rooms. Since I was in kindergarten, I was good at doing performances like singing and dancing. Every adult said to my parents and grandparents that I was talented and very cute. Hearing that, I spent even more time making faces and pretending I was in a movie scene and appreciating my own performance in front of that mirror.

While other adults in my family making comments about me being “crazy in love with how I look”. They didn’t want to make me self-conscious on purpose. But they way they said it made me feel that looking at myself is something bad.

It’s self-indulgent, self-obsessed, shallow, and narcissistic.

Gradually, I stopped. When I passed by the mirror, I tried not to look at myself in the mirror; or when I did, I tried to do it without anyone seeing me.

My two cousins, who are boys, did the same. They got the same comment. And worse. “You have it worse than girls… so self-obsessed with appearance. Are you a girl?” The grownups said to them.

My mother was no advocate for a good and polished self-image.
She was very beautiful and everybody said so. But she seldom put on makeup and she said she was “too lazy” to take care of her skin. Oh, and makeup meant “lipsticks” for her. That’s all. In her family, caring about one’s own appearances is so bad that it’s like a crime. There was no mirror in her childhood home. She had to go to the bathroom in school to see if she had dirt on her face if no one told her before that.

When I went to college, my two best girlfriends from high school told me about what they’ve learnt in their first semester. One said: “I’m able to put on smoky eye makeup in 5 minutes.” The other one said: “I discovered how to re-apply my makeup quickly in this very humid climate… thank God!” I said: “I think I haven’t washed my face for the last three days… since I had no class and I just stayed in my dorm, watching movies and writing. And if I want to look at myself in the mirror, I will have to go to the shared bathroom for the whole floor…”

I took pride in that.

Because I value inner beauty more. I value knowledge, wisdom. I’m not shallow, not self-obsessed. Even if people tell me I’m pretty, I don’t look at myself in the mirror anymore because I’m just so not image-obsessed that I even get offended by thinking about my skin problem.

It backfired.

It turned out that, when I did notice my appearance and started to get self-conscious about almost everything with my body. And what made it worse? Feeling judged by others and by myself for I felt ashamed even by looking at the mirror.

Not anymore.

For years I was insecure with my body and my face. My body was not toned and my skin is not smooth. When I started living abroad, far away from my family, I started to look myself in the mirror and judge myself for being “not good enough” and then for “caring about appearance too much.”

Pregnancy changed everything for me. Because I was absolutely in love with my changing body. I can’t explain how it happened. One day I woke up, went to the bathroom, turned on the light.

There I was.

I didn’t know how great I would look with a big baby belly. People say it’s the hormones. But thank God the hormones stayed because I still like how I look now.

I’m back to my pre-pregnancy weight, but I have a belly still hanging. It was a sweet home for my baby daughter for 37 weeks and it’s perfect as how it is. It was never really about my body or my face. It was simply my relationship with the body. The vessel.

Now I still don’t look at my face closely every day in the mirror. But I always keep showing my baby our faces every time when we pass our mirror in the hallway. Yes, we’ve got a mirror there, too. It’s at the corner which you will definitely pass by on the way to the bathroom. Every time when we walk by, I would stop and make faces to her in the mirror. She always laughs after staring at her own face and mine in there for a while.

She still thinks it’s another baby. And that baby is her friend now.
We are all her friends.

A baby’s compassion

“Does it worth it?” A good friend of mine asked me when I said that I was very tired from taking care of my baby.

It’s not easy to answer this question.

Of course the answer is “yes”. But the question needs an elaborated answer.

How do I know it’s worth it? Just because she’s my baby? Because she’s cute?

When do I know it’s all worth it?

“It’s so exhausting. My head hurts from lacking of sleep. My back and arms are hurting from carrying the baby. I have no time to socialise with others, no time to do sports, no time to do whatever I want to do for myself, and my own career. I’m pushing myself physically and mentally to the extreme…

“She’s going through a big growth leap now. She eats more often but doesn’t sleep well. Every time she cries for comfort, and I’m not quick enough there for her, she sounds so desperate that I feel that I was killing her… I try to be a good mother. But when I’m sleep deprived, I’m just not a good mother.

“I’m up every two to three hours now at night to breastfeed her. Sometimes even every hour. One morning it was already getting bright outside.

“My husband just got up. I heard him making his first cup of coffee in the morning. It had been another long night.

“The baby was drinking her fourth feed that night. When she’s hungry, or tired, it feels like she was taken over by a small animal. All the crying and screaming is so… primal. And when she drinks on my breasts, she’s also like a little animal.

“But then this morning she was drinking, and slowly she was full. And waking up.

“And then, she unintentionally looked up to me. Suddenly, her eyes brightened up. It’s like she was saying ‘hey! It’s you!’

“She was looking at me and smiling. That look I will never forget.

“That was a look filled with compassion. Like she knows me, and understands me.

“Like she understands all that I’ve been doing for I love her,

“she understands I’ve been trying my best even if sometimes I think I could do better.

“Like she feels me. She’s not a little animal anymore. She’s my daughter and she’s there for me. And she makes me feel loved, and safe.

“At that moment, I felt relieved, and somehow also forgiven. By myself.

“That’s the moment I know it. Why it’s all worth it.”

The dream to be a dreamer

I dreamt to be a dreamer, when I was a kid.

A dreamer is someone who creates stuff in her mind, and tells others about them.

The things in her dream make her happy, and others hopeful.

She sees the world around her, and discusses the truth and the disguise with philosophers.

The things she creates in her dreams come from the inspirations she gathered from everything in the universe, from dust to galaxies.

So she’s gotta travel. Her body and her mind.

Yes, she’s also a traveler. And yes, she’s also a reader.

She’s a good listener, and speaker.

She’s not only smart so that she understands, she’s also empathetic so she can empathises.

She’s a dreamer who creates wonderful stuff in her mind.

She tells the world these stuff so everyone is hopeful, and healed.

Today, I am her.

Don’t bother going back (because you can’t)

Ok, in this post I’m going to sound like a really old person:

I don’t want to say “my best time has passed” (even though by saying so I’m actually saying it). But I do miss how I used to feel when I was younger.

By younger, I mean, when I was in junior high, primary school, even kindergarten.

Not even high school. I already got too “grownup” when I was in high school. I was scared of how other people might think of me. I was timid; I hid so that people wouldn’t know how awesome I could be so that I could judge or admire those who didn’t hide.

I wouldn’t say I was fearless when I was young. 16 years old was a curse to me in that sense. What I want to find back is the version of me that was not yet ruined by the growing-up hormones.

I didn’t care what others thought of me. The less I care, the better results I got.

But I was a believer until I got disappointed.

Things were easier to accomplish when I was a believer.

Writing was easier to enjoy if it’s just about writing and building up stories in my head. No consequences. No time being wasted.

It’s a luxury to enjoy things as how it is. As doing, no thinking. As being, no trying to be.

My point being…

Is there anything I can do, anything at all, to get back those qualities of mine when I was a kid, but still be an adult, grownup woman, wife, and mother?


“Wanting to go back is resulted from not being ok with who you are. That’s why I never want to go back.” I used to say this in my early 20s.

Now I’m in my early 30s. What changed? Why suddenly being me as how I am is not good enough, and I want to travel back to my childhood to feel something good about myself?

What changed?


If I’m not able to travel back in time, I want to be ok with who I am now.

The “peak time” I felt when I was younger was not because I was really at the peak. There’s no peak in life.

There’s only the peak of feeling. And feelings you can get back.

I don’t want to bother doing something that’s impossible to do — going back to be a kid, enjoying the luxury of not caring and not taking the weight of life on my shoulders.

I want to get back that feeling from not caring, just doing and enjoying, out of love and curiosity.

Find a job that doesn’t kill me. Or do my own thing that I enjoy and doesn’t starve me.

Life is so short. It might be even shorter than I expect. Don’t bother wanting to go back. The current me is worth loving too.

The Choice

When I first realised I was going to be a mother, the question with which I struggled the most was “how do I be a good mother and at the same time be myself and have freedom?”

Yes, Freedom.
The thing that drove me 7500km away from my parents and my home.
I guess freedom is not a thing; it’s a feeling. When I can decide where I want to go and what I want to do, the feeling I have filling up my chest and makes me feel brave, excited and invincible.
That feeling.

“I don’t want to lose my freedom.” I wrote in my diary, “Would i still be free when I have a child? I want to love it, protect it, be there for it. But if I’m there for my child, I won’t be able to be wherever I want to be. A friend told me that she was never able to completely focus on other things again after becoming the mother to her son. She said there was always a part of her that’s with her son, thinking about him, caring for him, and loving him. Like her soul was split into two… I’m not sure if I’m ready to give myself up like that… Will I still have that feeling of courage and excitement for the next destination in my chest again? Or is there only going to be breast milk in there…”

I thought I had to make a choice between being a mother to her and myself. I guess most girls who consider themselves independent and free-spirited think so too. That’s why we think that being a mother will be a burden to “us”, or change who we are.

But we are changing all the time. Nobody changes us. We change ourselves, or let change happen to us.

What’s more, by the time I was pregnant, I hadn’t been able to travel alone anywhere for three years. This so-called “freedom” that I was after is not a feeling anymore. It’s just a possibility of a feeling – its the ghost of the feeling that I had many years ago.

I can’t speak for every person who became a parent. But I didn’t have to choose from “myself” and “being a mother”. Because I became a mother. I’m still me. And I just have a person more in my life that I can love with all my heart and soul. That seemed to be a good deal for me.

I can still create, speak up my mind, stand up for others, care for the ones I love, see the world, listen to stories. I can still be me.

And the good way to be a mom, as I concluded in my diary, is being myself, to show my child that being oneself is the only way to love oneself; and loving oneself is the only way to love anyone and anything in this world.

Now my daughter is here. I feel that feeling again inside of me: I want to show her the world. My world. So that one day she can discover and explore her own.