So you lost him. Now what?

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Something on page 156 of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love jumped out at me. The book has been at my bedside for a long time, maybe a year or two. Or three. The passage below of a conversation between Elizabeth and Richard from Texas speaks to me because of the hurt I have been carrying with me for the last four years.

It was back to normal state of mind by end of year one. Still thought of him every day but stopped crying at the mere mention of him in year two. Could see him and hold myself together by year three. I thought I am in year three until a Facebook memory notification pushed a memory of him from four years ago. Has it been that long?

A few months ago, I started having that disturbing feeling again. It feels like a knot in the heart and I’ve been having it on and off. I thought I had finally gotten rid of it and now it’s back. This time was almost as intense as the first, which was akin to having your heart pickled. Sometimes it goes away for awhile, but it would be there again in the morning.

The last episode, I suspect, was triggered by a difficult situation at work. Things were sorted out in the end but the feeling remained. So I continued to feel on edge, wondering if something really bad was about to happen. A few things did happen, but nothing that caused my world to crash down… and now I’m reminded that I finally feel… nothing.

It’s time to move on.


“I can’t stop obsessing over David. I thought I was over him, but it’s all coming up again.”

He says, “Give it another six months, you’ll feel better.”

“I’ve already given it 12 months, Richard.”

“Then give it six more. Just keep throwin’ six months at it till it goes away. Stuff like this takes time.

Someday, you’re gonna look back on this moment of your life as such a sweet time of grieving. You’ll see that you were in mourning and your heart was broken, but your life was changing and you were in the best possible place in the world for it – in a beautiful place of worship, surrounded by grace. Rake this time, every minute of it. Let things work themselves out in India.”

“But I really loved him.”

“Big deal. So you fell in love with someone. Don’t you see what happened? This guy touched a place in your heart deeper than you though you were capable of reaching, I mean, you got zapped, kiddo. But the love you felt, that’s just the beginning. You just got a taste of love. That’s just limited little rinky-dink mortal love. Wait till you see how much more deeply you can love than that. Heck, Groceries – you have the capacity to someday love the whole world. It’s your destiny. Don’t laugh.”

“I’m not laughing.” I was actually crying. “And please don’t laugh at me now, but I think the reason it’s so hard for me to get over this guy is because I seriously believed David was my soulmate.”

“He probably was. Your problem is you don’t understand what that word means. People think a soulmate is your perfect fit, and that’s what everyone wants. But a true soulmate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that’s holding you back, the person who brings you to your attention so you can change your life. A true soulmate is probably the most important person you’ll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. But to live with a soulmate forever? Nah. Too painful.

Soulmates, they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then they leave. And thank God for it. Your problem is, you just can’t let this one go. It’s over, Groceries, David’s purpose was to shake you up, drive you you out of that marriage that you needed to leave, tear apart your ego a little bit, show you your obstacles and addictions, break your heart open so new light could get in, make you so desperate and out of control that you had to transform your life, then introduce you to your spiritual master and beat it. This was his job, and he did great, but now it’s over. Problem is, you can’t accept that this relationship had a real short shelf life. You’re like a dog at the dump, baby – you’re just lickin’ at an empty tin can, trying to get more nutrition out of it. And if you’re not careful, that can’s gonna get stuck on your snout forever and make your life miserable. So drop it.”

“But I love him.”

“So love him.”

“But I miss him.”

“So miss him. Send him some love and light every time you think about him, and then drop it. You’re just afraid to let go of the last bits of David because then you’re really alone, and Liz Gilbert is scared to death of what will happen when she’s totally alone. But here’s what you gotta understand, Groceries. If you clear out all that space in your mind that you’re using right now to obsess about this guy, you’ll have a vacuum there, an open spot – a doorway. And guess what the universe will do with ghtta be.”

“That doorway? It will rush in – God will rush in – and fill you with more love than you ever dreamed. So stop using David to block that door. Let it go.”

“But I wish me and David could – “

He cuts me off. “See, now that’s your problem. You’re wishin’ too much, baby. You gotta stop wearing your wishbone where your backbone oughta be.”

 

 

Optimism from a rubbish truck

Don’t you just hate it when you’re stuck behind a rubbish truck in traffic? If you’re in a cold or temperate country, it’s not big a deal, but when you’re in tropical Malaysia, rotting rubbish is an assault on your sense of smell (unless you’re having a load of snot so thick that a stinking fart doesn’t bother you).

This morning, my Uber driver picked me up just as the rubbish truck was leaving my neighbourhood… and we ended up behind it. Good morning!

Whenever I’m near a rubbish truck, I try to ignore it. If I’m walking, I just hold my breath and put on my imaginary blinkers. But today, something caught my eye – in one corner at the back of the truck a colourful wind spinner stood out defiantly against a dull backdrop of grey metal and dirt. It spun gaily in the morning breeze, spreading rainbows and unicorns to dour drivers (okay, that’s stretching it but you get the idea).

Kudos to the rubbish collectors for the cheerful optimism and bringing colour to an overcast morning. They still see beauty even in the dirtiest of jobs. I’m humbled.

I’m sorry I didn’t have time to snap a picture. If you’re ever stuck behind a rubbish truck, keep your eyes open and tell me what you see. I hope it’s something that would make your day a bit more bearable.

10 reasons why I love KL

This 1st February, Kuala Lumpur turns 44 years old as a federal territory of Malaysia. Love it or hate it, KL is the lady in red that makes an impression. Tacky or classy, it’s in the eye of the beholder.

But in keeping with the concept of this blog, and in honouring this city I’ve lived in for 17 years (gosh, it has been that long?), here are 10 reasons why I love KL and will continue to call it home, even though I’m from Penang. Yes, I still identify myself as a Penangite even though I’ve lived longer in KL than Penang.

 

  1. KL is great for non-drivers

Traffic can be horrendous in KL for drivers during the rush hour commute, and expensive parking rates will put a huge dent on your wallet if you’re working here, but it’s relatively easy to move around by public transport or on foot. As someone who can’t drive, KL works for me.

My main mode of transport into the city is by train (KTM Komuter, LRT, monorail). From the train station, it’s possible to walk to many places, unlike the suburban townships that are mostly surrounded by highways. And the best way to discover the city’s nook and crannies is on foot.

What about taxis? Yes, our taxi drivers are on the world’s worst list, but there’s Uber and GrabCar now. Buses? Frequency and punctuality of buses into the city centre still need to be improved but within the city, you can hop onto the free Go KL buses.

 

  1. The greenery is a soothing sight for sore eyes

Despite the skyscrapers that dominate the city’s landscape, KL is still quite green. Shady trees provide respite from the scorching sun and soften the edges of the concrete jungle. There’s even a forest reserve (Bukit Nanas) in the heart of the city, at the base of KL Tower.

 

  1. Its population is very diverse

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KL has always been a tempat cari makan (a place to make a living) for out-of- towners and foreigners alike. Today’s Bangladeshis, Nepalese and Myanmarese are last century’s Chinese and Indians. You can find a sense of belonging even among strangers. When I first moved here, I used to attend mass at St. Joseph’s Cathedral. I called it the church for lost souls. Unlike community churches in the suburbs, it’s easy to maintain anonymity here if you want to. Old city dwellers, Filipino maids, diplomat families, new arrivals… all can come and go without much fuss in the house of God.

 

  1. Free activities

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City living is always expensive but there are places you can go to for free. How about catching a free movie at KLpac (look out for free screenings of international films every two months or so) or Content Malaysia Pitching Centre?

If you’re an art buff, visit Galeri PETRONAS, Ilham Gallery, and Bank Negara Museum and Art Gallery.

 

  1. There’s something to do every weekend

I don’t know why some people say there’s nothing to do in KL. There’s so much happening I need a 3-day weekend (one day to go out, one day to do housework and one day chillax and recover). With Facebook, it’s so easy to seek out groups with similar interests.

If you like photography, join photo walks or look out for special talks and exhibitions. For arts, history and culture, there are events organized by groups such as Malaysian Heritage and History Club, Pusaka and Badan Warisan Malaysia. If music is your thing, there’s the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra and No Black Tie.

Also check out Meetup for various interest groups (sports, arts, social, etc.) and Time Out KL.

 

  1. The malls have character

Ya, ya, there are too many malls here, but let’s go with the positive spin, okay? There are different malls for different folks.

KLCC is a personal favourite of mine. It was my weekend hangout I first moved here largely because I was renting a room then and needed to get out for some me time. After church, I would take the train here for lunch, a movie, Sunday banking, book browsing at the Kinokuniya bookstore, errands at the post office, grocery shopping at Isetan, art admiration at Galeri PETRONAS…

I don’t go there often now but I still love the place for it’s international vibe. The crowd is cosmopolitan, the layout is simple enough that you don’t get lost in the maze, the size is manageable (you can walk from one end to the other in about five minutes) and there’s a park outside.

While KLCC is prim and proper (yet approachable), Sungei Wang Plaza is the kooky cousin, and still hip at 39 years old. Think Vivienne Westwood vs Anna Wintour. This is the place to go for funky fashion and fun finds. Be warned that you could get lost in there, so if you like something, get it then because you might not be able to find the store again.

Pertama Complex in the grittier part of town is underrated as far as malls go. It may not look much from the outside (or even inside), but this is the kind of place where you can get your shoes resoled, fulfil your rocker dream with bespoke leather pants, give people something to talk about with a holster for your gun and source for sewing supplies – do you know how hard it is to get something as simple as press tarts and elastic bands in the fancier malls? This 40-year-old mall is also home to the Yoon Hin bag shop, where you can get genuine backpacks (Osprey, Deuter and the likes) at prices much lower than anywhere else. Just bring cash (credit card not accepted) and be prepared that Madam Sia may not like you for some reason.

 

  1. The weather
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The weather is always nice for a swim, especially in the evening when the sun has warmed up the water.

Hell, yeah! I actually love the tropical weather here. I hate the cold and I don’t like being bundled up and having to carry a jacket, scarf and gloves whenever I go out. I love the freedom of going out wearing something light and not having to add and remove layers of clothing. You complain so hot? Pop into a shopping mall or restaurant lah. There’s air conditioning everywhere and sometimes, even the Mat Sallehs complain our air con is freezing (I sometimes wear a wool jacket in the office).

 

  1. Democratized dining

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KL is a city of wonderful contrasts. You can be hoity-toity and indulge in omakase for RM380 at Nobu, or slurp delicious noodles next to a drain for under RM8. I tend to go for chap eats because they often taste better when it’s just about the food rather than the décor or image.

 

  1. You can play tourist in your own city

Every now and then, be a tourist. Go for a guided walk and discover your own backyard. Do the museum or temple thing. Eat your way through Chinatown and Little India. I bet you would be saying “I didn’t know we had this!” a lot.

 

  1. We have some amazing architecture

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As a person who is drawn to aesthetics, I love many buildings in KL, both old and new. In the old part of KL, the influences are varied: Moorish (Sultan Abdul Samad Building and the Kuala Lumpur Railway Station), art deco (Central Market, Lee Rubber Building, OCBC Building), colonial (Muzium Telekom), traditional (Rumah Penghulu Abu Seman) pre-war shophouses (Medan Pasar). For modern architecture, the condominiums around KLCC give the city a very international appeal.

So there you have it, my top 10 list. How about you? What do you love about KL?

A new face

I’ve never considered myself a looker (except for that period before puberty hit when I was cute and aspired to be a model). I’ve always felt that I had a profile that’s not easy on the eyes. A flat, huge nose; oily, slit eyes that disappeared when I smiled or laughed, red skin with visible pores… I don’t photograph well either and rarely take selfies.

That lack of appreciation changed with one unfortunate kitchen accident, a lapse of judgement really.

It was a Tuesday, 1st September. Back to work after the Merdeka weekend. I had just returned home the night before from the company’s R&R Club trip to Pulau Perhentian. On the way back, we stopped at a stretch of road selling keropok – Terengganu is famous for its fish crackers.

My haul was fresh keropok lekor and dried keropok ikan (fish), sotong (squid) and udang (prawn) to be fried later. Many of my colleagues bought ready-to-eat keropok and I knew they would be sharing that at work. So I decided I was going to be different and bring freshly fried keropok lekor for the office.

That morning I set out to fry the keropok. The first batch went in and was cooked without much fuss. I thought they were not golden brown enough, so left the second batch in the oil a bit longer and went to the hall to fuss over other things.

That’s when I heard popping sounds from the kitchen. I didn’t give it much thought – maybe the keropok was a bit wet from being in the fridge. When I went to check on it later, I saw a few pieces lying around the pan – the keropok had jumped out!

I went closer and that’s when my face was hit by the popping oil. Why didn’t I shield my face?! I think the oil was just too hot because the keropok had exploded out of its skin (it has skin?) like a sausage popping out of its casing. My entire kitchen floor and stove was coated in a film of oil.

I didn’t panic because getting oil splashes is common when deep frying. But this time it was more serious. After sorting out the stove, I went out to my patio garden and cut off an aloe vera leaf. I slit a knife in, opened it up and applied the gel to my skin.

My face hurt a little and I was contemplating between going to the office or working from home because frankly, I could use some rest after the long bus ride and highway crawl the previous night. Plus, my left side of my arm and legs hurt from a bad sunburn. In the end, I decided to stop by the clinic on the way to work.

The doctor didn’t notice anything amiss. He retrieved the results of a blood test I was supposed to collect weeks ago. I told him I was there for something else and he was like, “Oh! Yes, I can see some redness.” He gave me two tubes of Burn Aid and two days off and that was it. It was all very uneventful. Hello! Half my face was fried!!

So back home I went, after packing some lunch from a nearby coffee shop. I didn’t do much that day. I checked in online to catch up with office matters, then veged out and took it easy although the plan was to use the day off to clean the house and work on some personal writing projects.

Looking at myself in the mirror filled me with regret and a tinge of sadness. The burns were on the right side of my face – cheeks, near the eye, near the lips, a bit on my ear and collarbone too. By then they had turned into welts.

Still, two days off should not be wasted just like that. I decided to go to town the next day for a banking errand and meet up with an ex-colleague. I hid under a big hat, from the sun and also curious eyes.

There was really nothing to do but accept my mistake and get on with life. My burns had turned crisp like baked potato skins. My face looked mud-splattered. I wondered how long they would take to heal and how bad the scarring would be. Maybe I could sport my scars like Seal. Nah, it’s different for girls.

When I went out, I applied BB cream to mask the burns and also protect them from the sun. I explained the marks before anyone asked – to the watch repairer’s sister (she advised me not to consume soy sauce to minimise scarring), my friend, the fruit seller (he recommended bedak sejuk and kunyit). I figured I should use natural products as much as possible and switched to an aloe vera cleanser (bought from South Africa two years ago). I also skipped scrubs and exfoliation that would irritate the skin.

On Thursday it was back to work and another round of explaining. I think my colleagues were more sorry than I was. I guess it’s harder for them to look at me. I was fine as long as long as I avoided mirrors.

As the weekend approached a colleague mentioned that it would be a good time to give my skin a rest – no makeup, let the skin breathe. But I had plans for the weekend and was not going to give them up to stay home. BB cream, hat, sunglasses. My ‘potato skins’ had dried up and was starting to peel off. The skin underneath was a bit raw, but it looked like it would turn out fine.

When the new week rolled in it was almost like the accident never happened. Just a bit of redness. My colleagues were amazed. I am thankful.

It took the possibility of lifelong scarring to make me appreciate what I have. Now I feel more confident and sexy… as long as I don’t look in the mirror too much. Being comfortable in one’s own skin is certainly easier than being outside criticising it.

Sad love songs

“Thank you so much for breaking my heart because you got me four Grammys!”

Who’s having the last laugh now? Heartbreak gave Sam Smith material for his debut album In the Lonely Hour. His album was nominated for six categories in the Grammy Awards and it won four: Best Pop Vocal Album, Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Best New Artist. That’s major redemption and a middle finger at the heartbreaker.

Taylor Swift built her songbook on failed relationships. Some of the best love anthems around are based on jilted love. Does sadness and anger write the best love songs? I believe so. When your heart is ripped up so badly, you become painfully aware of every single emotion. You are blessed (or cursed) with the ability to reach into the depths of despair and articulate feelings with great clarity.

When you’re down and damaged, every sad love song becomes your personal story. I didn’t go out to buy a compilation CD of Songs for the Brokenhearted. These songs just came to me because they spoke to me. Here they are, in no particular order. Has it been three years already? God, when will I have my Sam Smith moment? There has got to be a positive spin to this.

This song still makes me cry when I listen to it. I bet there are many choked up people in the audience each time she sings this.

I heard that your dreams came true
Guess she gave you things I didn’t give to you

Invisible – I feel like I’m invisible
You treat me like I’m not really there
and you don’t really care
I know this romance
it ain’t going nowhere
Invisible just like my love. You treat me like I’m invisible
When you get the need to flirt you do your worst

You just don’t care how much it hurts.

Oh, I could feel that she was almost in tears. This performance on 20 November 2011 was around the time when her marriage with Russell Brand was on the rocks. On 31 Dec, he sent her a text message divorcing her.

In another life
I would make you stay
So I don’t have to say
You were the one that got away
The one that got away

Whenever I’m alone with you
You make me feel like I am home again
Whenever I’m alone with you
You make me feel like I am whole again

Whenever I’m alone with you
You make me feel like I am young again
Whenever I’m alone with you
You make me feel like I am fun again

Not a sad song, but it reminded of the weekends we had. Meet on Friday, enjoy on Saturday, gone by Sunday.

All the dreams that we were building
We never fulfilled them

This was the song I sent to him when I could feel him slipping away.

I don’t want clever conversation
I never want to work that hard
I just want someone that I can talk to
I want you just the way you are

I could never get a straight answer out of him on why he left. “I’m not in a position to be in a relationship right now,” did not hold water, not when he was the one pushing me into the relationship, and especially not when he announced his relationship status with another just a few days later, on Facebook. Couldn’t even tell me straight to my face he was ending things.

Turn down the lights
Turn down the bed
Turn down these voices
Inside my head

Lay down with me
Tell me no lies
Just hold me close
Don’t patronize

I’m all cried out
You took a whole lot of loving
For a handful of nothing
It’s hard to give you something
When you’re pushing and a-shoving me around

And who do you think you are?
Runnin’ ’round leaving scars
Collecting your jar of hearts
And tearing love apart
You’re gonna catch a cold
From the ice inside your soul

Not the most apt lyrics, but I was reminded of this song by something a friend said, “Don’t let him stay rent-free in your heart, using your emotions and hurting you.”

Happier times.

Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday
I want to know
you’re gonna stay for the weekend

Our love is dead
but the dead don’t go away
They made us what we are
they’re with us every day
Our love is dead
but the dead are still alive
in memory and thought
and the context they provide

A very late surprise

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I received a very unexpected surprise in the mail a few weeks ago, the result of a kind deed two years ago.

I am an occasional shopper of Crabtree & Evelyn products, specifically when there is a good promotion. I especially look forward to the gift sets in its festive catalogues. Despite years of treating myself to Crabtree & Evelyn, I never became a member because my purchases never reached RM350 – the amount needed to be eligible for membership.

About two years back, a staff at the Crabtree & Evelyn outlet in Sogo offered to put in an application for me. She said she would use another customer’s receipt if the opportunity presented itself. So I filled out the form and after a few months passed, forgot about it.

Out of the blue, sometime in October, I received my VIP card and a voucher for a welcome gift. What a delightful surprise, when I least expected it. It was perfect timing as the VIP Preview Day for the Christmas sets was a few weeks later. For the first time, I could enjoy the 30% discount for VIPs! I wish I could remember who the staff was so I could thank her. It’s a nice feeling, to enjoy the result of something set in motion so long ago.

Chinese New Year ammunition for the single girl

My most favourite ang pau envelope so far. It's from Ninja Joe, a burger joint.

My most favourite ang pau envelope so far. It’s from Ninja Joe, a burger joint.

Chinese New Year is just one day away. Many would be excited but some may dread it. Family reunions for the single girl can be very stressful if not annoying when well-meaning but nosey relatives ask “Still no boyfriend yet ah?”

Even those who have boyfriends are not spared.

“When are you getting married? Wait for what?”

And if you are married, “Still no kids yet ah?”

It just doesn’t end.

And it gets worse when your much younger cousins show up with a new boyfriend/girlfriend, spouse or yet another kid to add to the brood of grandchildren. Oh wait, I’m the grandchild. I mean great grandchildren.

I can’t speak on behalf of those who are in a relationship or are married, but I can certainly offer some ammunition to shoot back at those busybodies.

This posting is inspired by something a friend put up on Facebook – a Huffington Post blogpost on 5 Things to Say the Next Time Someone Asks Why You Aren’t Married. I found it too polite and apologetic for such an exasperating situation.

I prefer retorts like these:

Please note that they are skewed towards females as they are usually the ones to pry.

1. “Why? And end up whining about my husband, kids and married life like you do?”

2. “Oh honey, I’m not into guys,” and give the person a soft lingering touch on the arm.

3. “Well, I don’t really know. But can you please tell me what on earth possessed you to get married?” while shooting the person a sympathetic look.

4. “No bonus from the company. I need the ang pow.”

5. This one is contributed by someone who got the question in church, “Because GOD hasn’t sent ME the RIGHT man.” Yes, she used capital letters for those words.

6. “Why limit myself to one man when I can have many?” – Say this with a hungry look like a cougar while your eyes scan the room for fresh meat.

7. “What to do? All the good ones are taken,” while you steal a lustful look at the woman’s husband.

I was aiming for 10 but I’m out of comebacks. Feel free to add if you have to offer.

If you’re wondering why such harsh words in the Positive Spin, I’m just being sarcastic. Great sarcasm is an art and anything that squeezes my creative juices I choose to view as something positive.

Disclaimer: I have never actually used any of those lines and I don’t recommend that you do either. It’s just to ‘lepas stim’. I would just say “Tak ada jodoh lagi (I haven’t found my soulmate yet),” while I mouth off those nasties in my head. CNY is a time to get together, eat, drink and be merry, so let’s try to keep the peace.

Plus, I still want to receive ang pows.

I should add that as I get older, people stop asking me that question. I’ve probably reached the age of ‘Why even bother asking – lost cause lah’. I’ve also noticed that it’s been a long time since anyone tried to set me up or hint, hint, wink, wink.

Ugh! This brings back memories of a my late grandmother’s neighbour who tried to set up ‘play dates’ between me and her son. I know I was cute, but I was six!

Happy New Year, everyone. Be nice, and if you’re married, be kind to the single ones, okay?

UPDATE 14 Feb 2014

Today is Chap Goh Meh, the 15th day of the Lunar New Year, the Chinese Valentine’s Day (which this year falls on the same day as the Western one!) and the last day for single people to collect ang pow. If you’re the ang pow giver and think that you will be spared when your single relatives and friends get married, think again.

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I’ve also got two more CNY ammunition from a single friend:

8. “Your ang pow is so small, still cannot afford to get married.”

9. “Must remain a xxx (surname withheld to protect privacy and inheritance) to inherit the Bangsar home.”

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