Monday, January 26, 2015

Slow Down!

My new fave type of snow is the kind that falls down very slowly on a colder day (meaning dry snow) with snowflakes big enough that my eyes keep wanting to check their shapes. Because it's dry snow, when the snowflakes pile up, their form is still intact. It's quite disconcerting to ride my bike when my eyes keep on glancing towards the snowflakes that have fallen on the sleeves of my parka, trying to make out their shapes ha ha ha ha ha...But what makes me love it so much is the fact that it feels like it's breathing slowly. I know it's weird to say it like this, but the slowness of the speed reminds me to slow down. Slow down! Why are you in such a hurry? Stop and admire the snowflakes for a change. 

Another thing I love about Finland is their sauna culture. In sauna, you can't exactly do anything much. Besides, even if you want to do many things, it can be way too hot in there that all you want to do is just sit there and enjoy the heat and humidity, especially on dark cold winter days. Sometimes we talk in sauna, sometimes we sing each other crazy songs, sometimes we just sit still and say nothing, but we've been doing one particular thing for sure lately: back scratch. I scratch his back, he scratches mine. And then we purr together HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHH...

I feel that going to sauna is good for the soul, because it's also a chance to slow down, to stay away from all electronic devices, to connect. 

Here are some photos I've taken on different days. 

First photo: notice how the branches of the trees are curving down so badly due to the weight of the snow.

Second photo: a sunny day when I was on my way to work. Just had to take the photo as it was such a brilliant day.

The next photos were taken yesterday with my mobile again. I should've tried using the automatic setting as well to see if it'll take clearer details compared to this "snow" setting. Oh well, next time.

Notice the difference between this pink sky and the one I took on my previous blog post. :-D

Friday, January 23, 2015

Cold January, January Cold

Been battling a cold this week. The first few nights I couldn't sleep too well because of a semi-blocked nose plus some sinus problem. I used my beloved Neti Pot lots of times to help clear out my nose, but the annoying pressure on my upper teeth was still there for many days (kinda like a toothache, but I know it's not because I feel it on many teeth, particularly the upper back teeth). And then I remembered that I had actually brought some antihistamine with me from Indo during our last trip there, so I decided to take one tablet. I slept like a log that night, though I woke up with a very dry throat. I only woke up at 1 pm because my body needed the sleep after not having slept enough. 

Then yesterday as I still felt the annoying pressure during the day, I decided to take one more tablet in the afternoon. It made me feel lethargic and I fell asleep for a while when we were watching a movie ha ha ha ha ha ha...It was so hard to stay awake! 

Today no more pressure on the teeth! FREEDOMMMMM!!! It's an annoying feeling that makes me want to grind my teeth together all the time. The only bad side effect of the antihistamine is that it only makes the mucus thicker, so yesterday I used my Neti Pot many times over to help clear it out of my system and I'm going to do it today as well. Still less appetite than normal, but I do eat normally.

It's been cold again outside (ranging from -24'C to -34'C) and the other day when I went out to check the mail, I saw this gorgeous pink sky, so I took a pic with my mobile. 

I'm actually glad that I'm sick this week, because next week I have to go to a funeral. I hope it won't be too cold then, otherwise we'll have to dress up in so many layers and then it's a hassle to take them off at church. Before moving to Finland, I used to think that people who wore winter clothes looked so lovely in their winter gear, but now I realize how impractical sometimes when the weather is so cold outside and then you have to put on so many layers of clothing. All the more so if you have children (small children who can't dress up themselves just yet) and you have to prepare them to get layered up nicely first and when you yourself are getting ready, they're complaining that they're way too hot he he he he...

Anyway, I've chosen my word of the year this year and it'll be PATIENCE. Are you going to choose your word of the year? I've only tried it last year and I think it has helped me in a way, so this year I'm going to try again. :-D

Sunday, January 18, 2015

On Originality

For some months I've been struggling with the idea of originality. What is original?

Surely every now and then people come up with something so different that make you think, "Why didn't anyone think of that before?", but other than those? I've been influenced by so many things and people until now that I struggle with the idea of claiming something as being my own original idea. There have been artwork/writings that bear some resemblance to some other artwork/writings that had been published before and one can't help but wonder whether they're rip offs or not, because when there are differences between the previous one and the current one, where does one draw the line? 

Whilst I was struggling with these questions in my head, I was browsing through some quotes and I accidentally found my soothing answer.

“Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.”
― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

There it is! Write/create to express, not to impress. I just LOVE finding answers by accident.

Have you ever struggled with this, too? Did you come up with a different answer?

Thursday, January 15, 2015

3BT: Random Days

1. Hubby's now over his flu/infection or whatever it was, so KISSING FEST is on! YAAAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYY!!!!!

2. Living near my workplace, because that means I can still walk to and from work when it was -34'C outside. 

3. It's always funny how suddenly you feel hot all over so easily outside when the temperature spikes up about 10'C or more after such cold days he he...

4. Telling hubby this, "Keep on farting, even if it stinks, because it means you're alive."

5. Touched by Nikki's comment on my previous blog post. Thank you SO MUCH for having supported me along my journey and for your empathy and friendship. It means a lot to me. I'm glad our paths have crossed. :-)

6. Visiting my grieving friend with another friend. Even though the occasion was sad, it was great to catch up.

7. Managed to switch a shift with my coworker in order to attend my friend's husband's funeral. I was so worried I wouldn't be able to come, because I do want to come. Phew! I'm glad I have lovely coworkers and that work is rather flexible.

8. Hearing that the friend's husband who passed away say these words before his passing: "I feel so much love for everybody and everything." What an ending to a life and how inspiring and touching!

9. I've just booked an impromptu trip somewhere (it's a secret) and I'm VERY VERY excited about it, because during this trip I'll not only be able to meet some friends, but also be able to make one of my lifelong dreams come true. (wicked grin) Don't worry, readers, I'll definitely let you know about it later on. :-D

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Writing Challenge: Treasure

Note: I've been struggling with this piece for a few months. I started it quite easily, but then I stopped halfway as it got very heavy on me and I kept avoiding it for a while (also because I had no idea how to end it). After finally continuing the piece, I wrote a different ending, but didn't feel it was the right one. I didn't want to leave it hanging, but didn't want a sickly sweet ending, either, so this was my final choice. This piece is inspired by an heirloom I received from my mother. She gave me and my brother's wife a similar kind of bracelet after we got married.

Her legs buckled. The soft, thick carpet softened her landing. She slumped back to the edge of the bed, needing support. A long, raw sigh was heard, then her lips began to tremble.

Why did I decide to do this bloody autumn cleaning? she groaned inside.

Her right hand was holding the family heirloom given by her mother. It was an old bracelet made of white and yellow gold with a classic side clasp. Yellow gold lined up the outer rings of the bracelet, whereas the middle part made of white gold had intricate leaf patterns carved into it. Nobody made that kind of bracelet anymore. Her mother had received it from her own mother. God knows where her grandmother had gotten it from, but one important fact remained: she was planning to give it to her own daughter or to her son's bride.

Except that there was never a child.

She hugged her knees, feeling a wave of pain bury her under. No time to escape. The wave came so fast and hit her like a ton of bricks. She squeezed her eyes shut as grief clenched its mighty fist around her heart, making it hard for her to breathe. Hot tears started rolling down her cheeks and soon her sobs broke the silence of the room. Her sobs rose to a crescendo and then she started wailing as the intensity of the pain only seemed to grow. She let out a loud cry of anguish as she looked up and opened her eyes. More wailing, more groaning, back to sobbing until finally the sobbing stopped even though the tears kept on coming.

She felt drained. She stayed there for a long time, going back and forth mentally from her inner self to her surroundings. The tick-tocking of the clock, the subsiding pain in her chest, the neighbour's dog barking outside, the salty taste of her tears, the absence of children in her house, the intricate patterns on the soft carpet, ghosts of self-pity that threatened to come out from the shadows, the annoying tick-tocking of the clock, back to the hollowness inside. Then she hit the brake, wiped her face with the right sleeve of her shirt, and summoned her logic.

"What is the biggest lesson that you've been learning so far?" her logic asked.

"Letting go," she answered.

"And that is what you shall learn again, my dear."

Forty six years later...

I have been living here in this antique shop for a few years, waiting for my new owner to come and get me. Until then, I'm going to make the best of my time here surrounded with many other antique friends, talking about our previous owners and their lives.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Journey to the Centre of Myself

* I started writing this months ago as a response to a writing challenge, but I'd like to share it with you people here, though I'll try to make it more succinct. 

I think one of the things that most people have trouble with when it comes to a childless-not-by-choice life led by a married couple is this: that they can go from being completely obsessed with wanting to have a child into believing that their family is complete without children. I find that most people in the immediate or extended circle of the couple themselves have a hard time letting go of their ideal image of a family of three or four (or even bigger than that) for those said couples. I remember telling a neighbor once that we were okay just the two of us, but she was absolutely horrified by that and she automatically insisted on praying for us to have children.

Nowadays I can see clearly that their reactions are based on their idealized version of what a family is supposed to be like. This is mingled with the lurking fear that our little family is one of their worst nightmares and they probably shudder and wonder how anyone can lead a happy and fulfilling life without children. However, back in my darker days of infertility journey, I felt really hurt by their reaction because of my own grief/pain. I felt that my family wasn’t complete and that we were missing something, that our family was defective. Their reaction served as a mirror that projected their fear and my own fears right in front of me, making me feel broken and less than ideal.

What helped me start my healing journey was searching for other people like me. I read as many blogs as possible that I could find on infertility, searched for any Christian materials on infertility, searched for as many quotes on grief, read as many articles on infertility, bought some books on infertility and grief in general, searched for Christian songs that could strengthen me, prayed The Serenity Prayer, and asked my friends to pray the same prayer for me, joined a forum, and finally started a blog about it. Some of the books that have helped me along the way are Silent Sorority by Pamela Tsigdinos, A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis, and Secondhand Jesus by Glenn Packiam.

Ironically enough, at that time I couldn’t find too many Christian articles that ended without children in the end (either through natural pregnancy, IVF, adoption, etc.), though I did find a few Christian resources online that also broached on the topic of life without children after infertility. One of the Christian resources I found gave the readers a list of questions to ask, including why one wants to have children. That was the only time I found an online resource that encouraged the readers to think carefully on why they wanted to procreate. Unfortunately I didn’t bookmark the page and I haven’t been able to find it again, but it really threw me off balance and I did ponder on my own motivations to have children. 

I think one of the things that have helped me in thinking of leading a fulfilling life without children is the fact that I have a cousin who did try to have children with her husband, but couldn’t. She’s much older than me and I’ve always accepted them as a family of two. I have never seen them as “less than” any other people, though what happened during my infertility journey was that I struggled with the feeling of “less than” a woman because I wasn’t a mother. Many times over during my infertility journey I cringed and despised any quotes that celebrated a woman’s worth as a mother and the strong bond between a mother and her child(ren). Those quotes were too much for my bleeding heart because they reminded me of what I didn’t have. These days my wounds have stopped bleeding and they’re dried up. However, I know from reading other women’s journeys, those who are way ahead of me, that the scars will get bumped every now and then. They won’t be as painful anymore, but there will be some feelings left because after all, we are surrounded by a lot of reminders of our losses (pregnant women, mothers, children, and grandmothers).

A few years back, after deciding on surrendering to life without children, I felt the need to find something "grand/noble" to fill my life as a result of not having children. I think this stemmed from the fact that many people would automatically say, "You can always adopt" whenever we said we couldn't have children and I have read many people who accused infertiles of being selfish for trying out treatments "when there are so many abandoned children out there". As if one needs to be like Mother Teresa if one wants to have children but can't. So I definitely felt the societal pressure to find something big to do with my life when the baby thing didn't work out, but I never really started searching.

The first things I did in order to move on were:

1. Finding small things that bring me joy and doing things that bring me joy.

2. Tapping into my inner child (in my case I try to build different kinds of snow creations in winter, taking photos, etc.).

3. Writing down the things I've been learning during my infertility journey and re-branding infertility as a guru instead of an enemy and truly believing it.

Only after doing the above and after getting farther away from the rows and rows of buried dreams (after doing grief work for a longer time) did I start getting clues on what I wanted to do. It's not about finding big, grand dreams, but for me it's more about being more focused on what kind of woman I want to become now that I know I won't be a mother.

I owe Michelle Frost a HUGE thank you for saying these words when I was struggling with what kind of legacy I could leave on earth (because I have no children as my legacy). She said, "Amel, YOU are your own legacy." The words knocked me off my chair. I was wondering why on earth did I ever try to separate myself into different parts/roles. But the truth is that I am the sum of my parts and my legacy to the world should be the entirety of myself, the whole of me, everything that makes me who I am. Her words were like soothing balm to my soul at that time. THANK YOU for knocking me off my chair, M! :-D One's pain can truly blind one so much to one's full potentials.

I find it crucial to believe with all my heart and soul that my pain experience isn't for nothing when it comes to continuing my healing journey. Your pain is not for nothing, either. We are interconnected. Imagine the wealth of wisdom we get to learn from one another's pain experiences. So much fertilizer material everywhere...what has your pain experience taught you? 

Along my healing journey now, I’ve met many inspirational blogger friends as well as other women in Google Plus forums. They’re all childless-not-by-choice, each with a different background story. All these women have helped me dig into my creative side and find fulfillment in my life. I have learnt a lot from them and they have also helped me grow as a human being. I think this healing journey can be very tricky and the progress can be so subtle that unless you realize the tiny shifts, you may feel like you’re not moving forward at all. Writing has helped me a lot in terms of recognizing and recording these tiny celebratory moments.

Speaking of celebrations, last year I started realizing the fact that I needed people who could celebrate these tiny moments. Because of this childless status, it becomes even clearer to me that I’m missing out on so many celebrations that a child can bring: the first word, the first step, the first tooth, birthdays, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, graduation, prom night, the child’s wedding party, the birth of the grandchild, etc. More than ever now I feel the need to celebrate the important moments in my life, especially in my healing journey. I can’t tell you how thankful I am to have found other women who can celebrate these moments with me. And my healing journey shall continue! :-)

Friday, January 02, 2015

Sad NY Bang

The year started with a sad bang with the news of a friend's husband's passing. I read the news on the last day of 2014 and it definitely set the tone for my New Year. It's so hard to believe he's gone. He was a great man, husband, father, grandfather, and friend. I still remember the twinkles in his eyes when he made jokes, his voice, the way he smoked his cigarette, the Superman tattoo on his arm, the way he interacted with his family and his pets.

Today I'm lighting these candles to honor the memories of Mark shall be missed greatly. Farewell, dear friend, be with the light now.