a poem: Couple

(Hi All, this is a piece of creative writing)


A couple posts their engagement photo,
A picture dripping in honey
Swarmed by blessings and envy.

He wraps his arms around
Her shoulders like a rubber band.
Both are dressed in tank tops,
Entangled by their gaze
and naked arms.

Their love is in full bloom.
A magnificent beginning
Of love’s unfolding.

Petals fall out like hair.
But we stay put, for we know
There’s a tiny, pale and sour fruit
Ripening with the seasons.

Flowers and fruit
Are many and sweet.
And they wither like youth.
What’s left of love
Are dry and tough
As branches.

Will you keep believing,
Keep watering and sheltering,
Until the time comes
For another blossom?

I wonder when was the last time
I had as much skin to skin
With my husband.

your door, my door

Just like a lot of you, I live with people, and I find living with people is hard. One day I was really brooding over a certain bedroom door, wishing it was a wall, and blaming it for just about every problem I have. Because when you get upset over people, you tend to think the people are causing you upset.

And then the door talked back,

“There’s no way you can keep me closed, because I serve only the people who live behind me. We are of no real threat to you but you think we’re an intruder. And sadly, when you keep your eyes fixed on me, you nail your heart with fear.

But look, and remember, I have a twin just across the hall. Her name is Your Door. You are free to open and close it whenever you need, whenever you want. That’s the boundary that you can control.

We all live together, I know you wish things were different. But you’re OK, because you have a door. You don’t have to let anyone or anything in that you didn’t want, even if they ask. And you are free to let anyone or anything out. You didn’t know you could, did you? You thought it would be rude, and that’s kind of why you thought you have intruders in the house.

So now I’d like to ask you to stop giving me your evil look and angry vibes, and just see and trust that you have a door, your own boundary, and it’s been here all along for you to use and control.”

And then.

A few days after that door talked to me, I’m standing at its threshold. I’m being greeted at the door to hand over something I’m bringing. When I did, I had a flashback. I saw myself barging in very self-righteously. I can understand it but I am sorry now to recall that I had stood in the middle of that room that isn’t mine, and thought that being asked to leave my thing at the door, as opposed to bringing it into the room, was a violation of my boundaries.

knew you from way back

Last night in a dream, I confided the recent relationship trouble of a dear friend to another dear friend. The news spread and a circle of four women friends flew across the world, two to show support, one ready to help with anything, and one hoping to talk some sense into an old friend. After being estranged for twelve years, these women were over whatever that had caused the breach in their friendship with this friend. Even I was not expecting such a full on intervention. Now I was caught in the middle as the secret-teller, but all is for the better.

In a book written by a Taiwanese spiritual teacher about reincarnation, he says that every encounter is a pre-planned reunion. Parents, friends, lovers, we promised each other that we’ll meet again. We discussed and decided on the relationship we were going to have with each other. But as we take our first breath as a baby in this material world, we forget. We forget that the main purpose we’re here again is to have a second chance, to make amends to our loved ones and to love them better. We forget, so that we can have the real experience.

Unfortunately, we forget even within the current lifetime about the promises we know we’ve made.

How many of our relationships start out good and turn sour? Would we have talked and be like, “Hey, next time let’s be real good friends. Then let’s have something happen between us so that we’ll break up and secretly resent each other for the rest of our lives”? Or, “Let us be married again in the next life so I can love you better. But let’s make it dramatic and have you cheat on me so that I can never forgive you again. Does that sound good?”

We probably did agree on adding the drama. The drama needs to be there for very important reasons. But with people I love most, I don’t believe we would decide on those endings. Would you?

chinese names and friends

Last night while putting my baby to sleep, I went over the Chinese names of my friends the way you count sheep in your head. I went to a school in England that had a lot of overseas students from Hong Kong like me. We were known by our English names in school; as friends, we also tell each other our original, Chinese names. Pammy’s Chinese name is “Treasure of the Family”. Candy’s name says “Seductive Fragrance” and Chloe’s is “Sunshine”. My husband Galen’s is “Mountain Range of the Family”. James’s is full of aspiration: “Reaching the Sun”. And Ken’s parents hoped that he would be “Intelligent and Conscientious”.

Not all Chinese names have coherent meanings and there’s no one way to come up with names. Parents may start with a word for its meaning. Or they may start with a favorite sound, then choose a character/word based on its meaning, kind of similar to choosing the spelling of a name. For instance, will it be Lisa with an “s” or Liza with a “z”? In Chinese, the “s” and “z” not only looks different but may also have different meanings.

My friend Phoebe’s Chinese name sounds like it could be a man’s name, until you see it on paper, where the characters chosen are all floral-based. My dad’s name literally is “Metal People”. When the internet came along he called himself Iron Man as his email address. For his children, he wanted to carry on the metallic element, so while my given name sounds feminine, on paper it looks like “Armor Flame”.

I had to think hard to recall some of those Chinese names of my friends in school. I counted them in my head like you would count sheep, but the second time around each of them had become shiny jewels and interesting pebbles. With fifteen years of distance between us, I now see that without exception, every one of them is a part of my life. What is there in your past if there was nobody in it? Friends, non-friends and enemies alike, they all make up the color and story of our lives.

how to change the past

There is one way to change the past and it is the only meaningful way to do it.

It is to change the way we think about the past, thus altering how the past affects our present and future.

It is to reinterpret the past and come up with a better story. It is to figure out what you learned from those past incidents that continue to haunt you. It is to see each mistake, failure, disappointment, break up, betrayal, as a chapter, not the end.

When it comes to relationships, what I’ve read is this: in your memory, go back to the times you were still together. Remember the joy and love you shared with each other. Go back to that place, enjoy, feel all the warmth, and stay there. This alters the frequency between you and eventually, the conflict and hurt melt away, and you might be back in a relationship with them again.

quit your part in other people’s movies

The time life drove home the point that we are each the hero, heroine and director of our own movie was when I got lost in somebody else’s. You’re lost in somebody else’s movie when moment to moment, day to day, you only see yourself through the eyes and judgment of other people. You’re “the loner”, “the unattractive one”, “the one who can never get a date”. A lot of these can sound very harsh. Or maybe you’ve done something terrible that made you fall out with your best friend, or your girlfriend/boyfriend. Maybe you’ve made a mistake, let your employer down. Then you’re “the let-down”, or “the disappointment”.

You’re lost when you’re living those roles and you no longer feel joy, optimism or otherwise remember that you still matter the world to some people. And whether positive or negative, you’re making a difference to the world just by being alive.

It wrenches our heart when we’ve done all that we can to make amends but what’s broken stays broken. When it becomes too much to bear, it’s the perfect time to remember you still have your own show to create. You might have played a great villain to someone’s life, and maybe that’s who you’ll ever be to them. But their movie continues and so does yours. You no longer have an active part in their movie, so come back to your own. Your movie is not finished. You are still the hero in it: not the villain, not the supporting actor. Your character now has a new depth because of her mistakes and failures and what she’s learned from it. If you were to tell the story of your life in twenty years’ time, this incident might not even make the cut, or it might be the pivotal point where the story starts to get very interesting.

lesson from a lobster

I remember a few weeks after a break up I dreamed of an armored lobster that taught me a great lesson. It was one of those very vivid dreams that I wish I could go on and find out what happens next. As I woke up, it evaporated into a purple wisp of smoke. I couldn’t hold on to it. It’s gone. I blinked and sighed, still curious. I realized that for once, I was not waking up feeling miserable. It showed me that what’s passed is passed. No matter how much it hurt or how much I wish I could go back and change it, it was only as present today as that armored lobster (who even had wings).

when emotions go fast and furious

Common scenario: Someone just made a remark that upset me at the dinner table. It’s not the first time. It always happens. People don’t change. I pick up my finished plate and go to the sink. My chest is tight, I don’t want anybody to see my angry face and I’m teetering between throwing my things into the sink in a passive-aggressive statement, and sucking it up, telling myself it shouldn’t be a big deal. In the latter, the explosion happens later, either at the earliest possible invitation, or it opens the floodgate for a lot of other lovely poisoned things festering at the bottom of your heart.

Or, you wash the dishes and ask yourself: Is this where you want to stay? Is this what you want to create?

If you can just pause for a breath in, for a breath out, just a few seconds, give yourself time to decide what you want to do about this. Suddenly you’re not hurtling down the path of fury and its usual follower, regret, or sinking into the quicksand of resentment and despair. Suddenly you are standing at a crossroad.

If I can get as far as that, often times I just stay at the crossroad. I just stay there and wait. Wait until a response emerge, or I’m called for the next thing.

On a more positive note, you are in charge of creating your next moment.

Good luck on a Monday, where everything starts over again!

— Rebecca x

what gratitude is not

This is why I thought I was a horrible, ungrateful person for the entire 2016: I could not be grateful for some people I thought I ought to. I tried so hard to be grateful, despite the boundary issues we were having. I wrote pages of the ways they are good and deserve to be appreciated. I thought gratitude was the way to a better relationship. None of it worked and I ended up with that rotten story that I must just be a horrible, ungrateful person.

A lot of pain and months later, I can clearly see that only working on boundaries changed anything at all, not gratitude.

And I’ve been wrong about gratitude.

In that 4-minute video of Brene Brown in my last post, she says every night at the dinner table, her family takes turn to say what they’re grateful for that day. The kids may say something like they’re grateful for bugs, or the bedroom wall between them. Elizabeth Gilbert writes down her happiest moment every day. She said it can be “Somebody hands you a cup of coffee. You finally get to take off your shoes. It stops raining.” These are the practices that make these people joyful.

It seems obvious now but I’m thrilled to learn it: that a gratitude practice is not required to be in an area that you struggle. Gratitude and happiness are not asking you to be happy and grateful for the things you can’t be happy and grateful about. This is about focusing on the things and people that you are grateful and happy about.

So, if you were finding it hard to be grateful about something, like I was, then let’s just find something else to be grateful for 🙂

By the way, I enjoyed this article called 5 Ways Gratitude Can Backfire because I can relate to ALL 5 of them. Have a read and see what else Gratitude is not. http://berkeleysciencereview.com/5-ways-gratitude-can-backfire/

what is gratitude?

The more I think about gratitude, which people talk about a lot, especially over the past few weeks when they reflected on the end of the year, the more resistance I realize I have about it. Come to think of it, it feels very vulnerable to feel gratitude. It can feel like you’re giving your power and control away. It can be uncomfortably humbling to realize how your life and wellbeing is like a joint-effort by your family and friends. Bus drivers, builders, doctors and everybody also contribute. We are so intricately connected and the list of people and things we can be grateful for are endless.

Being grateful feels like surrender. The more I say I’m grateful for something, even just in my own head, the more I feel like I’m falling back on thin air – except it’s not thin air but something much more mysterious, because you are supported, at least for now. And you’re unsure if you can believe that this rainbow colored mysterious air will continue to support you or not. I feel elated at the prospect of it propping me up forever as much as I feel scared and that I might decide to jump off it any second, in case it disappears.

I struggled, in my own words, with feeling grateful for some people in my life – family, in-laws. In this video below, Dr. Brene Brown talks about Practising Gratitude, which is not like having an “attitude for gratitude or feeling grateful”. People who are joyful because they practice gratitude have, actually, a tangible practice such as a journal or saying what they’re grateful for every day at a certain time. So I’ll try to forget about feeling grateful and adopt a gratitude practice.

But I have still many questions.
Anybody feels the same?