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End of year reflections

I love the festive/reflective season for the space it affords me to slow down, breathe, enjoy gratitude for the year gone past… and maybe write a word or two.

The past year saw me starting to journal (a practice almost forced upon me by my husband, in his now-forsaken diary). It’s been surprisingly helpful to look back at those entries and remember the journey, the emotional challenges peppered through the year, what I’ve been through and how I’ve come to be today.

I had written that I had an impactful realisation in 2017 that “I needed to take a serious look at how I was driving myself forward all the time with a deep fear of insufficiency. I suddenly realised that no matter where I was, I was my harshest, loudest critic.”

Shaped by isolating times and trauma, I didn’t necessarily know how to “be more normal, forgiving and relaxed”. Survival was this big, important, all-defining necessity.

I am grateful for the opportunities I had in 2018 to grow in self-care and compassion, which was very helpful as I took on a more challenging job. I’ve loved the scope of the job and its breadth of challenges. Amidst that, I made a self-care plan and schedule which helped me find inner balance and control. I had the opportunity to work with coaches that helped me rebuild a sense of identity and confidence amidst an ongoing “lostness” in the sea of life changes, and I do have a lot of progress to celebrate.

I think that even though becoming a stepmum came with many emotional & “parental” challenges, I have drawn a lot out of my relationship with Hayden — one that I’m blessed continues to grow. I read the other day that “playing with children” is one way to recover from trauma. That has been true for me. Children bring a lot of curiosity, fun and richness to life. Hayden is now growing up and I miss his younger days (when he couldn’t yet read and write!), and the time we spent bonding/playing. I made so much time and energy for him back then and cannot be more thankful that I seized those opportunities. Some windows of opportunity close quickly…

Now I am pregnant with a baby boy, and my world is yet again about to change.

I never knew pregnancy could be such a “big” and overwhelming experience. It is. It made me contemplate my life, my upbringing  — the completely different future my son is going to have compared to my past… to the added layer of complexity new children bring to our family structure. How is my son going to understand “family”?

Many of these aspects are loaded with emotion, uncertainty and a degree of anxiety. I am already practically a mum, but it is emotional to think that now I’m going to find out what it really is like to be a “real mum”. How strange it is that I’m preparing for my first pregnancy, but also reading books like Coping with Two.

Having been through the exhausting rigmarole of raising a baby, my husband said he only wanted one more child when we got married. But he’s started talking differently these days. It made me cry when he said, “my love for you and my heart for you can just see you thriving in having a large family”. It’s funny how life can change.

Chris and Hayden make a lot of intentional effort to show me appreciation and love anyway, and I am very blessed to have that.

I have no doubt parenting will be a rewarding journey and we will find our way forward, but at the same time I cannot help but feel so much about what every family member might be going through in a blended family…

…and the place I arrive at is that life can bring heartbreak and disappointment. Some feel it more than others, but everyone needs to face them, and how you react and process them can determine how your Self and future outlook are shaped…

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Breathing space & flowers

I woke up breathing deeper and easier on the first day of my holiday.😊

It is a welcome relief from always being poised behind the starting block ready to take off at dawn and sprinting till dusk.

The restful state I am in when I am free of demands always seems to be more conducive to new ideas, creativity, thoughtfulness … and I start to think, doesn’t the world just need more of that?

More reflection, more courage, more goodness; less harriedness, less greed, fewer dead souls…but alas it is not always that way. Well, one can dream.

I told my stepson I could visit his school today, and he broke into tears saying he shouldn’t need to go to school if I didn’t need to work. 😂 We shared a giant apple and when we got to school I was quizzed on my identity by his curious little friends (which happens every time I turn up). Kids are very cute and innocent and it is exciting to see the richness of activity that goes on in a classroom. It is also amazing to follow their progress. They keep learning and growing by leaps and bounds!

I am sitting in a hot bath now listening to beautiful music. It is nice to have breathing space – and to remember the things you want to do, not just those you need to (even though they are not mutually exclusive).

It is nice to have space to be intentional and thoughtful – it is hard to feel that way in the corporate world with all its demands! 😀

Or perhaps, living intentionally simply requires clarity of mind and courage in this life — corporate world or not.

I smile at the beautiful flowers around the house – some I bought, and some a gift from work. Flowers always remind me that there is beauty in the world amidst drudgery, injustice and heartbreak.

They remind me to bloom and inspire me to give the best I can for all to enjoy.

 

On creativity, raising children and possibilities

Some time back I attended a Child Safety training. As they played a video showing a depressed mum unable to get out of bed to care for her kid, someone said to me, “Given your mental health challenges you should seriously consider if you should have any children.”

3 different people told me that, and I really doubted & worried about my ability to be a mum. Looking back now, I don’t know why no one gave me more positive input. I don’t know why I heard “You can’t do this, you can’t do that. Your future family will collapse.”

Because I’ve known for awhile now that’s the biggest thing I want to do. And turns out I am a great stepmum — I can see a year later now that I really am! Yes, I have my ups and downs and there have been tough elements on the learning journey, but there isn’t much to worry about. My love for the child always energises me to give. I can get up at 6am to play with Lego (or whatever it may be), and I have reserves of patience for nurturing a child…it is my joy to give to my child. It is what I want to do, and it has been great.

Well, perhaps I wouldn’t have been able to say that 3 years ago. Perhaps growth changes your self-perspective. But it made me think today – you should never let others put a cap on what you can achieve. They only have partial insight, they don’t always have the whole picture on YOU.

Coincidentally, I got reconnected with an old work connection today – a business/marketing coach. He said it was a “lovely surprise” to hear from me and reminded me to not to forget my “creativity”! (I drew him a funny portrait of himself back then.)

Isn’t it lovely when people can see inside you and remember years later what you had to offer? This kindled my reflections on the things that bubble up with life inside me.

The things that switch a light on, they have a lot to do with creating beauty. I love flowers and dancing because they can portray and communicate something special, touching the soul. They bless the world.

Raising children sounds completely different, but I actually think they have the same essence.

Perhaps it is the delightful exchange of loving and being loved, perhaps it is about creating possibilities, perhaps it is shaping a young soul.

I enjoy giving and it makes me come alive.

It is slightly daunting to count 7 years on my fingers now. I have been in Adelaide 7 years, when I only ever meant for it to be a short stint abroad.

I’ve often written about my identity struggle and of big geographical decisions. But I’ve never talked about the ways in which Adelaide/Australia have changed me, the diverse range of people I’ve met, all the experiences I’ve been fortunate enough to have, the ways of life that I love and have embraced into my being.

Of course, my perspective is biased and limited — framed by the subset of Adelaide I experienced (as a migrant), compared against the facets of home (Malaysia) I know, at different levels of maturity and life stages.

It’s by no means a true or perfect comparison, but perhaps one can still appreciate the things that I love & have learnt from living in Adelaide.

More than the Rat Race

Before Adelaide I lived in bustling cities (KL and Singapore) for 4 years. Most people were very career focused. What’s your next job move? When are you getting a pay rise? How many marks did your daughter get in her music exam? And does she do ballet too?

The suffocating race is probably real everywhere among a certain segment of society. I loved experiencing people in Adelaide who talked about more than things that stemmed from survival anxiety. It feels like more people here are relaxed enough to pursue interests and enjoyments. Life isn’t as pressing. More people care about creating quality of life, contributing to a vibrant city. For a lot of people I met, planning for their personal future security simply wasn’t a driving value. They lived more unhurriedly, with a certain spontaneity and carefreeness that held a lot of appeal to me, even though I could never completely embrace it.

Enjoying Nature

On the bright summer morning I arrived in Adelaide, I chatted with an Italian lady at the bus stop who told me to go to Glenelg. Off I went on my own, and boy did I fall in love with the beach with all its jetty jumpers! Here, life feels a lot more connected to nature (or so it seems to me). It is within the culture to celebrate nature. I love watching people sitting and lying on grass under the blue sky. I love that you can roll down grassy slopes, climb trees, explore hiking trails, swim, surf. It felt like life broadened out in front of me with possibilities when I discovered all this.

A Sense of Connectedness

Connecting with nature also means connecting with food sources. I take it for granted now that I have fresh South Australian milk and fruit and sausages…such a far cry from how I used to eat in KL and Singapore from the supermarket shelf. I remember how refreshing it was to meet farmers and talk to them – something that I felt was hard to do in Malaysia. Maybe it was a cultural and language barrier back there, maybe I lived an insular life(?), but the reality was that farmers seemed to be in a lower class of society back home, so far removed from our conscious minds. People are a lot more connected here to how their food is grown.

A Creative Culture

The street art, markets and op shops in Adelaide captured me and my heart. One year, pianos were scattered around the city as part of the Fringe, screaming “play me”. I loved doing that! I loved the experience of busking in Rundle Mall. And the very first time I saw yarn bombs, it blew my socks off. It’s worth saying that Malaysians bubble over with creativity too, but every place has its unique expressions that endears itself to you.

After 7 years, I am still being surprised by new learnings (eg I only found out this year there are laws against trading on ANZAC Day). But when I recently answered a survey question on which country I identified with the most, I surprised myself by ticking Australia.

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