Category: Reflections


My 2016

IMG_6566.JPGI had a quiet day off today. I did some painting, happy that I’ve made progress with my strokes. My husband told me he’d ordered a Christmas present for me. What a nice surprise. It’s so nice to be loved.

If this time last year I’d been asked to paint a picture of what my 2016 would look like, I couldn’t have painted my life today.

In some ways, that’s how bizarre this past year has been.

After spending most of 2015 trying to manoeuvre a career change, it’s hard to describe the mental contrast between that, and having a role in a thriving real estate company this year.

So much of the past 5 years has been disruption after disruption that it’s hard to look back & draw from any fond traditions or memories. I stopped celebrating my birthday years ago, and all Chinese New Years and Christmases since then have been a blur.

For a long time, so much within myself was consumed with an awareness of problems. I was so geared towards survival, that it was hard to resonate with much else except helping others in worse situations. I was a nervous wreck within me, yet my experiences shaped me with a deep self-defence instinct to steel myself against any weakness within in order to carry on.

Being with Chris this year has slowly helped me let my guard down, helped me welcome happy things back into my life: good food, music, art…

On that note, a year ago, I couldn’t have seen that I would be married, & definitely not that I’d have a five year old stepson!

Suffice to say it’s been a huge, challenging transition, but also strange, even, to discover & rediscover the good things in life I’ve forgotten one can have in a family!

My life is richer for the journey of learning to trust & share & grow, of overcoming challenges together, learning to love & be loved…

…and the unexpected joys & surprises, like having a clumsily wrapped present under the tree from my stepson that I can’t wait to tear open on Christmas Day.

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10,000 Reasons

A major curveball hit some dear friends of mine recently, when the husband/father had a stroke.

As I heard his wife share about the difficult changes she and the children must learn to accept and adapt to, I could not help admiring and being encouraged by her outlook amidst the exhaustion and devastation they must be facing.

She spoke of gratitude for things they still have and cherish; of trusting in God amidst the pain; of hope for the future, and of 10,000 Reasons to sing…

It brought me back to the first time many years ago when I too found myself in a bleak valley where I had lost complete sight of a hopeful future. It reminded me of how the reality and presence of God at that time gave me enormous strength to keep putting one foot in front of the other, to forge a way out of despair.

Not long after my friend shared,  I heard the song again — this time at a wedding. It was a beautiful reprise to hear the melody carry through dark desperate days to joyous celebrations, from the peaks to the troughs to everything in between…

The song had a way of pointing to something beyond, and reminded me of all the people I know and stories I’ve read of people coming to the end of their ropes, and finding new strength and hope to sing and choose life.

 

The giving of jasmines

I never thought life would do this to me – make me tired enough to forget the precious things.

It’s been a long hard year, and the grind of it all has worn me down.

But it must be true, what people say about the importance of stories, and how fundamental they are in shaping us. I guess even more so when the story is in my naming.

Some years ago, a Pakistani friend told me that my name Yasmin means “a gift from God” in Persian, named after their love for the exquisit bloom.

In Chinese culture, the jasmine is special too.

I thought this captured the blossom beautifully: “茉莉花叶色翠绿,花色洁白,香味浓厚,清雅宜人。它虽无艳态惊群,但玫瑰之甜郁,梅花之馨香,兰花之幽远,玉兰之清雅,莫不兼而有之。”

Stories about the sweet fragrance of the jasmine flower have been for me like the resonant strands you hear in your head long after the vibration of the strings soften into silence.

Smelling the jasmine-scented candle I received for Christmas, I could almost hear the beautiful song again – of fragrance released in crushing, of giving life, of blessing others.

I have always thought the sacrificial dying of oneself for the blessing of others to be beautiful.

I remembered it again now: in jasmines, but also in the Christmas story.

Some days, I wake up in a panic. I think, I can’t do this. It is way beyond me.

The pressure almost turns into a crushing weight with a physical dimension — it only grows as more responsibilities and considerations of life get added to the equation.

When I’m distressed, I often look back and draw encouragement from the past: all the times I never ever thought I could pull through, the close shaves, the challenges I’ve overcome. In quiet moments, I realise, yes, that’s me. I’ve always endured tensile tests and confronted my worries and fears.

Perhaps that is where life derives its richness from. Whatever I’ve lacked, God has always faithfully provided.

Recent times have brought new challenges and learning experiences in learning Chinese.

Exploring again in language what feels like an integral part of my heritage and identity has been an experience of searching and finding. It wells up in my heart sometimes, the realisation that I am Chinese, I love Chinese. 我爱华语,我爱中华文化,我怀念上华校的日子。The language carries a warmth and captures an essence that inevitably become lost in the best of English translations.

But when I read beautifully articulated essays and hear people speak with eloquence and fluency, I get a wistful pang of wondering if I would be able to do that one day. How I wish I could, again.

I tear up when I remember my 14-year-old self sitting in front of the television admiring captivating Chinese debaters like 胡建彪 and 龙纹敏. I wished so badly at that time that I could speak like them — full of wit and grace. I find it hard to believe now that two years later, I actually did realise my dream.

Remembering always inspires me to dream again…

However, the more Chinese friends I’ve made, the more I’ve realised understanding cultural contexts and linguistic nuances across different geographical locations is not simple.  GoSpeaky.com has been a useful platform in facilitating this process. The translation students I’ve found there have provided wonderful insight and information.

GoSpeaky language learning

I love the clean interface, and the edit function (to correct your buddy’s language) is a stroke of genius! 很享受我们互相切磋的过程……

这十年来一直努力提升着英语的水准,有时我似乎忘了当初的我是多么热爱富有活力和生机的汉语。我爱看中文书,我更爱听中文演讲。它运载着中华民族儒道互补的传统文化,有着强大的亲和性和独特的诗意,也因此具有唤起不同情绪的奇妙功能。有时会不禁慨叹:这是多年失去了再寻找回来的「我」呀!

p/s:农历新年期间写了中华文化中的羊这篇文章,有兴趣可以看一看。

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