Connecting the Dots – You, Me and Us

Hey Folks,

How are you? It’s been a month. I’m doing great, busy like a bee and as happy as a clam.

Here’s my monthly reflection and update post.

But first, let me direct you to a post I wrote in March last year, “Connecting the dots – why you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be”. In that post, I elaborated on how certain life events were connected to each other and what I’ve learned from connecting all those dots. There was one thing that was not explained yet…so here I am, finally connecting the dots in this department:)

As for my love life, I haven’t found the way to connect the dots yet. I wish I could. Anyway, life must go on and it’s up to me, whether I choose to live it to the fullest or regret all those distant events and wrong people in the past.

In 1998, we were in the same school for 6 years. You’re in the class next door and we were in the same choir team. We were young and busy with school work. Besides, back then, my taste of boys had been restricted to only those with sporty-charm-part-of-school’s-team kind. I especially had a penchant for boys who play volleyball. I started playing this sport since Primary 5, so yeah…puppy crush. This trend continued throughout my first 2 years in junior high. You and I were probably not inside each other’s radar.

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From 1998 to 2001, we were classmates. Still nothing happened. Instead, I had this silly crushes on 2 volleyball seniors and then the longest one-sided crush on your best friend. You told me recently, that you knew about this back then, a long time ago. Nonetheless, I still have a very fond memory of this distant event and have even described it here, this post.

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In 2005, 2010, 2012, 2013, I’ve had a few one-sided crushes and some suitors who came along but they didn’t come close to what we have now. Apparently, they were there to teach me some invaluable lessons on: how to respect and love myself, how to be comfortable and happy being on my own, how to be loyal and committed to my own self-improvement. I need to be happy alone before I’m able to share my happiness and love with someone else.

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In 2014, we met again on that fateful day. We were in the same city for the past 4 years but we’ve not seen each other for 2-3 years. The last time we met were at a mutual friend’s wedding, a reunion dinner gathering afterwards and that’s all. We’ve never talked to one another for long. We were still normal old school friends….until not so long ago *not in friend zone…phew, what a relief*

When I met you again early last year, I was a different person. Beside having my braces fixed in January, I was also more relaxed and happier after completing that one thing that I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve also set new exciting career goals for myself by then. Building a relationship was not my main priority. Of course, the thought of having someone special whom I can share my life with, would hover in my mind once in a while, but I didn’t actively looking. I’ve tried dipping my toes into the online dating world and it was an eye-opening experience. Found out a few months later that it’s not for me and have since deleted all my profiles.

In between those dates and my busy schedule, you were always around. Hike or bike on Sunday afternoons, little gifts every time we met or after your trips abroad, movie nights spent watching animations, had fun and laugh together on dates, just you and me. There were a lot of those small things that were impossible to ignore. I obviously noticed how you treated me differently. There were “something” more than we care to admit. We were probably afraid of being “friend-zoned” by each other. In those months, we’d talk about anything under the sky, except about love and relationship, EXCEPT about us. Anyway, long story short, you and I have finally overcome that barrier.

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I’m wearing my heart on my sleeve now and having the courage and kindness to finally commit to this. I’m new, you’re new. We’re in this together. The dots are CONNECTED. We really shouldn’t be with each other back in those school years, 16 years ago. We were still too young, lack of self-identity, lack of direction, still finding our own ways.

Now that our paths have crossed, let’s enjoy every single step, be kind and generous! ^_^

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XOXO,

Sien

*I should change my topic next month:)*

Reading list:

Why People Who Feel Complete on Their Own Have Stronger Relationships

How to Love without Losing Yourself

7 Vital Choices for Happy Relationships

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Filling the Blank Space

Dear      (blank space)       ,

I may not be the fairest of them all

I may not be the smartest and most elegant of all

I may not even show or talk about how I feel

I may be broken for too many times

But I have learned my love lessons and rest assure…

I am learning to let my heart lead the way

I am tearing down the protective wall, brick by brick

Eventually,

I will start giving my whole heart and trust that you won’t break it

So, please be patient

I am still a work-in-progress

But because you are around,

I might just jump over the wall and find you

Have courage and be kind, right? *and I quote:)*

2013-02-12-lewis

by C.S. Lewis

 

Is “what I want” the same as “what I need”?

Hey folks,

Fabulous February is here. Time for another post.

As we’re nearing the end of Horse Year and my 2015’s plans are beginning to shape up, let me share with you the upcoming projects that have been brewing in my over-active brain. I will share this in the form of my answers on the classic question: WANT versus NEED, including some examples of the things that I want and elaborate excuses/justifications to convince myself and finally take ACTIONS.

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2015-2017 Master Plan. Had to write them down, can’t help it:)

The results of a never-ending battle in my restless mind. Here we go!!!

I WANT

to live happily and peacefully everyday doing what I need to do to pay the bills, doing what I love to do after work and during weekends. While at the same time, I still have the time to relax and enjoy some me-time, be totally unproductive once in a while, e.g.: watching YouTube videos or Japanese & Korean dramas the whole night.

Do I NEED to live like this?

ABSOLUTELY YES. Perhaps for now until maybe the end of 2016.

I got really bored and felt unproductive if I just watch dramas/videos, read random articles day in and day out. My brain needs much more stimulation and I finally found it in the form of teaching:). My aim for this year is to arrange at least 3-4 times teaching session, either in classroom or private setting, weekdays night or weekend afternoon. I’ll take my own teaching assignment or replace other teacher whenever I can, as long as it fits into my schedule. I get to meet new students whenever I accept a new assignment. Good for my network expansion and my brain, 1 stone kills 2 birds.

As for the exercise I need, whenever I’m not teaching, I’ll squeeze in a gym session or Saturday morning hiking or Sunday afternoon cycling and have a weekly volleyball game with my regular buddies. Hopefully, if one day I get to be in a committed relationship with someone I like, I could still allocate 1-2 times a week to meet him. It’s all about priority and scheduling. Anyway, you’re never too busy to be with your loved one, aren’t you?

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I WANT

to go on vacation at least once a year.

Do I NEED to have this vacation?

YES and NO.

Yes, because for me, vacation is needed to refresh my mind, get away from the routine for a while, and experience new places. You might be ‘poorer’ in the wallet after the trip but you’ll be ‘richer’ in experience afterwards. It’s about one’s own priority/mindset and choosing a lifestyle that suits you.

No, if I don’t have the resources to do so. If I didn’t set my budget to include any expensive trip, then there won’t be any traveling this year. I thought that’s the case in 2015. But I saw the light at the end of the tunnel near the end of last month. As I looked at my budget again, after clearing the expected-and-necessary expenses incurred last month and including my future recurring expenses for the rest of the year, I feel safe to include just one trip this year, 18 days, still unknown total expenses. I join a friend for this trip. She’s super excited about this one and invited me to join in the fun. So I thought about it for a few weeks and decided to postpone my other trip and joined her instead. Ticket’s booked. Hope we get to see all the beautiful sceneries in September!! Yay ^_^

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I WANT

to teach full time and own a business related to language/travel one day. It’s so bloody hard to decide between turning my hobby into a full-fledged source of income and keeping both jobs to enjoy half the benefit of both worlds (Engineering and Education field).

but do I NEED to make this decision now?

Am I prepared for the decrease of income during the switch? lifestyle difference? change of habit? change of monthly budget? being out of my familiar zone? How long can I maintain this slash career? Do I need more free time for myself and for me to build a relationship? When can I take the leap of faith? All these questions bring me back to my earlier post about doing what you love to do as a profession.  At the end of the post, I refer to myself as the member of this group;

3. Still doing slash career (definition – having a full time day job: it pays the bills but not necessarily the thing that you want to do long-term & after work/weekends: doing what you love to do but not really a $-making venture yet) and waiting to make the switch. Meanwhile, becoming a reliable and excellent support system to everyone and live a full life. Good luck and you’re so awesome! (~ goes to myself + my future self + some other friends)

Right now, I’ve found the 3 hobbies described in one of the quotes below. They’ve made my life more meaningful and brighter. First hobby to make money: teach languages, second hobby to keep me in shape: play volleyball, third hobby to be creative: write a blog post or sing in karaoke:).

I have a road map and currently doing baby steps to make this ‘WANT’ comes true. It includes some further study and courses I want to take, some financial goals to be achieved and lots of other things. Remember the snapshot of my 2015-2017 master plan above? Yeah, I wrote them there.

Even in the end, if my life doesn’t turn out exactly as planned, I’d be pretty happy and satisfied with the current arrangement. All is well. By then, this fickle-minded brain should know how to make peace with it and just continue enjoying the ride.

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I WANT

to share my life with another person, to finally be in a committed relationship.

but do I really NEED one?

No. Not really. If I haven’t found the right one for me yet, I won’t settle.

In general, I’m looking for this kind of guy, someone who:

(1) knows what he wants in life or at least be curious about it. He looks for ways to improve his life, takes on new challenges and becomes wiser each time.

(2) knows how to set his priority. Sometimes, he could be the right person, but our timeline and priority in life at that period of time was so out of sync, that it won’t work anyway. Is his priority right now on his career or love/relationship?

(3) is a good person with integrity (preferably well-traveled and a non-smoker).

Everything else is negotiable. We don’t need to have the same hobbies. Sharing one/two interests is nice, but it’s not necessary. And yeah, I think that initial attraction (or sparks or chemistry or whatever you call it) when you go out on the first few dates are also important. How’s the vibe and feel that this guy is giving out when he’s around me? Is he attentive? Is he a caring person in general? Is he a curious person and someone who can hold a conversation well?

Then afterwards, I’ll ask myself these questions: Am I attracted to him? Am I feeling comfortable around him? Am I willing to follow his lead and see how it goes? How long does it take for a man to court a woman and be committed? love confession or declaration or whatever? 3 months, 6 months? Am I willing to wait? I’ll usually think about these in the back of my mind and force myself not to over-analyze his words or actions, as I believe that for the matters of heart, only time will tell. If he’s interested, he’ll show it. No confusion. No drama. If the first guy approaches and has been around for some time, maybe I’ll meet 1-2 other suitors along the way and ended up with another guy or none of them or maybe I’ll never meet anyone. Who knows?

I want a relationship, that doesn’t mean I need it to have a happy life on my own. Any relationship status you hold right now; be it single, attached, married, divorced and whatever; has its own challenges, embrace it and be happy anyway.

Most importantly, I know that I want to have this kind of relationship one day, with respect, love, loyalty, commitment; and put my heart on the sleeve more frequently, instead of hiding behind a huge wall. When I’ve chosen to be in a committed relationship, I’ll do the same as the 3 points above: be curious about my life (and his life too), re-arrange my priority and be a good person. Hopefully, we could also grow better as a person, walk towards a better future together, hand-in-hand.

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In the end, is “what you want” the same as “what you need”?

There’s no exact answer to this. Depends on what it is that you want and in what phase of life you are in right now.

Just remember to always ask yourself this question before indulging on what you want, “Have I covered all my basic needs?”

If the answer is a resounding YES: you’ve got food on your table, roof over your head (rental or mortgage, doesn’t matter), decent clothing, life/health insurance to protect the wealth you’ve accumulated so far and a generally happy positive attitude towards life.

If all of them are there right now, I’d say go ahead!! Plan, prioritize, take actions, GO and PAMPER yourself with what you want: the things that you’ve always wanted to experience, the places that you’ve always wanted to visit, that further education/courses that you’ve always wanted to enroll in.

Even if you can’t always have whatever you want, don’t forget to be grateful with what you already have!

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Cheers,

Sien

Happy early Valentine’s Day and Chinese New Year everyone! 

Be healthy, joyful and prosperous in the coming year!喜气洋洋!

[TED Talk] Vulnerability in Life (reminder for myself)

Brené Brown:
The power of vulnerability
TEDxHouston · 20:19 · Filmed Jun 2010

Transcript

0:11 So, I’ll start with this: a couple years ago, an event planner called me because I was going to do a speaking event. And she called, and she said, “I’m really struggling with how to write about you on the little flyer.” And I thought, “Well, what’s the struggle?” And she said, “Well, I saw you speak, and I’m going to call you a researcher, I think, but I’m afraid if I call you a researcher, no one will come, because they’ll think you’re boring and irrelevant.” (Laughter) And I was like, “Okay.” And she said, “But the thing I liked about your talk is you’re a storyteller. So I think what I’ll do is just call you a storyteller.” And of course, the academic, insecure part of me was like, “You’re going to call me a what?” And she said, “I’m going to call you a storyteller.” And I was like, “Why not magic pixie?” (Laughter) I was like, “Let me think about this for a second.” I tried to call deep on my courage. And I thought, you know, I am a storyteller. I’m a qualitative researcher. I collect stories; that’s what I do. And maybe stories are just data with a soul. And maybe I’m just a storyteller. And so I said, “You know what? Why don’t you just say I’m a researcher-storyteller.” And she went, “Haha. There’s no such thing.” (Laughter) So I’m a researcher-storyteller, and I’m going to talk to you today — we’re talking about expanding perception — and so I want to talk to you and tell some stories about a piece of my research that fundamentally expanded my perception and really actually changed the way that I live and love and work and parent.

1:46 And this is where my story starts. When I was a young researcher, doctoral student, my first year I had a research professor who said to us, “Here’s the thing, if you cannot measure it, it does not exist.” And I thought he was just sweet-talking me. I was like, “Really?” and he was like, “Absolutely.” And so you have to understand that I have a bachelor’s in social work, a master’s in social work, and I was getting my Ph.D. in social work, so my entire academic career was surrounded by people who kind of believed in the “life’s messy, love it.” And I’m more of the, “life’s messy, clean it up, organize it and put it into a bento box.” (Laughter) And so to think that I had found my way, to found a career that takes me — really, one of the big sayings in social work is, “Lean into the discomfort of the work.” And I’m like, knock discomfort upside the head and move it over and get all A’s. That was my mantra. So I was very excited about this. And so I thought, you know what, this is the career for me, because I am interested in some messy topics. But I want to be able to make them not messy. I want to understand them. I want to hack into these things I know are important and lay the code out for everyone to see.

3:08 So where I started was with connection. Because, by the time you’re a social worker for 10 years, what you realize is that connection is why we’re here. It’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives. This is what it’s all about. It doesn’t matter whether you talk to people who work in social justice and mental health and abuse and neglect, what we know is that connection, the ability to feel connected, is — neurobiologically that’s how we’re wired — it’s why we’re here. So I thought, you know what, I’m going to start with connection. Well, you know that situation where you get an evaluation from your boss, and she tells you 37 things you do really awesome, and one thing — an “opportunity for growth?” (Laughter) And all you can think about is that opportunity for growth, right? Well, apparently this is the way my work went as well, because, when you ask people about love, they tell you about heartbreak. When you ask people about belonging, they’ll tell you their most excruciating experiences of being excluded. And when you ask people about connection, the stories they told me were about disconnection.

4:18 So very quickly — really about six weeks into this research — I ran into this unnamed thing that absolutely unraveled connection in a way that I didn’t understand or had never seen. And so I pulled back out of the research and thought, I need to figure out what this is. And it turned out to be shame. And shame is really easily understood as the fear of disconnection: Is there something about me that, if other people know it or see it, that I won’t be worthy of connection? The things I can tell you about it: it’s universal; we all have it. The only people who don’t experience shame have no capacity for human empathy or connection. No one wants to talk about it, and the less you talk about it the more you have it. What underpinned this shame, this “I’m not good enough,” — which we all know that feeling: “I’m not blank enough. I’m not thin enough, rich enough, beautiful enough, smart enough, promoted enough.” The thing that underpinned this was excruciating vulnerability, this idea of, in order for connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be seen, really seen.

5:31 And you know how I feel about vulnerability. I hate vulnerability. And so I thought, this is my chance to beat it back with my measuring stick. I’m going in, I’m going to figure this stuff out, I’m going to spend a year, I’m going to totally deconstruct shame, I’m going to understand how vulnerability works, and I’m going to outsmart it. So I was ready, and I was really excited. As you know, it’s not going to turn out well. (Laughter) You know this. So, I could tell you a lot about shame, but I’d have to borrow everyone else’s time. But here’s what I can tell you that it boils down to — and this may be one of the most important things that I’ve ever learned in the decade of doing this research. My one year turned into six years: thousands of stories, hundreds of long interviews, focus groups. At one point, people were sending me journal pages and sending me their stories — thousands of pieces of data in six years. And I kind of got a handle on it.

6:34 I kind of understood, this is what shame is, this is how it works. I wrote a book, I published a theory, but something was not okay — and what it was is that, if I roughly took the people I interviewed and divided them into people who really have a sense of worthiness — that’s what this comes down to, a sense of worthiness — they have a strong sense of love and belonging — and folks who struggle for it, and folks who are always wondering if they’re good enough. There was only one variable that separated the people who have a strong sense of love and belonging and the people who really struggle for it. And that was, the people who have a strong sense of love and belonging believe they’re worthy of love and belonging. That’s it. They believe they’re worthy. And to me, the hard part of the one thing that keeps us out of connection is our fear that we’re not worthy of connection, was something that, personally and professionally, I felt like I needed to understand better. So what I did is I took all of the interviews where I saw worthiness, where I saw people living that way, and just looked at those.

7:51 What do these people have in common? I have a slight office supply addiction, but that’s another talk. So I had a manila folder, and I had a Sharpie, and I was like, what am I going to call this research? And the first words that came to my mind were whole-hearted. These are whole-hearted people, living from this deep sense of worthiness. So I wrote at the top of the manila folder, and I started looking at the data. In fact, I did it first in a four-day very intensive data analysis, where I went back, pulled these interviews, pulled the stories, pulled the incidents. What’s the theme? What’s the pattern? My husband left town with the kids because I always go into this Jackson Pollock crazy thing, where I’m just like writing and in my researcher mode. And so here’s what I found. What they had in common was a sense of courage. And I want to separate courage and bravery for you for a minute. Courage, the original definition of courage, when it first came into the English language — it’s from the Latin word cor, meaning heart — and the original definition was to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart. And so these folks had, very simply, the courage to be imperfect. They had the compassion to be kind to themselves first and then to others, because, as it turns out, we can’t practice compassion with other people if we can’t treat ourselves kindly. And the last was they had connection, and — this was the hard part — as a result of authenticity, they were willing to let go of who they thought they should be in order to be who they were, which you have to absolutely do that for connection.

9:39 The other thing that they had in common was this: They fully embraced vulnerability. They believed that what made them vulnerable made them beautiful. They didn’t talk about vulnerability being comfortable, nor did they really talk about it being excruciating — as I had heard it earlier in the shame interviewing. They just talked about it being necessary. They talked about the willingness to say, “I love you” first, the willingness to do something where there are no guarantees, the willingness to breathe through waiting for the doctor to call after your mammogram. They’re willing to invest in a relationship that may or may not work out. They thought this was fundamental.

10:43 I personally thought it was betrayal. I could not believe I had pledged allegiance to research, where our job — you know, the definition of research is to control and predict, to study phenomena, for the explicit reason to control and predict. And now my mission to control and predict had turned up the answer that the way to live is with vulnerability and to stop controlling and predicting. This led to a little breakdown — (Laughter) — which actually looked more like this. (Laughter) And it did. I call it a breakdown; my therapist calls it a spiritual awakening. A spiritual awakening sounds better than breakdown, but I assure you it was a breakdown. And I had to put my data away and go find a therapist. Let me tell you something: you know who you are when you call your friends and say, “I think I need to see somebody. Do you have any recommendations?” Because about five of my friends were like, “Wooo. I wouldn’t want to be your therapist.” (Laughter) I was like, “What does that mean?” And they’re like, “I’m just saying, you know. Don’t bring your measuring stick.” I was like, “Okay.”

12:02 So I found a therapist. My first meeting with her, Diana — I brought in my list of the way the whole-hearted live, and I sat down. And she said, “How are you?” And I said, “I’m great. I’m okay.” She said, “What’s going on?” And this is a therapist who sees therapists, because we have to go to those, because their B.S. meters are good. (Laughter) And so I said, “Here’s the thing, I’m struggling.” And she said, “What’s the struggle?” And I said, “Well, I have a vulnerability issue. And I know that vulnerability is the core of shame and fear and our struggle for worthiness, but it appears that it’s also the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging, of love. And I think I have a problem, and I need some help.” And I said, “But here’s the thing: no family stuff, no childhood shit.” (Laughter) “I just need some strategies.” (Laughter) (Applause) Thank you. So she goes like this. (Laughter) And then I said, “It’s bad, right?” And she said, “It’s neither good nor bad.” (Laughter) “It just is what it is.” And I said, “Oh my God, this is going to suck.”

13:38 (Laughter)

13:41 And it did, and it didn’t. And it took about a year. And you know how there are people that, when they realize that vulnerability and tenderness are important, that they surrender and walk into it. A: that’s not me, and B: I don’t even hang out with people like that. (Laughter) For me, it was a yearlong street fight. It was a slugfest. Vulnerability pushed, I pushed back. I lost the fight, but probably won my life back.

14:14 And so then I went back into the research and spent the next couple of years really trying to understand what they, the whole-hearted, what choices they were making, and what are we doing with vulnerability. Why do we struggle with it so much? Am I alone in struggling with vulnerability? No. So this is what I learned. We numb vulnerability — when we’re waiting for the call. It was funny, I sent something out on Twitter and on Facebook that says, “How would you define vulnerability? What makes you feel vulnerable?” And within an hour and a half, I had 150 responses. Because I wanted to know what’s out there. Having to ask my husband for help because I’m sick, and we’re newly married; initiating sex with my husband; initiating sex with my wife; being turned down; asking someone out; waiting for the doctor to call back; getting laid off; laying off people — this is the world we live in. We live in a vulnerable world. And one of the ways we deal with it is we numb vulnerability.

15:23 And I think there’s evidence — and it’s not the only reason this evidence exists, but I think it’s a huge cause — we are the most in-debt, obese, addicted and medicated adult cohort in U.S. history. The problem is — and I learned this from the research — that you cannot selectively numb emotion. You can’t say, here’s the bad stuff. Here’s vulnerability, here’s grief, here’s shame, here’s fear, here’s disappointment. I don’t want to feel these. I’m going to have a couple of beers and a banana nut muffin. (Laughter) I don’t want to feel these. And I know that’s knowing laughter. I hack into your lives for a living. God. (Laughter) You can’t numb those hard feelings without numbing the other affects, our emotions. You cannot selectively numb. So when we numb those, we numb joy, we numb gratitude, we numb happiness. And then we are miserable, and we are looking for purpose and meaning, and then we feel vulnerable, so then we have a couple of beers and a banana nut muffin. And it becomes this dangerous cycle.

16:47 One of the things that I think we need to think about is why and how we numb. And it doesn’t just have to be addiction. The other thing we do is we make everything that’s uncertain certain. Religion has gone from a belief in faith and mystery to certainty. I’m right, you’re wrong. Shut up. That’s it. Just certain. The more afraid we are, the more vulnerable we are, the more afraid we are. This is what politics looks like today. There’s no discourse anymore. There’s no conversation. There’s just blame. You know how blame is described in the research? A way to discharge pain and discomfort. We perfect. If there’s anyone who wants their life to look like this, it would be me, but it doesn’t work. Because what we do is we take fat from our butts and put it in our cheeks. (Laughter) Which just, I hope in 100 years, people will look back and go, “Wow.”

17:50 (Laughter)

17:52 And we perfect, most dangerously, our children. Let me tell you what we think about children. They’re hardwired for struggle when they get here. And when you hold those perfect little babies in your hand, our job is not to say, “Look at her, she’s perfect. My job is just to keep her perfect — make sure she makes the tennis team by fifth grade and Yale by seventh grade.” That’s not our job. Our job is to look and say, “You know what? You’re imperfect, and you’re wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging.” That’s our job. Show me a generation of kids raised like that, and we’ll end the problems I think that we see today. We pretend that what we do doesn’t have an effect on people. We do that in our personal lives. We do that corporate — whether it’s a bailout, an oil spill, a recall — we pretend like what we’re doing doesn’t have a huge impact on other people. I would say to companies, this is not our first rodeo, people. We just need you to be authentic and real and say, “We’re sorry. We’ll fix it.”

19:01 But there’s another way, and I’ll leave you with this. This is what I have found: to let ourselves be seen, deeply seen, vulnerably seen; to love with our whole hearts, even though there’s no guarantee — and that’s really hard, and I can tell you as a parent, that’s excruciatingly difficult — to practice gratitude and joy in those moments of terror, when we’re wondering, “Can I love you this much? Can I believe in this this passionately? Can I be this fierce about this?” just to be able to stop and, instead of catastrophizing what might happen, to say, “I’m just so grateful, because to feel this vulnerable means I’m alive.” And the last, which I think is probably the most important, is to believe that we’re enough. Because when we work from a place, I believe, that says, “I’m enough,” then we stop screaming and start listening, we’re kinder and gentler to the people around us, and we’re kinder and gentler to ourselves.

20:05 That’s all I have. Thank you.

20:07 (Applause)

Why do you get married?

Disclaimer: Do let me know if you have other opinion after reading this. Would love to hear your point of view. It’s such a touchy subject. I’m sure married or single people will have different opinions on this matter. I’m writing this based on what I’ve heard and read, not from my own experience. I‘d fill you in with some of the quotes I extracted from Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, Committed. She used to be a skeptic of the marriage institution and refer to the book as her way to convince herself otherwise. I’ve read the book and found it quite a revelation, with all her thorough research on how marriage has evolved throughout the different eras and how it is defined by various religious views.

“Sometimes life is too hard to be alone, and sometimes life is too good to be alone.” Elizabeth Gilbert, Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage

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First, before we get to the answer of why people get married, here’s my take on all the WRONG reasons to get married.

You get married…

NOT because everyone else is getting married. Life is filled with uncertainties, and that includes single life, married life, any kind of life you choose to live in. So the same goes for marriage and having your own kids. I believe that everyone has different timeline. You can’t be waiting for the day when you feel 100% sure that you want to tie the knot and bring new life to this world. That day will never come. If I could just pick a random %, I’d say if you’re at least 80% sure that your current romantic partner is the one that you should marry based on how you feel throughout your relationship (the length of relationship is not the most important factor), then go ahead and marry the love of your life. The 80% that consist of what you’ve built so far: respect, love, trust, intimacy, loyalty; from practical point of view, readiness to merge your assets and finances with a binding contract. If both of you don’t feel that 80% yet, it’s wiser to not blindly follow the crowd or succumb to parent & peer pressure. You shouldn’t marry whomever available by your side either. That’s a recipe for disaster and suffering. Eventually, after the marriage, both husband and wife still need to cultivate the remaining 20% every single day. It’ll be discussed below. So keep on reading!

“It’s the same with relationships, I think. People always fall in love with the most perfect aspects of each other’s personalities. Who wouldn’t? Anybody can love the most wonderful parts of another person. But that’s not the clever trick. The really clever trick is this: Can you accept the flaws? Can you look at your partner’s faults honestly and say, ‘I can work around that. I can make something out of that.’? Because the good stuff is always going to be there, and it’s always going to be pretty and sparkly, but the crap underneath can ruin you.”Elizabeth Gilbert, Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage

You get married…

NOT because you WANT to have an easier time-saving money for your first house, aiming for public housing (BTO/resale flats) just because you can’t afford the private ones with your income alone (read here for the difference of public and private housing in Singapore)

“The Buddha referred to married people as “householders.” He even gave clear instructions as to how one should be a good householder: Be nice to your spouse, be honest, be faithful, give alms to the poor, buy some insurance against fire and flood . . . I’m dead serious: The Buddha literally advised married couples to buy property insurance.” Elizabeth Gilbert, Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage

You get married…

(if you’re a lady) NOT because your biological clock is ticking and you love children so much that you want to have your own. If you’re too old, your eggs may not be of a good quality to pro-create and produce healthy babies. Hence, you NEED to go through a common route with the society’s approval, that’s called Marriage. By following the social norm, you’ll be able to pro-create as many as you want without people sneering and jeering at you. No cohabitation, casual sex and children born out-of-wedlock. That’s the society’s unwritten rule (especially in Asian culture). Nowadays, with various fertility treatment, you can still get pregnant and give birth to healthy children even in your 40s. And even without getting married or having a sex partner, you can still have kids (read about a guy who fathered 34 children through sperm donation here). Despite all these, there are bigger questions you need to ask yourself:

Are you ready to bear the huge responsibility of bringing a new life out to this big messy world? (at least 80% ready)

Are you ready to embark on the new journey of bringing up the little-being to a mature adult? (at least 80% ready)

“Every healthy marriage is composed of walls and windows. The windows are the aspects of your relationship that are open to the world—that is, the necessary gaps through which you interact with family and friends; the walls are the barriers of trust behind which you guard the most intimate secrets of your marriage.” Elizabeth Gilbert, Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage

You get married…

NOT because you WANT someone to accompany you when you’re old. Your spouse may die before you and you’ll be left alone anyway. Your kids may be too busy with their own life that you’ll probably be left alone in an elderly home most of the time. You can play with your grand kids once in a while but they will eventually drift away when they get older. You’ll be too old and weak to play with them. We will all die in the end. But maybe those who are dying while being surrounded by their family, children and grandchildren, will have less regrets than those who chose to live their life unmarried? Well, who knows? Maybe those single unmarried spinsters/bachelors might have done something great in their life, be so inspirational and have lived their life to the fullest that they will ALSO be surrounded by their beloved friends, nephews, nieces, brothers, sisters, neighbors and the community when they’re dying. They would ALSO die with no regrets. So if marriage is not about having a life-time companion, what is it for?

“This is intimacy: the trading of stories in the dark.” Elizabeth Gilbert, Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage

I used to think that the last point above is the reason why people get married. But one day, when I attended my good friend’s wedding, I heard these 3 reasons and they kind of stuck with me this whole time. So I decided to share it here:

Why do you get married? The 3 simple reasons.

1) Because of your permanent COMMITMENT to each other. Marriage should be “the point of no return”. You don’t marry each other with a divorce as your exit plan when things go bad. You fix it. Because marriage is not only the union between man and wife but also a union between two families. It’s about the commitment to cultivate the remaining 20%: making compromises, not taking anything for granted, being loyal to each other and many other little things.

“Marriage is what happens “between the memorable.” He said that we often look back on our marriages years later, perhaps after one spouse has died, and all we can recall are “the vacations, and emergencies” – the high points and low points. The rest of it blends into a blurry sort of daily sameness. But it is that very blurred sameness, the poet argues, that comprises marriage. Marriage is those two thousand indistinguishable conversations, chatted over two thousand indistinguishable breakfasts, where intimacy turns like a slow wheel. How do you measure the worth of becoming that familiar to somebody so utterly well-known and so thoroughly ever-present, that you become an almost invisible necessity, like air?” Elizabeth Gilbert, Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage

2) Because of LOVE. And in marriage, it’s the mature kind of love. It’s not about looking at each other, but it’s about looking at your future life together.

“What all couples have ever wanted, a little bit of privacy in which to practice all manners of love.”Elizabeth Gilbert, Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage

3) Because you want to SHARE your WHOLE LIFE with him/her. Both of you are focused on giving care and attention to each other until the day death do you apart.

“Real, sane, mature love—the kind that pays the mortgage year after year and picks up the kids after school—is not based on infatuation but on affection and respect.” Elizabeth Gilbert, Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage

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I will end this post (that looks more like Liz Gilbert’s book synopsis:p) with another quote.

It’s the last piece of food for thought, especially for all the single women out there.

Choose wisely and we shall not suffer. If you haven’t found a good one yet, don’t settle for less!  

“The cold ugly fact is that marriage does not benefit women as much as it benefits men. From studies, married men perform dazzlingly better in life, live longer, accumulate more, excel at careers, report to be happier, less likely to die from a violent death, suffer less from alcoholism, drug abuse, and depression than single man…The reverse is not true. In fact, every fact is reverse, single women fare much better than married women. On average, married women take a 7% pay cut. All of this adds up to what Sociologists called the “Marriage Benefit Imbalance”…It is important to pause here and inspect why so many women long for it (marriage) so deeply.” ― Elizabeth GilbertCommitted: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage

Cheers,

Sien

*Some articles as a reminder:

for husband – 7 keys to a happy wife

for wife – 10 marriage tips every wife needs to hear

Je t’aime plus qu’hier et moins que demain

Learn to trust my own intuition and judgement.

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That’s the only lesson I picked up from reading a love story submission from a friend. I read it two weeks ago and decided to post it on the 14th Feb. Yeah…the Saint Valentine’s Day! Although I seriously think that we should be celebrating love EVERYDAY: with our lover/partner, family and friends. Not only on the 14th of Feb. Valentine’s day is just like any other day. Anyway, in case you are wondering what the title means. Literally, translated as: I love you more than yesterday and less than tomorrow. Or the same as, I love you more and more each day. After reading the story, I guess I need to learn how to trust my intuition and judgement more. Nevertheless, everything that I wrote previously about respect, love, loyalty and commitment still holds true. No matter what other people said to me these past few weeks.

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Some of his points that I don’t quite agree are highlighted in red. But well, everyone is allowed to have an opinion and we need to agree to disagree at one point, don’t we? I re-arranged some of his original sentences just to get the point across more effectively, but the content is still the same.

Here we go. All credits go to the guest writer. You know who you are:)

I consider LOVE as something very natural, just like having my own heartbeat. Since we’ve been together, I have no interest in any other woman. Not even a bit, it is perfect like this. I can speak freely with any other woman, realizing that she will never be like her. Even though she may not be perfect *yes, NO ONE is perfect*, but she has passed my high standards with flying colors. I have always thought that if I meet someone like that, I should go for it all the way, and I did. I went along and trusted my intuition. I followed her here, to Singapore. No matter how many judging eyes and stereotypes that people may hold about European-Asian couples. What really matters is only what she and I think. We decided to be together. Friends, acquaintances and family have to accept it. Never mind what others think. That would be my first advice to you. 

“If you have what you’ve always wanted *not necessarily in the love area*, hold onto it at all cost. Never mind what the people think. People love to judge, laugh at you, question you, but those people probably don’t have very good lives themselves. Don’t let their negative opinion about your life and your decisions become your concern.”

Life is a constant battle of your own judgement versus the judgement of others. I have always been a self-confident person *up to the point that people (erroneously) called me arrogant*. Nevertheless, I remain true to myself and trust my own judgement.  I am well-educated, have seen something of the world, met many different people from different cultures and backgrounds, have earned myself a PhD job based on my own excellence and is living in one of the best countries with my dream fiancée. I’m happy with my current life. Of course, there were moments that I had to make difficult decisions, but I am proud I did what I did. I have very few regrets. So here is my second advice for you, summarized in the words of Israel’s first female Prime Minister:

“Trust yourself. Create the kind of self that you will be happy to live with all your life. Make the most of yourself by fanning the tiny, inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement.”― Golda Meir 

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It is good to have high standards for potential partners. They are of no use, however, if no one ever passes them. I think I have high standards. To name a few: I would not accept a partner who drinks a lot, who has bad teeth, who smells bad or has ugly hands. Generally, taking care of the body is important. She needs to be exactly the right height (which means: a lot smaller than me) and dress well. Yes, physical appearance matters. “True beauty is on the inside” is a proverb made up by ugly people. I am not claiming to be the most handsome man on the planet, even though my blue eyes and tall posture make up for a lot, but there is no point denying that physical attraction matters *agree to a certain extent, beauty is really in the eye of the beholder. Physical attraction is important, YES. But when both of you become older with lots of wrinkles and withering faces, you have to look beyond this and still love her the way she is. Even when she has no more teeth, if she fell sick and too weak to take care of her own body, when her hands are not pretty anymore: bulging veins, wrinkles, loss of volume, fat and elasticity. Ugly hands. Will you promise to still love her anyway?* Other important factors are mental abilities (intelligence, emotional factors, dealing with stress and pressure, etc.), interests, norms and (political) views.

On the other hand, I once asked her what she likes so much about me and her answer was spot-on: we went through similar development. We grew to a certain independence at 17/18 years old, unlike many others. Suddenly you need to make sure you pay your bills on time, that you eat your meals and that your room is clean, and there is no one to do all that for you. You go through good times and bad times, good experiences and bad experiences, but as a person, all those experiences shaped and defined who you are today. So even though we had different native language, culture and dreams; our personalities, ideas and norms must have converged at that time and even more so in Paris, the city of love. She was a quiet student and unlike many Asians, she liked to hang out with her fellow non-Asian students. We were just friends at first. I found out that I liked her that way, I could joke with her and she could take that. We were part of the same group of friends and we didn’t pay much special attention to each other at that time. That came later, certainly from my side, and I think also from her side even though she denies up to this day.

In the beginning of our relationship, she needed to change a lot: making the transition from single to relationship life. There were times I asked why she walked far away from me, even ran across train stations, seemingly without noticing me, she was basically OK with any kind of (physical) distance. It puzzled me. It was as if we were living separate lives even though we were officially a couple. On one of our first dates, she told me something like “we don’t have much to talk about.”  She didn’t start any conversation and didn’t really give long answers to anything at first. If I had given up trying to have conversations with her, we wouldn’t have been here now. I persevered. Not long after, we can even talk about potential marriage in the future. This topic came mostly from her side. She was afraid it would scare me, but it didn’t. I think that if you don’t have at least a rough vision of  a common future, a relationship is doomed to fail. It was a sign of her maturity. I appreciate her initiative until today.

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Well, that’s the end. Thank you for sharing:). It’s a pleasure reading your love story.

All the very best for your wedding preparation. I wish both of you a happy blissful marriage ahead!!:)

With love,

Sien

*gave out these babies for my close friends and family last year. None for this year. Apology:)

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Being a Bridesmaid

I’ve been asked to become a bridesmaid (or in other words: maid of honor, since I was the only one accompanying my friend) once in January 2011. However, until today, I still don’t quite get what a bridesmaid is supposed to do other than helping the bride on the big day itself and just be her emotional support. Isn’t that enough? I did some research before writing this and I was overwhelmed by the fact that in Western cultures, a maid of honor is supposed to lead a group of bridesmaid and do all these following things, as mentioned here.

This partial list will give you an idea of some helpful ways you may be pressed into service:

  • Scout wedding locations.
  • Select invitations and help with invitation prep.
  • Explore floral options and other decorative choices.
  • Help the bride shop for her wedding dress and choose bridesmaids’ dresses.
  • Oversee delivery of the dresses, monitor fittings and assist with other wardrobe functions.
  • Encourage the bride to register for gifts, spread the word about where the bride is registered and answer any gift questions that may arise.
  • Help with honeymoon planning (seriously?)
  • Help with seating chart details.
  • Attend the cake tasting and make recommendations.
  • Attend the catering meetings or tastings and make recommendations.
  • Host the bridal shower.
  • Host the bachelorette party.
  • Maintain timetables and be of general assistance to keep things moving forward.
  • Attend the rehearsal dinner.
  • Keep a list of gifts received.
  • Help the bride dress and deal with her hair, jewelry and the unavoidable wedding day jitters.
  • Check the last minute details, like instructions for the photographer and deliveries to the hall.
  • Act as a messenger between the bride and groom (and various and sundry family members).
  • Handle dress and veil issues. Maneuverability could be important here, even in the restroom, so this is an important and sometimes unexpected duty involving lifting, fluffing, arranging and rearranging.
  • Hold and protect the groom’s ring.
  • Hold the bride’s bouquet for the duration of the wedding ceremony.
  • Witness the marriage license signing.
  • Be part of the receiving line at the reception or act as a greeter.
  • Toast the bride and groom.
  • Participate in the first dance at a formal reception (partnered with the best man).

What a ridiculous long list of duties!! And I thought most of them can be done by the bride and groom alone, together as a team. From what I remember, 3 years ago during my 1st bridesmaid duty, I didn’t have to do all these things. Most of the time, the bride, groom and family members will settle all the details. I just flew over to Jakarta for both bride and bridesmaid dress fitting once (around 4 months before the big day) and then went there again to be with the bride since the morning of her big day, helping her move around with her huge dress and cracking some jokes to lighten her mood. That’s all.

When I told my Mom that I was going to serve as a bridesmaid in so-and-so wedding, she was less than excited to hear that. That’s because there’s this ridiculous myth and superstition surrounding it. According to this website,

5. As the friend of bride, do not be a bridesmaid more than three times. Doing so creates a negative effect on your own marital luck, causing you to have difficulties finding someone to settle down with. Obstacles will manifest. They never said anything about the best man? Why is it always the bridesmaid who will have a negative effect on her marital luck? Very hard to believe this. Anyone can debunk this myth?

6. Persons born under horoscopes that clash on the wedding day are not invited as bridesmaids and bestmen, or invited to the wedding day activities. However, they can attend the wedding banquet. Oh really?

7. It is unfortunate when a person is born under a star sign that clashes with the wedding date. They are not allowed to attend the wedding ceremony or be a part of the wedding party. The Chinese people pay close attention to the horoscope when they are picking auspicious wedding days so they do not want a sign that would clash. How to identify every guest’s star sign?

Another source here, mentioned these,

Third time lucky? Not according to superstition, which decrees that “Three times a bridesmaid, never a bride”. It is believed that if a woman is exposed three times to the evil spirits from which she is intended to protect the bride, she herself will not be pure enough to marry.

There is an antidote though being a bridesmaid seven times will apparently reverse the effect and this valued friend will once again be as likely to marry as other single women.

Well, all the myths and superstitions aside, when my other close friend asked me to become her bridesmaid last two weeks, I still said a BIG YES on the spot. She’s my closest friend since my University days and is my current housemate. How could I say no? Besides, I’m happy that she’s going to tie the knot and feel honored that she considers me to be the best person to accompany her on the big day, giving emotional support and cracking some jokes along the way. I might not need to do the long list of duties that they said a bridesmaid must do *thankfully*.

So, when I serve as a bridesmaid for the 2nd time, I’ll make sure that I’m there with my sincerest heart, enjoy my best friend’s big day, help her out when she needs me, be happy for her and just be her friend, as I always do.

Cheers,

Sien

To: H and I, good luck for your wedding preparation! I can’t wait to read your love story and be a witness on your big day:)

Bonus pics –>  me as a bridesmaid in my friend cum big ‘sis’ wedding (3 years ago, 30 Jan 2011)

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Here are some recommended readings:

Maid of Honor: What are her wedding duties?

Quiz: Should I say “Yes” to Being a Bridesmaid?

Myths & Truths about Bridesmaid

All about Bridesmaids: Facts & Myths

I Said NO to Being a Bridesmaid