Renewal and inspired, by whom?

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I crept into the back of the Hall as the speaker began. I had made sure I would be a little late so everyone was seated and facing the stage at the front. I didn’t want her to see me, not quite sure what that reception was to be – pleasure, anger, embarrassment…

This was not my usual type of occasion, as if I had a type. A little ill at ease possibly from the nature of the proceedings and the fact she was unaware of my presence (and wanted to keep it so), I scanned the audience hoping to catch a glimpse of her. No such luck. It was not easy to spot her amidst the hundreds in attendance.

After a couple of minutes, I noticed myself settling into my seat; a certain calmness overtook me. There was hardly any talking, instead music flowed through the hall. There was a sense of solemnity and also relief of what was to come. The restlessness I expected was absent. For what seemed a long time, I allowed myself to be transported to times of old, when this gathering was familiar and comforting. To be drawn to the sounds and sights, to nostalgia. What had happened in the intervening years? Do I no longer trust or believe? Was it easier not to? Dare I again?

Then I saw her rise and walked to the stage. Instinctively I slunk lower into my seat. The last thing I wanted was to distract her should she see me then, especially when she would not have time to digest the fact of my presence. Looking composed contrary to what I knew she must be feeling, she began. A silence filled the room as every person seemed to focus on her, mesmerised by the timbre in her voice and the magical way she appeared to have commanded our attention. I saw people craning their neck to catch a glimpse of the owner of the soulful voice.

She was the closing vocal performance at the Easter Chapel Service. At a tender age, she had stepped up and held her ground. Fearless and unabashed.

And I was brought back to times when I had been in her shoes, and am inspired.

Life is ever changing, always full of interesting challenges. I see them and, like her, I will be fearless and unabashed in claiming my ground.

 

what is belief
when the world does not
must we see
must we touch
is there proof
do we feel
the spirit moving
the senses alight
of love, peace and grace
is that proof
of man’s science
or of faith
in the divine.

 

For those who celebrate Easter, I wish you a time of rebirth and renewal. Happy Easter!

~ FlorenceT

 

© 2017 FlorenceT Copyright reserved. The author asserts her moral and legal rights over this work.

Contemplation on Thanksgiving

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Thanksgiving… giving thanks… for what do we give thanks? Today? At this time?

In a time when every change, great or small, is tracked, accentuated, dissected, analysed, discussed… its volume so loud that we lose sight of its actual significance, we lose the measure of their relative importance. Everything is the same, and nothing is the same. The noise causing us to lose our sense of what is true.

So perhaps at this time of year – whether we are religious or otherwise, whether we are alone, with family or friends, whether we are home or missing home – we may carve out a space to contemplate on what is true – the circle of life which connects us andtouches everyone, as it crosses every boundary underneath the sun“.

 

Some say
The walls between us stand so tall
They don’t see there’s just one sun
Shining on us all

I say
We each choose roads to call our own
But none of us is travelling through
This universe alone

And this circle
Just goes on and on
It began before us
It will be here when we’ve gone

And this circle
Just goes on and on and on
Connecting our humanity
Joining me to you and you to me

Seasons
Keep spinning on the wheel of time
We stand we fall
We struggle up

The mountains we must climb
Different dreams
May color what we see ahead
But our lives are strong together
On a common thread

And this circle (circle)
Just goes on and on (on and on)
It began before us
It will be here when we’ve gone

And this circle
Just goes on and on and on
Connecting our humanity
Joining me to you and you to me

Around and round and round and round we go
Around and round and round we go
Love and learn and change and grow
Round and round and round we go

And this circle
Touches everyone
As it crosses every boundary
Underneath the sun

And this circle
Just goes on and on
It began before us
It will be here when we’re gone

Yes this circle
Just goes on and on and on
Someday we will come to see
I’m joined to you and you to me

So to my American friends and readers:

happy-thanksgiving

~ FlorenceT

© 2016 FlorenceT Copyright reserved. The author asserts her moral and legal rights over this work.

I believe in you

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Vulnerability and strength, two words not commonly associated with each other until recent years. Vulnerability tends to be perceived as weakness rather than strength.  And how often have I had to remind myself in the candid moments, in the times when being true to myself seemed a betrayal, when the tears flowed and the heart broke, when my vulnerability was exposed… that it was strength that brought me here, and it would carry me through… as it always will.

Those moments when friends around me were inspired, so they said, by my courage and incisiveness, to which I wanted to reply, “can you see how vulnerable I feel?” At last, only to realise perhaps that was what they saw… the strength was the vulnerability being carried ever so lightly.

Trust and patience, perhaps a less uncommon pairing.  Words easily spouted but how do we trust? When the distractions, the temptations, the greener grass is always on the other side, beckoning and making promises… Can we be patient? Can we be at peace with what arrives or returns? To know that I am worthy and enough, is a first step. Self-assured that I am complete, and will be so even if the trust is misguided, the patience runs out.

And ultimately, love.  To be vulnerable enough to let another in and to reach out to another, to trust that we will be held with care, kindness and gentle strength in return. To be trustworthy and patient in the face of challenges that threaten the peace…

So, the lyrics to the recently released Michael Buble song ‘I believe in you‘ and the music video. Enjoy!

Time goes by and I’ve been holding everything inside
But now I’ve got nothin’ left to hide
When I’m with you, oh, you
But I can see, how strong a man I’m going to have to be
To do for you it comes so naturally
So will you move

And all I want
Is a chance to prove Show all I can do

I believe in starting over
I can see that your heart is true
I believe in good things coming back to you
You’re the light that lifts me higher
So bright you got me through
I believe in you

And I don’t mind
If you want to hold on to me tight
You don’t have to sleep alone tonight If you don’t want to

And all I want
Is to know you’re near
You’re all I need, yeah

Time goes by and I’ve been holding everything inside
But now I’ve got nothin’ left to hide
When I’m with you, oh, you
But I can see, how strong a man I’m going to have to be
To do for you it comes so naturally
So will you move

And all I want
Is a chance to prove Show all I can do

I believe in starting over
I can see that your heart is true
I believe in good things coming back to you
You’re the light that lifts me higher
So bright you got me through
I believe in you

And I don’t mind
If you want to hold on to me tight
You don’t have to sleep alone tonight If you don’t want to

And all I want
Is to know you’re near
You’re all I need, yeah

I believe in starting over
I can see that your heart is true
I believe in good things coming back to you
You’re the light that lifts me higher
So bright you got me through
I believe in you
I believe in you
You got me through
I believe in you

 

~ FlorenceT

© 2016 FlorenceT Copyright reserved. The author asserts her moral and legal rights over this work.

Memories of an era

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“Take care of all your Memories. For you cannot relive them.      Bob Dylan”

It is fascinating how memories return, in the least expected ways.

There we were, travelling home late at night after his training. A winter’s night, and he had earlier jumped into the car, hugging himself tight and then putting his hands over the air vents, for some warmth. We had stopped for fuel and a hot chocolate for him, which he then clasped within his hands, taking sips every so often.

That action in a series of quick flashes reminded me of holding a takeaway cup filled with coffee, going to work, an association to being an adult, then looking over to him and realising that he was nearly there, an adult and absorbing his features of a young man eager to take on the world, invincible.

As I began saying, “I didn’t think I would see this day of you holding a coffee cup…” the image of a small ceramic cup with white foam, on an equally small saucer popped into my mind.

babycino

 

(Babycino, a cappuccino without the coffee.)

 

 

 

Those days in early 2000s came flooding back of after-school pickups and coffee at the local cafes, well for me, and for him, babycino and the occasionally cookie. Memories of how he would sit so properly on his seat, his face betraying the excitement of the little boy with his big person drink. 🙂 And now, recalling our favourite café, ‘the cushion café’ we had called it for its large windows looking onto the tiny roundabout and across to the little park where we would sometimes venture and most significantly, the colourful cushions that were strewn across the window bench.

(The café, though you can’t see the cushions.) cafe

 

 

 

 

How time has passed. While I have recognized his increasing maturity, being quite conscious of it as he staked his claim on his independence, this didn’t hit me till that moment in the car, when perhaps finally on a cellular level I finally got it.

I asked him then, if he remembered our daily sojourns. As a young man would, he replied, “of course”. Ah, so ‘it’ has not been in vain 🙂 .

 

My contribution to the Writers Quote Wednesday Writing Challenge.

~ FlorenceT

 

© 2016 FlorenceT Copyright reserved. The author asserts her moral and legal rights over this work.

Stressed out

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Well I have been a little, and though my intellect, my mind tells me to chill, sometimes the emotions and the body react. I hope I am not alone when I say it is so easy, rather unthinkingly to take the stressed out emotions out on someone else.

That can happen, don’t flay yourself over it. I now watch this with a certain curiosity of ‘why’ and ‘how’. The intention is to pay attention to the triggers, to catch them before the emotions erupt, before relationships become strained, friendships threatened. And sometimes it may be simpler to identify our body’s reaction before recognizing our emotions, like the tense shoulders, the trembling heart, the shaking hands, the jiggling feet… so many of our emotions manifesting in our body if only we would ‘listen’. What does your body do when there is sadness, anger, fear… Perhaps the next time you feel compelled to lash out, when you know in your mind you are angry, to watch how your body holds that emotion… Who knows, but you may find that the ‘angry’ your mind suggests may not be ‘anger’ at all.

I am not sure how I got to this, except wanting to share this song by Twenty One Pilots. The premise of the song is about being stressed out, emanating from a sense of ‘not good enough’, or ‘not enough’. One of the most common reaction we have to a sense of inadequacy is to externalise this feeling – to blame your lack of success on someone, to attempt to claw at power, control, being the centre of attention – all to make us seem ‘good enough’, at best they bring satisfaction and comfort temporarily. The thing is, we have to believe it of ourselves, that we are enough, that within us lies the knowledge of lifetimes, the wisdom of generations.

The song also makes reference to being back in the comfort and safety of childhood, as an antidote to self-doubts and being stressed out. While this may not be true for everyone, many of us would see our childhood to be a time filled with possibilities, when life was simple and we were supported, encouraged, comforted, held, nourished. Where did that go? When did we begin to believe that we have to own more, to experience ‘great’ adventures, to meet societal standards of education, wealth, style of life, looks, … in order to be good enough?

When did we forget our beautiful and effervescent selves?

Don’t you wonder?

 

I am enjoying this somewhat quirky song and hope you like it too!

– FlorenceT

 

© 2016 FlorenceT Copyright reserved. The author asserts her moral and legal rights over this work.

Tradition has its place…

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Things change, and so do we.

New Year is just round the corner. The Chinese one, that is. Although I grew up ensconced in a Chinese family within a predominantly Chinese community, my understanding of the rituals and traditions of Chinese New Year is basic at best. I’ll put this down to leaving home at 18.

In the years leading up to that, I the child was was more interested in the new clothes for the first day of the new lunar year, the delicious Spring Festival foods and most importantly, the red packets filled with money gifted by adult family members or friends than traditions. I ‘earn’ my entire year’s pocket money in these few days of celebration. How? By smiling sweetly and obediently and greeting the ‘elders’ in the language of luck-wishing and blessings. It is after all, what ‘Gong Xi Fa Cai’ is, greetings of happiness and prosperity. I can’t escape my childhood and fortunately for me, I learnt a few things about the Chinese rituals and traditions through osmosis, the very process of being in and absorbing the ways and ‘talk’ of family members. Goodness, can they talk… and discuss and debate and query and disagree and seek justifications and… You get the picture. 🙂

During my teenage years, the universal trait of self-centredness hit.  I didn’t see why I had to hang around with ‘the family’ and do visits (a tradition of visiting family and friends and paying our respects) as expected of me. I did what I was told somewhat reluctantly and was well compensated by the large number of red packets I received. A cultural aside, young people continue to receive red packets until they are married, that is when they have their own familial responsibilities and thus deemed true adults. Anyway, at the time, I was also adamant the traditions of old were of little utility. Except I didn’t know then what I know now.

The university years away from home were spent striving for excellence; finding my feet, spreading my wings… essentially learning independence within an individualistic society so very different from the one I’d left. I also became a woman in this culture. While I had regaled against gender inequalities, it was while in the ‘Western’ culture that I found a name for it – feminism. I embraced it. I saw the stamp of patriarchy everywhere. I questioned every rule, every ‘must’ and every ‘should’… ‘scary’ I know :-). Anyway during these years, cultural traditions were hardly on my list of things to learn, especially when the traditions I have encountered are ‘man’-made.

I am now of a certain age (I so do not like the word ‘mid-life’) with a family. Rather than being useful from the perspective of utilitarianism, I realise rituals and traditions are beneficial for the sense of community, belonging and connection they engender.

The past few years have been years of discovering my roots, of understanding rather than judging the ‘whys’ and ‘hows’ of these Chinese traditions, of coming to terms with them. It doesn’t mean I will follow or agree with all of them. Some are indeed archaic. However I am much less quick to disavow them. Dare I say, I pick and choose :-).

So it is this year, by royal decree … well, I suggested that everyone dons their red outfit for the reunion dinner on New Year’s Eve. Red is an auspicious colour, in my interpretation one that shouts ‘look at me, don’t you (good fortune, good health and all things lucky) pass me by’. I am not a fan of the colour ‘red’ but we will go with it. Red lanterns and other auspicious symbolic items are decorating my home.

One family tradition that has been kept up till now is the reunion dinner on the eve. It is a time for family members to return to the fold. In the distant past, only sons and their families are welcomed back while married daughters ‘belonged’ to the families into which they married so there they went. Unmarried daughters of course belong to the family. Phew?! This tradition is now somewhat diluted, less stringent and it has become an great ‘excuse’ to have the family together. This has extended to close friends. Even my teenage son, born and bred in Australia, knows not to make alternate plans on the day.

The observation of rituals and traditions create a shared space, a place for conversations between generations especially between my children and their grandparents. This year I am going to relax into this space. Being mindful of and grateful for the souls present at the table.

Tradition bonds the people privileged within its process. We share a common goal if only briefly and a shared understanding of the meanings behind the celebration. We are each held up by the irrefutable sense of ‘you are one of us’.

I hope these rituals of celebration – preparing food, the gathering of loved ones and well-wishing – will give everyone, especially the elders, a celebratory sense of good fortune to begin the year, and in the process compels communication, forge some connection, and hopefully a sense of belonging.

So for those who celebrate Chinese New Year, I wish you love and belonging in your family, and connection with those around you.

– FlorenceT

 

© 2016 FlorenceT Copyright reserved. The author asserts her moral and legal rights over this work.

Same difference… Christmas reflection

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Dividing Range Aus

Looking out my window across the valley as the mist lifts, as had happened many mornings since we moved into this house, today it held new meaning. Christmas morn and the house is shrouded in silence. The kids are still abed. Their curiosity and excitement of waking at the crack of dawn, eager to get their presents and the loot in Santa’s sack have waned. They are older and less impressionable or perhaps more cynical…? 🙂

The quiet of the hour filled me with a certain nostalgia, a little sadness of those ‘lost’ times and a gradual peace with where we are in our lives. Interesting how we think of ‘lost’ times and miss them… yet it is merely a thought, a conditioning if you like, to be attached to the past and for some reason, whether it is true or otherwise to you now, to consider them better. Some work hard to ensure the past is brought to the present or to replicate the past in the present. And if it comes off less than ‘perfect’, we experience sorrow, anxiety or anger.

I miss the children in their tender ages especially at Christmas but only just as I am also glad for the minimal care and protection they now require. Being self-sufficient is one thing I desire for my children, for them to be capable and independent beings ready to head into the world. Two years ago I would not have had the luxury of being in bed watching the sun rise on Christmas day. Two years ago I was not here.

I do not know what the future will hold, but this I know – Christmases will be significantly different each year. We each will have to be open to experiencing unfamiliar ‘spirit of Christmas’; even now no longer embedded in the noise of young children or the gathering of extended families. We will have to let go of our attachment to the ‘past is better’ mindset though these memories will remain. To not cement our expectation of how the future will unfold and instead commit to living with gratitude in the now.

“The secret of health for both body and mind is not to mourn the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles but to live in the moment wisely and earnestly.”             Buddha

Ah, the house stirs. Time to begin Christmas day…

– FlorenceT

 

© 2015 FlorenceT Copyright reserved. The author asserts her moral and legal rights over this work.

A tree from Australia…

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Here’s my Christmas tree… all the way from Down Under to be part of Colleen at Silver Threading’s Christmas Trees Around the World.

First, here’s the story:

It began with a colour theme, lovingly selected by my little star. “Red, white and silver”, she said. And so we did, retrieving the boxes from storage and sorting out the decorations. (There are baubles on the tree with names of each member of the family. They go on the tree no matter the colour theme.)

Having put the tree together, he who is now a young man highly attuned to what is trendy and/or unique, decided hanging the lights vertically or around the outer edge of the tree was passé.  And so with adoring sister, they came up with this.

“Let’s wrap the lights, all of them, around the tree trunk, so the lights would shine from within…”

And here is the result.

XmasTree

I am still not convinced… 🙂  Think a new trend will catch on?

– FlorenceT

 

© 2015 FlorenceT Copyright reserved. The author asserts her moral and legal rights over this work.

Our self re-defined

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transformation

I reconnected with an ‘old’ friend recently… someone whom I had not spoken to, heard from or about for three decades. Despite my vague recollection of the details, I do remember our then ‘friendship’ being fraught with…well, of us being at each other’s throats for the last years of our primary school. Yep, you heard right, primary school or junior school to some of you. Anyway, I was happy to hear from him.

Why? The answer is twofold. First, on reflection, it’s because he is a link to a past life which I had left behind. For one, the shared experiences of being students in a school ran by an ultra conservative principal were hilarious. Second, he is a link to my past, a witness to who I was, and by correlation, how I have changed. Because there is no doubt, change I did. The years fell away as we spoke of those primary school years, those days when I felt most myself. Okay, you may at this point query whether this is the ‘good old days’ syndrome. 🙂

There I was then, a girl-person who reveled in her books, who did not apologize for her bookishness (read, nerd), who basked in the glory of her achievements without embarrassment or care, who was utterly confident in her abilities and skills, who had no doubt life was going to turn out as she decided it to be.

It is fascinating how the Universe conspires (or provides – a matter of perspective, huh?) that at a time of searching and integrating the self I was with the self I have become, this insightful friend should ‘turn up’ to remind me of the parts of me I had (conveniently?) forgotten. He is a witness who could have told me some horror stories about the ‘me’ then (I actually expected him to 🙂 ), instead, I hear stories of us which affirm my sense of being and reinforce a knowledge of intrinsic goodness which I had discounted. It highlights how people do change; yes, we accept that intellectually yet incredulously many of us expect our dear ones, on a practical or emotional level, to be

  • as we had perceived or knew them to be, or
  • as we had desired them to be, or
  • to somehow ‘grow but not change’, to be the person we knew them to be.

To hear the stories of shared experiences with different tonality and colour also serves to show me this – while we may observe and ‘judge’ our own and others’ actions and behaviours, we never truly know the intentions, meanings or interpretations that dwell within another at the point of interaction.

Our sense of self is defined at the point of and through our contact with another. We are changed at every moment we interact with our environment be they people, systems, nature… We are many selfs and we are one. And in this space, I am changed by my interaction with him as I see my ‘self’ differently, ‘him’ differently, circumstances differently… and thus my history.  A new dimension, till now unknown, opens up.

In my conversations with this astounding friend, I was reminded of our moments of congeniality, of shared interests those years ago that had escaped my mind. Suffice to say the reality of our connection is a gift for which I am grateful.

 “It takes a long time to grow an old friend.”
John Leonard

– FlorenceT

 © 2015 Copyright reserved. The author asserts her moral and legal rights over this work.

Down memory lane…

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A walk down memory lane… wow, I had forgotten how gorgeous he is!

Let me begin in the mid-80s. Oops, showing my age. I was a teenager, born and bred South East Asian and exposed to British and America pop music culture. Even then, I had a fascination with rock, soul and jazz and as I recall, a growing interest in musical theatre. My idea of ‘Western’ life is taken from predominantly American movies and television series, and Hollywood at that. Rather skewed, I know. 🙂 And I digress.

Anyhow, amidst the ‘hunks’ of ‘the West’, I ‘fell in love’ with a singer from Taiwan called Fei Xiang. Now Fei Xiang is born of an American father and a Taiwanese mother. He chose to establish his singing career in Asia, lucky me! What’s so attractive about Fei Xiang? His looks first and foremost. Yes, I was a shallow hormone-riddled teenage girl!

And who could blame me? Look! FeiXiang 1

Here is a 6’ 3” man (not many Asian man of that height, by the way) who looks Chinese but blue-eyed,chiseled angular face. Yes, I have a thing for tall men. And his physique, yum. So he’s not ‘tall, dark and handsome’ but 2 out of 3 ain’t bad, right? 🙂

And he sang ballads, Chinese love ballads. So he crooned and I swooned!

Fei Xiang (real name is Kris Phillips) is now 54 years old and still looking hot (well, I think so but my children disagree). There is a reason for him being called “the sexiest Chinese man” by the New Yorker.  Oh, he IS a New Yorker.

Decide for yourself.

Fei Xiang 2FeiXiang 4Beyond his incredible singing career in Asia, Fei Xiang was also a star on stage – starring in many of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musicals all over the world.  A private man, his distinct voice, intelligence and humility have sustained him in a career that has spanned more than 30 years.

I’m rambling I know but it’s been awhile since I even thought of Fei Xiang until today, when a fluke landed me on a youtube clip of his performance with Elaine Page.

Here it is, hope you enjoy!

– FlorenceT

© 2015 Copyright reserved. The owner and/or author asserts his/her moral and legal rights over this work.