Life Reflection

Blogging: There and Back Again

When I revived this old blog some months ago to mark my 10th year of blogging I thought I would be able to be consistent about it. But somehow, at one point I began contemplating about distancing myself from social media. I have lived without Twitter. Scrolling on Facebook and Instagram on the other hand, was (and is still is) something I should work on reducing – so I resolved that’s where the focus should be.

After all, they are greedy time-eaters, I told myself. The longer I immerse myself in the matter of akhlaq and purification of hearts the more I could see that these media are not compatible with the practices of the Salaf in protecting their hearts from diseases. Name any diseases of the heart, and you could see how these social platforms can make it worse. To an extent, I believe that the benefits could never outweigh their harms.

But for some reasons, including that feeling of isolation being 24/7 at home with minimal adult interaction if I were to free myself from these social platforms, stopped me from doing so. So I told myself to set a limit and work around it.

Then I am left with another social account to deliberate on – this blog. My blog.

That is an undoubtedly a difficult decision to make. It is apparent that I have been on a long writing hiatus whether intentionally and unintentionally. I am truly weighing the alternative – my friends have, once in a while, warmed my heart by remarking the beneficial things they gained from some of my writings – but I am aware that I am, albeit subconsciously, creating an online persona that is perhaps could not be further than the truth. Words I chose may portray what I am not, an image that is deceiving to say the least. The stories I am wrote may have been subconsciously curated and filtered to let only the good parts show.

I certainly am not writing to get famous or have my posts viral. If that is what I have in mind, I have no business writing in English (on another note, I have to shamefully admit that my thoughts flow better if written in my second language, English). Posts in Bahasa Melayu, on Facebook,  with clickbait titles will get better hits if that is what I am looking for. But no, I don’t seek that, and hopefully never will be.

So some months ago I decidedly abandon this blog. That was the end of my personal public rantings, I concluded.

But as I finished Zinsser’s ‘On Writing Well’ , I was coaxed into writing again.

Maybe a private journal or a diary will suit the purpose I was trying to achieve too. I did try to reason against that change of mind. But would not a little consciousness that somebody else may read my posts persuade me to write better? For years my writing skills have benefited from that awareness of a readership, despite small, does exist for my blog so that is a winning point I should not discount, I concluded.

Paradoxically, as Zinsser admitted, I should never write for an audience of more than one.

Soon after you confront the matter of preserving your identity, another question will occur to you: “Who am I writing for? It’s a fundamental question, and it has a fundamental answer: You are writing for yourself.

You are writing primarily to please yourself, and if you go about it with enjoyment you will also entertain the readers who are worth writing for.

And deep inside there is a growing urge to have my voice to be preserved – that is I am fully aware off.  As much as I know how impermanent WordPress is – I feel the desire to record my thoughts for my children to know me. Not myself as a mom, but how I feel and think as a person. It is an odd objective alright, one I didn’t particularly think of when I started the blog 10 years ago but somehow feels relevant now, and a desire not easily killed.

As Zinsser advised, I will only write on matters that I know most. And that, is certainly on myself and my life. I write above all, to introspect, to organise my thoughts, to clarify on them and understand my own feelings better.

So this is my blog: there and back again.

Because after all, I am a lifelong learner. And if I am writing to learn, there is no way I should ever abandon this again, shouldn’t I?

 

Advertisements

That Dream House

Whenever I check my news feed on Facebook, there will always be a post or two on home design, interior decorating and such. A part of me is glad that somehow those posts tell me that my friends are in the phase of becoming a homeowner, have just moved in, or perhaps saving up to purchase one. A lot of them tag their partners, putting captions like ‘My dream house’ and truly, I am happy for them, and understand the euphoria of moving into your very own home, paid with your hard-earned money or the happiness that comes from daydreaming.

Another part of me laughed at myself – where has all my excitement gone? My house is all practical and functional, nothing strikingly pretty or Pinterest-worthy.

When I think deeply – I admit that I introspect on matters of no importance like this – I think my relative lack of enthusiasm on interior decorating stems from the fact that I, for all the ambitious self, have never ever have one thing called ‘a dream house’. I’ve never had a vision on a future house, or a future car or anything like that. Ever. And I married an ultimate minimalist whose idea of owning a house is having a roof above his head and a mattress to sleep on, so we have some kind of parallel vision on what our house should be – sort of.

But I do have this one particular dream, ever since I was a small kid, that is I’d like to have my own personal library. Indirectly it means that I dream of owning a house with a size that allows me to build a room full of books, a comfy chair, a nice and appropriate lighting… but that’s about it.

So when my husband and I moved into our humble 1067 sq ft apartment, we allocated one room for that, which also doubles as a guest room. I started to fill the room with a bookshelf, an IKEA sofa bed, a study desk, an AC unit (should have known that we don’t need this), a nice floor cum reading lamp, a small table for coffee and finally I found that my dream has come true. My husband should really be thankful that I am so easy to please that way.

Beyond that home improvement for me means problem-solving, like finding the best storage solutions, where to put my (and the children’s) expanding collection of books (I’ve imagined a bookshelf in my bedroom, along the hallway and in the living room) , and the future needs of my children.  I admit sometimes I have this periodical obsession about putting pretty decorations on the wall and stuff like that, but with a husband like mine, that kind of proposals will need to be vetted rationally. Well, that is unless I give up and concede that I want those things ‘just because’ – no logical reasons whatsoever – to which my husband will normally oblige (I think he’s just being thankful that his wife still has some feminine traits).

Sure, I got excited too when we were first moving in. Choosing the colour scheme, buying the furniture, designing the kitchen… you should see my home notebook.It’s full of ideas. But after we moved in with the house functioning as it should, the excitement wore out. Spending for little unnecessary pretty things is never justified – I’d rather buy books than that beautiful wall art.

Then again, the little that we have is apparently enough. I don’t think we’ll be happier in a different, bigger, fancier house. These days I even dream about downsizing, moving to a smaller apartment where the chores of vacuuming the floor or removing the spider webs won’t overwhelm me. The other day my husband ranted about how he could not understand the need for people to spend money on designer coffees. I told him people pay for the atmosphere of the coffee houses too hence the price tag, but he insists that unless you are unmarried (and generally could not care much on making your house a home, like him), anyone can make his or her house calming and inspiring enough to drink coffee peacefully inside it.

That remarks, to me, subtly means that even without those fancy vases, a nice kufi art framed, or a feature wall,  I’ve somehow made this little abode a home, one that my husband (and son) eagerly return to, have a cup of hot instant Nescafe,  and find peace in it.

Alhamdulillah.

p.s. I still need to buy more cacti though. I haven’t kill enough.

 

Yang Menarik-narik itu Dunia

Hari ini suapan media sosialku dipenuhi ucapan takziah atas pemergian seorang ‘alim yang terkemuka; ada juga yang menyebut semula kata-kata yang pernah dilontarkan oleh Almarhum ‘alim tersebut. Antaranya yang menyebabkan aku tersentak, tersentuh kerana rapat terkait dengan persoalan jiwa yang aku hadapi adalah sebuitr nasihat berkisar dunia, dan peringatan Almarhum agar tidak terlalu mengejar dunia. Katanya, dunia akan datang sendiri jika kita fokus kepada memelihara akhirat.

Betapa terkenanya nasihat itu pada aku yang sebenarnya berada di persimpangan.

Sebenar-benarnya aku lemah, mudah pula untuk lupa akan hakikat tipudaya dan rekayasa dunia. Saat jiwaku kukuh memegang bahawa pilihan-pilihan yang aku hadapi seharusnya disaring dengan hakikat bahawa yang lebih penting untuk kucari adalah pandangan Allah, Bukan sanjungan manusia atas kepintaran atau kecekapan yang seterusnya membuahkan habuan dunia, aku hampir terlupa bahawa  semua tipudaya itu kadang-kadang menjelma dalam harapan-harapan yang seolah murni – menyumbang kepada kesejahteraan masyarakat misalnya. Bukan tarikan wang bertimbun.

Entah naratif mana yang menyusup masuk ke dalam minda sampaikan aku terlupa segala yang sudah lama aku tanamkan dengan kukuh dalam jiwa – bahawa keutamaan aku sudah berbeza pada saat ini, dan sekiranya sudah berubah keadaan dan keutamaan itu, maka Allah sahajalah yang membawakan peluang untuk kupergi jauh untuk menabur bakti dalam ruang lingkup yang lebih luas.

Kecukupan itu nikmat.

Sedangkan keperitan memilih, mengekang rasa belas akibat hak-hak yang tidak tertunai, perasaan terkejar-kejar itu bala.

Bagaimana aku boleh mahu meletakkan diri dalam kesukaran yang tidak perlu?

Barangkali ia bertolak dari kesangsian: adakah kesenangan ini,rasa selesa ini, sebenarnya satu ujian? Adakah aku sebenarnya harus lari dari rasa selesa untuk cabaran lain? Adakah kesangsian ini sesuatu yang sihat?

Yang paling perlu aku kaji adalah asalnya perasaan yang membuak-buak itu. Apakah didorong oleh suatu ketidakcukupan? Ketidakcukupan penghargaan? Ketidakcukupan cabaran yang menyeronokkan?

Kemudian harus aku timbangi : yang mana lebih dekat dengan syurga?

Mudah-mudahan Allah menunjukkan jalan.

 

It is obvious that…

It is obvious that…

  1. …staying in love requires work. A lot of works. There is nothing called ‘going with the flow’, because there are other forces trying to separate you and your partner.
  2. …children imitate. This is a precaution to be aware of what you are doing as a parent, and also as a reminder that whatever a child does or says, it may not be a good judge of their actual capability or intelligence or maturity. He or she may just, for instance, imitate and replicate what you say to them.
  3. …regardless of how much you learn and gain in knowledge (in religion for example) it doesn’t matter and perhaps useless if the most basic and fundamental things e.g. being kind to your spouse, parents, children and establishing solah are still so-so.
  4. …people change, so there’s no point in lamenting or wondering about that. New experiences, challenges, life situation and stress can change even the most rock-solid thing about that person. Take yourself: who you are half a year ago may not be the same with who you are now. Something that happened along the way might have change, and consequently change some parts of your view of the world and hence your resulting actions.
  5. … with a technology comes the inevitable change of culture. Life without (internet) connectivity and social media specifically is nearly forgotten: I myself could not remember how my day went about without these things, and it was only less than 12 years ago that Friendster became an in thing. How was life without consistently telling people where we go, what we eat, what we wear, what we just bought, which toilet we take selfie in, or in general, just what do we do on a daily basis?
  6. …each phase of life throws different challenges to you. In responding to that, you should either understand that for certain things, you just have to start now – no postponing or it just won’t happen, OR you just have to take things easy. I think in general for my observation, when it comes to performing religious duty of spiritual improvement, the first one is applicable, while the latter suits worldly affairs better.

Some random thoughts these are, in response to today’s prompt 🙂

Of Being Remembered

I watched ‘The Fault in our Stars’ again two days ago, and this time around I managed to continue where I left it many many months ago and finally got to watch it until the end.

It was a tear-jerking film alright, but there is one scene which stuck in my mind.

[Hazel takes Gus to Funky Bones for a picnic in his wheelchair, they sit on a picnic blanket and Hazel opens up a bottle of champagne as Gus sits quietly looking sad]
Hazel: What are you thinking about?
Gus: Oblivion. I know it’s…it’s kid’s stuff or whatever, but…I always thought I would be a hero. I always thought I’d have a grand story to tell, you know? Something they’d publish in all the papers, and…I mean, I was supposed to be special.
Hazel: You are special, Augustus.
Gus: Yeah, I know. But you know what I mean.
Hazel: I do know what you mean, I just don’t agree with you. You know this obsession you have with being remembered?
Gus: Don’t get mad.
Hazel: I am mad. I’m mad because I think you’re special, and is that not enough? You think that the only way to lead a meaningful life is for everyone to remember you, for everyone to love you. Guess what, Gus. This is your life, okay? This is all you get. You get me, and you get your family, and you get this world, and that’s it. And if that’s not enough for you, then I’m sorry, but it’s not nothing. Because I love you, and I’m gonna remember you.
Gus: I’m sorry. You’re right.
Hazel: I just wish you’d be happy with that.

The obsession with being remembered. The belief that oneself is supposed to be special, to be a hero, to have a grand story to tell.

I am not ashamed to tell you that it strikes a chord – it resonates with me. I have come (nearly) to be at peace with the differences between things I wish I could do and achieve and things I currently have in hand – but it was a long mental journey to arrive at this point.

Einstein once said, in Albany, New York in 1936:

Desire for approval and recognition is a healthy motive, but the desire to be acknowledged as better, stronger, or more intelligent than a fellow being or fellow scholar easily leads to an excessively egoistic psychological adjustment, which may become injurious for the individual and for the community.

 I think he is right.
And I leave you with that.

Anak Kecil di Stesen Tren

Anak kecil berbangsa Tiong Hua; satu beg digalas belakang, satu lagi ditarik, juga satu shopping bag berisi buku-buku, duduk di sisi saya di Stesen STAR Sultan Ismail.

Petang yang hangat, hampir pukul 6, dan anak ini masih segar-bugar.

Saya menyentuh beg sandang belakang yang diletak di antara kami, bertanya dengan senyuman (oh, ada hari yang saya begitu senang sekali menegur manusia keliling) ‘Banyaknya beg. Yang ini beg untuk apa, yang itu untuk apa?’

Anak itu memandang saya cuma sekilas, menjawab dalam senyum malu-malu sambil matanya memandang ke arah lain.

‘Yang ini untuk Singaporean syllabus, yang ini untuk Malaysia punya.’

Oh, begitu.

Saya sambung berbasa-basi: sekolah di mana, kelas dari pukul berapa dan bila pula tamatnya.

Tapi dalam hati saya masih tertanya-tanya, kenapa mesti kurikulum Singapura?

Anak kecil itu berlari meninggalkan saya saat tren menjelma, ke gerabak yang berbeza dan saya ditinggalkan dengan rasa kasihan.

Adakah sudah hilang kegembiraan zaman kanak-kanaknya dek dua dozen buku yang perlu ditelaah saban hari?

Random 24

The Book of Eli

Image via Wikipedia

24 random thoughts, facts, lines etc. on the 24th Ramadhan:

  1. The Book of Eli is a good film to watch, it gives me new dimensions to things I have taken for granted.
  2. If you really need something, ask it from God. You’ll be surprised at how quick your prayers could be answered. Especially in this Holy Month.
  3. The question ‘How do you do?’ requires no answer. It is equivalent to ‘Nice to meet you’.
  4. If one person who you think likes you, but did not ask, chances are that one person is not really into you. Don’t assume. Though this might onlybe  applicable to conservative ladies.
  5. I am really, really good at being random and spontaneous. And that is not anywhere close to being environmental-friendly. Think about the fuel I waste.
  6. The lecturer of my final modul of my Usuluddin class (Islamic Philosophy) has just been chosen as the ambassador to Egypt. How cool is that?
  7. I have just paid the fees for my ‘vacation’ this December. The one I am so looking forward to.
  8. One advice to the first-jobber out there: Pray hard that you will have a good boss. If I have to choose, I’d go for a good boss over a job I like.
  9. Have just received the post-mortem i.e. Muhasabah Form for Bengkel Remaja Super (BeReS), for which I was one of the speakers. Thank you for the nice words – they made my day!
  10. How many of us really think that ‘Duit Raya’ as a charity rather than an obligation? I think it is getting harder to be sincere at that nowadays when it comes to that.
  11. My nephew is getting very good at talking. Watching Ultraman with him means that I have to listen to his commentary too.
  12. I have decided that I’m going to buy Nokia E72, though tempted to get a Blackberry. Lotus Traveler, GPS, decent camera, no contracts – that should be the one I hope.
  13. We watch ‘Air Crash Investigation‘ almost everyday while having our iftar it is a surprise that we are yet to become aerophobia. But I am getting good at the jargons : TCAS, transponder, aircraft deicing…
  14. This is my first Ramadhan as a career woman, and it is super tiring.
  15. Owning a car is indeed a liability. Changed the coil, exhaust pipe, absorber recently. My dad is paying but it still gives me headache.
  16. Drove to Port Dickson the other day to attend a meeting, and DID not use the highway. And did not lose my way. I’d like to think of it as an achievement for a much-sheltered daughter of a protective father.
  17. My career seems to fall into place, more than I could imagine. I know I can’t praise Him enough for this.
  18. Brown rice is very good at making you feeling full throughout the day. Highly recommended.
  19. I have just realised that I am a commitment-phobic.
  20. Your first boss makes a long-lasting impression and  benchmark for other bosses.
  21. Facebook supports my lifestyle much, so I have to say I need it.
  22. I am definitely outdated, but Maher Zain writes beautiful songs. ‘Insha Allah’ put me in tears every time. No, most of the time actually.
  23. It is sickening to see people talking about Palestine and then make comments like this : ‘We should be thankful of the peace that we have in our own Malaysia.’ I say, what the heck. It’s like, ‘Yeah, I feel you, I want to help you but at the same time I’m glad that it’s not me who has to suffer.’ Something to that effect.
  24. I’m getting more melancholy and less choleric