Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Relationships (I don’t have a brilliant title ‘cos I’m lazy to think of one)

I know I’m not the only one who’s pondered on the topic of romantic relationships many a time, probably nursed a broken heart or several, and called men some funny name that rings with certain animals, sport activity or unappealing human waste. I realize that being in a romantic relationship is the toughest easy thing to do, and it can be this constant battle of give-take-give, that can leave us feeling fulfilled or empty. It’s only after my 839th heartbreak that I sat down and found the familiar string through all the mess. And what has really, honestly, and truly, worked best for me.

It’s simple.

Be selfish.

I know the word selfish leaves much to be desired, but this isn’t a bad word. Let’s first acknowledge that this is one of the best words that can happen to you in your relationship.

My opinion is straight forward. For a relationship to work and prosper, both parties must SELFISHLY put their own happiness before that of the next person. It doesn’t stop there, you’ve hit bull’s eye when this happiness reflects on the next person and they become happy that YOU are happy. And the reason I say this is also simple. We reflect our inner thoughts about ourselves, and you think people don’t see what you feel inside? Wrong. People are attracted to the energy you put out, and when you genuinely are a happy person, there is no doubt that people will be happy around you. No one wants to baby-sit a moody, aggressive, snobby toddler. And no one wants to be friends with someone who’s always looking to be validated by others. And the classic one : Men would rather drink rat blood than be with / marry an insecure woman who is depressed half the time, constantly accusing, and annoyingly dependant, no matter how beautiful, smart, or popular.

I am a firm believer that the number 1 reason for most failed relationships is not because he hurt you, or you him, or that he wasn’t paying enough attention to you, or maybe he just didn’t show that he cared, or treated you like a complete waste of Oxygen. Yeah, maybe this happened. And you have every right to feel this way. But it’s only the result of this very simple concept: We are misled into thinking we ought to put the next person’s happiness first, and MAKE our partner happy, when this is NOT the case. Happiness cannot be created, it lives in us. When we struggle to make people happy, we are simply taking out a dose of happiness from within ourselves, and handing it to the next person on a silver platter. This is why, when we don’t get the same response of happiness, we start to feel used or depleted. In the perfect world where I’m heiress, we would get the same amount of happiness from other people as we give out, but we live in a world where this hardly ever happens.

When you try to make someone happy, you set yourself up for major disappointment (because we all know humans are flaky), and you place yourself on a pedestal of vulnerability. It’s almost like you’re stripping naked in front of a firing squad. The only selfless love that has existed since time immemorial, and will continue to exist for eternities to come, is God’s love. That’s it. Human beings are not capable of selfless love (and this is open for discussion or dispute). We are not capable of successfully and consistently putting the needs of someone else before ours without secretly or openly expecting some kind of return or reward, and this is why we keep getting into this painful, torturous cycle of bitterness and pain, when we are not told “I love you” as often as we would like, or hugged every time our heart beats, or even, to get to extremes, proposed to, when we feel we have given out so much of ourselves to someone else. The truth is, what you’ve done is dish out all the happiness that is meant for you, without getting it back. We want the same level of love reciprocated, usually in the same manner, and it never is. How many times have you said “I love you” and wanted to punch a nearby wall when you don’t hear it back? How often have we felt “misunderstood”, “unappreciated”? This is common vocab amongst women who constantly fight the losing battle of trying to get “right” what makes their partner happy. Nothing makes your partner happy more than him feeling he is getting what he wants from the relationship (selfishness). And he will get what he wants from the relationship when you are happy about what YOU are getting from the relationship. If you feel “used”, it’s only because the next person put their own happiness before yours, and you didn’t do the same for yourself. He wanted to spend the weekend with you, he did. He wanted to run off to some game right after, and he did. He was too tired or busy to call, and he didn’t. He felt he needed some space, and he took it. He wanted to buy you something nice, and he did. He didn’t feel like saying he misses you when he was out on a trip, and he didn’t. And that made him happy because he felt like he had the freedom to say and be what he wants, at any given time, without getting a 6 hour lecture about how horrible it makes you feel.

The most important person in your relationship is you. The minute you put your happiness in the hands of someone else, you are saying “control me – how I feel, how my day turns out, what I want to eat, my hopes and dreams, how many kids I want to have. Tell me what your dreams are and I will drop mine to support yours, tell me what you want to do and I will drop my plans for yours”. Consequently, the next step here is “I’m so depressed, I feel empty, he hasn’t called, he’s out with the boys again, I’m lonely, I’m bored, he was so cold to me today …” and when you begin to feel like that inside, it reflects negatively on your partner and drives them away even more. When you find your own true happiness, independent of your relationship, and when you get happy with the fact that your partner is happy independent of you, you build your happiness together on something solid.

The fruits of this are plentiful and delicious. Get into an argument, and you will not sit around and mope for 29 hours. Why? Because even though you do love this person, and think the world of them, you love yourself way more to self-destruct. When he leaves you, or “wants a break”, you hurt. Badly. And they know it, too. But life doesn’t stop, and your happiness doesn’t go on break with them. Why? Because you have mastered the skill of being happy and content, whether or not your partner is by your side. Most of our heartbreaks are 20% what they did to us, and 80% how we beat ourselves up about it. When he cheats, you are angry and annoyed. But you don’t look in the mirror and wonder what’s wrong with you. And you certainly don’t have the time to go chasing his sidekick-play-off to compare yourself to them. The only person you compare yourself to, is you. You are the measure of your own beauty. You know that, even if he left, it had everything to do with him, and nothing to do with you, and who the heck cares anyway, because you were selfish enough in the relationship to have gotten everything you wanted from it. When he doesn’t call for 4 days, you are a little sad and worried, and maybe you battle to call or text, and at some point you want to scream and haul the phone across the room (let’s face it, we are human), but you are not completely torn or suspicious, and you don’t sit in the house staring at the phone screen, because you have hobbies and a career, you have dreams and things to achieve. You have fun friends and the mall, and you have your favorite movie flick and song to lift your mood. You have things that are NOT him, that make you just as happy as you would feel if he were around. When you do something nice for them, and you don’t get the kind of response you were expecting (ie being lifted up and swung 10 times in the air, kissed, hugged and worshipped), you don’t really mind. You did it because it makes you happy to do it for them, not because you were waiting for their response to determine how you feel.

I understand that this is not the easiest thing to do, but it’s a skill that can be learnt through time. And it is certainly not the case that this is the one formula that will make your relationship last forever. It may not, actually, but the important thing is how you will feel when you’re with this person, and how you will feel about yourself when things don’t work out in the end. In all our life experiences, it is not about how long the feelings last, or how successful all your plans are, it is how you feel about yourself when things haven’t gone your way, and the important lessons we learn when things come and go. In my life, I have learnt more and gained more strength from the days when I seemed to be the only one loving ME, and looking out for ME, than the days when I’m surrounded by the love and attention of “friends”.

When you have things outside of the relationship that make you happy, you don’t have to rely on the next person to make your day. Develop a passion, a hobby, find friends that share interests and constantly challenge you to spend time away from your comfort zone. When you wake up in the morning, no matter how you feel, don’t leave the house without finding one thing to start your day on a happy note. It could be a great song, a phonecall, your favorite breakfast, a prayer, a new hairstyle (perfume does wonders for me), a jog, your pet, whatever it is. Before you have any interaction with your man / anyone else, find that place of content that you can always look back on when someone totally fucks up your day and leaves your jaw dropped, because people are natural-born experts at pissing others off. I like to count things that I find are completely boring, research on them, and find they are actually pretty interesting. I recently started reading on politics. I also like to write a whole lot of funny nonsense and crack myself up. I must be google’s biggest fan. I love to draw up my future and dream about the amazing things I am yet to achieve. In those happy dreams, there are absolutely no faces. A friend of mine wanted to get fit and healthy, but we were always too lazy, tired, or busy. Every time she started to get frustrated with her man, she’d go jogging for an hour. When their relationship reached the final meltdown, she not only looked and felt great, she thanked him for it.

I wish we would stop calling men dogs, kak, and losers. And realize that the only reason we think they are that way, is because they know what they want, and they go out and get it at the expense of us loving them more than we love ourselves. I wish we’d find our own hurt-remedies, and I wish we’d share them with other people. I wish we’d stop fussing about our flaws, especially the ones we can’t change. I wish we’d stop using words like “depressed”, “slow down” and substitute it with phrases like “I’m just having a weird moment that will soon pass away”. I wish we’d realize that our hopes and dreams do not revolve around anyone but ourselves, and I wish we’d trudge through the hurt and pain, to achieve them at all cost! I wish we wouldn’t be envious of other relationships and people, because if you had to be them, you don’t know how you would deal with the trauma they’ve had in their own lives, to get to where they are.

I love you, and you, and you, and you! I wish you love and I wish you happiness. I wish that you’d wake up in the morning and identify something you love about yourself. I wish you a healthy and sound relationship with yourself, and I wish that, through every hard experience filled with tears and disappointment, you start to gather the tools you need to selfishly engineer your own happiness and well-being! But most of all, through all this hullabaloo of selfish love, I hope we remember that there IS a selfless love that exists, when all else fails J

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A Woman

This poem was inspired by a woman I met who had 3 jobs, a husband (job 4) and 2 kids (job 5). She came from nothing, and made something great of herself through hard work and determination. When I asked her what the best part of her long, successful, painful journey was, she said it was "To Be A Woman". So I drafted this quickly as a constant reminder of what it really means, to be a woman.

To Be A Woman...

To Be A Woman...
is to share and love
above all other...
to fight the fight
and bear the burden...
its to cry the last tear
and to give the last kiss...
its to smile brighter when
your heart wont allow...
To Be A woman...
is to carry the dying soul
to lift the flag high..
of ownership design and conception
To Be A woman
is to know the meaning of 9 months
the meaning of 10 minutes
and the meaning of a lifetime..
To Be A Woman
is to think and to learn
To educate and discipline
To hurt and smile
To die and carry
To lift higher and sink lower
To Be A woman
is something blessed of God
its to be a treasure unknown
Yet used by many
Its to be the last jewel
To be the last thought
and the first memory
To Be A woman
is to be a mirror image of all things
Because to be a woman...
is to see all things, know all things...
To Be A woman
is to give life
to combine recipes...
that give birth to eyes hands and little minds
To Be a woman
is to be a woman...
To Be a woman
is to be all this and more
Because to be a woman...
is to be a miracle

10 Things To Do Before You’re 26

So, my friends are extremely tired of my ranting and raving lately about how I’m turning 26. I mean, wouldn’t you be? You’ve been young and vibrant all your life and now boom, you’re entering a new tax bracket, and checking the next age box on application forms. (You are also applying for a heck of a lot of things : jobs, promotions, postgrad, and sane relationships). Anyway, I will rant and rave as long as it takes me to come to terms with this “late twenties” phenomenon. Isn’t it wonderful how you start noticing itsy bitsy little annoyitsies like how your cancer risk is at its max, how if you have babies any sooner or any later, you are basically doomed. And how (men) either love people way younger or way older than you. You are totally caught between a rock and a hard place. But! I am so blessed to have lived these 26 years. I have no regrets, just painful lessons. LeAnne Womack told me to dance, and though the knees may be a little less stable now, I’m still dancing! *pant*

To those lucky enough to be reading this before your 26th birthday, pay attention. These are 10 things I did or should have done before the big 2-6, and they are, my friends, things everyone ought to do before they become old weasels like myself (An old fabulously beautiful weasel *blink blink*). Disclaimer : We may all take different routes to reach the same destination. Just because you haven’t done one or several of these, doesn’t mean you should look back and sulk. Infact, be inspired to do it now, I don’t care if you’re 39 or 93.

1. Get a degree. Although some of the most important lessons of your life will be learnt outside the classroom, you NEED a sound, formal education. I don’t care if you go to an elitist private school or a state university, or if you do it in stages of certificates and diplomas, but before you reach 25, have a B next your name. Life is not too kind to people who don’t have it these days, and think about it. You get to spend some years in a place where you might meet your future partner (You won’t, but it’s great to believe).

2. Get a life. Your life is a gift, and you only have one. Live it. Do you. Take care of yourself. Teach yourself how to love you more than anyone else dares to. Respect who you are, flaws and all. Discover what your life’s goals are (you won’t know all of them very accurately but it’s good to get a headstart). Live your life for you, because if you don’t, you will have your heart broken, your ego bruised and your self esteem diminished every second month. If you make loving you YOUR responsibility, and not anyone else’s, you can only expect the best from yourself. Grab life with both hands, and live!

3. Fall out of love. Okay, so I will almost guarantee you will either fall in love in the first 25 years of life, or think you have fallen in love with the greatest person that ever lived. That is an absolute given, and yes, 25% of the time you might be right. But falling out of love is a greater blessing than falling in love. It just doesn’t seem so because it’s wrapped in tears, heartbreak, sadness, guilt and hopelessness. You will never know how bright the future is if you don’t let go of the past. No one drives a car with their eyes fixated on the rearview mirror. Fall out of love, and learn the lessons. Realize that it’s never the person that has broken your heart, it’s the situation. They were just the engine that made the process possible. And they did you a favour, because now you know better. Forgive yourself for feeling awful, forgive them for being in a situation that ended up hurting your feelings, and embrace the situation for it did not know that it was merely pushing you into a greater destiny. Find a shelter that works for you. God works for me, and in Him I can never be disappointed, no matter how disappointed I feel! (this point not only applies to falling out of love with toxic PEOPLE, but also toxic habits!)

4. Experience a different culture. I don’t care if you befriend someone from another country, date them, read the atlas, travel, watch soap operas in a different language, or learn a foreign dialect, just do it. Interracial relationship rates are fast increasing, and tolerance is a must. The global world will take you any and everywhere, in your career, and you will meet people completely different from you. Everyday. Sticking to your “roots” and allowing yourself to accept other people for who they are, are not mutually exclusive. Learn the art of appreciating the spirit of the person, and not attaching useless labels like male, female, black, Asian, short, red-haired, brown-eyed, single, or disabled. And besides, living in your little narrow one-channeled cultural corner will not land you a job with the U.N (And you know you would love a job with the U.N)

5. Meditate. For me, this translates to ‘prayer’. Some people believe in God, in a “higher power”, in a “sense of spiritualism”, however you may define your belief, it is crucial to your growth to find time each day to meditate and reconnect yourself. In our teenage years, we are often swayed from side to side, from music genre to friendships, from fashion trends to career choices. Heck, I wanted to be a pilot at some point. I flew into the USA for the first time just days after 9/11. From the same airport. And I experienced some intestine-turning turbulence over the Bermuda triangle. This was nature’s way of saying “why don’t you stick with Medicine and Dancing”. A good friend of mine really wanted to be a boxer, too bad she was 1m tall with absolutely no strength whatsoever, and had to settle for the corporate world. Meditate, think, stay silent, be you. Everyday. Without fail.

6. Be organized. Yes, this does include an organized mess, like the one I was, all through varsity. I am not talking about not having pieces of paper fly all over the place. Even the most organized people have those. Know what you plan to do, how you plan to do it, what possible setbacks you might experience, and how you will get through them. And leave room for surprises. You will never be defeated. I guarantee you. Organize your thoughts, your path, and everything that has to do with you. I used to wake up everyday and write down what I planned to accomplish on that day, even what I wanted to eat. I usually only got 50% right, but it gave me practice for the real world. This does not mean you should not follow people’s advice. It only means, when you get the advice, you are better suited in knowing whether it is wise to follow it or not. Yes, you will get disappointed. Many times. But stay organized, even in your disappointment. Like I always say, Sweat in the first 25 years, so you can chill infront of the fan for the next 50. (Don’t ask me about the life expectancy, I know I will live past 75. grin)

7. Drink Water. You have it, you live in it, it lives in you, use it. Water is the miracle we all ignore. It does wonders for your skin, your health, and your energy. Your muscles need it, your cells need it, your brain needs it. Love your body enough to give it water as much as it needs it. Research says 8 glasses of water, subsequent research says that was B.S. (as all American Scientists like to prove), but Stats don’t count on this one. Just drink water. Period. (oh, it helps with your period pains too!). My rule of thumb is generally take more glasses of water than you do anything else. Yes, that includes … anything else. *smile*

8. Get a computer, or have access to one. It is absolutely necessary to be computer literate. Look at all the Terms Of Reference in Job Adverts. See? Get well-versed with the Office pack, it will come in handy. Of course, not everyone can afford to purchase their own computer, but thank heavens we have access to public libraries where we can get to use these for free. Computers have replaced many many jobs, we live in a digital world where soon we’ll have chips under our skin telling our boyfriends where we are and who we are with. Robots are getting to be models these days, and 12 year olds are building remote-controlled curtains. Our cars can park themselves, and our meals can tell us when they are ready. We are on cellphones and internet more often than we speak face to face, and heck, those phones are getting to BE the PCs. Be well-prepared for this world, be a tech-lover. Besides, you’ll love things like Photoshop, games, mp3 players, and flight simulations (those are too much fun)

9. Play Free-Cell and Chess. I have loved games all my life (not the kind men like to play). But of all the games I’ve played, these two games have taught me a lot of tips about life. In life, you will be dealt with the most confused set of cards and you have to maneuver them the best way you know how, with a very limited space and timeframe with which you can do all this. Sometimes, the worst happens before the best, other times, the opposite occurs. If you’re going to organize 52 cards on 4 spaces, you need patience and determination. And Sometimes getting to one simple goal requires moving many cards and taking different routes. Not everyone gets to be a doctor at 30. Not every partner you meet will be the one. Some can conceive as easy as ABC (pun intended), and it takes others years to get there. Some people are millionaires the moment they are conceived, others take a different path and get there by 50. it doesn’t matter how you get there, just get there. And there’s nothing like Chess to jog your mind and teach you the hierarchies of this world (and there are many). This goes back to organization. We live in an entropy-driven world, where we are constantly fighting for control and organization over our lives. You need a mixture of strategy, patience, perseverance and focus.

10. Give. Think about all you have been given that you haven’t paid for. Your life, your breath, your body. Oxygen, water …You didn’t send an application to your parents while you were still half an egg and half a sperm and tell them you want to live past your 26th birthday. You didn’t ask to be as gorgeous as you look, and as genius as you are. You didn’t locate the other half egg-half sperm in another woman’s belly to be your loving life partner. It was given to you. By God, by the universe. As your read this, neurons are firing in the right places of your brain. Your fingers can scroll down the page. Those are things you usually haven’t worked for. Now, there are things that YOU’ve worked for, that others haven’t given the opportunity to receive them YET. Give to people, whether they are less or more fortunate than you. Help where you need to, and smile when you can. It’s hard to put new blessings into a clenched, withdrawn fist. When I was young, I never understood why we always lived with 3 cousins in the house, or why I’d have to sacrifice some of the things I loved for someone else. Giving not only opens up a new dimension of blessings for you, but it allows you to connect with someone else’s needs. And they in turn, reconnect with yours. Like my favorite book says, It is more blessed to give, than to receive. I can name many examples, but Oprah would insist I go on her show, and I am seriously too shy 

Friends, life is cruel. From bottom to top, from corner to corner, everyone has their issues. But you don’t have to be cruel to yourself. Life is a simply a set of cards that have been dealt to you without your choice, and we all should be blessed, firstly, to have had these cards, and secondly, to have the mindset and ability to make the best out of the set in our dealings with others. We take better care of our cars, our clothes and our ipods, more than the one thing we can only ever one of. Yes, you will hurt, yes, you might cry, you will be happy somedays, distraught other days. You will get disappointed and helpless. You will have a deep dark secret only you know, you will climb a mountain for your dream, only to realize it was never at the top. You will feel like not getting out of bed some days. Discover everyday, the treasures buried deep within you. Ask yourself what you really love, and identify the things you are absolutely crazy about in the mirror. Only when you release love into your own heart first, will you be able to genuinely give it away without reservation.

Happy 0 – 26!