What does it mean to get The Answer?
This question crossed my mind one cold and wet evening, as my friend and I sat at the corner table. She was having a plate of chicken teriyaki and I was facing my Fettuccine Alfredo. The old restaurant was surprisingly busy on a weekday. People kept coming through the front door. Last order was just an hour away. I glanced outside the window and made a wish for the rain to stop when we closed our bill, so that we could stay dry as we walked back home.
After several months of lovely and confusing pseudo-relationship, she decided to manage her expectation and guard her heart. And so, she posed The Question. “I am not asking you to do anything. I just need to manage my expectation,” she said, as they sat side by side under a strange sky in a strange country, faraway from home and past memories. “I love what we have. And I will want to have it as long as possible. But at the same time, I need to protect my heart, too. I only need to know whether this will go further than a summer fling; or not. That’s all. That way, I can prepare my heart, so I won’t hurt myself again.”
He gritted his teeth and responded right away with, “It’s NOT a summer fling! I really believe in what we have, in what we share. I love the idea of us as much as you do. And I want you to know that from the very beginning.”
She felt her heart leapt a little bit.
“But the fact is, I have a girlfriend,” he went on. “And we’re about to get married at the end of the year.”
Something sunk in her chest. She felt that familiar pain, again. She was not immune to that, no matter how often she had been exposed to such situation.
So she decided to put an end to it. She knew that they wouldn’t go anywhere. He was about to get married. There was no future in it. She didn’t want to get hurt again. So she bid him what-she-thought-to-be farewell. But he refused to leave her. And she could not deny the chemistry. The signs. The bond. She could not deny her heart. But the clock was ticking. So she posed The Question, again.
“We can’t go on like this,” she said, a bit frustrated. “I need to know where we’re going. You’re about to get married. So why are we here? Why are we doing this?”
“I love you,” he said. The answer almost everyone would want to hear. “I could not betray my feelings, too. I’ve made up my mind. I’ll talk to my girlfriend and her family. I want to be with you.”
And with that, she had The Answer–something most of us want: certainty, affirmation, commitment. She smiled with all of her beings. With The Answer, for the first time after those bittersweet months, she finally found both her official permission, and her safety net. To open up. To dream of a future. To be vulnerable. To pour her heart out. To fall in love completely.
Three months later, she received a wedding invitation. From him. She wasn’t the bride.
“So, what does it mean to get The Answer?” I asked myself when she finished her story that evening.
I realized that The Answer could come in many forms: from the three-word I-love-you thing to a reply to your text message; an invitation to watch movies, a “you’re beautiful” whisper, the changes in someone else’s Facebook profile from single to in a relationship, a marriage proposal, a wedding ring, the “imaginary lights” in his eyes whenever he looks at you. And we always think that we need The Answer. To move on. To have a closure. To be sure. To be double sure. To decide on what we want to do. To find out whether we should or should not fall in love completely. I felt this way before, too. There were numerous times when I persevered too much in getting The Answer; to the point that they started to feel like lame excuses.
When we came to think about it, The Answer does NOT guarantee anything. We think that we’ll feel certain when we have The Answer, although we know full well that there’s no such thing as certainty in life.
As I finished my Fettuccine Alfredo and sipped my lime juice, it became clear to me that while a lot of people are trying as hard as they can to get The Answer, getting it doesn’t really matter much. Such is life. People say the things they do not mean. People say things they really mean but then change their minds. Heart finds a new object of affection. People grow together and then grow apart. Having The Answer would not make us immune from hurt and pain.
Why do we need to get The Answer from someone else to decide on what we want to do: on whether we want to smile or weep; move on or fall in love? Why do we need to be certain about something when we know that life is full of uncertainties? What is wrong with not knowing and be okay with that? Because even when we have The Answer, we will always find another question to ask.
Yes, they hurt. But no matter how much they hurt, I realize that my previous relationships–even when they didn’t work out the way I wanted them to be, have taught me some valuable life-lessons, and I won’t trade these with anything. There were times when I was young and didn’t know any better, but looking back at what I have experienced in life so far, I realized how much I have learned. And I am thankful for that. These are some life-lessons I learned from my previous relationships; things that are hidden behind a series of heartbreak, and I want to share it with you.
1. Do not jump into a relationship with a guy just because everyone else thinks he’s cool. Jump into a relationship with a guy because you think he’s cool–even if everyone else thinks he’s not.
Do not choose to live your life based on other people’s expectations on you. And you won’t be happy comparing what you don’t have with what other people have. What makes them happy may not be something that will make you happy. Find your own thing. Your own calling. Your own way to live your life. I know it’s hard. I’ve been there, too. It’s hard to ignore people who tell you to live your life a certain way, especially if these people are those who are close to you–or your heart. But you owe yourself your life. This is your life. Make sure that you live a life without what-ifs.
2. Do not break up with a guy just because everyone else thinks he’s not cool. Break up with a guy because you think he’s not cool–even if everyone else thinks he is.
Don’t let others determine what you should or should not like. Don’t let others tell you what’s edgy, what’s mainstream, and what’s quirky. Don’t let people put you into boxes and give you labels. Think for yourself. Stand to what you believe in. Some people will judge you for this. But that’s fine. You’re better off without listening to their judgement. And because we know how terrible it is to be judged, the least we can do is to not turn ourselves into the people we don’t want to be. Let’s stop judging other people, too. Like something because it feels nice to you. Love something because it warms you up inside. Do something because it’s fun and it makes you laugh–even when other people think it’s stupid.
3. It may not be as painful when people break up nicely. But you will still cry. And it will still hurt. And you’ll still have scars.
And it’s okay to cry or to feel sad or to feel angry. Don’t ever think that you should be happy all the time. People will say, “Cheer up!” or “Come on, forget about it!” but if you know that you need time to embrace that sadness, by all means, take your time. Tell your friends that you don’t want to go partying or getting drunk. You just want them to sit with you and hold your hands and give you a silent hug. Sometimes our friends don’t know how to handle us when we’re hurting. They just don’t want to see us going through that pain because it hurts for them, too. So tell them this. And cry if you need to or if you feel like it. Because those tears: they heal.
Feel that pain, that sadness, that anger–but don’t indulge yourself in it. Your body knows when it’s ‘gone': you no longer feel that cold sensation in the palm of your hands, that burning feeling behind your eyelids, that aching emptiness from somewhere between your chest and your stomach that you can’t really pinpoint or describe with words (but you do feel it, don’t you?). You need time to let these feelings out. You need time to heal. When you try to repress it, and force yourself to go out partying, getting drunk and faking a laughter, what needs to come out does not come out–but they are still there. They don’t get the chance to heal.
So embrace that feeling. Try letting it in instead of letting it go. And then shine again, beautiful! Wear that scar with pride, because it shows how courageous you’ve been to love someone or something so deeply. And you don’t live until you have scars.
4. If it doesn’t feel right somehow, maybe it’s because something is wrong.
Listen to your gut feeling. To your heart. To that little voice inside of you. To that urge to do something that seems like comes out of nowhere. Listen to that tinge of doubts at the back of your mind when you’re about to do something you are not really keen to. Don’t shut these voices down, because the more often you shut them down, the fainter they become, and when you need to hear this voice again one day, you will find it difficult to hear anything. So listen to that voice attentively. Let them talk to you. They will talk to your more often if you listen to them more often.
I heard this a lot: that you can’t have it all. You can’t be successful in your career and be healthy and have a passionate marriage and raise two kids and be a wonderful parent and be a millionaire and do good things for the world… you need to choose. You can’t have it all! I refuse to believe that. I believe that I can have it all. I won’t let other people’s limiting beliefs distract me from what I believe in.
When it comes to relationship, for instance, why do you have to choose on whether you want to marry your ‘best friend’ or marry the guy that makes you burn with passion and desire? Why can’t we have both of them in one guy? I know there are happy couples out there who found both qualities in each other. And I want to have both qualities in one guy, too. I want to believe that this guy exists in the world, no matter how naive it sounds or how other people will mock me for this and tell me to be realistic. I don’t want to settle for less just because I want to have someone by my side. That won’t be fair for me and that won’t be fair for him. We won’t have space rockets if we only aim for the sky. There’s a vast universe out there. Why can’t we aim for it? And space rockets–they used to be a dream. Now look at how real they are!
6. Don’t waste your time waiting for someone who doesn’t even know that you’re waiting for him. On a second thought, don’t waste your time waiting. Full stop.
Funny that we don’t know how much time we have in this life, but we keep on delaying things. We wait for something to happen, for someone to come, for a certain situation to play a certain way. Don’t wait. Just act. If it works out, good. If it doesn’t work out, the faster you know, the faster you’ll move on. Don’t spend your life ‘just’ waiting. Don’t ask yourself, “What are you doing?” and answer that with, “I’m waiting for something.”.
There are so many things that you can do while waiting. Reading a book. Singing. Talking to strangers. Dancing barefooted. Playing guitar. Learning a foreign language. Traveling. Making funny noises. Doing volunteer works. Creating arts. Swimming. Falling in love. Make the most of your waiting time. Go out and see the world, meet people, experience things. Life is short but it’s full of surprises. You’ll never know what will happen. You may meet someone new or bump into something exciting that will make you forget that you’re waiting for something. And when the time comes, you’ll know that maybe what you’ve been waiting for is not something that you really want anyway.
7. Don’t stay in a relationship just because you love the guy. Be in a relationship because you love the guy, and because you like the guy. It’s possible to love someone you don’t like–that’s why a lot of people are trapped in abusive relationships.
Set your boundaries. Respect yourself. You are beautiful. Don’t let people abuse you–physically or emotionally. Both are unacceptable. When someone calls you a “fat-whale” when you gain weight or “you are such a bitch” when you’re involved in a heated argument, know that you don’t deserve that and you won’t let people treat you that way. When it’s possible, walk out from a relationship, a job, a circle of friends, or any environment that drags you down and sucks the energy out of you. Sometimes other people can’t save you no matter how hard they try. Sometimes, you need to save yourself and stand your ground. Don’t be afraid to seek help. Reach out.
And then remember to be kind. Be generous. Don’t say the things you do not mean. Don’t do the things you know you may regret later in life. Don’t inflict pain on others because you know how much it hurts. Lastly, don’t forget to give the best of yourself in any situation, and know that you deserve the best as well. You’re gorgeous, inside and out. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Maybe it’s true, that our past doesn’t define us. But inevitably, our past will always be a part of our present; and our future. It’s something that will always stay within us, for the better or worse. And this is definitely alright–as long as we have no regret.
We have made mistakes, or done things we are not proud of. We have been hurt badly. We failed many times. We thought we could not move on–that it was impossible to feel alright ever again. However, surprisingly, we always see ourselves eventually moving on, just because. For some it takes months, for some it takes years. Maybe we will be able to move on when we have stopped fighting the past and decided to make peace with it instead. Knowing that it’s alright to forgive without forgetting–as long as we can choose wisely the things we’d want to remember. We choose to remember the lessons instead of carrying around the pain. We choose to remember the feeling of recovering instead of the feeling of despair.
In the end, we are made of memories. Good ones, bad ones, uplifting ones, embarrassing ones. And all our lives, we have also left pieces of memories inside those we’ve crossed path with–some of them might have long gone and forgotten, some will always feel close to our hearts. We will never be sure about how things will turn out, about whether we’re going to make a courageous bold move instead of another stupid mistakes. So, let’s just don’t think about it too much. For the time being, these are the only things we can do: being presence in the now, seizing the moments before they pass us by, and collecting memories. Loads and loads of memories worth remembering.
Because memories are what we all made of, and we are still going to carry them with us for many many years to come.
I remembered one sunny afternoon in Delhi’s Khan Market. I was inside a small bookstore–looking for some Hindi poetry books for Ollie. The room was packed with books, starting from the floor all the way to the ceiling. Books were stacked here and there. I needed to walk very carefully to avoid collapsing those book piles. Once and a while, I climbed into a wooden bench to see the titles on the upper shelves. I was rummaging through some Hindi poetry books when I found a pink book that caught my attention instantly. OSHO was written in big letters on the cover. Ollie was the one who introduced me to Osho’s works a few months back–and I had tried to look for his works in English bookstores in Indonesia to no avail. That afternoon, the universe guided me to find Osho’s book and the title was: BEING IN LOVE. I spent my days in India reading this book–mostly during my 6-hour ride from Delhi to Agra. I wished I found this book sooner, but I guessed everything falls into place when the time is right. When I am ready.
Here’s a beautiful excerpt from the book that I’d like to share with you:
Love cannot be learned, it cannot be cultivated. The cultivated love will not be love at all. When you learn something, it means something comes from the outside; it is not an inner growth. And love has to be your inner growth if it is to be authentic and real.
Love is not a learning but a growth. What is needed on your part is not to learn the ways of love but to unlearn the ways of un-love. The hindrances have to be removed, the obstacles have to be destroyed—then love is your natural, spontaneous being. Once the obstacles are removed, the rocks thrown out of the way, the flow starts. It is already there—hidden behind many rocks, but the spring of love is already there. It is your very being.
Love is a breeze.
Don’t think that love has to be permanent, and it will make your love life more beautiful because you will know that today you are together, and tomorrow perhaps you will have to part.
Love comes like a fresh, fragrant breeze into your home, fills it with freshness and fragrance, remains as long as existence allows it, and then moves out. You should not try to close all your doors, or the same fresh breeze will become absolutely stale. In life, everything is changing and change is beautiful; it gives you more and more experience, more and more awareness, more and more maturity.
The capacity to be alone is the capacity to love. It may look paradoxical to you, but it is not. It is an existential truth: only those people who are capable of being alone are capable of love, of sharing, of going into the deepest core of the other person—without possessing the other, without becoming dependent on the other, without reducing the other into a thing, and without becoming addicted to the other. They allow the other absolute freedom, because they know that if the other leaves, they will be as happy as they are now. Their happiness cannot be taken by the other, because it is not given by the other.
I was having my cup of Papuan coffee this afternoon when a friend texted me. “How do you stay happy all the time?” she asked. I replied immediately with: “I don’t.”
And I am telling her the truth. I don’t stay happy all the time—whatever that means. I am still a human being, after all. In fact, I cried under the shower two days ago—when anger consumed me in such a short burst. On the bus ride to the office this morning, I got really pissed when a mother asked her kid to just-throw-the-trash-into-the-floor. A few months ago, I got my heart broken and I went into my pathetic mode for a while.
I do get sad. And mad. And bitchy, sometimes.
However, I always remember something a friend told me once: “It’s okay to be sad. Or mad. Feel it. Recognize that feeling. Accept it. You don’t have to fight it. But don’t indulge yourself in it, either.”
And I learn to do just that. When I’m sad, I’ll cry. But when my tears stop falling, I stop. I know I am still sad inside. I can recognize the pain—as if something has been taken away from me, causing that empty feeling—lurching somewhere above my stomach. So I let myself be sad.
But there are other things I can do when I’m sad apart from keep crying or punching my pillow or feeling sorry for myself (or not taking a shower all day long). I can write a blog. I can read a good book. I can go out with some friends and have a good laugh with them. I can bake a cake. I can watch some cheesy teenage movies. These are no fancy things, just some random things I enjoy doing. Normally, I won’t even notice how these simple things make me happy and lift up my mood. But sadness makes me appreciate happiness more. It’s a reminder for me to be grateful over life’s simple pleasures.
When the desire to stay miserable creeps in, I remind myself not to indulge in it. I refuse to go back into my bed and just stay there thinking about all the bad things that have caused me this sadness, replaying the hurtful scenes over and over again. I do other things that will make me happy instead: go for a short walk at the Botanical Garden, treat myself two bowls of my favorite chicken noodle (with loads of chili), go on a photo-hunting, write poems, sing stupid songs in a karaoke place, browse over cute kitten pictures…
I told my friend just that, and she said she had heard it all. She had read books about it. “But I find it so hard not to indulge myself in sadness,” she said. “It’s not that easy.”
At that moment, I remembered asking her a few weeks ago about the things she enjoy doing.
“Singing!” she replied. “I have always wanted to take a vocal lesson!”
“Then do it!” I smiled. “Now you have the time and money to do that, so why not? Do the things that will make you happy.”
As I recalled that episode, I texted her back: “Hey, anyway, what about that vocal lesson? Have you enrolled into one?”
She replied with: “No. Not yet.”
I wish there’s a simpler way to do this—but I’m afraid there isn’t. I know that for some people out there, this may sound bitchy; or it may appear that I oversimplify the problem—but sometimes, to get out of sadness, the first thing you need to do is wanting to get out of it. And then start climbing out.
“If we focus only on happiness, we’re neglecting the richness of the full emotional spectrum–and we’re overlooking the fact that you couldn’t make sense of happiness if you didn’t know sadness. The loss gives you access to a wonderful array of very real human experiences, especially the connection between people. Sadness is tinged with an incredibly profound depth of appreciation of life. You’re acutely aware of what’s important. A lot of the things that preoccupied me before seem rather trite and superficial now. Now, I’m much more connected to the little things. I’m much more profoundly moved by music. A walk in the evening just seems like a gift.”
Chris Skellett, When Happiness Is Not Enough
Hello, busy-bees! The weather in my hometown has been crazy lately. It’s raining all day, and even when the rain stops, the sky remains cloudy. Down with a terrible flu for 3 days now, this afternoon I decided to stop feeling sorry for myself and head to the kitchen instead. I’d like to make something simple and warm: like this home-made ginger tea.
- 2 fresh gingers, grated (or you can use more if you’d like it stronger)
- 2 teaspoons of green tea (you can replace this with other kinds of tea like jasmine, or if you’re lazy, a teabag will do)
- 4 cups of boiling water
Put your grated gingers and green tea into the teapot, and then pour the boiling water. Leave it for a while, then pour it into a cup. Add a tablespoon of honey or sugar if you’d like to have a trace of sweetness there. You can also add a slice of lemon to enrich the taste (I like to have it with honey only). It’s a very simple recipe and extremely easy to make, but it gives you such a lovely extra warmth on rainy days.
For the time being, stay healthy!
It started out when I proclaimed my love of owls about 2 years ago. Since then, my friends had been tagging me whenever they came across cute owl pictures or videos, or ended up buying random owl-stuff when they were traveling because they were reminded of me when they spotted one. Today, I realized that my owl collections has grown quite rapidly. It is dominated by lovely accessories like rings, necklaces and bracelets–though I also have owl bedroom lamp, owl clutch, owl coffee-tumbler, owl pen, owl bedroom-slippers, owl lip-balm, owl postcards, owl ceramic paperweight, owl magnets, owl wallpaper, owl bookmark, owl paintings, owl nail buffer, owl shirt, owl scarf… you name it!
I decided to keep these owls inside this beautiful jar and put them next to my bed, so I can have a look at them everyday–as soon as I wake up in the morning and before I go to sleep at night. The lights will make them glow in such a serene way, it makes me feel warm at heart :) These owls always remind me of my friends’ lovely thoughts and kindness–and so, how can I not be grateful every time? Moreover, these owls had traveled from everywhere: Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, South Korea, Australia, Pakistan, Turkey, US, UK, Brazil… it makes me feel like all the kindness in the world can actually fit nicely inside a small transparent jar!
For my lovely friends who have carried me (and my love of owls) in your thoughts, thank you very much. I am so blessed to have you! :’) The owls will always remind me of you, too! *kisses*
I always find it comforting, to be surrounded by greeneries, enveloped by silence, only to catch the faint sounds of birds, cicadas, and waterfalls. I ran away here one afternoon a few weeks ago with a friend, Martijn. A few slices of yellow watermelons, a pack of grapes, a carton of fruit juice, and Susan Wooldrigde’s Poemcrazy book were resting nicely inside my flowery canvas bag. My head was still spinning with the beautiful words from the book. I remembered one line where Wooldridge quoted Gary Snyde: poetry has an interesting function; it helps people be where they are. And suddenly, my world was bursting with pinecones, the smell of the leaves and the wet soil, the shape of the rocks, the changing colors of the sky…
I was sitting on a rock; dipping my toes into the flowing river, while Martijn went underneath the waterfalls. I was thinking about everything that had happened in my life lately: about hellos and farewells, and how curious was it that I kept stumbling upon random people who brought ‘messages’ for me and answered some questions I have pondered upon for a while through simple conversations.
I once wrote inside my black travel notebook: what if we think of everyone we meet on our journey as a messenger? What if we don’t bump into them coincidentally? What if they were sent to tell us something, to deliver a message, a lesson… what difference would it make if we stop, say hello, glance a smile, and make that connection? Don’t you think it would make you feel like you are never alone in this world? That every step you make is another chance to learn new life lessons? That everyone of us is, in one and another way, carry ‘The Prophet‘ inside, like that of Gibran’s?
Last evening, a girl on Twitter sent me a direct message, and asked, out of the blue, “What should I do when the person I care about decided to disappear?” and I found myself typing away: just pray for them to be alright, and to be happy. Maybe I was talking to myself or hearing myself asking the same question to my other self; this could be more complicated than understanding the flower petals and Fibonacci numbers–but such ‘creepy’ or amazingly coincidental things happened more often in my life lately (oh well, I never believed in coincidences anyway). When I came to think about it, I guess even our prayers (or wishes) define who we are and how we see the world. If you do believe that prayers have such a vast amount of energy that will resonate to the universe and being echoed back to you, you would want to recite beautiful prayers, wouldn’t you?