How do you face the death of someone you care? I don’t mean after. I mean the before and during. I have seen people taking care of sick people. I have seen people cried when someone dies. I have seen calm people in the same situation, and I wonder, “Are they like me?” I wanted to ask them, “Have you known it before also?” but never did.
Because talking about death is a taboo. Planning for death in details is seen as pathetic. I don’t assume this. I have been scolded. I have witnessed people shushing the speaker also.
I rarely cry when there is death in my family. To most people, death is a beginning of a sad episode of losing someone they love. To me, death is a closure of a numbing episode of overwhelming torture. I hope it wasn’t what the dying people feel. I always pray for that, every single time.
It usually began with a dream. More like a nightmare actually. They don’t stop haunting me after I wake up. And then there is pain that I can’t explain. there is overwhelming sadness that comes out of nowhere. The more I care about that person, the more intense and vivid these feelings.
Sometimes I felt guilty feeling relieved after the death, as if I was selfish. I was supposed to be sad after the lost, I thought. But as I am writing this, I realized it is something beyond my control. It doesn’t have to be said out loud to those losing their loved ones. I can write. I can tell one or two people. To lessen the heavy grip on my shoulder for a bit.
I like to think of it as a gift I have yet understand. Sometimes when it gets too overwhelming, I will pray for the impossible, “Allah, please don’t let someone die”. I know it will still happen, but I have let it out to someone who loved me most, Allah. He willed this to me, He knows what I should do with this. So my regular prayer has always been and still is
“O Allah, teach me the way out. Show me the silver lining. Keep my faith strong. Aamiin.”
Humans are made of colorful personalities and characters. Some quirks may wobble relationships – romantic relationship, friendship and family bond. But as long as personalities between two people match, give and take would do it.
The key to any good relationship is kindness. I believe kindness can’t coexist with these three traits which I call relationship breaker. A kind person is able to minimize these traits in the character, if not losing them at all. To err is human. But to have these traits embed in one’s character they become a habit, is dangerous and toxic.
There is a type of person who when confronted, will quickly shift the blame to someone else in the team, quickly getting himself out of the hot spot. It is the easiest way, but it is the wrong way. Sometimes referring to what somebody else did in the past – “I am not the only one who did this. So and so did this too.” This does not solve problem, and in fact, bringing out forgotten corpse into the existing problem.
The other type, which I feel worse than the first type, is someone who puts blame on someone out of nowhere. They feel the need of pointing out one’s mistake which is not needed to be discussed, because to them everyone must do or be a certain way in a team. I feel even if one makes a mistake, it is best to talk to each other first before pointing it out to other teammates.
Quick to jump to conclusions based on their personal assumptions. Some of them think they are exercising their observation skills and are happy to share their inferences with their circle, when in fact, it is false assumption. These judgments are then used as a base to work in a team, creating an unhealthy work environment.
Giving adjectives to one’s behavior based on just a few occasions – labeling. When someone is missing from a few occasions, he is labeled ‘absent’. When someone did not complete her tasks for a couple of times, she is labeled ‘irresponsible’. When someone did not return calls, he is labeled ‘ignorant’. The curse of an adjective is it is remembered. When you tell that a person is ‘beautiful’, people remember the fact that she is beautiful without the details about her hair, her smile or the way she talks. The same goes to when you tell a person is ‘irresponsible’, people remembers exactly that, not the few occasions which the person made the mistakes. We want to remember good things about people, so give adjectives only to their best traits.
believing that people are motivated by self-interest; distrustful of human sincerity or integrity.
“her cynical attitude”
doubtful as to whether something will happen or whether it is worthwhile.
“most residents are cynical about efforts to clean mobsters out of their city”
“he gave a cynical laugh”
concerned only with one’s own interests and typically disregarding accepted or appropriate standards in order to achieve them.
“a cynical manipulation of public opinion”
Cynics think that everyone has a motivation behind everything they do. ‘This person is nice to me because he needs me to do such and such for him.’ ‘That person is getting close to her because he wants to woo her.’ I am a believer of the saying, ‘What Susie says of Sally, says more of Susie, than of Sally’. It is because a cynic always has a motive behind things they do, they think that everybody else must have, too. Be aware, but not suspicious. Be kind, nice and open to everyone, but don’t be naïve. Give-and-take does not equal reciprocate.
I am writing this as a reminder for myself and with a heart full of wish that people can be more frank and ask more at the same time. To grow requires acknowledging these characters without entertaining them, giving power to them. Focus on the best people in the team – who criticize for your growth and encourage your dreams unconditionally.
“Do I annoy you?”
“No, you don’t.”
“Do my stories bore you? Sorry.”
“No, they don’t. No sorry.”
“Are you still listening to me?”
“Yes, I am. Continue.”
It is that moment when they are eating ice cream on a bench by the beach. Only then, it occurs to her. No matter how much he dislikes beach, he is there next to her. And though he doesn’t fancy ice cream, he has one in his hand now.
His love is a different kind, but it is love, nevertheless.
That realization made her stops licking her ice cream, and looks at him from his side. Her stare breaks when he suddenly turns his head and snaps, “What?”
“I love you so much, you know.” She chuckles slightly.
He ignores her and continues admiring his ice cream.
“Thank you for being my husband.”
“Hmm.” That is the only sound that comes out of his mouth. Slightly annoyed. Slightly assuring.
And for her, that answer is everything she needs.
Sorry I am late.
Thank you for waiting patiently.
Which one sounds better to you?
Receiving sorry makes the listener feels like owing forgiveness to the speaker. The listener is put in place where he is expected to give something. Sorry also signifies guilt in the speaker. The speaker puts himself in need of forgiveness.
Thank you signifies gratitude. The speaker shows gratitude to the listener. The listener feels appreciated. He feels complimented for what he has given to the speaker who made the mistake, which the listener can’t take back and can’t undo.
The listener don’t have to weigh whether he needs to say
I forgive you
but instead, say
for the gratitude and compliment he just received.
Let’s practice saying
Thank you for lending me your ears.
Thank you for giving me your time.
Thank you for supporting me despite our arguments.
Thank you for standing up for me against the bullies.
Thank you for being my friend.
Thank you for letting me be in your life.
May our lives be positive and beautiful.
Who I Write For was the first on my Reader when I logged in today. It struck me with questions, many at once, all of a sudden – Who do I write for? Why do I write? Where is this habit going? I started to reflect all that was spent on writing since I was a kid.
I know I have always like writing. I started journal keeping since I was 9. I kept all of them till now. Rereading them feels like browsing through my own autobiography, one that has yet published. I recalled those days when I write for joy and won Best Essay in school and Best Story in English week. I got excited over book fairs and new novels my mother bought for me. Sometimes, I dream in novel lines instead of visuals, I hear narrators reading the dream in my sleep. Stories have become my childhood joy and writing was my self-expression.
I still love writing. It brings me joy when I feel low. It keeps my buzzing mind quiet when I put my thoughts to words. It expands my vocabulary and exercise my linguistic skills. However I feel that something is missing. I think it is the purpose. Because the purpose is what sets the meaning, the goals and the action plans. That is what I need to define.
Who Do I Write For?
Why Do I Write?
I write for myself. I write for the likes of me. I write to keep our mind calm and serene. Those who are like me but have yet written anything can find peace in reading my writings. For my writings spoke on behalf of them. My writings give voices to their inner critics and demons, but also give strengths to their guardian angels and soul to stand up for them. And when they finally succeed in life, even though they have forgotten where the strengths come from, my writings have done their magic intended. That is all that matters.
Where Is This Habit Going?
It is my dream to publish a book. It is my dream to make an income mostly out of my writings. It is my dream to leave a legacy to my readers circle.
The legacy starts with a biography. A biography starts with a fan. A fan starts with a book. A book starts with a story. A story starts with this blog. This blog started with a sentence. That sentence started with a word. That word was once only an idea.
It is happening.
Before the picture above was taken, I was complaining how hot the weather was and took off my spectacles to wipe my face. My friend, the photographer, commented that I look beautiful without spectacles. I replied jokingly, “Ya, ya. Everybody says that to everyone wearing spectacles. It is not the spectacles. It is just because you have never seen me without one.” That was how this awkward facial expression became a photo.
I read from somewhere I can’t remember on Facebook that according to psychologists (so much credible there haha), women are at the peak of their beauty when they are 31. I am turning 31 this year. Many people complimented that I look thinner when I have been gaining weight. Maybe that is due to the fact that I am turning more beautiful. But deep inside I realized that it is not important.
It is not important whether I LOOK beautiful or not. However, it is important that I FEEL beautiful. How is that different?
At this time of life, I have gained more confidence in my skills – cooking, public speaking, communication, leadership, making decision and many more. I have found many of my strengths and overcame or accepted many of my weaknesses and I am open to discovering new ones. I have, not only known what I like and what I hate, but faced them decisively. There are still many rooms for improvement, but I feel more relax in my life journey. I don’t care about looking beautiful anymore because I feel beautiful as I am.
I have stopped comparing myself to other people in terms of achievements, goals and worth. I have stopped asking “How do I look?” to my friends. I listened to feedbacks without taking them personally. I acknowledge my tribe and adjust my circles accordingly. I define myself in my own terms – my dreams, my goals and my priorities. I feel beautiful without much effort and still feel so without acknowledgement.
Discovering self has helped so much in living a minimalist life. Less clothes. Less commitment. Less things. Less spending. Less people. Quality, hand-tailored clothes that compliment my personality. Worthwhile commitments that support the cause that I believe in. Quality, personalized, important things that add value to my daily life. Manageable and conscious personal finance. Core people who support my well-being and uplift my spirit. These have been an empowering journey. I wear clothes that I feel most beautiful in, which limits to few in my wardrobe and simple make-up. I feel beautiful being with people who accept my beauty. I feel beautiful because life has become more meaningful without clutters.
I feel beautiful because I feel empowered from within. I no longer emphasize on looking beautiful. This is the kind of life that I used to look forward too. Right now, I am enjoying this moment.
Johor Jaya Toastmasters Club
International Speech Contest 2016/2017
22 February 2017
“She covers her whole body; she must be oppressed by her husband.”
“She wears all black; she must be a religious bigot.”
“She covers her head; she must be close-minded.”
Contestmaster and my fellow Toastmasters,
I can understand that you are amused that I just changed in front of you. And you feel that the extreme examples I just gave are funny. But let’s acknowledge one important thing right here – judgment exists. Despite the fact that the world has become borderless and internet is a global phenomenon, judgment persists. In fact, it has evolved into different kinds – internet bullying, visual manipulation and propaganda.
My mother taught me that “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything.” Once, many years ago, I received a feedback from a Toastmaster. She said, “Afzan, you should stop wearing baju kurung. You look outdated and closed-minded. You should flaunt your figures and baju kurung does little help with that. Even the name means locked cloth.” The first thing that came to my mind was, “Hold up right there, lady! I didn’t ask for your opinion. And why are you judging my character based on what I wear?” But I remembered my mother saying, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything.” But this lady persisted with her advice until one day when I found the right moment and words to say it, thanks to the evaluation skills I learned from Toastmasters. I simply said, “I feel beautiful in my hand-tailored baju kurung” and walked away. I would tell her why I like baju kurung so much, had she just asked.
My mother is the wisest person I had known for my whole life, until I know Jalaluddin Muhammad Rumi. This sufi who is wiser than my mother once said, “Before you speak, let your words pass through three gates: Is it true? Is it necessary? Is it kind?” Instead of just being nice and keep quiet, Rumi taught me that if it is true, necessary and kind, say it. I have a wise friend named Didi. Even though she is not wiser than Rumi and my mother, she once taught me something through a Facebook post. She put a quote as advice regarding teamwork. That time, we were together in a team for an event. I was taken aback and angry. So I just left Facebook. But later that same day, another teammate named Diana came into the picture. She commented on the post, “You should tell this to us face to face. You should be frank. You do this like a passive aggressor.” I was guilty of enjoying those for a little bit until I read Didi’s comment at the bottom. She wrote, “I am involved in a few organizations. I met hundreds of people every week. I am shocked that you have made this status about you and I, when in fact you could have just ask me directly.” That bullet went straight through my heart – wham! She was being true. She said what was necessary. She said it kindly – you could have just asked.
Asking is hard, because we have to step aside from our ego. A friend uploaded a sad status on Facebook, instead of thinking she is trying to get attention, we can ask, “Hey, Jenn. Are you okay? Do you need to talk?” Somebody told you that someone has been saying bad things about you, instead of trashing him back, we can ask, “Hey, QJ. Are you angry at me? I can’t help but feel like you do.” A teammate keeping a distance from the club, instead of judging her for lack of commitment, we can ask, “Hey, Diana. I noticed you have been missing from the club lately. How have you been?” And we will be surprised how much we can learn. A person who is so cheerful has a six-digit debt on her shoulder. An enemy who hates you has the feedback that you need to improve yourself. The missing teammate might teach you a real life lesson on how to juggle between jobs, family and a sick parent. But you must first, ask.
We can never put our feet in somebody else’s shoes. I was born Malay, I can never change to Chinese. I can never trade the 30 years of life I experienced with Ayen’s. A man can never know how hurtful giving birth feels like. Putting your feet into others’ shoes is rhetorical. The only real way out is to ask. And then listen.
My fellow Toastmasters,
The world will be a much better place if we talk to each other more than we talk about each other. Ask more. Ask now. Just ask.
2017 is the year of personal branding, says an internet marketing coach in a course I attended.
I turned 30 October last year. Since then, in this short period of time, many things have changed. Changes that people don’t see in me unless they are very, very close to me. I have been minimizing many aspects in my life – home, time, finance, causes and people. I rebuild my Vision Board. I rewrite my profile and stories. I rethink many definitions I had believed for so many years.
Maybe the number 30 woke me up. Maybe it is just a realization that coincides the age. But dawn of 2016 and dusk of 2017 marked an important turning point in my life. this will be significant for many years to come.
What am I up to, now?
- Toastmasters. 2016/2017 term is a challenging one for me. I am presiding two clubs, Johor Jaya Toastmasters Club & Kelab Toastmasters Bahasa Melayu Johor Bahru. I am also working to pursue Distinguished Toastmaster title, the highest recognition for Toastmasters. I am not in a rush, neither feeling competitive. I just feel it is time now, after 7 years of practicing.
- Caramelicious. I started a bakery business from home few years ago. But it was last year that I decided to focus on this. Recently, I started to formally educate myself about internet marketing. This one keeps me happy.
- Writing. I love writing. As an introvert whose mind buzzing with ideas and checklists, I seek comfort in expressing myself through writing, other than public speaking in Toastmasters. Journals, blogs, Facebook and speeches become my writing medium. Ultimately, my largest source of income will be from my publications. I don’t know how exactly I will get there yet.
What skills am I investing in right now?
- Self-branding. This must start with how I see myself. People will only see me as much as I let myself be seen. To be seen is to let myself become vulnerable. This is a challenge for me. I don’t believe in those overrated marketing image-branding. The only other way to build a self-brand is to be genuine and trusting to people. And only the kindest people are able to do that. Do good regardless of the outcome.
- Baking & decorating. I bake for a living, yes. But truthfully, I still can’t grasp how exactly a cake can cost 5 digits. That’s my goal – to gain the skills and expertise of bakers who sells their cakes that much. That is truly other-worldly.
- Finance. This is so crucial for me. As someone who lives a carefree life in her twenties, I have finally came to term with my bad emotions in regards of finance. I studied Maths for my degree. It is never about the numbers. It is in healing my relationship with money, in opposed to how I have been brought up and how I started my adult life with student loan. It has affected many years of my life severely. It is only now that I managed to admit to people that this hinders my developments in other fields in my life.
The only goal in life is happiness. The only real way to that goal is continuous development. May we all exhale our last breathe as the best person we could be.
What is it about human hearts that makes us so weak yet so strong?
Human hearts can never recover from pain. It just grows stronger and more resilient. No one recovers from broken hearts. No one gets over a lost person. No one stops feeling sad. The heart just molds into something more beautiful and more firm, like root penetrating soil to form gripping foundation for the growing tree.
Thus never make the mistake of telling someone that they will get over it or time will heal. Instead, congratulate for holding on, hold their hands as their heart transforms and pray for the invincible person they will become.
Often I hear the label ‘sensitive’ given to a person like it is the worst weakness a human can have. Is being sensitive worse than putting down people? Is being sensitive worse than being disrespectful? Is being sensitive worse than lying? Absolutely not.
It takes a sensitive woman to make a good mother. It takes a sensitive person to be a good leader who cares about his followers. It takes a sensitive countryman to make a good soldier. It takes a sensitive Prophet to last a teaching till the end of humankind.
A sensitive person just needs the skills to go with their strong emotions. To feel negative emotions without acting on it. To feel people’s hardship and compose a plan to help them. To notice the slightest changes to act on a different course of plan immediately with a strong mind.
Hence, never tell a sensitive person to stop feeling or contain their emotion. Teach them the skills to pour that overwhelming energy into positive actions. Help them regain their senses when they are losing their head to their hearts.
This is something hard, for me. Something I have yet figured out. How do you move on from a certain feeling? Forgiving without receiving any apology. Loving someone new without the certainty of letting go of a person. How do you create a closure?
Even though the forgiveness is said out loud and the love is made known, there is something unsettling deep in heart. Maybe my heart hasn’t reach it’s full transformation yet. Maybe it is not something that needs solving, but like riddles, enjoyed in amusement of anticipating the answer.
THE CHOICE IS OURS TO MAKE…
whether to build people’s strengths or keep correcting their mistakes, to be in awe of their beauty of imperfections or making them follow the mainstreams, to listen to their awkward side or to highlight those sides they are not proud of.
I finally understood when Ella’s mother told her to “Have courage. Be kind.”
Heart: Today is the final day.
Brain: I am well aware of that.
Heart: Have we found something?
Brain: We are still looking.
Heart: Are we closer to the solution?
Brain: I don’t know.
Heart: Can we define the problem, at least?
Brain: I believe we can’t.
Heart: Then what’s the point in reaching this mark?
Brain: It has always been about to keep going on. We succeeded. We are still doing it. We will succeed. InsyaAllah.
Heart: I woke up full of motivation today! Let’s make our to-do list.
Brain: I won’t fall for your act again.
Heart: Not acting! Told the truth! I am SO motivated! Let’s roll!
Brain: Wait till that energy drains later.
Heart: I don’t care what you think of me. Let’s get things done now.
Brain: Might as well do something while you’re fine.
Brain: We won again.
Heart: Yes. I know.
Brain: You don’t seem happy, why?
Heart: Don’t start on one of your you-should-be-grateful lecture again.
Brain: Ok, I won’t. But still, answer me. Why?
Heart: I don’t feel anything. Just numbness.
Brain: Look. They are so happy for you.
Heart: I feel that what I said or did were fake.
Brain: But you are not lying, are you? You are just trying hard to be okay. That’s good.
Heart: And tiring. Exhausting, actually.
Brain: There are people who envy this medal, you know.
Heart: I know. I just don’t feel. That’s all.
Brain: They said that we don’t deserve to feel a certain way.
Heart: And we should stay calm.
Brain: They said that we don’t deserve to feel sad.
Heart: And always smile.
Brain: They said that we don’t deserve to feel angry.
Heart: Because our feelings waste their time.
Brain: We thought that if we don’t react to these feelings, everything would turn out fine.
Heart: It seems that when we seem fine, they don’t believe we have feelings.
Brain: So let’s just do this on our own.
Heart: Thus we won’t waste their time anymore.
Brain: Keep acting.
Heart: We are good at that.
Brain: Sounds like a good plan.
Heart: On it now.
Heart: Maybe this isn’t meant to be solved.
Brain: What do you mean?
Heart: I mean, we don’t need to make it vanish.
Heart: You know, like space.
Brain: We’ve always love space. What about it?
Heart: Most of it is vacuum. Like the void we’re having now.
Brain: Yes, this feeling of voidness.
Heart: And then there are stars and other beautiful things in space.
Brain: Yes. Never fail to mesmerize us.
Heart: We just have to hop on from star to star, from planet to planet, from one beautiful thing to another beautiful thing.
Brain: That sounds like a plan.
Heart: While hopping, we have to go through the vacuum, but we don’t have to linger till we plant our feet firmly on the next solid ground.
Brain: Yes, we have to bear that in mind.
Heart: We’ll try our best to avoid black holes. They’re mysterious, maybe dangerous.
Brain: Ok, will do.
Heart: We must prepare ourselves with everything we need we when go hopping to help pull us to our next destination – good friends, motivational books, Holy Quran, night prayers, coffee, movies, exercises and many more.
Brain: Okay! Let’s do this!
Heart: To the questions we don’t find the answers, what do we do with them?
Brain: ‘Haven’t’, not ‘don’t’.
Brain: We keep looking for the answers.
Heart: What if we won’t find the answer.
Brain: We keep looking.
Heart: What if…
Brain: We keep looking! Keep looking till you stop beating.