the backstage epiphany

where reality is so subjective it's entirely optional

Monthly Archives: August 2008


“It was the Magic night that did this, wasn’t it?” – Becca

I’m not surprised. I’m really not surprised. It’s odd — but probably for the better — as Becca and Eza have pointed out, that I don’t seem perturbed by it at all. Give it a week and I might start to throw things, but for now it really does feel all right. I’m not sure if it’s because (a) I was given a very persistent wake-up call that has somehow either distorted my view of things, or forced the reality of the situation to the front of my mind, or (b) I’m burnt out from everything I’ve made myself do for the sake of making things better, or (c) on a very rare turn, I have enough sense not to disillusion myself into thinking things will be better from now on, or (d) whatever faith I had before this was stamped out long before I realized it, or (e) contrary to (d), I have enough faith to think that if I let nature take its course it really could get better in time (which seems very silly when said out loud or put down in black and white).

Whatever it is, I really am quite zen about it, and I don’t even need to be drawing lines in the sand to keep myself zen. Granted I’m a little bothered by the fact that I am zen, but given the way things have been for so long, I don’t think I can afford to be anything but zen. The question is: when the zen phase is over, how much more damage will I do for myself?


Upon further reflection, I think (b) and (d) are the least likely possibilities.


The biggest part of my life

a.k.a. the by-product of an overactive imagination

For as long as I can remember, I’ve suffered from stage-fright, which is strange as I’ve been onstage since I was about five years old, whether it was to sing, act or dance. When I was a child, it used to be so bad that I would actually cry backstage before it was time to go on, which must have looked silly to the other kids in Operafest. As I grew older, it became less severe: the crying ceased, but I would still pace the dressing room until it was showtime, especially when I was in Sri Inai and it was musical season. By the time I joined the UB Choir and Royal Pitches, the pacing had become less frequent, occurring only when I had to sing alone, and I was reduced to clenching and unclenching my jaw because it always felt as thought it were vibrating, and taking deep breaths to slow down my heartrate.

The one thing that has remained constant throughout my life, though, is that the stage-fright would disappear within five seconds of going onstage. I don’t know if the stage-fright was brought on by the fear of having to perform for people, of forgetting my part midway through the show, or of not knowing what the reaction to my performance would be. But it was the fear itself that gave me the drive to do my best, to give everything I had, and if the response was negative, to know where I went wrong and learn from it.

It still hasn’t gone away. It’s been two weeks.

Both blessing and curse

Boys, pretend I’m not here.

One of the issues that has plagued me since I turned 16 was the absence of really well-fitting undergarments. There was always something wrong with them: they were either too small or too low-cut or so well-padded that I could probably have survived a gunshot to the chest. And the prices of the ones that actually fit were so high for someone my age at that time that I felt like I should have them dry-cleaned so that they would last longer and not fray or fade or pop their wires before their time.

And then I moved to Buffalo and my problems were over, all thanks to Gap Body and Victoria’s Secret. I had never in my life been so spoilt for choice as far as undergarments were concerned.

So no one could judge me for stocking up in that department when it was time to pack up and ship my life home, especially with the discounts I was entitled to. I was not going to go on a wild-goose-chase for underwear when the time came, and be saddled with old, daggy ones until I finally have the financial means to go back to the U.S. And yet, I came back here hoping that somehow, over the course of the past four-odd years, my luck would have changed. And as I’ve learned over the last few weeks, it hasn’t.

If desperate times call for desperate measures, I will thank God fervently that my brother now has a U.S. mailing address, because I refuse to risk anything falling out onto the dinner table or being strapped in until they look almost bound. And I’m not sure if it’s because whatever’s available here is made funny, or I’m made funny. Either way, I look like I’m baking bread on my chest.

Rose-colored glasses

“Our perceived notions of this scene are so powerful that our mind blocks out the incongruity and overrides our eyes.” – Dan Brown, The Da Vinci Code

sco·to·ma Pronunciation (skәto’mә) n. pl. sco·to·mas or sco·to·ma·ta (-mә-tә) An area of diminished vision within the visual field.
Sometimes we want so badly to see something as what we want it to be that we fail utterly to see it for what it really is. It’s not the things we see as black and white that matter. It’s the things we don’t see that throw color in to make the whole picture that much clearer. When we finally make ourselves see it, it’s much too late. And that’s when the greatest battle of mankind takes place — between logic and emotion.

Sometimes I really do wonder…

Rock bottom

“I had fallen into an emotional hole so deep, only a fireman without a collarbone could rescue me.” – Carrie Bradshaw, Sex & the City

I recently developed the silly notion that no matter what happens now, the best is yet to come, in an attempt not to take for granted what I already have. But sometimes I wonder if I would have been happier if things were any other way. If they were better does that mean I would have been happier, or just content because I wouldn’t have had to struggle so much? And if they were even worse than they are now, does that mean I would be happier when they got better in the end, or completely strung-out from the fight and realizing too late that it was never worth it in the first place?

Smile and nod

Yesterday I attended The Edge-Bursa Malaysia Kuala Lumpur Rat Race 2008 for the first time, and it was quite an experience, and one which I am heartily grateful only happens once a year, even if it’s for a good cause. The sight of people running in their corporate attire was really quite amusing, and  even a little endearing when they were milling around before the race began, because it shed a new light — for me at least — on these corporate figures and showed that they could do something other than sit at their desks all day (Note: this does not include the team from Fitness First, as they were personal trainers and yesterday’s race was peanuts for them, if their gold medal was any indication). Never mind that the supporters were standing around in the debilitating heat trying to get a good view of the runners.

Then at one point, I was walking back to the RHB supporters when one of the runners I passed said, “Sandra! You’re Sandra, right?”

Thinking it was one of the RHB runners, I plastered on my public relations smile and said, “Hi!” And then my eyes swooped down to the label on the front of his shirt, and to my dismay, it read SCO, to represent Scomi Group, and not RHB. Immediately my expression shifted and I said, “Yes?”

“I’m Arif!” he said, with what may actually have been a genuine good-to-see-you-again smile.

I had no idea who he was. “Who?”

“Arif. Arif. From INTI. I met you at Talent Night!” he said, as though that explained it all. And still my mind drew a blank.

In my defence, that must have been at least five years ago. Nevertheless, I was mortified that this man who had not seen me in five years was standing in front of me calling me by name, and there I was not knowing who on God’s green earth he was, and failing in all attempts to dredge up the foggiest memory of him. Fortunately he was nice enough to exchange cards and say that he would email me to ‘catch up’, although what there is to catch up on with someone you don’t remember is beyond me.

One of the lessons I’ve learnt from this job that I was able to put to good use was to smile, always, always smile, especially when in doubt. And one more lesson to add to the ever-growing list that I learnt yesterday — especially after that run-in which left me feeling quite sheepish — was to never assume that people would not remember me (although I think that was a one-in-a-million encounter).

Running away

The last time I had the Dream was back in June. It was never about anything specific; one time I would be driving down Niagara Falls Boulevard during the holiday season rush, another time I would be sitting at Panera Bread with Shirley, or just walking down Elmwood Avenue in the middle of summer, and there was once I was crossing the Boston Common to get to BAE. I used to have the Dream a lot when I first came back to this country, but by May it had tapered off, and after it came to me in June, I realized that I only had it when something in my life was so bad that I was wishing I could go back to the U.S.

I had the Dream last night.

Maybe it was because my brother’s departure sent the memories of my own departure flooding back. I remember being so eager to leave back then, desperate to escape the life I was leading here, desperate to escape the miserable relationship that had completely taken over my life, aching for a new beginning in a new place. Maybe it’s the memories of all the mistakes I made since I left. Maybe it’s the current circumstances of my life that have made it all the more unbearable. Whatever it is, I’m back in that phase where I would lay down my life, sell my soul, to be able to have that chance to go back there and start all over again, and have the chance to do things differently so that I wouldn’t be in the situation I’m in right now.

Sitting at D’Haven with Becca a few hours ago — and in a much more confessional mood because of the alcohol — we were talking about the people in our lives who aggravate us so much that at times we want to strangle them, but who mean so much to us that at some point we overlook their faults and accept them the way they are because we want them that badly in our lives. We’ve all had the friends who weren’t really good friends, and the other halves who weren’t really good other halves, but whom we put up with just the same because the little things they did for us at some point were enough to make us want to continue having them in our lives. We know that we’re little more than a mere convenience to them, but we bear with it just the same because we can’t imagine being without them. And so we make excuses for them and for their behavior, because we love them enough to know that some things are not worth losing them over.

But when push comes to shove, how many more excuses can we make for them? When we know that at some point we have to face up to how little we matter to them, what do we do then? Do we turn a blind eye and continue defending them? Or do we give in to the fact that we really can’t put up with much more, give up on them, and walk away? Which one, then, would be the sign of courage? If it were the latter, then I’m a bloody coward.

Think again

Which comes first?

Sometimes it’s difficult listening to people give advice, especially when they’ve heard our problems and are doling out their own analysis of the situation(s). The sympathetic ones tell us what they know we want to hear. The candid ones tell us precisely what they think, whether we like to hear it or not. And more often than not, we end up taking more heed of what the latter has to say, and eventually, we start to see the picture they’ve painted for us and concur that what they say is completely valid.

But is it accurate? Granted in our vulnerable state we open up our minds to everything that everyone has to say, but how much stock can we put in it? And even if we find ourselves agreeing with what they say, are we being swayed by their words because of our vulnerability? Or are their words simply shedding an all-too-harsh light on the reality that we’ve shunned all this while? Is our view of the way things are becoming distorted because of what we have heard, or did we have a completely preconceived notion of the situation in the first place, and we’re only beginning to see it for what it is now?