the backstage epiphany

where reality is so subjective it's entirely optional

Category Archives: Epiphanies

Welcoming change

“There is a certain relief in change, even though it be from bad to worse!  As I have often found in traveling in a stagecoach, that it is often a comfort to shift one’s position, and be bruised in a new place. “ – Washington Irving

I’ve never really liked the idea of change. Fear of the unknown, sadness of leaving the familiar behind, apprehensive towards testing uncharted waters, and the possibility of failure are the main factors that have always held me back from embracing something new. It’s only after a great deal of thinking, debating, pushing and bawling that I can ever make up my mind to pursue something, and even that with great caution.

But this time it’s different. This time, I know what I want and what I must do to get it, regardless of how long it takes. Over the past two weeks I’ve been given a sign, which has reassured me that I need no longer worry about feeling any guilt or fear towards what I’m about to do. The only ties, strings and bridges that I ever cared about have self-destructed, and now I’m free to move on with what I’ve planned to do.

To a certain extent I will always care, I suppose, and to a certain extent it will always hurt, but it’s the pain that teaches us to brave up, be strong, and throw all emotional attachment into the fire and focus on what we were meant to do.

So hello, Change. You’ve been a long time coming.

Why gamble?

Watching big-screen adaptations of anything in print, such as the Harry Potter books, is like going to a casino with bad luck hanging over your head: you know you never win anything, and yet you’re hell-bent on taking a gamble anyway. The movies have never really gone by the books — with The Prisoner of Azkaban and The Goblet of Fire deviating from the books to an appalling degree (although The Deathly Hallows, The Order of the Phoenix and The Chamber of Secrets actually made commendable efforts to stick to the original story, and the changes made to it were comparably few and nondescript) — and yet we watch them, either because of all the hype or because we know the books back to front and we want to see for ourselves how close the movies come to the books.

Why do people gamble? In a world where money is so fluid, how do we know how safe it is to risk (almost) everything we have just for all that brouhaha? We scan the room for a table that could make us potential millionaires, and we put our money into it in the hopes that we gain something. When we see something coming back, that’s when the stakes get higher, and we put more into the game, hoping that we’ll get more back. And even when we begin to realize that we may end up losing everything, we keep going, determined to redeem ourselves and at least be able to keep a tiny bit of the money that we gambled.

The exact same thing can be said for relationships. We scan the world (or the streets) for that person who could be a potential Somebody in our lives, and we put our time and effort into it in the hopes of turning it into something positive. When we see the slightest bit of progress, our hopes get higher, and we put more time and effort into it. And when this person happens to be someone we really, really like, we choose to ignore all the bad signs that it might not work out the way we want it to, and we soldier on, desperate to salvage what we thought could have been at least a semi-decent relationship, and trying our hardest to hold on to that last shred of effort that we put in (not to mention our dignity).

So when is it time to stop gambling? When we sense that we’re about to lose everything? Or do we cross all fingers and toes, keep playing, hope that we’ll get some of it back, and then stop only when we have no other choice? Or do we just play it safe and not gamble at all? Not gambling leads us to either breathe a sigh of relief that we didn’t lose as much as everyone else did, or wish with all our hearts that we had dared to try our luck and end up among the few fortunate ones. So maybe the important question isn’t why or how much we gamble. Maybe it’s when to pull our highest bet — our hearts — off the table.

After the storm

Well, so here we are again. Another full circle come, another year gone. As I sit here and think about everything that has transpired, I realize I actually do not remember very much about the year, and the memories have all blurred in on one another, this year more than the last, so much so that I don’t even know whether to call this year a good or a bad one. I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve been so busy shutting out as much noise and dissent as possible that everything else just got tuned out altogether, or because I haven’t spent as much time registering and absorbing everything as I usually do.

So maybe it was a numbing year.

Nevertheless, it is the last day of the year. When I think back (with a great deal of help from my blog archives) to all the highs, lows, the good times, the bad times, the awesome times, the awful times, the mistakes, the milestones, and the many, many lessons, it’s no wonder I’ve become muddled up with everything that has happened this year. With all the people I’ve met, the things I’ve done, and the mistakes and choices I’ve made, it’s amazing I’m still standing, albeit with that many more chips on both my shoulders.

But the new year dawns tomorrow, and with that the hopes for an improved lot in life, for new (and old) dreams to be fulfilled, and for that step closer to what I’ve been hoping to achieve these last few years.

Happy New Year!

Humbled this Thanksgiving

“The theme is the theme of humiliation, which is the square root of sin, as opposed to the freedom from humiliation, and love, which is the square root of wonderful.” – Carson McCullers

With Thanksgiving around the corner, I am reminded once again that nothing is ever about me, that I am what I am today because of a series of people and events that have cropped up in my life. I am reminded that, for good or bad, I should be thankful for all of them, for it is because, and in spite, of them that I am still standing, still alive, still hopeful. And of all the things to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, I am most thankful for You.

I know that everything that has transpired this year, especially over the past month, has been Your way of teaching me a lesson. But in that lesson, I have been given a glimpse of Your infinite mercy, because You have finally accepted that I am not perfect — that I am, in fact, severely, unforgivably flawed — and You chose to take this mess away from me, rather than watch me try and subsequently fail to dig myself out of it.

And so I thank You, for saving me from making this mistake over and over again, for reminding me that I must always put others’ happiness before my own, and for giving me another chance this time around to do the right thing.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Perceptual selectivity: A choice among no other choice

t”It is only after you have lost everything that you will be free to do anything.”@czyhzd

I hate my job. It’s something I’ve become very open about this year, because I figured there would be no point in pretending I love it when everyone who knows me well enough can see right through it. The reason I hate my job will be revealed at a later, and more opportune, time, but right now, I do hate it. And when people realize that I hate my job, their immediate — almost instinctive — response is “Well, why don’t you get another one?”

All — or throughout most of — our lives, we have been spoilt for choice. When we were younger, it was a question of which toy to get: the dancing dinosaur or the sneezing helicopter. As we grew older, it became a question of which school to go to: a painfully small private school where everyone knew your business or an overpopulated public school where nobody could know you. And then it got to a stage where we had to decide what we wanted to do for a living and if we wanted to rearrange our lives a little bit in order to make room for one more person.

The problem with these choices is that once we made them, all the other options never quite went away, but instead hung around, silently taunting us with their presence and reminding us that it was solely our  own — or our parents’, depending on how old we were at the time — decisions that left us where we currently were. And, in the midst of all that silence, were the constantly whispered words: You still have a choice…

Do we, though? When we get to a certain point in our lives, are we as free to make those choices as we were, say, ten years ago? We may be stuck in a job we despise, but if it pays the bills and takes care of our responsibilities, we know it’s probably better to just grit our teeth, take many deep breaths and brave it. If our relationship has hit a brick wall, but we’re so grateful that someone is actually willing to put up with us, we know we should put aside our doubts and insecurities and focus on making it work. Because, deep down, we know that once we make the decision to change our circumstances in life, the nature of that change is thrown completely to the wind.

In other words, we are cowards for not wanting to risk being worse off, and give ourselves a chance, if even a very small one, to be better off. The bizarrely ironic thing about this form of perceptual selectivity is that we only tend to think we have to make these choices because it starts to look as though we have no other choice.

I thought I had come beyond the point of being afraid, despite having my heart broken as badly as I did two years ago, despite thinking I had finally developed a new lease on love, despite realizing that underneath the glittery façade of a job I had once loved lay a monstrous foundation. But now that it feels as though I’m waking up from a coma, I know that the fear has never gone away, and everything that has transpired over the last year and a half was merely a Band-Aid, not a solution, for the pain.

So now I have to make that choice: to stay in this comfort zone that is in and of itself an oxymoron, or take the leap of faith that could result in an all-out crash-and-burn. Either way, with nothing ever having changed and nothing ever likely to change, there can be no other direction to go but up from here.

Somewhere I don’t sleep anymore

Three options (Cancel does not count) my life does not have - taken with BlackBerry Bold 9700

I discovered a few days ago that an old boyfriend of mine recently got engaged. To say that I was surprised at the engagement would be somewhat inaccurate; the girl, after all, is someone he was in a long-distance relationship with for two-odd years until, some five years ago, he decided he would like to try on the philanderer’s hat. It was inevitable that they would get back together after I turned it into a win-win situation by shipping him off to her in sunny California.

What actually surprised me was that this man — who was the sole reason I spent the entire summer of 2006 bawling my eyes out over the phone to Becca in my walk-in closet, and subsequently the reason my weight nosedived down to a very happy 110lbs — was able to bounce back from making those hideous mistakes, and even end up making an honest woman out of her now.

We spend our lives making mistakes, doing things to hurt people who in no way deserve any of them, and come away from it dusting ourselves off and promising to do better. But we never really apologize for them because admittedly, there is not much use in being sorry for something that should never have happened in the first place. And if we were all to be completely honest with ourselves, we’re probably more sorry for being caught than for doing it in the first place.

How do we know, then, that in the end, things will somehow become all right again? If there is so much excruciating truth to be found in ‘Sorry is not a valid currency’, how do we live with ourselves knowing that we have irrevocably hurt someone we loved and who loved us, and we’re not given a chance to make up for it? And on the rare occasion that we are given the chance, how do we live with the reminder that we screwed up, because there is virtually no way to forgive if we can’t forget?

What do we do when we can no longer Sleep our way to redemption or Restart what we Shut Down?

One year later, still learning

“Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.” – Oprah Winfrey

I’ve spent most of my life contemplating the credibility of  coincidence. I never really believed that, left entirely to chance, things just fell together, because Everything is a consequence of Something. And ever since I moved back to this country, I’ve believed in it even less when I realized that Mary knew Jane and Harry dated Sally and Thelma was in the same beauty pageant as Louise, because anyone who lives in Kuala Lumpur knows that in a city as tiny as this one, all the social circles are bound to run in together on one another.

So when I spotted him walking by at Starbucks in Bangsar Telawi last April, and realized that he seemed somewhat familiar, I passed him off as just someone I may have seen around the night scenes. But when he walked past again in the opposite direction and actually deviated off his path to speak to me, I realized that we had gone to the same elementary school together, and had actually shared a classroom for a full year, although we never said more than two words to each other.

After that encounter, I thought that if there were ever to be a coincidence in my life, that may have been it. For who would have thought that I would run into someone I had only never known by name and sight and hadn’t seen or spoken to in thirteen years, at Starbucks, of all places, and actually have some smidgen of a memory of him? Who would have thought that, one year later, I would know him far better than I had ever thought or cared to know fourteen years ago?

As I sit and contemplate the last 365 days I have spent with this man, it amazes me how differently my life has turned out from what I thought it would be when I moved back here two years ago. It amazes me that I have actually spent 365 days getting used to allowing someone else in my life, adapting to his ways, his lifestyle, his world, and actually learning to be in a relationship all over again after spending two and a half years on my own (I say two and a half years because the aberrations that occurred during that period are not worth factoring into my life). Naturally, this can be likened, by my standards, to riding a unicycle: potentially fatal at first, and then slowly becoming just a little wobbly.

I once read somewhere that the first year of a relationship is spent getting to know each other, stumbling upon all their little flaws and idiosyncrasies, identifying and ironing out all the issues that are certain to abound as a result of old baggage or just individual neuroses, and then deciding if they would still like to continue being in each other’s presence. Over the past year, I’ve had to remember that my world doesn’t revolve around myself anymore because I had someone to take care of now, let go of the insecurities and bitterness that have plagued me for so many years, lower my defenses and open up to someone as fully as I dared, and bulldoze all the Julians, Mahs, Howards, Carls and Gregs of the world out of my system. I’ve come out of it a little shaken, a little high-strung, but knowing that as much trouble as I’ve had with my own issues, it can’t just be about me anymore, and I can’t take any part of this relationship for granted because it’s not always going to be there.

I’m sorry for all the troubles we’ve had, for all the fights — and oh, how we did fight — for all the little things I couldn’t let go of. Your patience may be waning, but I’m thankful for it nonetheless, and thankful that you’re still here after all the difficulty I’ve had in sorting out my issues to make things better, and in the end, make you happier. So now, as we move into our second year, I may say that what we have can’t (yet) be set in stone, but it doesn’t mean that I love you any less or any differently; it just means that I will be grateful for every new day that I can add to our first 365.

Happy 1 Year baby!

– edit –

June 10, 2010: This is, I’m assuming, his response, which I only found hidden away in my bag two days later:

My assessment findings

In the past few years, when I’ve hit a particularly low point in my life, I’ve taken to putting myself through an assessment phase, where I look at my life from as many aspects as possible — professional, romantic (if and when that aspect actually applies), mental, and occasionally — though very rarely — familial. The last time I did it was nearly two years ago, when I decided to stop asking God, “Why doesn’t he (whom I thought at the time was the love of my life) love me?” and just look at the big picture and figure out the answer for myself. Even though that answer never quite materialized (or I just refused to accept it), I was able to take a good look at myself and the things about me that had changed, remained the same, and desperately needed remedying.

So, today, when I thought about the fact that in a month I would have been at my current job for two (two!) years, in my relationship for one (one!) year, and very likely going blind from all the proofreading that my job requires me to do, I decided to begin a new round of self-assessments. And, as is the case with all my previous assessments, I did not like what I found.

1. My tolerance for many things has dwindled at an alarming rate. I have lost all patience for — among many, many things — laziness, incoherence, loquaciousness, and bad driving. This is very bad because three years ago, I don’t remember ever being so impatient and short-tempered over such things. Except perhaps bad driving.

2. I no longer feel the need to make new friends. Not that I ever felt an overwhelming desire to, but when I was in college, I made some semblance of an effort, because of the Royal Pitches. These days, the handful (literally, one hand full) of friends I have, and the people in Afham’s absolute closest circle that I’ve come to know over the past few months, are the only ones that I am willing to be around. This is, also, very bad, because it only serves to reaffirm the impression everyone has of me as a disdainful bint, and I think on some level Afham wishes I would be less of a sociopath.

3. I have made (metaphorically) silent adversaries of people I do not know — a statement which is in and of itself an oxymoron. I’ve heard of people who came across this blog and, from reading some of my entries, made up their minds on what kind of a person I am. I’ve heard of people who work in the same company as I do — though not necessarily in the same building — who appear to know who I am, but of whose existence I know nothing. And they have all formed some opinion or other — usually negative — about me. This would be a bad thing if I actually cared exactly what people are saying about me, but the fact that I don’t care is in and of itself a bad thing as well.

4. I have become immune to anything even remotely related to my job. My will to get out of bed and go to work can be gauged by the hour I walk into the office and the number of hours I spend in there. My love for my work can be determined by how many errors I bother to correct when proofreading; to this day I doubt if I have missed out a single one. My relationship with my colleagues can be measured by the length of our conversations and how much regard I have for their gossipmongering and politicking. The good thing is that it allows me to block out the unnecessary drama and focus on doing what I am paid to do. The bad thing is that I am still on this job.

5. For the first time in my life, I am in as close to normal a relationship as I can be, free of overpossessive, domineering, cheating, vapid narcissists. And yet, not for the first time in my life, I am in a relationship which entails spending every waking (and sometimes sleeping, as indicated by, yes, actual nightmares) moment of my day wondering if I am ever good enough, if I will remain good enough in the years to come, and if I have ever managed to measure up to my predecessor(s).

6. I really, really do not handle knowing, hearing or talking about past relationships and partners, both his and mine, well. In spite of the creed I have tried so hard to live by, my intolerance for all conversations or even insinuations about former halves has reached new heights. This is probably brought on by the fact that from the day I met Afham my world has been growing perpetually smaller and I feel as though I can’t breathe without this diminishing world closing in around my ears. And this is a very, very bad thing, because I know that my insecurities, my anger and the old baggage will become this relationship’s undoing.

7. I have become slightly less cynical about relationships, thanks to my own normal-to-me relationship. And if my new lease on love is anything to go by, the slow demolition of the Wall of Cynicism is a good thing. But, knowing my luck in all things love, I will just have that much more to build up all over again at some point in my life (maybe there hasn’t been that much demolition after all?).

Of the seven (seven!) findings I have listed, there are only two that I would not change. As for the rest, I’m not sure how soon the necessary changes will come, but I have a feeling that by my next assessment they would probably all be irrelevant anyway.