Monday, September 28, 2009

Unwired and docked off!

I did a very brave thing. I didn't bring my work laptop home this weekend. I can't remember the last time I didn't have it with me over the weekend. What's more mind blowing for me is that I didn't switch on my home desktop for the entire weekend. I didn't read my personal email messages. I didn't play around with Facebook. I didn't surf the net and read what's on Christianity Today or I didn't visit any of the Christian forums or writing websites. I was completely unwired and docked off! Amazing!

To most of you, you're thinking, "What's the big deal?"

However, if you have been following my blog, you would know that I have issues on maintaining a work life balance. I always bring work home with me. I log on at nights and weekends to tend to work requests from the other offices in different time zones. I seem to be working all the time. When I am not physically in front of my laptop, my mind is filled with anxiety about work. I am never fully mentally there when I am spending time with DH and Osh Osh.

It was hard for me this weekend not to think about work. It's like my recent attempt of giving up coffee which didn't go too well. I would feel that something important is missing and the day's not quite right until I have my cup of coffee. I would feel edgy, grumpy and restless. Sometimes, I would have headaches. I often joke with my colleagues that it's like a cocaine addict having the shakes!

So, what took the place of my online time this weekend? I had good quality time with Osh Osh as I wasn't preoccupied with work. I didn’t use my normal phrase of "Not now, Mummy has to work" with him throughout the entire weekend. DH and I spent more time praying together and reading His word. All of us had a luxuriously long afternoon nap yesterday. We went for evening walks. Osh Osh was happy. I felt that I was more "there" with DH and Osh Osh. Yes, admittedly, there were times during the weekend that my mind strayed and wandered to work but I told myself that work can wait till Monday. I consciously brought my mind back to the present moment. When Osh Osh was happily playing and explaining to me what he was doing, I listened attentively, asked questions and played with him. DH and I laughed more this weekend. Yes, I was irritated with him about some minor issues but I explained my reasons for them. He in return, told me that he was irritated with me too. Nevertheless, we had time to talk about it and as a result, we understood each other better and our irritation with each other didn't escalate into a full blown fight.

Will I do this again this weekend? Yes, most definitely! I will however, have my laptop with me because I will be working from home on Friday. Nonetheless, come close of business day Friday, I will be officially offline. It's a small step but it's a step in the right direction!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Joyful in hope?

I sat in a crowded train, trying my best not to cry. I was listening to Christian worship songs on my MP3 player, hoping that it would dull the pain and make it bearable. As I kept the volume at a reasonable level, I could still hear the buzz of conversation amongst the other commuters. It was stuffy and more than once, my foot was stepped on.

I didn't want to sink deeper into self pity so I fumbled around in my handbag and pulled out a wallet size Christian women's devotional book. I carry this wherever I go with me, along with my trusty notebook. I turned to a topic titled "Hope" and there it was. Romans 12:12. "Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer."

How am I able to be joyful in hope?

I was quietly hopeful that this month was going to be that special month. Then, I started spotting today. People have told tell me that it will get easier with time. You will be able to deal with the disappointment better if it repeatedly happened to you. Then one day, it wouldn't hurt anymore.

Is that true?

All throughout the noisy train journey, I was fighting hard to keep my tears at bay. I kept reading Romans 12:12. Be faithful in prayer. I can manage that as both DH and I have been praying for a second child for more than a year now. Be patient in affliction. That's harder but I can manage that too. I tell myself to focus and convincingly say that I can overcome the suffering and be a better person after that experience.

Joyful in hope?

That's much harder. On a normal day, even when PMS doesn't hinder my rational functioning, joy escapes me every now and again. What more when I have to come face to face with "losing" once again what my heart so desires? there any left? I have to search all of my being to find that last ounce of hope to hold on to. To be joyful in that last ounce of hope... I don't see how I can do it.

A thought came to my mind. As I was crying inwardly, I felt that God was shedding the same tears as I was too.

In a desert land he found him,
in a barren and howling waste.
He shielded him and cared for him;
he guarded him as the apple of his eye.
- Deuteronomy 32:10

As I read this verse, I replaced "him" with "her" to identify myself in it. He cares for me.
He hurts when I hurt because He loves me so much. I am His creation. I am the apple of His eye.

I still walked home with a heavy heart. It's never easy for me although this disappointment is a monthly event that I face without fail. As I reached our doorstep, I mustered enough courage to put aside my tears, my grief and my pain as I am returning to my DH and my Osh Osh, my beloved family.

The joy that Romans 12:12 speaks of, I believe, is not one of frivolous happiness which may be easily distinguished. It's quiet and yet strong and secure and it comes from the fact that God has not left me. He is with me in all this muddled up mess that I am going through right now.

Joyful in hope? It's not possible for me right now but I pray in time, I will get that is where God wants me to be.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

What lenses are you using?

It's been emotionally chaotic these past two days. I had taken two days off work and since Mum is with us, it was the perfect timing to have some mother daughter quality time. That's not the cause of the chaos, of course! We had a nice time out yesterday, shopping and afternoon facials at the spa.

However, when I came home, I checked my work email messages. I know I shouldn't have done so since I am on leave. The urge was too strong for me to resist. I had several messages waiting for me, all bearing similar sentiments of urgency and importance. I was stumped. I felt that I have been short-changed. These 2 precious days are my days off work. I have hardly taken any decent time off for the past 6 months. Why can't my bosses and colleagues respect that and leave me alone??

Anyway, I decided not to reply those messages, all except one because the sender used some threatening words which displeased me. All of yesterday evening, I was feeling low and upset. It just seemed that as long as I have been doing this job, I wouldn't have any "freedom". The work will always be hounding me. People do not respect my personal time and my boundaries in life. Did I bring this upon myself by being too conscientious with my work in the first place? I was always termed as the "reliable, dependable worker". If you need anything done, don't fret, Busybugz is always there to do it.

That was the lens I used to look at my life yesterday. DH came home tired and wasn't too pleased to find me in such a state. He tried his best to console me but it didn't work. He used a different pair of lenses. He used a practical one where he saw my life as it was, without any drama. He asked me a question, "How many people can really take time off work without having work waiting for them when they returned to the office?" He's right. Everyone shares the same boat as me. No one is left off the hook but others seemed to have a better balance in life in that they are able to compartmentalize their lives, not mixing personal and work time.

I went to sleep restless and very disappointed last night. I know that realistically, I have to keep working in this job because the pay is decent and I should consider myself blessed for having a job. However, somehow, knowing this just made me feel very trapped.

Little did I know that Mum couldn't sleep well either last night. She was bugged by something else. She missed my Dad who is back home now and she was also worried about my grandmother. There are also some other family issues which I don't want to bring up here. What I can share is that the pair of lenses she used was a very emotional one. She just couldn't shake what she felt and was very troubled. This morning, she said she wanted to go home. DH and I tried our best to console her but as you can guess (like mother, like daughter), it didn't work.

So, DH and I went to the train station and changed her train ticket so that she can leave this Sunday instead of late next week. We didn't share her view that she needed to return urgently as the existing problems have been there for years and wouldn't change even if she returned tonight or Sunday or next week. However, her perception was clouded by emotions and she made her decision based on what her heart led her to decide.

As you can see, I am very similar to my mother. There are many times, of course, when I don't want to admit this. I don't want to say that I am rash and emotionally unstable but it's evident here that we are very alike. My Mum's very soft hearted and very kind which often results in people taking advantage of her. I share that trait too although I like to believe that I am made of tougher stuff. I can see Osh Osh being that way too. Kindness is something that comes so naturally with him. I have this fear that in this hard, cruel world that my son will not have what it takes to bear the brutal attacks of those who have stone cold hard hearts.

What am I to do? I can't live in fear all the time. I can't take a baseball bat and swing it around crazily to defend my parents and my son against whatever evil that comes their way. Instead, I have to let go and turn to God in prayer. I have to rely on the fact that "...He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him for that day" 1 Timothy 1:12.

Life is tough. No one can deny that. We survive by choosing the right type of lenses to look at the lives we lead.

Friday, September 11, 2009

An unexpected gem

For those of you who know my DH, the first thing that will strike you is that he is a soft spoken man. You wouldn't expect him to give you a slap on your back and laugh boisterously. He doesn't crave the limelight and is perfectly happy doing things behind the scene.

This story made me see him in a different light. Whoever wrote that you can always learn something new about your spouse is dead right!

I was very anxious for him yesterday. He had told me that as part of his occupational training this month, he needed to be in a chamber filled with tear gas (yes, the type of tear gas that is used to deter protesters and rioters!) in order to learn the skills of putting on the requisite protective gear within a very short frame of time.

I asked him if he can opt out. "Give some excuse - say you're not feeling well!" I suggested. DH said he would like to do this even though he was apprehensive because it would be a good experience. I don't know if it was a guy thing as I personally wouldn't want to be locked in a small confined space with some noxious substance just for the experience. Then again, that's just me. For a memorable experience, give me a bubbled filled bath tub with nice smelling candles and soft music any day!

DH sent me a text message about mid morning informing me that "Eyes, nose and face stung but I'm fine. Not to worry." He also managed to squeeze in that same text message that he has something to tell me that I would be pleased with.

That caught my eye! What did he do? Random thoughts start going through my head. Did he do something brave? Did he help one of his fellow team mates? Did he put others before himself? What ??

Yes, you can see by now that I am not a very patient soul.

Later yesterday afternoon, he called. He told me that I had to wait until I was home before he would tell me. He said it was better for him to tell me face to face. I didn't want to kept in suspense until then because I had to work late last night. I pleaded with him to tell me. He said, "Suspense is good for you. You'll like it. Women like such things!"

What?? What is it that women like? I didn't get a lot of work done yesterday as my mind was preoccupied by that last statement DH said. He sounded so pleased and excited over the phone, that he has this little secret that would make me happy. I'm glad that he is happy but this mama cat was being killed slowly and painfully by her own curiosity!

I finally got home close to 9pm. My father in law was getting Osh Osh ready for bed. I thought DH would be in the room with them as he would always read Osh Osh a bedtime story while tucking him in. My father in law said DH was very tired and had gone to bed.

I irrationally felt disappointed. I had hoped DH would be up and waiting for me at the door, grinning from ear to ear. I went into our room. DH was already asleep. I moved closer to him and nudged him to wake up. Yes, I know, I can hear you saying, 'What are you thinking, woman? Let your husband sleep! Can't you see he is so tired after a long day?!!"

I know but I needed to know the secret. I waited all day for it and I should be rewarded for my patience. What patience, you ask? I did say I was irrational.

DH eventually opened his eyes and said that he had a bad headache. I asked him if it was the side effect of the tear gas. He said no and that it was probably because he was out in the sun for too long. I fussed over him, making sure he took some medicine for his headache and neck pain. He smiled and eventually told me what he did.

At the end of the exercise, the participants were asked to remove their protective mask and breathe in the tear gas. The instructor asked each of them to shout out their names and identifcation numbers. He jokingly added that they could also shout out the names of their wives or dogs, whichever they preferred. When it came to DH's turn, after saying his name and ID number, he went on to say, 'I love Busybugz because she is a wonderful wife and mother." This was greeted by thunderous applause from all those present.

I was dumbfounded. DH said that in public, before a group of men without any form of coercion from me? "Was it the effect of the gas?" I asked. What did the others say? Did anyone laugh? Why did you say that? Did anyone come up to you and say anything later?" I showered him with numerous questions! Typical of a woman, wouldn't you say?

DH was too tired and just smiled again before lying down on the bed and closing his eyes. I wanted answers! Still, I couldn't get angry at him. He was right. It was something that a woman would like. A public declaration of love, freely given and free from any expectations of reward in return. I was still asking myself, "Was it the gas? Why did he do it?"

What was I thinking? Why did I have to ask so many questions? DH loves me. That's why he did it. He knew I would like it. He was not ashamed of his public declaration of love for me simply because it's the truth. He loves me. To him, I am his wonderful wife. He also believes that I am a wonderful mother to Osh Osh. Why did I find that so hard for me to accept?

Maybe I should stop questioning everything and just accept the gems I am blessed this unexpected gem of love that DH has given to me.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Love and Marriage

This tune popped up unexpectedly in my head as I was reading my work email messages. It's an old song sung by Frank Sinatra titled Love and Marriage. The first few lines are as follows:

Love and marriage, love and marriage
They go together like a horse and carriage
This I tell you brother
You can't have one without the other

Things seemed much simpler in that era or it could just be our perception of the way things were. People fell in love and naturally, they would wed. Nowadays, that isn't necessarily the way things progress. Love and marriage don't go hand in hand in this day and age. Many view marriage as being restrictive; like an institutional cage which kills the individual's freedom.

DH and I celebrated our 6th wedding anniversary yesterday. We both agreed that there has been a lot of ups and downs in our marriage. Some downs are repetitive because they are merely symptoms of their root causes which we have not adequately addressed and resolved. Issues like past hurts, anger, disappointment and resentment hinder me from seeing the full potential of my marriage. Our ups are blemished by such stains and lose the vibrancy of the full joy that they actually hold.

My anniversary gift to DH was a pair of tickets to a classical orchestra performance. It was titled Spanish Fantasia. We both enjoyed the concert. The pieces played took me through a range of emotions. I felt melancholy in one moment, soothed in the next, followed by an unexplainable intensity which transpired into an exhilarating climax, making me applaud till both hands ached.

Will God applaud my performance of wifely duties when He looks at how the 6 years of our marriage has been played? Am I always in sync with DH? Do I approach the music at the same tempo as DH? Does the melody of our marriage inspire and encourage others? Or are we horribly out of tune? Do others wince whenever they hear us?

I don't know the answers (and DH just said yesterday that I think too much!). I'll just pray that at the end of the day, God will hear a sweet, sweet sound when our marriage rhapsody is played to Him.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Hope that red turns green!

It's hard when you come crashing down to reality, especially when you have been quietly but excitedly hoping that the change you have been longing for, is finally within your grasp. I have spent the last 2 weeks or so day-dreaming about taking a sabbatical from work. I had pictured my new daily routine and lived it in my head. Waking up and not have to rush around like a mad hatter to get Osh Osh ready for school and ensuring that all of us leave the house before the clock strikes 7.

I'm able to have breakfast with Osh Osh at a leisurely pace and read a book or two with him in the morning before taking him to the neighbourhood playground. I would only send him to school in the afternoon as we would have opted out of our present full day child care arrangement. When he is at school, I would have at least 2 hours to write freely without having to worry about what work email and voice messages await me. I pictured myself having more energy, more alive, less stress and anxiety; and ulitimately happier.

DH and I talked about this in length and he is very supportive. He was confident that we could get by comfortably on his single income despite the new mortgage payments for our home and our other monthly expenditure. I was more skeptical and had this nagging thought that we couldn’t do it.

A good friend of mine introduced me to an online budgeting tool which will assist in our calculations to give us a clearer picture of our finances. I worked on it alone yesterday and my heart sank when the numbers came out red. We would be about $1400 in the red if we were depending only on DH's single salary. DH didn't believe me when I shared this with him last night. He figured that I had overestimated some of our expenses to give us a buffer for unexpected emergencies. I did create a buffer as it wouldn't be realistic if we took this step without catering for unforeseen circumstances.

Although DH was tired last night, he sat down with me and we worked through the numbers again. We got more or less the same results. I was very disappointed. DH suggested that we do a 3 months dry run of drastically reducing our expenses and live now as though he was the family's only income source. I agreed but I know how difficult it will be. DH has always been very frugal with money so it would not be such a big challenge for him. For me, I see money as a tool to lavish gifts onto those I care about as a outward gesture of my feelings for them. I also like to occasionaly splurge on myself when I am feeling blue. Our different styles of handling money resulted from how we saw our parents dealt with their money over the years. After being married to DH for 6 years, I have adapted some of his frugal manner and he has learnt to be more relaxed about his approach to money. As it is with every married couple, we blend and mould each other, take on each other's characteristics and if we get it right, we become stronger and better individuals due to our marriage.

I asked DH, as my lame way of approaching this disappointment in a light hearted manner if he saw the dark cloud hovering over my head with rain showers, thunder and lightning. He smiled and said, "After the rain, the sky will become clearer, the air fresher and there will be a rainbow."

I smiled feebly. I guess I behaved like a spoilt child. I had fantasized in depth about my ideal life for the past 2 weeks. It made my present life bearable because I told myself, "Hang in there, not much longer now", each time I met an obstacle. Now, the fluffly, wooly carpet that I have been standing on has been roughly yanked from under my feet causing me to fall down hard on my butt! Ouch! I nurse my wounded soul.

What do I do now? Brush the dust off, pick myself up and hope. Hope that one day my fantasy life will come true. Hope that the ugly red number that we got from our budget last night will turn into a jubilant green one after 3 months from now. Hope that if it doesn't, He will give me the peace to accept my life as it is. Hope that He will give me the strength to live the life I have now in a pleasing manner to Him. Hope that above all, I will have the inner joy that I long for.