Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Aftermath beckons...

Note to writer self - in the aftermath of a black moment, your heroine should be feeling completely silly and stupid. Why? Because that's how I'm feeling now.

I did go through a black moment over the weekend, culminating in the tears and unleashing on the blog yesterday. I cannot pinpoint exactly what led it on - it was one thing built upon another and another and another, and before you know it, you are overwhelmed and fraying at all the edges.

You know the BFF in every chick-lit story? I'm lucky to have one too. She lives thousands of miles away from me but she is always there. She sat me down and had a talk with me yesterday. Her words: life happens, deal with it.

Sounds harsh? Maybe, but she was right. Life isn't gonna go away no matter how much you stick your head in the sand and wait for it to 'pass'. And if it does pass, it's waiting for you around another corner.

That's what I had done, and the past few days were one such corner waiting for me to slam in it. I won't recoil from saying that the issues involved were actually people. The people in my life, those who make me whole when I bring them together and place them as the foundation of my existence. But that's a tricky thing - family. It's oil and water and pepper and salt and sugar and slices of lemon. On a good say, you stir and shake and end up with palatable vinaigrette. On other days, you stir and shake all you want and all you end up doing is making your arm hurt when nothing is mixing. That's when you have to realize - will this mix turn into a salad dressing or not?

In this latter case, it was a not. Actually, it was a not for a long time, I just refused to see it because it was easy to just keep on stirring and shaking when the oil and water were starting to separate. And then you get old and your arm muscles are no longer so strong and you grow tired and get aches and pains. Short of becoming addicted to painkillers, you have no way of keeping on stirring and shaking so everything will keep sticking into a salad dressing.

Strange side note - I am not a foodie, not even an enthusiastic cook. Yet using cooking examples come easy to me. Go figure.

Back to that example - translated to real life, the growing old part for me was actually about growing up. I had (hopefully) acquired the maturity necessary to look at things and know that oil and water will never mix and that I cannot keep hiding in the sand. If this were my heroine, this is the basis I would've given her to get on with her life and move to find her own happiness in her arc. So if I knew all that, why wasn't I doing it? Because writing is fictional, and real life isn't. In your writing, the sh*t may hit the fan but over your plot progression the mess miraculously disappears. Not so much in real life.

That was my dilemma - I had to do this, separate the oil from the water though I couldn't cut either from my life. Face it - we need Essential Fatty Acids and H2O to survive! That was me in a nutshell. Had to scrape off the salad dressing and figure how I could get both so I'd still be healthy yet without the hassle of having to make said dressing. Yeah, I may not be making much sense right now, I know that (beauty of blogging!).

It was hard to do. It nearly killed me. But like every writer knows, a character arc cannot progress if issues aren't adressed and there'll be no hope of HFN let alone HEA. So I did it - separated my oil from water.

And guess what? We're all still alive and kicking. Yes, there was a lot of hurt on the spot, but my mistake? I never gave the people involved enough credit to believe that they'd all hold on tall and strong without me to act as a supporting pillar in the display.

I don't know what consequences this move will have in the long term. If it's bad and the people are hiding it, it breaks my heart but sadly, I can't do anything about that. I tried, and look where it had gotten me. I know now that I may approach a corner and not be afraid of slamming into this particular issue. I know my arm need not hurt anymore from trying to stir and shake an impossible mix.

How do I feel? I'm still numb, I guess. Beneath this particular issue sat a few others, little ones that appear of no consequence but accumulate to something substantial when put together. We're working on them. My water (and I guess by now you know who I'm talking about here) and I are trying to figure out where the waves are coming from and what is triggering such tsunamis on the calm surface of our life together. My oil, well, is trickling along as usual. I just hope I haven't hurt them badly and that God will forgive me if I have. And my little dose of sugar was the sweetest of the lot, of course - yesterday he saw me crying and he came up, hugged me, and said, "can't you go to one of those places where they do massages and put that icky goop on your face and all that?" Yes, in his own little guy words, he was telling me to take a break and go to a spa! I think he'll know how to speak to girls later (yikes!). I told you, didn't I - we don't credit our people with enough good sense.

Yesterday I had a breakdown, a meltdown, and a black moment all rolled into one. I agreed I needed to move forward, and I took the plunge. Strangely, like my heroines, I didn't drown. I just emerged up and out as good-looking as a drowned rat, but you know what? It means I did come out.

I'm not seeing the light just yet, but I know it's there. Up to me now to cut through the brambles of thorns to be able to see the brilliant sky.

And yes too - as soon as my paycheck clears, I am gonna listen to the sugar's advice and book myself to have all that icky goop plopped on my face!!

Thanks to everyone who have listened and bothered enough to try and talk some sense into me at my black moment. Everyone needs people like you in their lives.

Incidentally, did I mention all this gave me an idea for a story...?

In the meantime, don't forget:

Live. Laugh. Love. I am followingmy advice now.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

This is so not gonna work...

... what an awful blog record! The last time I've been here was about a month ago. I could go the same route - where did the time fly? Yes, true, where did it fly? But at the same time, I know I've slacked. I watch every Friday roll by and then I am so busy I go, promise I'll do it Saturday. Then Saturday rolls by, and life is shaking me around like a rag doll.

That's how I feel on most days lately. Like everything is shaking up around me and I can't do a thing about it. You could say that's an easy excuse out, but I have nothing else to propose as reason. Everyday is like a rollercoaster and a struggle fit into one...

Most of you people know me as a chirpy, carefree, easygoing girl. But that's not who I am. Not really. It's a facet of me, the one I take on to face the world. I'm not sure anyone really knows me. People look at me and see wat they want to see. Now if you people are good at reading between the lines, you may have read me like an open book.

Who am I? Writer, editor, mother, wife, daughter, woman. Sum total of me? I don't know.

Why am I getting so heavy this time around, and the post is not even a weeks' type roundup I usually do. The reason could be that change is inevitable.

Around this same week 5 years ago, my life changed completely. I had been married for 3 years, mom of a 22-month old toddler. I'd just turned 22 years old. And I was a complete spoilt brat. March 14 marked the start of a turnng point - while showering I felt a hard lump in my breast. Strangely, I didn't panic. I called doctors, went for a mammogram, booked myself into a clinic to have the thing removed on the 17th. Was I living in a bubble? Maybe. It would burst on March 22 (yeah, that number again. Hadn't realised it was so prominent in there!). On that day the pathology report came back - the lump was malignant and spreading fast. Yes, it meant the word: cancer.

I had received the news in my parents' living room. The doctor in question was my cousin who apparently didn't think of patient confidentiality and just announced to the world, before I'd even heard it, that I needed to have surgery and chemo and all the hoop-la. No, I haven't forgiven him, and never went back to see him ever since. My husband said he'd take me home. I said no. I didn't want to be in the bubble of a car interior. I just stepped out and walked back home, 3 blocks away. The 10 min walk turned into a 20 minute stroll. I was still in pain from the first surgery, still had its gigantic dressing on my left side and its stitches itching and burning me. But in that moment I felt nothing. I stepped on the road, and I listened to traffic, people, felt the air on my face... I didn't talk for the whole day, I remember. The one thing I also clearly recall doing when I got home was that I sat down and prayed.

And then I decided to write. I had been toying with a story, one of those literary types that analyses every detail and can put a teacup on a pedestal so much it was heavy and symbolic and yes, boring. I remember writing on the eve of my surgery, because I couldn't sleep. I remember writing on the eve of every chemo session, because I again couldn't sleep.

And I remember growing up in that 20 minute walk. I remember becoming a writer consciously on that day.

A few weeks later I would meet a woman who would change my life again. Her name was TJ Killian. A confirmed author, she became a CP, a friend, a mentor. I remember she asked me - where do you want to be in 5 years?

5 years have gone by. Am I where I wanted to be? In a way, yes. I'm a writer, I'm published, people are starting to recognize my work. Strangely, it is Nolwynn Ardennes, born just 2 years ago, who is getting more prominence than the 5-year-old Aasiyah Qamar who was born back then.

I am starting to ask myself whether every 5 years is a lapse that prompts you to take stock of your life and reassess your priorities. I am asking myself questions.

Like why did I think of getting a degree? Seems like 8 years ago when I took on that program, it was more because it was what everyone was expecting of me. A good student my whole life, why did I 'cop out' and get married and have kids when I could've had a bright future before me? Sadly, I bought that crap and now that I'm one semester away from completing this darn degree, I cannot cop out and give up. I've invested too much, not just financially but emotionally and time-wise in there to give it up now. Sad, I know...

On some days I regret other decisions I made in my life. If I'm not regretting, I am second guessing. And yeah, that's personal. I'll never regret writing - that has become my life in a nutshell.

What I'm getting at is that - I may be a writer as you people know me, but I am also a person. And that comes with a whole load of sh*t. No other way of saying it. Why haven't I blogged? Because life has a way of catching up with me and twisting me around. Yes, it's a life I chose,  but had I known, would I have chosen it? I am not so sure. Lately I am feeling completely washed out, tired, and in over my head. I feel as if I've lost myself in there... for you see, one thing I hate is conflict. I prefer to dodge issues rather than address them head on because that'd be a further stress I completely don't need on top of everything else.You could say life dealt me a dodgy hand of cards and now I gotta play it. Tough but you gotta bite that bullet... Well, on some days, that gets a bit too much for me.

In the past weekend, I haven't gotten anything done. I've sat down, walked around, lost sleep over where I am at in my life. I've even asked myself if I was having a depression, a break down, a melt down, whatever.

One conclusion I  have reached is that while I may not want to disappoint everyone, I can't please everyone at the same time. I have to pick and choose my priorities, pick and choose my battles, and get over the crap. Would it make a difference if I said at some points, I've wondered if it weren't all crap that I'm living?

Might sound pathetic but in the past week I've received 2 reviews for my book Storms in a Shot Glass. 2 women, total strangers to me, who have enjoyed the story and told the world about it. Would it be strange to admit that this was what gave me a sense of validation? That this support was what kept me going?

Yes, I know - that's sad. I'm sure I've scared a lot of people today, and no, I'm not thinking of ending it! Not my life, not my writing, not my relatonships, and not this blog (lol there, for I wonder if aside from a few dedicated regulars who read my rambles more out of loyalty and friendship than because I have something to say, people don't really give a hoot about what I have to say).

But no, I'm not giving up. I'm just realizing that I need to give a new direction to my life. Face things head on instead of trying to smooth everything and please everyone and in the end hurt myself in the process. Strange - last year I wrote one such woman in a story, and it never dawned on me that she was me in a very big  part...

Change... welcome it, trash it, dodge it? It's here whether we like it or not. I may not like it, but I have to accept it in order to be whole again.Yes, it's 'that' time again...

5 years ago I grew up, but I guess I didn't grow up enough. I still have a lot of work to do in that light, especially now. This morning I cried after I dunno how long, and I think the tears cleansed and enabled me to move forward, even if that forward is a bramble of thorns. Are there a few roses in it? Very few and far between, I'll admit... Some things I'll need to do will break my heart, others will be relief after the initial storm. All of them will redefine life as I've known it so far. I'm scared, and I'm torn, yes. I don't want to be in my shoes... Funny in a twisted way, innit? If this were one of my heroines, I'd have her path all plotted out. But this is real life, sadly, and is there such a thing as HEA?

So if you're still around after reading this, I'll see you soon. And yes, not just every Friday (that I dodge and escape!). I am hauling a lot of stuff, but one thing I cannot give up on is my writing and the connection that gives me to the world. To you people.

Thanks for listening, and the ones who are there - thanks for being there.

And in the meantime, don't forget;

Live. Laugh. Love.

Yes too, I'm gonna take my own advice!