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Archive for the ‘reflections’ Category

2017.

I think I’m going to remember this year. It was a good year, but not in the way you might imagine.

I was planning to write this at the end of 2017, rather than the start of 2018, since 2018 would really represent a new beginning. But in the end I was working to meet a 31 Dec, 2359 deadline, so worked right through the countdown and made it just in time! I was wondering whether to document this at all, but I didn’t want to let the year go by just like that.

To practically everyone around me, it would seem like a regular year for me. There would be the new school routines, unexpected kid challenges, and all the areas where the usual difficulties would crop up. My second son started P1, but no that wasn’t the biggest thing for me last year. My eldest threw himself into his CCA with a surprising passion and determination, which was heartening, and extremely time-consuming, but no that wasn’t the biggest thing for me last year. My dad went through a very major operation at the start of 2017, but we had all been praying, and he was at peace with the decision to go ahead in spite of all the risks, and we were all at peace, and I knew it would turn out just as God planned whatever the outcome, so didn’t worry excessively, and so no that didn’t turn out to be the biggest thing for me last year.

To practically everyone around me, I think it really wouldn’t be possible to see how epic the year was for me unless I told you.

My year started with a great tempest. It was so, so tumultuous. In January I plunged into the deepest, darkest abyss I had ever been in. I had been in deep pits from the same cause before, but never, ever, like this. Yet you probably wouldn’t have noticed. The storm was entirely an internal struggle. Yes, it did appear as irritation and snappish-ness towards to kids at first, but then I decided this had nothing to do with them, and I really shouldn’t take it out on them. So I made a concerted effort to hold it all in. I was lost in my head, as I’m usually prone to doing, but even more so. I drifted off to strings of arguments, playing over incidents, questioning, wondering, hating, beating myself up, finger pointing, allowing myself to feel guilt, then getting angry that I should feel guilty at all, and well, I can’t even really put the whole thing into words. It will be quite impossible to capture the emotions as it’s probably the kind of thing that is best communicated in person, and even then it would be hard.

It started with my reading a movie review, and then I knew, I absolutely needed to watch that movie. Just reading the review alone triggered memories that had surfaced in fairly regular intervals for over 20 years. Each time, I thought I had dealt with the issue, forgiven and moved on. But then the next trigger would simply reveal to me the damage was still there. That movie, UNA, was not the same, but there were parts that rang true. Nothing has come close to my experience, but that the show had bits, little bits, that I could relate to, already drew me to it.

I told no one. Secretly, I went to catch the movie on my own when the kids were all at school. What followed was darkness, sadness, anger, confusion, regret, guilt, and bitterness inside. The worst of it, was that I knew I wasn’t the cause of it and it really wasn’t my fault. Yet, I had to be silent and keep it all inside. Ironically, all these years, I felt I needed to protect. So I protected. And given how things were, there was no way confrontation would ever be possible, so I felt angry, and I felt cheated of my chance to be understood by loved ones and friends. I felt it would explain so much about me. Because of it, I felt like I wasn’t known. And I wanted to feel known. But I couldn’t. And I felt angry, bitter and hopeless. I was angry that I had to bear it all these years. Why should I protect? But how could I not?

It was only weeks later that my husband asked me what was wrong. He eventually noticed something was amiss in me, said he’d noticed it for a while, but he couldn’t figure out what since it was just a slight feeling he had that something was off (I tend to get even more introverted when things are truly bad). And so that was the first time that I said anything about what was churning in my mind in all those weeks. I had been absolutely silent about it. It mostly came out, what I could get out coherently. I thought my husband had known, because I told him in brief before we were married, but I discovered he had a vastly wrong idea of the extent. That was why he didn’t understand some of me before, but now he understood better. Wasn’t his fault, I hadn’t said much about it the first and only time we talked about it. We were in a public place, and whatever little I said had already brought me to tears.

Finally, I had someone who knew a little more. Still not all, because I’ve never been able to bring myself to say it. But it was good enough for me then.

But it wasn’t, actually. Because the turmoil carried on.

However.

Throughout this period, though I was lost in the abyss, I knew I had to hang on to a little thread of hope and not let myself fall too far beyond hope. I prayed for strength of mind to keep going, to keep going. I had to take care of the kids afterall. And there were errands to run, and groceries to get, visitations to my dad in hospital, and the business to run. If not for God, I would have been lost. But I knew he was there, so I wouldn’t get completely lost, but I was lost. I don’t fully know how to describe it. It was like I had God there, around, so that I could be safe to fall into this massive darkness. It was just something I had to go through.

And indeed that was what it was.

I don’t know how, and I don’t recall exactly when. But one day, it was crystal clear in my mind that if God had already forgiven, and already accepted, how then could I not forgive one who was already forgiven by God; one who had been forgiven just as I, a sinner too, was forgiven? It was suddenly so plain to me that I just needed to do my part to listen and obey what He tells me to do, and He will settle the rest. In this case, I needed to release true forgiveness. What I imagined was forgiveness before wasn’t, since the pain kept surfacing. No more grudging forgiveness coming on the back of self-pitying thoughts like “it’s not fair, I suffered so why should I bear the burden of forgiving.” It had to be true forgiveness. 

And there it was. It happened. And I’m not saying this lightly, afterall it took over 20 years to get to this point. The lightening in my heart was immediate. I wasn’t bitter about it anymore. And it wasn’t so important anymore that my loved ones and friends knew in order for me to be known. It would still definitely help, but it wasn’t crucial anymore. I could just be. But with that forgiveness, I also realised that I could talk about it. So I decided that if the opportunity arose, and if it felt right, I would share with friends the details. To date, I’ve only really spoken to three people about it, and those instances came about because I was sharing more about my struggles, my faith and God. I would like to think those conversations were good times of connection and blessing. So I’m not rushing it. I’m letting things come, and praying that these encounters will be times of blessing for the other person too, a time to share about God’s grace and goodness, not just a cathartic moment for me. So I’ve been letting God lead, and as the opportunities come, with his prompting, I’ll share.

This was the first quiet epic sea change that happened before the middle of last year.

 

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It’s taken a while to pen this down, though the thoughts have been running through my mind this past 2 weeks.

Last week was an emotionally tiring week. I was going to say ‘draining’, but I would think that should really be reserved for the family. But it was tiring.

I first saw the news in the middle of the night when I woke to feed Alyssa. It saddened me, as it did most Singaporeans. I know it’s been said to death, but it’s true that I have always looked at Mr Lee with great admiration. Although there has been much debate about his position on various issues in recent years, I don’t think anyone disputes what he has done for Singapore, how he has shaped this little country into what it is today. I remember sitting in class in secondary school learning about the history of Singapore, and especially in University when I took a module on Singapore’s history. I remember being in admiration of the bold decisions taken in turbulent times. His vision for Singapore, in light of the current world trends, was amazing. Really ahead of his time.

As condolences poured in from around the world, and as different world leaders from countries much larger than ours paid tribute to Mr Lee, it was a clear reminder of how he has raised Singapore’s stature. Who would have cared about the passing of the founder of our nation otherwise? We are so small.

It is my honest hope that my children grow up knowing about him and how important he and his first team were in shaping Singapore to be what it is. I hope that they are not blindly dismissive or ambivalent, but accord him due respect and admiration while appreciating the fragile circumstances within which Singapore was formed.

Apart from his political contributions, I think what stood out for me in the last week, and for many others, was the impact he had on his own family. I suppose all this wasn’t made public sooner in his life as it could be seen as making him look soft? But I really liked learning about the other side of Mr Lee. And what a wonderful love story. What a worthy example of a good marriage to follow! I think many married Singaporean couples would have found themselves thinking about their own marriage and how they could be as loving and supportive of one another like Mr and Mrs Lee.

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Lots of flowers and notes from the public. The video was showing one of my favourite interviews of Mr and Mrs Lee.

Given the long queues and the usual routine of kids, we didn’t manage to go down to pay our respects at Parliament House. Had I known about the how short the wait was at the priority queue I might have made the trip down, but I thought it was all around 8 hours. So I went down to Kembangan CC with Asher, and we spent some time there reading the tributes from Singaporeans, and watching a documentary about Mr Lee. I needed to go. It was the least I could do for someone who has done so much. It is so cliched, but what to do? Cliches do ring true.

Sunday found us gathering at my parents home to watch the funeral procession. I was thinking, poor PM Lee having to perform his role as PM first during this difficult time. The whole week he still had do his public rounds, meet with dignitaries. Even the private ceremony was not really private.

And even though we caught the ceremony from home, at the end of the ceremony I just felt so emotionally spent.

But it is time to move on. Time to continue doing our little part each day for Singapore, whatever that little part may be.

Farewell, Mr Lee. Thank you for all you have done.

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