Sunday, January 31, 2010

Refreshing The Mind

Ofttimes I feel a need for some quiet time. Just some time and space to myself. No thoughts of lists & deadlines, no worrying, no thinking...

Amazingly, when I first tried doing this, it was very difficult for I had become so used to filling my mind with 'noise'. The noise of the world I live in... but after a while, it became easier. Some people learn to silence their minds through meditation. I do it by listening to prayer and music, such as the ones below... can't really achieve total silence, can I?

Listening to prayers or music for a short while is like refreshing the mind... taking a step out of the crazy world I live in and going into a world of tranquility. Then after an hour or two, I feel ready to return to the craziness again.

Sleepsong by Secret Garden

The Promise by Secret Garden

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Food : Binder of Communities

When I was in university, I learned one unfailing strategy to get people to attend society activities. All we had to do was ensure that plenty of food was available. Simple fare like sandwiches and biscuits but plenty of it.

In the first school I worked in, that same strategy worked like a charm. The boys were willing to paint endless walls, make innumerable posters and run unending miles as long as there was food and drink available. During sports season, I promised lunches and a guaranteed supply of cold drinks - this got me extreme loyalty and perseverance in sports events...LOL... I've since learned that for boys (& men too?), food is a most important starter. It's no wonder I was always broke in my first decade of teaching.

Recently a friend commented that Malaysia was lucky to enjoy such harmony despite the many different races & religions. Bar the occasional lawsuit and Molotov cocktail. I noticed that he had been attending a number of events which naturally meant lavish spreads of food. It was a light-bulb moment for me. Malaysians love coming together for food very very much and perhaps that is one critical factor that glues us together. It's very difficult to eat at the same table as someone you dislike and many a dispute has been cooled by a sharing of bread. Metaphorically speaking.

Perhaps we should have more breaking of bread together.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Boundaries - Good Fences Make Good Neighbours

I have noticed that most problems in relationships can be traced back to boundaries, whether unclear or unrealistic or whatever.

Last week, a cousin had a quarrel (a major one!) with her parents and aunts (the uncles normally run for cover) because they disagreed with her choice of partner.  As someone on the outside looking in, I could not really tell what the real issues were but I could see that for the first time in her life, my cousin was rebelling against the established boundaries of her family expectations.  As these boundaries (rules and protocol) were the same throughout the families in the clan, the aunts jumped in to 'defend' family traditions. 

One could say that the family was being too rigid... but at the same time, my cousin not only rebelled against family 'law' but she was also trying to buck social rules - hint : she could end up in Syariah court if she wasn't careful.  As far as I know, tradition has won .... although I suspect my young cousin is merely lying low to figure out other strategies.  Love conquers all, they say... although I beg to differ.  I prefer to add the qualification love with smart decisions.

This week, a friend found himself embroiled in a 'war' with his sister.  Again, as an outsider looking in, I couldn't really grasp all the dynamics in the relationship but what I understood was that the two had a problem of unclear boundaries.  She expected things from him such as his help as a chauffeur (they live in different cities) when she was in town and his consideration of her and her family's needs.  However, he felt he had work commitments to carry out (which made being a chauffeur till nighttime difficult) and he couldn't just hand his car over to her.  He also felt unhappy over their 'invasion' into his privacy (short term was okay... but not long term) and he felt that his sister didn't have enough consideration for his own needs.  So when he made his boundaries clear, she was not happy.

I myself have had to 'hack out' my own boundaries with my family members when I first began work.  As a student and as a dutiful daughter, my main duties were to study hard, bring home the results and obey my parents (which normally meant following their timetable and their activities other than my own school-related ones).  But when I began working, I had my own timetable, my own activities and perhaps a strong idea of what constituted fun things to do...LOL... my cousins will know what I'm talking about.  My family members didn't agree and I began a sometimes-civilised campaign to defend my boundaries.  I was lucky that I was more rational than emotional and so, there was a minimum of tantrums & crockery-smashing.   Makes me smile now to remember those days....

Well, whatever it may be, I believe wholeheartedly that CLEARLY-DEFINED BOUNDARIES are very very important in relationships.  People HAVE to tell their close friends and relatives what the boundaries are.

I am not comfortable if you tell me how to dress.
I am okay with your daily gossip.
I do not like it when you borrow my car without my permission.
I don't mind if you use my home telephone for short conversations.

But when you don't make this kind of thing clear, and people cross the boundaries, then it will just be a matter of time before something blows up.