The Beat of a Heart
On small victories and grand adventures, the devil’s walking the earth and the need to embrace the mundanity of everyday for what it’s worth.
A lot happens in the blink of an eye and the beat of a heart. When I imagine breaking time down to instances, milliseconds and heartbeats, it’s clear so much can happen, come to fruition or be a slice of much-needed revelation in so little measurable time. Crack open a beat and out can ooze all the icky and inconvenient mass that sometimes induces nausea … grossly like the innards of a sea cucumber … and maybe even mightily, much like the cracking open of an atom that releases all this pent-up energy.
As a self-professed archivist of memories who in recent years have observed an increasing lack of storage for short-term memories and noticed that my personal RAM is deteriorating at speeds no longer compatible at the rate that life unfolds, it seems appropriate that from time to time, I stop to curate and declutter what memories “To Keep or Toss” from these precious and irrecoverable time of my life, as well as to pull some stops to mourn losses and to celebrate wins.
Like many in the new year, it’s time to back up storage. Take stock. Marie-Kondo. [Well, two weeks into the new year seems a fair milestone to practice being “better late than never”.] Let the springcleaning begin.
Here’s what kept my heart beating in 2018:
Scaring myself to death on a ski lift by imagining the most spectacular fall off… before spotting my 5- and 7-year-olds confidently skiing down the mountain like a flock of ducklings trailing behind their instructor with no thought to danger, no awareness of potential pitfalls and no fear of the unknown… and remembering all over again how little creatures can teach big lessons on courage, how to live and how to dare to fall. Sometimes, I really just have to take a leap and hope to fly.
Getting all torn up by guilt that I was enjoying myself so much at a girlfriend’s wedding in New Zealand that I was forgetting to miss the husband and babies I had left behind in Singapore… only to take one look at her joy to know the 10-hour flight, the suffocating guilt, and the imagined stresses of it all, was all worthwhile. Why is it the important stuff cannot be measured is beyond me. How and when to: Choose love. Choose joy. Be a good parent. Be a great friend. At the end, maybe I just have to believe that whichever choice I make from the best of my intentions, grace tags along to make any situation an occasion to be life-giving anyway.
Celebrating our son’s soccer team’s very first victory, the first and one-and-only win for the team played in the season’s closing match. All we heard from them all season was, “We’re never going to win…” and all they heard all season from us was, “It’s not about winning or losing. It’s about sportsmanship. Being gracious. Trying your best.” Yeah well. All that and that 7–0 scoreline you boys nailed! Step aside, parenting dos, we have our winners!
Reminiscing past embarrassments, achievements and regrets… basically repeating age-old stories at Christmas time with lifelong friends, and being old enough to know that it takes this crazy amount of time (and love) with the same people to build a repository of such tales.
Picking the children up on the last day of school and whooping, “We did it!” and knowing that they will never feel the victory like we did.
Receiving a call from the husband after a 23-hour flight to know he’s safely landed… and only realising at such times (and great distances) just how desperately I want him to be right here beside me. Absence doesn’t make the heart grow fonder — it’s distance, people, distance.
Psyching myself up to meet with mum and to be a good daughter only to have it all get blown to pieces within the first hour of being together. Will there be a day we can sit down together and actually enjoy being with each other? This one’s a mystery. For now, I work on short term goals: Make good times enough to outnumber the bad.
Being told that a close friend and a brother-in-law had been diagnosed with cancer and not daring to even acknowledge it for fear that uttering that fact will turn it into a truth. Immediately, I had started to prepare for the worst and even began to plan for how to comfort surviving family. Before they even had a chance to fight their good fight — which they did and won, I had raised my white flag on their behalf. Such is the shame I carry.
Saying goodbye to the family cat at her grand old age of 18 human years and imagining her warily arriving at this strange promised land, surprised to find my late father who had loved her so dearly there to welcome her… and in a macabre way, holding that same hope for myself.
Being mightily proud during the kids’ meltdown times when I’m able to breathe my helplessness down enough to wrap them up in a much-needed hug … and being terribly ashamed on the days I give in to my own meltdowns and demand for them to stop. There may be a child in all of us, and there’s also a tantrum-throwing monster living and breathing in me. #adulting is real.
Having deep existential conversations with my husband in the middle of the night, like asking him “What is a google” (Response: A fish), “Do you know about the four mazes?” (Response: No such thing), “Where did the sofa in our room go?” (Response: Go to sleep) and laughing about them the day after. Who says married couples run out of things to talk about?
Living my life vicariously through others’ creations:
Most recently, chasing Lucifer on Netflix [https://www.netflix.com/sg/title/80057918], a series based on Neil Gaiman’s character from his Sandman series, on what happens when the devil takes a vacay from hell and specifically, how his witty, smart-alecky, egotistical self gets bent out of shape and wrapped around humanity… and dwelling in the acknowledgement of just how insanely beautiful life can be.
And only just now, watching the latest ad for Disney Paris [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w4jV_UfrrdA] and wholly choking up at the conclusion… knowing that for as far as I can, I want to always be able to be affected by small things like these, to laugh and cry, to bleed and fly, and to hurt and heal.
Rediscovering joy with my little monsters who from time to time make me tear up my hair in disbelief that they are ours to grow… and who at other times, are perfect reminders of how it was in the blink of an eye that I had delivered them into this world and frighteningly how in the beat of a heart, we had fallen in love with them. Facing their inquisitiveness everyday, watching them develop wit and more defined personalities always lead me to break out in the same song in my head, “They’ll learn much more than we’ll ever know | And I think to myself: What a wonderful world.”
Stripping high theology down to simple truths of love, forgiveness, mercy. Teaching these recurring themes to kids at catechism only to rediscover them for myself. Sometimes, when #adulting begins to fall apart, it helps to be with the little ones to be reminded of just what makes the world go round.
In these peculiar moments, I’ve learnt it is actually possible to see my personal alpha and the omega, such as: The ending of a story that had spanned too many years. Closure. Beginnings. Opportunity. Grace. Surprises. Revelations. Both careless or intentional choices that led to the culmination of a great significance. All the revolutions that occurred every millisecond that I simply did not tally and track. And now here we are in 2019. What next?
This entry was first published on Be Yourself.