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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Finally, some downtime...

My friends would know that the reason why this blog has been quiet a while was because of a major life-changing event. This was the birth of my first child, whom I have nicknamed #hamstercheeks for the Internet. 

Everything they have ever said about how much it changes your life has turned out to be true in some ways and not in others. It is true that I paid a lot more attention to what I did and ate just before and mostly after birth, because of breastfeeding. It is also true what they say about Mummy-brains. Maternal instincts kicked in strongly and I was Googling websites like Baby Center and What to Expect for all kinds of baby info, much to the consternation of my husband. (I have been dubbed Tigress Mum for that matter)

It is also true that there no such thing as a Super First Time New Mother. I learned this the hard way after the confinement nanny left and was giving myself all sorts of mental breakdowns thinking of the work that had to be done to keep Hamstercheeks alive, clean and healthy. I also learned the hard way that there is no shame in shamelessly asking for help whenever you need it. I do not need to compare yourself to others nor care about their opinions. 

So making decisions now boils down to answering 2 questions:
1. What is good for #hamstercheek?
2. What is good for me?

For example, take the hiring of a maid. I had all kinds of doubts and questions about hiring a maid at first but it turns out some very major ones had to do with what I thought of myself and what others would think of me. Am I a weaker, less capable person for hiring a maid to do things that I could do myself? Would others think I was a weaker, less capable person for doing so? 

In the end, I decided the mental breakdown and physical exhaustion was not worth it. One, yes, I am a weaker person because I am not SuperMom and nobody is. I cannot simultaneously hold multiple roles of Mother, Wife, Cleaner and Person all at the same time and it is not to mine or my child's benefit if I play a lesser part in each role. So chuck out the role of Household Cleaner and outsource it. 

And in a funny way, once I accepted that I was not SuperMom and that I (like every New Mother) needed help, the universe went out of its way to give it to me. A maid arrived in record timing and so far has turned out to be a good learner with a pleasant personality and also able to handle the baby much more patiently than me. The grandmothers adored their new grandson to bits and were quick to take on babysitting duties. So in fact that week after the nanny left was a relatively painless one since most of the work was done by Grammie and maid. 

Was the move good for #hamstercheeks? I think it did him no harm to be spoiled by Grammie for a week. Also, he can now count on always having clean laundry and bedding thanks to the maid. Was it good for me? I would think so, since now I can focus on his cries for food and attention without fretting that the house would fall apart. Also it's good to have some company in the house other than the baby. 

We do have our good times and our bad ones. On good ones, I find myself able to read, write and watch TV in relative peace and quiet, and even blog a lengthy entry. On bad ones, his cries drive me bonkers and the husband will return from work to find me almost in tears. And since this is a good time, I can say, well, that's life with a baby. Or rather, that's just life. :) 

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Myths of Happiness I’ve Learned

Once upon a time, it was my goal to be happy. 

I decided that I just didn't want the usual dream of a house with a husband and 2.5 kids. I wanted to be happy. That for me meant that when I was finally on my deathbed, I want to look back on my life and decide that it was a good life and I did a lot of stuff and at the end of it all, I was happy. 

To reach this, I had to read a lot about happiness and try a lot of stuff for myself. Over time, I realized a few things about happiness that was true so I put it in my Happy Journal and now I'm sharing on my blog. Hopefully, some of these apply to you or help you think a bit more about this grand notion called Happiness.

1.   It’s not always the big stuff that makes you happy.
When asked what would make them happy, people may think of a lot of big stuff. Things like a tour of Europe, winning the lottery or quitting their job to pursue their dreams. While any of those 3 would make me very happy as well, I have found that this poses difficulties in more ways than one. For one, if you don’t achieve this big thing, does that necessarily mean you are unhappy? When we set up big and lofty goals for ourselves, (especially those like the lottery, which are out of our control) and we don’t achieve them, we could be setting ourselves up for failure. That’s where we end up telling ourselves, “I’m miserable in my job and I would be happy if I quit but I can’t because I need the money.” Maybe another approach would be better.

2.   Small stuff can make you happy too.
There are plenty of small stuff that can also make you happy. A short list of mine includes: reading a favourite magazine, having a slow cup of tea in the morning, a friendly hand helping me, a seat on the subway, a blue sky with clouds and the smell of rain in the wind. They are not big things like the lottery but whenever I encounter any of these, they put a smile on my face and I feel happy. Certainly they are also easier to come by than winning the lottery!

3.   The hard stuff can also make you happy.
Crafting is hard. Playing an instrument is hard. Even thinking of what to write for my blog is hard. Getting through some of the hard stuff can involve a lot of blood, sweat and tears and a fair amount of cussing as well. If you saw me trying to practise a scale on my violin, you wouldn’t think I was very happy at all.
But the hard part of getting through trying to do something can also make you happy. You see progress being made and you can see yourself improving at a skill you wanted to learn. You persevere and finally at the end of it all, you get through the hard part. After all the effort you put in, you do feel a deep, strong sense of satisfaction that is also a kind of happiness.

4.   You can choose to be happy.

No one is responsible for your happiness except yourself. On a rainy day, some people will see wetness and misery at being stuck at home. Some people will see warmth and comfort at being stuck at home. Same situation, totally different viewpoints. You can imagine who feels happier. Choosing to be happy is not about putting a fake smile on. It is about acknowledging the situation as it is and actively finding the good in it.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Loving My Curves

Usually, I like to blog about creativity, craft or art but today, a different kind of article caught my attention in the January 2017 issue of Real Simple Magazine.

This is Rosaliz Jimenez, 42, photo director at a celebrity fashion magazine. You would notice that she’s not a supermodel, in fact, she’s considered plus-sized in the US.

Her story is the one that caught my eye. Like all fat people, she struggled with her weight and her self-esteem. Then one day, she noticed a strange lump on her neck. The diagnosis turned out to be cancer and it progressively got worse, till even after all the cancer treatment was over, she was hit with gallstones and her gall bladder had to be removed. 😱

Why did her story attract me? For one, having been fat nearly all my life, (with one brief respite during puberty) I can identify with her when she says “no one bullied me the way I bullied myself”. It sucks when you can hardly shop for clothes because none of the shops carry your size. Or when you are surrounded by visual reminders everywhere that people should look like supermodels. Even walking on the street reminds you that there are plenty other ordinary people who are not fat.

Worse still is your inner critic, convincing you that all this is your fault and that you are a failure for being this way, a lesser being than all the other size-0s out there. Even if you are already dieting and exercising, you are still a failure because you are still not a size-0 after all that effort. It seems to doom you to being a fat slob for the rest of your life.

I struggled with that inner critic like every fat and skinny woman on this planet but made peace with my body and self-image a long time ago. But, as life went on and I did more interesting stuff and met people who wanted to befriend me despite my size, I accepted that I had many other strengths to define me as a person other than my figure. ( Plus that I wasn’t willing to give up chips for the rest of my life in exchange for the perfect body 🍟) Her story though reminded me how important self-love for your body is.

Let us love ourselves, body and soul before such a medical calamity befalls us. Cancer (or other debilitating illnesses, for that matter) does not differentiate between S, M, L or XXL. Does it have to take such a diagnosis before one realizes that there are a lot more important stuff than whether you can fit into a bikini or not? Even if you are lucky never to get so ill, it is important to appreciate that there are other things your body can do regardless of fat or not.

Thinking of this made me think up this list:

Why I Love My Fat-Ass Body

1.   I’m fat but strong
I know this from the weight-lifting routines I’ve done at the gym. I also know this whenever I lift a backpack full of stuff or a load of students’ books. I’m strong enough to do all this when other slimmer women would have faltered.

2.   I have good shoulders
There are dozens of ways women have come up to beautify their bodies. Hair can be cut. Makeup can be put on. Facial features and even height and weight can be surgically changed. As of yet, though, I’ve yet to see a surgery that can give a woman a good, solid broad set of shoulders that makes all the difference when wearing sleeveless tops.
We pay so much attention to our waistlines we forget there are other parts of the body to be appreciative for. Our shoulders. Our legs which lift us up every time. Long fingers and nails. A wide smile and a hearty laughter and eyes that twinkle in sincere delight.

3.   I’ve recovered fairly well from past illnesses and traumas
I wonder if science will ever prove that fat can act as a padding against minor flus and colds. I’m very blessed that I don’t get sick that often and when I do, I know that it’s only a temporary phase with some medication before good health comes again. I'm also blessed that I've never had serious illnesses or injuries apart from a sprained ankle. 

4.   I’ve had a fairly good pregnancy
Before getting pregnant, I had heard plenty of horror stories about morning sickness, cravings, hormonal horror changes, bleeding… Then when I finally got pregnant, I had… none of them. Yes, I’ve had the usual aches and pains but I haven’t had anything so serious that I couldn’t function in normal everyday life or that made me fearful for the life of my baby. I can only thank my fat ass for that. My recovery after birth was also quite good and by the end of the confinement month I felt back to normal with no complications. I even regained my pre-pregnancy weight.

Are there things about my body I would want to change? I still would like to fit into an M at Zara and one day wear a bikini without people gacking, but then I look over this list I’ve written. I’m not sure I would want to give up all this just to look good in clothing. 

I do have days when I think of putting a bit more effort into my clothes and shoes and sometimes I do think about putting on a touch of makeup. Then I think of the time it would take to choose and put on the makeup, plus the time and money needed to shop for nice clothes and shoes. With the stuff I want to do, I would rather race out of the house earlier to live my life than spend it on makeup, regardless of how short a time it takes. Beauty truly is skin deep after all. When I die, I would want people to celebrate the things I’ve done, rather than just look at the nice makeup and clothes on my dead body. 

If you are inspired and curious about Rosaliz, you can read the article and watch a video on Rosaliz by clicking the handy link here.