June 30, 2014

Worth Fighting For

What makes a song beautiful is not always the quality of the voice but the distance that voice has had to travel. - Unfinished Song, 2012

Have you watched Unfinished Song (formerly known as Song For Marion)? The film's may be too old for me, but I love it. It's partly inspired by Young@Heart and starring Vanessa Redgrave (Marion), Terrence Stamp (Arthur) and Gemma Arterton (Elizabeth). 

Arthur's a bad-tempered person who sees no value in his wife's participation in elderly choir directed by Elizabeth. As soon as you see Marion sitting on a wheelchair, head covered, you know she's suffering from cancer which is declared terminal by her doctor. And so it happens. She faints during rehearsal, is taken to hospital and is told by doctor to go home and have as much chips and ice cream as she wants since she only has weeks to live. But Marion only wants one thing: to go back to the choir and sing. Despite Arthur's grumpy protestations, as he's being overprotective and really wants to spend as much time with her as possible, Marion returns to rehearsals as the choir prepares to participate in the auditions for a national choral competition. She performs one final song during the audition, True Colors by Cindy Lauper, which is about her relationship to Arthur. And honestly, tears streaming down my face while watching her singing that song. So Marion dies. Right after Marion's death, he decides to shut his only son, whom he has never gotten along, out of his life, even though that means he won't be able to see his cute granddaughter, no matter how fond Arthur is of her. I guess that's what happen when you lose someone you really love, you just want to be alone. Arthur comes to grips with his wife's death and of course, eventually finding the courage to join the choir and sing. At the competition, Arthur sings his heart out with a song that equally expresses his feelings for Marion, Goodnight My Angel by Billy Joel. And it makes me cry once again.

All in all, Unfinished Song is a heartwarming music drama with some beautifully bittersweet musical moments that bring tears of joy and sorrow. It's these moments that really bring the film to life, anchoring and capturing the essence of these complex beings. 

There's something about old couples that makes me realize someone can love you forever. I saw a couple the other day when I was walking down the street. They're old, wrinkled. Watching the way they were with each other, made it seem like they were young. The woman's laughing so hard she had to stop in the middle of the sidewalk to catch her breath. And the man's holding her hand, so sweet, as though whatever enormous life that exists behind them is brand new and fresh when they're together, a blank slate. They held hands the entire time. Then I remembered the time when my late grandparents were still alive, they really loved each other. When my grandfather passed away, my grandmother kept talking about him every single day. Like, "if your grandfather were here..." Well, she passed away last year. May they both rest in peace.

I wish that me and my future husband will always love each other even we become old and grumpy. InsyaAllah. :)

Well, music has a way of getting to the heart. So here's the scene of Arthur singing Goodnight My Angel:

Goodnight, my angel
Time to close your eyes
And save these questions for another day
I think I know what you've been asking me
I think you know what I've been trying to say
I promised I would never leave you
And you should always know
Wherever you may go
No matter where you are
I never will be far away

Goodnight, my angel
Now it's time to sleep
And still so many things I want to say
Remember all the songs you sang for me
When we went sailing on an emerald bay
And like a boat out on the ocean
I'm rocking you to sleep
The water's dark
And deep inside this ancient heart
You'll always be a part of me

Goodnight, my angel
Now it's time to dream
And dream how wonderful your life will be
Someday your child may cry
And if you sing this lullaby
Then in your heart
There will always be a part of me

Someday we'll all be gone
But lullabies go on and on
They never die
That's how you and I
Will be

June 27, 2014

Welcoming Ramadan

Prophet Muhammad (SAW) stated, "Whoever fasts a day for the sake of Allah, Allah (SWT) will distance his face from the hell fire by the distance of 70 years." (Bukhari)

Imagine. Someone really, really important is coming to visit you. Surely, you'd cook, clean, shop, prepare and plan everything for them. You'd make sure they're comfortable and well taken care of. You'd ascertain that everything's perfectly ready and adequately in place before they arrive. Now imagine someone coming to visit you that's even more important than that; more precious, more valuable, more honorable. Wouldn't you prepare even more and give it the best you got?

Well, the best month of the year, the most blessed and most precious, is here. The month that brings the fragrance of Jannah (heaven) and the sweetness of Imaan (faith), the tears of Taubah (repent) and the forgiveness of your Lord. And it's bringing with it a night that's equivalent in worship and reward, to more than a thousand months. Wouldn't you want to prepare for that? Wouldn't you want to be ready for it with all your heart and soul so that you don’t miss this great opportunity? They say the more prepared we are for something, the easier it is for us to handle it and the greater the chances that we'll be successful at it. So what are our resolutions this time?

Let's reduce the amount of food we eat during this month and continue the same spirit for the rest of the year. I love eating food and I love cooking it too. However, I do believe we eat far too much food and worst still we waste even more. So let's only take on our plate the amount we can eat and eat all that we take on our plate. We may actually lose some weight in that process. 

Let's eat healthy and wholesome food. Many of us place so much emphasis on permissible (halal) food but forget the other one, wholesome and beneficial food (tayyib). Let's not buy too much processed food and stop eating junk food. What we eat is what we are. 

Let's appreciate more the food that we eat. While we're fasting the food smells more tantalizing, the taste buds become extremely sensitive and food taste heavenly. By abstaining from eating and drinking we learn to respect the food more and I appreciate it when I get it. Let's be more grateful, respectful and appreciative of the food we buy and eat.

Let's give more in charity. We would spend over RM500 buying food, clothes, grocery, etc. Imagine, how it'd be if we all gave that money to a charity. After all fasting makes us understand the pain of hunger and thirst and pushes me to sympathize with the less fortunate. In the month of Ramadan, let's donate to the poor and the needy.

Let's not do any evil, speak no evil and see no evil. While fasting we can abstain from swearing or fighting with anybody. Let's not get involved in backbiting, slandering or gossiping about people. Let's not lie or cheat anybody. Let's be honest, kind and conscientious to people. Ramadan is the month of mercy, so let's be more merciful. It's the month of forgiveness, so let's forgive those who have wronged us. Let's not look at or listen to or see anything that will weaken our faith and resolve to be good.

Let's give up our bad habits. Although I don't smoke, for those who smoke Ramadan must be an amazing opportunity to give it up. Let's replace bad habits with good, productive and useful habits. My bad habit may include watching excessive TV, spending too much time on my cellphone or internet. Some people sleep far too much, it's a bad habit too. In Ramadan let's try our best to reduce our desire to sleep so much. Whatever bad habit you have, join me and make a pledge to give them up.

Let's devote more time with family. I have a wonderful family. I have a great mom and dad. I have 6 siblings and a handful of nieces and nephew. I'll spend more time with them this Ramadan and appreciate all the happiness and pleasure they give me. 

Let's devote more time in developing and sustaining our relationship with Allah. The whole purpose of fasting is to help us develop a stronger commitment to Allah and enhance our character with the attributes that Allah loves most. This month gives us every opportunity to do just that. Let's spend more time reading and studying the Qur'an, spend more time in reflection and remembrance of His Grace.

Have a meaningful and wonderful Ramadan. Happy fasting! :)

June 24, 2014

Hopeless Nostlagic

Nostalgia is my favorite pastime. I was born in 1990, which I'm glad of. I've always loved the era of 90's. I miss it. I get nostalgic about my childhood, about old family vacations, but most of all about an era I didn't belong to. I am in love with the 80's and 70's as well. To me it was the perfect time for literature, fashion and art. Don't you just love old movies like The Breakfast Club, Grease, Ghost, Pretty Woman, Ghostbusters, etc..?

So for me, even if I was born in 70's then I would have wished for an earlier time too. It's a never-ending cycle for those with a nostalgic heart, I guess. I also understood that for me it's more about the longing, the desire for something I can't have than the actual time. Would I really want to live in a time before all the modern day luxuries we're lucky to have? Before Twitter, smartphones, Instagram, and even temperature setting kettles? Would you? Sure the idea's romantic and beautiful but I do love the day and age we live in now. We're able to connect with people from anywhere in the world and we can even learn how to make pizza on YouTube. Women are closer to equality than ever before and we have the choice to do anything our heart desires.

I love memories almost as much as I love making them. There's just something so satisfying and so enlightening about rehashing, remembering, or rewriting a shared story. Sometimes all you can do is hold on to little bits of sanity here and there. Sometimes when you find yourself wading through a gray area, the best thing you can manage is to find clarity in any small way you can. Like, in the simple satisfaction of vacuuming, or in the fresh scent of clean laundry, or in the sweeping sense of black-and-white that comes from digging out old stuff. So I was digging out some old stuff and these are some of the things that I've found:


My sisters were huge fans of love songs and boy bands, so they had a lot of cassettes, posters and lyrics. When they got busy pursuing studies and getting jobs, I took everything and I started to listen all the boy bands and totally fell in love with KRU, 911, 'N Sync, Bakcstreet Boys, A1, Five, and others. I was also a big fan of Britney Spears. My sister gave me Britney Spears' posters and recorded music videos in a CD on my birthday. I watched the videos everyday, sang and danced alone. Lol. We used to have many cassettes but I don't know where's the rest.
A horror movie tape.
Sundel Bolong Suzanna is Indonesian vampire film (1981) and was the scariest movie when I was a kid. I don't quite remember the story but maybe if I'm gonna watch it now, I'd think the vampire's lame. As if we still had the VCR player. Lol. We had many tapes back then, most of them were the recorded series of Dragon Ball. I remember watching Dragon Ball every Saturday/Sunday in the morning with my brother, we sat really close to the television while eating cereals. 
Old watches.
These are the watches from 80's and 90's belonged to my mom and sister, worn out and not ticking anymore, of course. Well, I collected things so I kept them in a box..then I forgot that I had them. Now I've got them back and I'm thinking of repairing them, if repairable. They're still pretty, right? Vintage. And they're Rolex. ;)

June 20, 2014

A Piece of Corn

I remember being endlessly entertained by the adventures of my Lego toys. Some days they died violently, other days they traveled to space. I didn't understand why it's fun for me, it just was. But as I grew older, it became harder to access that imaginary space. I remember looking at them and feeling sort of frustrated and confused that things weren't the same. I could no longer connect to my toys in a way that allowed me to participate in the experience. Depression feels almost exactly like that. 

I had a depression once. I had always wanted to not give a damn about anything. I viewed feelings as a weakness, annoying obstacles on my quest for total power over myself. And I finally didn't have to feel them anymore. But my experiences slowly flattened and blended together until it became obvious that there's a huge difference between not giving a damn and not being able to give a damn. You might know that different things are happening to you, but they don't feel very different. Which leads to boredom. 

I tried to get out more, but most fun activities just left me confused or frustrated with my inability to enjoy them. Days oozed by, and I came to accept that maybe enjoyment was not a thing I got to feel anymore. I didn't want anyone to know, though. I was still sort of uncomfortable about how bored and detached I felt around other people, and I was still holding out hope that the whole thing would spontaneously work itself out. As long as I could manage to not alienate anyone, everything might be okay.

However, I couldn't rely on genuine emotion to generate facial expressions, and alienating people was inevitable. Everyone noticed. It's weird for people who still have feelings to be around depressed people. They try to help you so things can go back to normal, and it's frustrating for them when that doesn't happen. From their perspective, it seems like there has got to be some untapped source of happiness within you that you've simply lost track of, and if you could just see how beautiful things are...

I tried to explain that it's not really negativity or sadness anymore, it's more just this detached, meaningless fog where you can't feel anything about anything, even the things you love, even fun things, and you're bored and lonely, but since you've lost your ability to connect with any of the things that would normally make you feel less bored and lonely, you're stuck in the boring, lonely, meaningless void without anything to distract you from how boring, lonely, and meaningless it is. 

But people want to help. So they try harder to make you feel hopeful and positive about the situation. You explain it again; like maybe you wanna be depressed. And it keeps going like that until you're having this weird argument where you're trying to convince the person that you're far too hopeless for hope just so they'll give up on their optimism crusade and let you go back to feeling bored and lonely by yourself. And that's the most frustrating thing about depression. It isn't always something you can fight back against with hope. It isn't even something, it's nothing. And you can't combat nothing. You can't fill it up. You can't cover it. It's just there, pulling the meaning out of everything. 

It'd be like having a bunch of dead fish, but no one around you will acknowledge that the fish are dead. Instead, they offer to help you look for the fish or try to help you figure out why they died. The problem might not even have a solution. But you aren't necessarily looking for solutions. You're maybe just looking for someone to say "sorry about how dead your fish are" or "wow, those are super dead. I still like you, though." 

I started spending more time alone. But I somehow managed to convince myself that everything was still under my control. Yet there I was, casually wishing that I could stop existing in the same way you'd want to leave an empty room. It felt like I had been dragging myself through the most miserable, endless wasteland, and, far in the distance, I had seen the promising glimmer of a slightly less miserable wasteland. And for just a moment, I thought maybe I'd be able to stop and rest. But as soon as I arrived at the border of the less miserable wasteland, I found out that I'd have to turn around and walk back the other way. 

There's no comfortable way to inform other people that you're depressed. I didn't want it to be a big deal. I was also ill-prepared for the position of comforting people. The things that seemed reassuring at the time weren't necessarily comforting for others. I had so very few feelings, and everyone else had so many, and it felt like they were having all of them in front of me at once. And every direction was bull**** for a really long time. The absurdity of working so hard to continue doing something you don't like can be overwhelming. And the longer it takes to feel different, the more it starts to seem like everything might actually be hopeless. 

I had not been able to care for a very long time, and when I finally started being able to care about things again, I hated them. But hatred is technically a feeling, and my brain latched onto it like a child learning a new word. Thankfully, I rediscovered crying just before I got sick of hating things. I call this emotion crying and not sadness because that's all it really was. Just crying for the sake of crying. At some point during this phase, I was crying at the corner of my room for no reason. I was staring straight ahead at nothing in particular and feeling sort of weird about myself. Then, through the film of tears and nothingness, I spotted a tiny, shriveled piece of corn under the desk. And I laughed. That piece of corn was funny and I can't explain to anyone why it's funny. I don't even know why. I mean, the way the corn was sitting on the floor, under my dressing desk..it was so alone..and I didn't know how it got there.

Anyway, I wanted to end this on a hopeful, positive note, so, I'll just say this: Nobody can guarantee that it's gonna be okay, but..and I don't know if this will be comforting to anyone else..the possibility exists that there's a piece of corn on a floor somewhere that will make you just as confused about why you're laughing as you've ever been about why you're depressed. And even if everything still seems like hopeless, maybe it's just pointless or weird. I don't know. But when you're concerned that the miserable, boring wasteland in front of you might stretch all the way into forever, not knowing would feel strangely hopeful. So yeah, I've learned a lot and everything becomes alright, eventually. 

June 18, 2014

Jac's Wedding

Wedding days are about great moments and memories; from the bittersweet moment you leave your parents house to your nervous walk down the aisle or sit on the altar, from your 'aku terima nikahnya..' or 'I do' to that first kiss as a married couple all the way to the speeches, cake cutting and gifts. 

I went to Jac and Leo's wedding over the weekend. Jac is a good, sweet friend and we were classmates in high school. The wedding was wonderful and Jac looked so beautiful in her lovely white gown and veil. The day was great because not only I got to witness Christian wedding in the church for the first time, which is really nice, I also got to meet my high school friends. It turned out to be a mini reunion. You see, I always have this strange feeling when a high school friend gets married..in a good way, of course. I don't know, it's just..oh I don't know how to put that into words.. Time goes by really fast, huh. It feels like just yesterday we were learning subjects and goofing around with other friends in the classroom. And now, one of us got married. Marriage is not just an auspicious bond. It's a journey that lasts till eternity. I wish Jac and Leo lots of love and happiness and may they have a remarkable and joyful ride. :)

Congrats, Jac. ^^

June 15, 2014

Phenomenal Woman

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.
Does my sassiness upset you? 
Why are you beset with gloom? 
Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.
Did you want to see me broken? 
Bowed head and lowered eyes? 
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.
Does my haughtiness offend you? 
Don't you take it awful hard
Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' in my own back yard.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.
Does my sexiness upset you? 
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?
Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

- Maya Angelou (April 4, 1928 - May 28, 2014)

June 13, 2014

The Other Kind of Friend

There's something to be said for the every day sort of friend, the one you see so often they may as well be family; the one you do everything with, can't go a week without talking to. But I realize how much there is to love about the other kind of friend, the one you see only every so often; once a year, maybe, or once every few.

At first you can't help but notice how they've changed, how they're different. Yes, you realize, they're a bit more confident, more poised. They're quieter, too, and better about keeping eye contact. Or maybe the changes are more obvious; a different way of dressing, speaking, moving.

But then, once you've mentally ticked off all of what's new about them, you're struck, overwhelmed, really, by all that's the same. It's the way they half-smirk while they talk, or the tone of their voice, or the way they scrunch up their face when they're thinking. Their movements are the same, their nervous habits, and more than anything else, their laugh is just as you remember.

And right away, you love them all over again. Just for being who they are. Just for being so wonderfully recognizable. :)

June 11, 2014

What We Teach

There's a quote that says we teach others what we ourselves ought to be taught. I've been thinking about it for a while now, wondering what it is that I "teach" others. My conclusion? I'm always telling others to be kinder to themselves, to ease up, to practice patience, to be as compassionate toward themselves as they're toward the ones they love. Meanwhile, though, I berate myself for waking up late in the morning or leaving a pile of clothes in my bedroom or some other minor, trivial detail from the day. I'm curious.. What do you teach? Is it something you need to be taught?

June 9, 2014

Girl Power

I must say I'm totally digging this new female empowerment vibe Disney's putting off in its movies lately. With Frozen, and now Maleficent, we see women saving themselves, women helping other women, women in power and women at the center of the story. I went to watch Maleficent with my man last weekend. I really wanted to watch it because Sleeping Beauty's one of my favorite story books when I was little, the time when I hated Maleficent. This time, it's the best story of Sleeping Beauty, and guess what, it's not about a woman going nuts and cursing a girl because she's jealous. She goes nuts and curses a girl because she herself was screwed over royally by a selfish man. And this time, it's not about Sleeping Beauty. It's about Maleficent. And I don't hate her anymore. 

So here's how the story of Sleeping Beauty should sound like now:

Once upon a time, there were 2 kingdoms, the human kingdom and this magical kingdom next door with fairies and creatures and happiness. They didn't mess with each other and all's well. But then there's a boy, Stefan, who came into the magical kingdom and started stealing stuff. Maleficent, just a girl but still the a leader among the fairies, met Stefan. Instead of killing him (which they don't do in the joyous place), she walked him out of the kingdom and told him not to come back. Of course he didn't listen to her, and of course she's touched by the gesture he made by throwing his iron ring away when she told him it burned her. So he came back. And they became friends. Then more than friends. Then he kissed her with so-called true love's kiss. 

So of course it wasn't true love's kiss. It never is, now is it? The point is, this bastard left after that and Maleficent's sad, but still didn't let that stop her from becoming the most powerful fairy in the land. Stefan, who's a poor peasant boy, grew up to be some lackey man to the king. When the greedy king came to try to take over Maleficent's magical lands, she kicked his ass so hard he's sent home to die. The king vowed that anybody who kills Maleficent will take over the throne. So Stefan reconnected with her, drugged her and instead of killing her as she slept, he cut off her wings and took away a vital part of who she was. While she still had powers, the happiness was gone. She's in physical and emotional pain. This joyous kingdom turned dark. Maleficent's jubilant spirit turned vengeful.

Stefan became king and had a baby girl named Aurora. Maleficent cursed the baby girl as revenge, saying she'll fall into a deep sleep from which she can only be awoken by true love’s kiss. King Stefan hid the baby away in the woods to be raised by 3 fairies where she's constantly watched by Maleficent. Long story short, the sweet princess thought Maleficent was her fairy godmother and she started spending time with her. Maleficent grew to love Aurora and ended up saving her from the curse when she kissed the sleeping beauty on the cheek. Aurora ended up saving Maleficent by releasing her wings that her father held in captivity to be reunited with the fairy, leading Maleficent to her former greatness. The 2 kingdoms were peacefully united from then on and they lived happily ever after.

Oh I love Angelina Jolie. She's perfect to play such an amazing role as Maleficent. She's a wonderful role model to women. She's smart, beautiful, talented, she plays strong characters, she's a humanitarian, she seems like an amazing mother. 

And this is what I learned from this tale:

Being happy and in awe of the world around you will not only make everything better, it could help you overcome the evil forces in your life.

Forge unlikely alliances. Sometimes those are the most rewarding ones.

True love does exist, just not in the way you envisioned.

Taking down a powerful one isn't easy. Actually, it's pretty much impossible.

Support other women. Love other women. Don't be disrespectful to your sister, mother, girlfriend, female colleagues, fiancee, wife. Be genuine and pleasant with those women who do have ill will toward you (or who you think might have ill will toward you) because you never know, those are the ones who might end up being important to you.

 An act of true love doesn't always come from a man.

Life's gonna take things that make you who you are away from you, but don't get bitter and vengeful, open your heart and you'll be able to reclaim those things. 

So that's it. I think every girl should see this movie.


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