Friday, 30 September 2011


This is an excerpt from a book I read and loved, Unfinished Business by Lee Kravitz. I believe it is an important book, more so now, as things start to unravel and fall apart. Most of us have walled ourselves off behind a thousand little things we put off...bit by bit the guilt grows and we go into denial rather than take these apart, one by one and deal with them.

Albert Einstein once said that "A human being is part of a whole, called by us 'Universe,' a part limited by time and space."

Yet we experience our thoughts and feelings as "something separate from the rest." Einstein viewed this self-centric way of looking at the world as "a kind of optical delusion."

Time and again, I became aware of my "optical delusions" created unfinished business for me. I was convinced that Anita would get sad, that John was still mad, and that Andre wouldn't remember me, so I put off seeing them. But when I reached out to them it turned out that the opposite was true; Anita was delighted to see me again, John had absolutely no memory of the six hundred dollars I owed him, Andre remembered me and my fastball too. I had avoided approaching these people because I could only see their thoughts and feelings through a single lens - my own. Einstein considered our optical delusions "a kind of prison...Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty." When we keep our promises, when we bury our grudges, when we make a point of being thoughtful and kind, when we really listen to what other people are saying, our circle widens to embrace more people. I might not have embraced the whole of nature, but I found myself in a much richer place - that of true human connectedness.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

A Case For Compassion

There is an evolutionary basis for this observation. Charles Darwin, in his first book about humans, The Descent of Man, noted that the strongest instincts in early man were sympathy and compassion. Among our hominid predecessors, he argued, it was the community of sympathetic individuals who were more successful in raising healthy offspring to the age when they too could reproduce. That was the surest route to getting their genes to the next generation. It was a radical claim, widely discounted by later social psychologists who argued that man is primarily motivated by raw self-interest to be selfish, greedy and competitive. Recent scientific studies of emotion, however, by social psychologists like Dacher Keltner and the pscyhology lab at the University of California, Berkeley, are finding evidence that humans are hardwired for compassion and caring. These are biologically based emotions rooted deep in the mammalian brain. That makes it entirely plausible that natural selection has favoured humans who adapted to the need to care for the vulnerable.

Gail Sheehy, in foreword to Lee Kravitz's Unfinished Business

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Unfinished Business

I bought a book, in fact, I bought two copies of it - Unfinished Business by Lee Kravitz. I had gone to Starbucks to have a cuppa, get away from the office, and I had actually brought my own book to read with me. However, I couldn't resist going to the bargain shelves to see what was available there.

Deliberately avoiding Nahal Tajadod's The Fire of Love because I couldn't take the sex (I know, I know), Unfinished Business caught my eye. I read the back portion and then walked back to my table, which I had booked with a cappuccino, and started reading. It was, of course, a book written only for me. (Kind of like Eat, Pray, Love) And like that book it covered a year in the life of the author.

Kravitz, a magazine editor, loses his job, takes stock of his life, and spends a year making amends and reconnecting with people and parts of himself that he has neglected. As I read the first few pages, I could relate. Really relate. How many things had I told people and never followed through on?

My life is pieces of paper that I'll get back to later...

Emails unanswered, messages undelivered, to-do lists cast aside and unwritten...

Anyway, I had to get back to work with the skinny latte my colleague had ordered (not to mention an English fruitcake) but I had to buy the book first. In fact, two copies as I was sure I would love it...and any book I love, makes a good present.

Back in the office there were corporate announcements to the stock exchange to process (I was, after all, on the late shift) and stories to look up (heck if I knew the background to most of these stories). Anyway, miraculously, by about half eight we were done. There was just no more space because of a combination of a deluge of stories and lots of ads. (In other words, ideal, if you're working late).

So I started aimlessly surfing the net, my book somewhere to the side, but there at the back of my mind, nonetheless.

How did I know?

My friend Barry had asked me to write a review of his book for Amazon. It's a lovely book and I was one of just five people he had sent the proof copy to. But performance anxiety (yes, I have performance anxiety when it comes to writing book reviews on Amazon) held me back. How could I capture the essence of his lovely words?

I couldn't.

Or so I thought.

So I put it away, always meaning to come back to it when I could do it justice. Properly.

And in the meantime, Barry stopped writing to me, I stopped writing to him, and guilt, guilt, guilt, pounded away at the back of my mind where I had stashed it along with guilt about so many other things, the things I had to built this wall of harshness to hide behind.

And suddenly, I thought, why not write the review now?

Answer: You don't have the book in front of you; you haven't read it in a while, how on earth do you think you could do a better job now?

Me: Well, it doesn't matter. I loved the book and I will write that I loved it. I don't have to refer to specific incidents. And I will be honest about knowing him. And so...I put in the search terms: Over the wall to Andalucia and found it. With four reviews. I would be the fifth. I wrote it out in 10 minutes. Read it over once. Edited. Read it over again. And clicked "Publish".

And that particular weight lifted.

And a shifting of guilt, even a little guilt, is always joy.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

From My Friend Jill

I sometimes steal from my friends' blogs. Especially when I see something I really really like. And this reflects what I feel, so what the hell!

Monday, 26 September 2011

Presents and Thank You Notes

I put my heart in some of the articles I write and so it breaks the same, when the people I feature, either do not read them, or respond to them. I know, I shouldn't care. But somehow, I do.

So when I received my first thank you card for an article I wrote, I was walking on air. And it accompanied a present - Larry King's new autobiography. And I collected this at the reception on my way to a lunch with a professor who had translated about 19 of Tagore's short stories.

A lovely lunch at the KLCC (of course, I wandered through Kinokuniya after that) and another present - this time lots and lots of chocolate. (Passing Godiva on my way up to Kino, I had felt a little sad that people no longer think that chocolate is an appropriate gift)

So, yes, presents, thank you cards, and a whole heap of serendipity.

Ask (for chocolate) and ye shall receive.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Lectio Divina

My friend Mike sent me this. And I loved it so much that I think it belongs here:

Oh--I came across this little tidbit translated from the Ancrene Wisse (a set of medieval guidelines outlining proper eremetic behaviour for female monastics):

Inertia's remedy is spiritual gladness and the consolation of glad hope, through reading, through holy thinking, or from people's mouths. Often, dear sisters, you must pray less in order to read more. Reading is good prayer. Reading teaches how and what to pray, and prayer obtains it afterwards. ... [Quoting Jerome, Letter 22], "Let there be holy reading always in your hand; let sleep steal away your book from you as you hold it, and let the holy page receive your drooping head." You must read earnestly and long like this. Everything, however, can be overdone: moderation is always best.

Lectio Divina indeed, every single day until you fall asleep--sign me up! :-)

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Little House On The Prairie

I used to love Little House on The Prairie when I was a kid, but I don't quite remember watching this episode. If I had, I wouldn't have either understood or appreciated it anyway. But I remember watching the different episodes on Youtube (after I had finished watching a heap of Highway to Heaven episodes.

It made a huge impression on me. I like anything tinged with the miraculous.

I was supposed to pray for my brother, so's he'd be all right again, but I didn't do it. I had mean thoughts. But I tried to tell you later that I didn't mean it and I did want him to be all right again, but I guess you didn't hear me. So now I want to make it right.

You see God, my Pa has three girls, me, Mary and Carrie and what he really needs is a boy, like you had God. So what I was wondering is, since you have a son, maybe you'd like to have a little girl with you and you could send my brother back to Pa.

Well, that's about it. I'll just wait right here.


When heaven cries and the tears come down, it makes things grow and come alive again. What God wants us to know is that it's all right to cry for your fellow man. Because if you do, only good can come of it.

Charles: Are you all right?

Laura: (nods)

Charles: Why? Why did you do it?

Laura: I thought you needed Charles more than me.

Charles: How could you think that?

Laura: I just did.

Charles: I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. It's my fault.

Laura: It's all right now. God wants me to be with you. He told Jonathan.

Charles: Jonathan?

Laura: He was right here. (looks around). Jonathan? Jonathan? He was just here. Why would he go? He took care of me. (sits down) Bird's gone too.

Charles shows Laura the cross with her name carved on it that he found downriver: Did he give you this?

Laura (smiles): My cross. Jonathan made it for me. Where did you find it?

Charles: Miles down the river.

Laura: Heaven's tears.

Charles: What?

Laura: Something Jonathan told me. God talked to him, Pa. He really did.

Charles: Let's go home.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Wynken, Blynken and Nod

Remember those nursery rhymes learned at Mother's knee? Was there ever such a feeling of comfort and joy and just plain old security, as when we listened to the beautiful words, recited in that musical voice?

Especially before bedtime.

Anyway, here is one. Wynken, Blynken and Nod.

Wynken, Blynken, and Nod one night
Sailed off in a wooden shoe –
Sailed on a river of crystal light,
Into a sea of dew.
“Where are you going, and what do you wish?”
The old moon asked the three.
“We have come to fish for the herring fish
That live in this beautiful sea;
Nets of silver and gold have we!”
Said Wynken, Blynken, and Nod.

The old moon laughed and sang a song,
As they rocked in the wooden shoe,
And the wind that sped them all night long
Ruffled the waves of dew.
The little stars were the herring fish
That lived in that beautiful sea –
“Now cast your nets wherever you wish –
Never afeard are we.”
Wynken, Blynken, and Nod.

All night long their nets they threw
To the stars in the twinkling foam –
Then down from the skies came the wooden shoe,
Bringing the fishermen home;
‘Twas all so pretty a sail it seemed
As if it could not be.
And some folks thought ‘twas a drew they’d dreamed
Of sailing that beautiful sea –
But I shall name you the fishermen three:
Wynken, Blynken, and Nod.

Wynken and Blynken are two little eyes,
And Nod is a little head,
And the wooden shoe that sailed t he skies
Is a wee one’s trundle bed.
So shut your eyes while mother sings
Of wonderful sights that be,
And you shall see the beautiful things
As you rock in the misty sea,
Where the old shoe rocked the fishermen three:
Wynken, Blynken, and Nod.

By Eugene Field (1850-1895)

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Way Back When

OK I'm gonna do a first here. I glanced at the headlines of our paper, well, last Tuesday, and saw that a certain company I had interviewed way back in 2006 to do a "success story" for a local venture capital company, was described as "loss-making" and there was some shareholder out there, buying up shares on the open market, looking to take over the company.

OK, boardroom tussles and takeovers do not interest me. Almost painfully so. But the company did. I remember my visit to their headquarters in Kluang all those years before. And how welcoming and accommodating they had been. I went into my email and dug out the story. And, enjoyed reading it so much that I'm going to feature it here. It's been so many years, and most of this data is no longer relevant or timely, but you know, it's nice to catch a company when there is all this positive energy there and they are building the dream.

So here it is. My words then. Unedited, for your reading pleasure (or otherwise).

GPRO – Success Story

From the outside, the GPRO Technologies’ headquarters in Kluang looks singularly unprepossessing - a nondescript row of shophouses, tucked away in the backstreets of a housing estate.

But once inside, what a contrast; it looks like something out of Silicon Valley, especially upstairs, which seems to be something out of a modernist’s dream – purple, bright orange and sunshine yellow walls as well as Rothko and Paul Klee prints. Chief executive officer Quek Kar Loon explains that the interior decoration was done by another Kluang boy, James Ng, who used to work in San Francisco. He came back and set up his own business here, became frustrated with the way things were done in this market where contacts rather than talent won the day and GPRO took him on board. Now he sells textile IT systems in China.

For this is what this company specializes in; designing systems (both in terms of hardware and software) that help textile manufactures do their jobs more efficiently. Executive chairman Jordan Tang said the company decided to focus on the textile industry in 1996 after about six years of building ERP systems for a variety of industries ranging from electronics to property development to cooperatives.

“We decided that catering to so many different industries was not the way to run a software business as it involved reinventing the wheel time and time again. If we were to be successful, we would have to focus on a single industry and acquire the in-depth domain knowledge.”

But why textiles, the so-called sunset industry?

Jordan took umbrage: “What do you mean sunset? People have to keep wearing clothes, right? It is one of the basic needs. In the last 10 years this industry grew by at least 6 per cent every year and it is still growing. Besides, we don’t manufacture textiles; we provide the software and hardware for those who do. And IT is NOT a sunset industry.”

The company found that the textile industry, though prolific, especially in newly developing countries, was frequently backwards in terms of technology.

“With textiles, we were basically going into a green field in terms of IT. Garment manufacturing companies are frequently family-run, labour-intensive and very traditional in their approach to technology. At most, there will be a very basic data-tracking system on the shopfloor to keep track of the work done by the various employees.

“We found that we would not only have to design software but re-envision the way things were done on the shop floor to increase productivity.”

Firstly, it looked at the complications involved in data tracking on the shop floor. A garment manufacturer typically has 5,000 to 20,000 workers on the shop floor and pays them according to the number of pieces they have successfully completed. A simple shirt, for instance, has eight to nine parts, and each part requires a different level of work. An employee is compensated based on the number of pieces completed as well as the degree of difficulty of the work concerned.

Hitherto, companies have relied on “job tickets” where the employee, having completed a bundle, tears off a strip of paper with the material information, and attaches it to the bundle. At the end of the day, these strips are added up to compute the employee’s earnings for the day.

GPRO’s flagship product was a device which was attached to the sewing machine to collect data as the work was in progress. This information would be fed into the central computing system. With this system, employees saved up to 30 minutes a day, not having to interrupt their work to attach the tickets to completed bundles, which worked out to a productivity gain of about 6 per cent. In addition, supervisors could now manage the shop floors based on real-time, rather than historical data (the job tickets). Taking into account that the manual job ticket system was also error-prone, this worked out to a total productivity savings of 10-25 per cent.

The new system required that the company not only develop software for the industry; it would also have to develop the hardware on which to run it. The fledgling software house had a team of 20 programmers but no electrical or mechanical engineers and certainly no mould makers.

“We went to other companies that dealt in things like electronics and mould-making and told them what we needed. They helped come up with the hardware. Today, we have an in-house capability and a team of electrical and mechanical engineers who can develop embedded software,” Jordan pointed out, adding that a normal software house would not be able to do this.

But creativity does not stand still. As GPRO’s self-appointed mission is to transform the industry, it does not rest on its laurels at the success of its first product which it is working towards making the de facto standard for the industry.

“We are not in the business of developing and selling products. We are in the business of transforming the industry. Before we develop a product, we have to ask ourselves what its ultimate impact on the industry will be.”

Which is why the company is looking to bring “precision engineering” into the hitherto unwieldy world of textile manufacturing. “The electronics industry is already precise. You can’t do much more there. But for textiles, nobody has looked at coming up with anything like a standard time for the different processes because it is so labour-intensive.”

That is, until now. GPRO is now working on an industrial engineering execution system, which establishes a standard time for all the tasks to be performed. With this, a company is able to benchmark its employees to see how far they are compared to the standard and make adjustments to improve productivity accordingly. Sound a little robotic? Well, by eliminating unnecessary motions, it can increase productivity by up to 10-15 per cent. And this is what GPRO means by “transforming the industry”.

This inventive and can-do approach has been with the company from the outset, when Jordan, armed with only a book on Systems Analysis and a couple of flowcharts, managed to secure a RM400,000 contract to computerize the office of German handkerchief-maker Winitex Sdn Bhd, more than 10 years ago. The former biology teacher, who quit teaching to run his own computer store and school, only hired his first programmer after he secured the project. It was a success and Jordan points out how that first system, designed to run on the antediluvian 386 computers, is still operational today.

A few years down the road, with a team of 20 programmers and servicing a variety of different industries, he realized that the job was getting a little too heavy for him: “I bumped into Kar Loon, another Kluang boy and asked him to take over the technical aspect.”

Kar Loon, with a computer science degree from Canada and a MBA from Miami, was game. Having always been of an inventive turn of mind, he was quite happy to experiment with different possible systems for their first product. He admitted that some of their early attempts at shop floor data tracking went pear shaped, but the company kept learning from its mistakes until it came up with something the customers were happy with.

Because Kar Loon was both CEO as well as CTO, things became pretty chaotic. “It was like building a house with the windows in the wrong place. I was both an entrepreneur as well as a software architect.

“This meant that if our sales people came and told me the customer wanted such and such, we would do everything possible to fulfill that request, without considering IT maintainability. It was challenging, entrepreneurial, but not very systematic,” Kar Loon said with a grin.

And so, enter Kar Loon’s old schoolfellow Tumin Chook (the Americanised version of Chook Tu Min) who had spent the last 26 years in the US and was now looking to come home to take care of his ageing parents. GPRO courted him for two years before he agreed to come on board.

Tumin, who had developed IT systems in, among other places, Michigan, Boston and New York, was shocked to see the lack of systems in place. “The thing that amazed me most was the lack of source code control.

“We were having an issue with one of our clients and I asked the project manager for the source code. It was like going to a Chinese sinseh. She started picking up bits and pieces of code from PCs left and right and when we compiled it, of course it didn’t work together.

“I decided that this was ground zero and anything I could do to help would be a step up. So I took over the IT side and set about putting in basic necessary things like a source code tracking system. I also made a huge effort to standardize the software. It took us about six months to a year to get everything sorted because we still had to service our clients while we standardized procedures.”

Kar Loon put in: “When you are building markets, sometimes you have no bargaining power. You do whatever the client wants you to do without looking to see how everything works together.”

Tumin’s advent spelled a new phase in the company’s development. With his more than two decades of experience in building systems, he started to introduce some order to the entrepreneurial chaos that existed before.

“Look, they did the best they could before. Everything is part of an ongoing process. As a company develops, it puts more systems in place to ensure stability. It’s not easy for an entrepreneur to sit down and build systems,” he put in kindly.

Tumin found that his team consisted mostly of fresh graduates between the ages of 24 to 26, who were as yet, pretty green. “I did a lot of mentoring, teaching them to focus on critical tasks and how to tackle problems. They’re a pretty good bunch.”

The three fiercely loyal Kluang boys feel that their location is in a good measure, responsible for their success. “In KL, there is a lot of disturbance and peer pressure on your staff. Other companies keep trying to pinch them. Here they can sit tight, learn and develop.

“But other than HR stability, Kluang also provides us with extremely reasonable rentals. How much do you think we pay for all this a month?” he asked, gesticulating at the two-storey premise which covers over 30,000 sq ft. “RM7,500 a month! Tell me, where else I could get such a large office for so little,” Jordan said with a gleeful chuckle.

A third factor would be that as the Malaysian textile industry tends to be concentrated in the Kluang-Batu Pahat stretch, the company’s location allows it to be near its customers.

The three strive to create a culture that is fun, exciting and personally fulfilling. The office boasts a large recreation area with a television set, coffee machine, foozball machine, snooker table and gym equipment for employees when they want to take a break. Those who have other creative interests are given a chance to explore them. For instance, most walls have a framed Chinese character such as wisdom, excellence, value or creativity, painted by an accounts executive who is a champion calligrapher both at town and state level.

It also provides housing, recreational activities and compulsory in-house training. Coupled with the fact that Kluang is a small town, and as Jordan puts it: “When you look out of the window here, you don’t see another job waiting”, the company has managed to achieve a high degree of HR stability. Our turnover rate is only 15 per cent which is amazing for any IT company.

“And sometimes, our staff who have left come back to us because they find things are so different outside,” he added.

All three directors emphasise the importance of good old-fashioned relationships when it comes to growing a company. Kar Loon said when the company first decided to focus on the textile industry, it was its relationship with customer, Bin Bin Knitware, that helped it win through.

“We were doing ERP systems for garment companies, slogging, losing money, but finishing our projects, which gained us a certain trust with our client. Because of this, the customer in question, Bin Bin Knitware, allowed us to use its company as a testing ground for our new system. I have to say, in the beginning there were a lot of screw ups and patchwork but we learned from our mistakes.

“Our relationship was so good that this client was our angel investor. At that time, things were very difficult and we were frequently short of cash. We could just walk into his office and ask for an advance and the money would be credited into our account.”

A good relationship was also responsible for the company’s first serious round of funding. “As I said before, my first client ever was handkerchief maker Winitex Sdn Bhd. Anyway the chief executive officer at the time, Bernt Winkler, left Malaysia and I bumped into him in KL, some 10 years later. We caught up and later, he wrote me an email asking if I had any need for funding.

“Apparently, he was now managing a US$600 million venture capital fund for Swiss-based Prosperco New Century AG. I wrote back to him with our story, flew to Switzerland to make a presentation and the VC invested US$1 million in our company. All because of the trust built up before.

“At that time, we only had a prototype, but the money helped us go into production, initiate our overseas expansion programme,” Jordan pointed out.

Then in March 2003, it approached the local VC, Malaysia Venture Capital Management (Mavcap) because it realized it needed a lot more funding to develop the overseas market. “We were already profitable at that time, but found we needed more money if we were going to open offices abroad. I felt we were not ready to raise money from the capital market so we looked for alternatives.

“That was where Mavcap came in. They invested RM5.2 million and a few months later we started looking at a possible listing on Mesdaq. We were listed in June 2004, one year and three months after we received our funding from Mavcap,” he said,

To build its overseas market, GPRO frequently participates in international trade shows. This was how it secured its first big name, the Crystal Group in Hong Kong, as a customer: “Their boss took a brochure and asked their IT guy in Penang to look us up. They conducted a trial of our product at their Penang plant for six months and the results were positive. They then tried us out at their plant in Sri Lanka, also successfully. After this, the Crystal Group implemented our system at all its plants around the world.

“Once we got this big guy on board, it was easier to sell our systems to the others,” he pointed out. Jordan added that in the textile industry it was important to be either number one or two in the market, as the top two players usually held about 80 per cent of the market between themselves.

GPRO has already secured a customer base in Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, China, Hong Kong, Sri Lanka, Dubai and Brunei. Then a year ago, something happened which precipitated a flood of enquiries from Africa, the Middle East, South and Central America and Eastern Europe.

Jordan explained: “For 30 years, there was a quota system that controlled how much you could export to the major markets such as the US and the EU. Because some countries were protected by this system, they had no incentive to improve their operations and increase efficiency.

“Then on January 1 2005, the World Trade Organisation abolished the quota system making it a free-for-all. This meant that you had to swiftly shape up or lose out in the game. The inquiries for our products started coming in from all over the world. Suddenly we were receiving interest from Honduras, El Salvador, the Caribbean Islands, Eastern Europe, India…”

Kar Loon said GPRO maintains its edge by continuous engagement with its clients. “Our R&D is completely market-driven. And we get continuous feedback from customers which goes into product enhancement. Since our business spread to so many different countries, we were also able to pick up the best practices in each country and build these into our system.

“You cannot develop a commercial product in isolation. It has to be in collaboration with the users. Define your product or service and be flexible enough to change when you realise that what you define is not acceptable to the market.”

At the moment, the company has virtually no competition as there are no other players in this space. As Jordan pointed out: “We do come across the occasional barcode solution, but more often than not, they are inferior to what we have and we are able to replace these with our system.”

Now with the boom, the company expects an influx of competition, but the directors, while vigilant, are not overly concerned: “I tell my sales people, don’t worry about competition; if ever others come into this space, just remember, you created an industry!”

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Decluttering, Theresa-style

The following is an interview I conducted with a friend, Theresa Manavalan, who is the executive editor in charge of the lifestyle pages at the NST. Sorry, Theres, I don’t remember your exact designation. We were talking about decluttering and she told me that 18 or so months ago, she had embarked on a crusade against clutter. Being smart, funny and articulate, I thought, what better way than to celebrate my decluttering week (OK, so it’s a three-day week, so what?) than with an interview with Theresa. So I whipped out my trusty (but now increasingly whipped) digital tape recorder and secondly asked the sage to tell me all about it. Below is the transcription of the interview. Theresa is an editor who doesn’t need to be edited:

18 months ago, I bought my last garment. Has the number of clothes in my collection gone down? No. Has it gone up? Yes. Every visiting auntie will bring me something; my husband constantly shops on my behalf; my sister buys a dress or a blouse and decides, ‘oh I don’t like it anymore, here, you can have it.’

That’s it. And it grows. I told myself no new handbags, no trinkets. Shoes, you cannot help it because they wear out. When you really need shoes, you’ve got to buy them.

I reached a point when I felt I had too much stuff. How much of this was actually valuable to me? Nominal. It was just stuff and the trouble with stuff is that you’ve got to put it somewhere. Did this mean I would have to buy a new cupboard to put all this stuff?

Forget it!

That was maybe two years ago. So I decided to do something about it. In short, I decided to declutter. I started with my wardrobe.

I told myself that for work, I would need maybe 14 to 15 sets of clothes so that I can use them twice a month. I looked at all my clothes and asked myself how many of these need to be dry-cleaned? That means, if I buy a RM100 blouse, every time I dry clean it, I spend RM10. So my RM100, became RM110, then RM120, then RM130 and so on. It’s what I call a high maintenance garment. Bad. You’re just spending cash unnecessarily.

If I buy a blouse from the pasar malam which costs me less than RM40 , it will fall apart in six months; it will get tatty and faded. You know the issues with cheap clothes, right? On the other hand, you can get a very nice pair of trousers from Marks & Spencers which will last five years and I’m wearing it at the rate of twice a month. That really is a very good deal.

See, if I buy a blouse, a garment for RM60 at the pasar malam, and I wear it for 6 months, it costs me RM10 a month. So if I multiply the rate of wear for the Marks & Spencers RM200 trousers, twice a month for five years, I would get a much better rate of return.

So dry cleaning is a bad idea. And I don’t even want clothes that require hand washing because that’s takes time. So good-quality machine-washable clothes. Wear them to death and chuck them. That’s the way. Never develop a sentimental attachment to your clothes.

I looked in the cupboard and found I had something like 20 tee shirts. And I only wear three. What were the other 17 doing there? These were the questions I was asking myself.

I put a little cardboard box inside my closet. Every day, on a daily basis, I actually discard garments. If I know I’ll never wear these pants again, because it’s ugly, faded, damaged, something went wrong, too fat, too thin, whatever, I put it in today. Not on spring-cleaning day. Today. If the bra strap breaks, nobody’s gonna repair a bra. Put it in that box. Underwear tears, who’s gonna repair underwear for you? Nobody. Into the box.

Between me, my husband and my little daughter, the box is full every month. At the rate of once a month, I can scoop up everything in there (I never dig and look again), drive to TMC where there’s a dog’s kennel for a charity box, just put it in. Clothes, shoes, I’ve also thrown away children’s books into that charity box.

You know free gifts? You go to the supermarket, you buy something and get a free gift? My house is Free Gift Central; I think we have free gifts from 1949, and when I examine some of those free gifts, they are collector’s items already. But the free gifts from my era are 99% plastic, so out they go. Free gifts go into another box and then in a couple of months when it fills up, I tie it up and it’s off to TMC.

A word of caution: Don’t show family members, don’t show children and don’t show mothers-in-law. In fact, never show anyone over 50. They’ll say, ‘aiyo, so cute’, and then they’ll keep it. Hoarders, all of them! And these are all plastic things of no real value. Chuck it! Off it goes to charitay!

Once my wardrobe was organized, I tackled my desk.

My paper mountain is still quite formidable. Things made of paper – letters, envelopes, cards, they just keep coming. Junk mail. I did the right thing. I switched from plastic bags to reusable bags. I go to do my grocery shopping and all my stuff is packed in these cloth bags, right? I come home, open and unpack it and you should see the amount of junk mail I now have. Brochures, flyers, coupon books; what do I need those for? Oh God! More junk and I have to throw it. I need Alam Flora more than ever. The cashiers just put it into the bags. Thick coupon book to cut coupons for discounts on things I don’t need.

So the other investment I made was a paper shredder. A small little home-use one which sits right next to my CPU on the floor, same height, same dimensions, I chose that purposely so that they could just sit together. I do not open letters and envelopes on the day they arrive. I have a designated day. None of my friends send me cards anyway, or letters. Everybody emails. So the only letters and things I’m getting are official stuff. So I know what it is. I know it’s my bank statement. I know it’s the City Hall assessment letter. So there’s no need for me to open it. There’s no surprise right? So just leave it there, in a basket, until the day of opening. Select one evening when I open all together. So my trash can next to me, look at the letter, do I need to keep it? No? Shred now. Very few things actually need to be filed. I’ve been attempting to push most of this online so one by one I give up the physical statements.

That’s why I have the shredder and a trash can only for paper. When the bag is full, I put it in one of those paper recycling bins. Even the shredded pieces. But these can also be used for stuffing. When I was cleaning out the closets, I found 21 brandy glasses in my mum-in-law’s cupboard. Real goblet-style snifters. Those days it was very fashionable to have it. Those days people actually drank brandy. So I packed them all away into a cardboard carton and I used my shredded paper to pack them. And I labeled the box: brandy glasses/21. If you need them, take them out.

And I make sure that the bathroom and dressing table surfaces are organized. I don’t know if you’ve noticed but for some people, the dressing table and the bathroom tables are full of bottles and shampoos. Too much. I refuse to open a new thing until I finished the old one. The old one must go into the trash, then you open the next one. But I noticed a lot of people open things before the old ones finish.
What are the effects of decluttering?

I feel so much better. The space on my table is clear and there’s only my potted plant there. It looks like a photo in a magazine. It doesn’t look like a terrace house in Jalan Kurau where’s there’s papers piled on the porch right up to the ceiling. You know that feeling? You drive past that house and it bugs you. Why? Because it’s clutter.

And other people’s clutter bugs you as well, right?

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Order and Serenity

OK here's where I stumbled on the concept that decluttering was essential to happiness. Of course I always knew this vaguely, kind of something that sometimes flits through your mind like a glowfly in the dark...but doesn't light upon anything, doesn't stay, doesn't put out little roots. So I continue/d to live in mess...which I would make feeble attempts to regulate sometimes once a week, sometimes once a month, sometimes once in two months (during which time everything had degenerated into a swirling mass of entropy, as Sheldon would say).

I bought "The Happiness Project" by Gretchen Rubin sometime at the beginning of this year. At least, I think it was the beginning. I remember looking at it many times before that and always having someone there to drag me away and say, you have enough books gonna blow another RM100 on this one?

But some books are meant to be. So I waited till I was alone and then bought it. And in the very beginning, when her January project was about boosting energy, there it was...full front and central - DECLUTTER DECLUTTER DECLUTTER!

So here is the relevant excerpt. And good luck with your own decluttering projects. (the world is too much with us day and night...time to give some of it away);

Household disorder was a constant drain on my energy; the minute I walked through the apartment door, I felt as if I needed to start putting clothes in the hamper and gathering loose toys. I wasn't alone in my fight against clutter. In a sign that people are finding their possessions truly unmanageable, the number of storage units nationwide practically doubled in one decade. One study suggested that eliminating clutter would cut down the amount of housework in the average home by 40%.

To use the first month of my happiness project to tackle clutter seemed a bit small-minded, as if my highest priority in life were to rearrange my sock drawer. But I craved an existence of order and serenity - which, translated into real life, meant a household with coats hung in the closet and spare rolls of paper towels.

I was also weight down by the invisible, but even more enervating psychic clutter of loose ends. I had a long list of neglected tasks that made me feel weary and guilty whenever I thought of them. I needed to clear away the detritus in my mind.

I decided to tackle the visible clutter first, and I discovered something surprising: the psychologists and social scientists who do happiness research never mention clutter at all. They never raise it in their descriptions of the factors that contribute to happiness or in their lists of strategies to boost happiness. The philosophers, too, ignore it, although Samuel Johnson, who had an opinion about everything, did remark, "No money is better spent than what is laid out for domestic satisfaction."

By contrast, when I turned to popular culture, discussions of clutter clearing abounded. Whatever the happiness scientists might study, ordinary people are convinced that clearing clutter will boost their happiness - and they're "laying out money for domestic satisfaction" by buying Real Simple magazine, reading the Unclutterer blog, hiring California Closets, and practicing amateur feng shui. Apparently, other people, like me, believe that their physical surroundings influence their spiritual happiness.

I paced through our apartment to size up the clutter-clearing challenge I faced. Once I started really looking, I was amazed by how much clutter had accumulated without my realizing it. Our apartment was bright and pleasant, but a scum of clutter filmed its surface.

When I surveyed the master bedroom, for example, I was dismayed. The soft green walls and the rose-and-leaf pattern on the bed and curtains made the room calm and inviting, but stacks of papers were piled randomly on the coffee table and on the floor in the corner. Untidy heaps of books covered every available surface. CDs, DVDs, cords, chargers, coins, collar stays, business cards, and instruction booklets were scattered like confetti. Objects that needed to be put away, objects that didn't have a real place, unidentified lurking objects - they all needed to be placed in their proper homes. Or tossed or given away.

As I contemplate the magnitude of the job before me, I invoked my Tenth Commandment: "Do what ought to be done." This commandment distilled into one principle a lot of different strands of advice my mother had given me over the years. The fact is, I tend to feel overwhelmed by large tasks and am often tempted to try and make life easier by cutting corners.

We recently moved and beforehand, I was panicking at the thought of everything that needed to be done. What moving company should we use? Where could be buy boxes? How would our furniture fit into our new apartment building's tiny service elevator? I was paralyzed. My mother had her usual matter-of-fat, unruffled attitude, and she reminded me that I should just do what I knew I ought to do. "It won't really be that hard," she said reassuringly when I called her for a pep talk. "Make a list, do a little bit each day, and stay calm." Taking the bar exam, writing thank-you notes, having a baby, getting our carpets cleaned, checking endless footnotes as I was finishing my biography of Winston mother made me feel that nothing was insurmountable if I did what I knew I ought to be done, little by little.

My evaluation of our apartment revealed that my clutter came in several distinct varieties. First was nostalgic clutter, made up of relics I clung to from my earlier life. I made a mental note that I didn't need to keep the huge box of materials I used for the "Business and Regulation of Television" seminar I taught years ago.

Second was the self-righteous conservation clutter, made up of things that I've kept because they're useful - even though they're useless to me. Why was I storing twenty-three glass florist-shop vases?

One kind of clutter I saw in other people's homes but didn't suffer from myself was bargain clutter, which results from buying unnecessary things because they're on sale. I did suffer from related freebie clutter - the clutter of gifts, hand-me-downs, and giveaways that we didn't use. Recently my mother-in-law mentioned she was getting rid of one of their table lamps, and she asked if we wanted it.

"Sure," I said automatically. "it's a great lamp." But a few days later, I thought better of it. The lampshade wasn't right, the colour wasn't right, and we didn't really have a place to put it.

"Actually," I emailed her later, "we don't need the lamp. But thanks." I'd narrowly missed some freebie clutter.

I also had a problem with crutch clutter. These things I used but knew I shouldn't: my horrible green sweatshirt (bought secondhand more than ten years ago), my eight-year-old underwear with holes and frayed edges. This kind of clutter drove my mother crazy. "Why do you want to wear that?" she'd say. She always looked fabulous, while I found it difficult not to wear shapeless yoga pants and ratty white T-shirts day after day.

I felt particularly oppressed with aspirational clutter - things that I owned but only aspired to use: the glue gun I never mastered, mysteriously specific silver serving pieces untouched since our wedding, my beige pumps with superhigh heels. The flip side of aspirational clutter is outgrown clutter. I discovered a big pile of plastic photo boxes piled in a drawer, I used them for years, but even though I like proper picture frames now, I'd held on to the plastic versions.

The kind of clutter that I found most disagreeable was buyer's remorse clutter, when, rather than admit that I'd made a bad purchase, I hung on to things until somehow I felt they'd been "used up" by sitting in a closet or on a shelf - the canvas bag that I'd used only once since I bought it two years ago, those impractical white pants.

Having sized up the situation, I went straight to the festering heart of my household clutter: my own closet. I've never been very good at folding, so messy, lopsided towers of shirts and sweaters jammed the shelves. Too many items were hung on the clothes rod, so I had to muscle my way into a mass of wool and cotton to pull anything out. Bits of socks and T-shirts hung over the edges of drawers that I'd forced shut. I'd start my clutter-clearing here.

So I could focus properly, I stayed home while Jamie took the girls to visit his parents for the day. The minute the elevator door closed behind them, I began.

I'd read suggestions that I should invest in an extra closet rod or in storage boxes that fit under the bed or in hangers that would hold four pairs of paints on one rod. For me, however, there was only one essential tool of clutter clearing: trash bags. I set aside one bag for throwaways and one for giveaways and dived in.

First, I got rid of items that no one should be wearing anymore. Good-bye, baggy yoga pants. Next I pulled out the items that, realistically, I knew I wouldn't wear. Good-bye gray sweater that barely covered my navel. Then the culling got harder. I liked those brown pants, but I couldn't figure out what shoes to wear with them. I liked that dress, but I never had the right place to wear it. I forced myself to take the time to make each item work, and if I couldn't, out it went. I started to notice my dodges. When I told myself, "I would wear this," I meant that I didn't, in fact, wear it. "I have worn this" meant that I'd worn it twice in five years. "I could wear this" meant that I'd never worn it and never would.

Once I'd finished the closet, I went back through it once again. When I finished, I had four bags full of clothes, and I could see huge patches of the back of my closet. I no longer felt drained; instead, I felt exhilarated. No more being confronted with my mistakes! No more searching in frustration for a particular white button-down shirt!

Having cleared some space, I craved more. I tried any trick I could. Why had I been holding on to thirty extra hangers? I got rid of all but a few extra hangers, which opened up a considerable amount of space. I got rid of some shopping bags I'd kept tucked away for years, for no good reasons. I'd planned only on sorting through hanging items, but, energized and inspired, I attacked my sock and T-shirt drawers. Instead of pawing around for items to eliminate, I emptied each drawer completely, and I put back only the items that I actually wore.

I gloated as I surveyed my now-roomy closet. So much space. No more guilt. The next day I craved another hit. "We're going to do something really fun tonight!" I said to Jamie in a bright voice as he was checking sports news on TV.

"What?" he said, immediately suspicious. He kept the remote control prominently in his hand.

"We're going to clear out your closet and drawers!"

"Oh. Well, okay," he said agreeably. I shouldn't have been surprised by his reaction: Jamie loves order. He turned off the TV.

"But we're not going to get rid of much," he warned me. "I wear most of this stuff pretty regularly."

"Okay, sure," I said sweetly. We'll see about that, I thought.

Going through his closet turned out to be fun. Jamie sat on the bed while I pulled hangers out of his closet, two at a time, and he, much less tortured than I, gave a simple thumbs-up or thumbs-down - except once, when he insisted, "I've never seen that pair of pants before in my life." He got rid of a giant bag of clothes.

Over the next few weeks, as I adjusted to my half-empty closet, I noticed a paradox: although I had far fewer clothes in front of me, I felt as though I had more to wear - because everything in my closet was something that I realistically would wear.

Also, having few clothing choices made me happier. Although people believe they like to have lots of choice, having too many choices can be discouraging. Instead of making people feel more satisfied, a wide range of options can paralyze them. Studies show that when faced with two dozen varieties of jam in a grocery store, for example, or lots of investment options for their pension plan, people often choose arbitrarily or walk away without making any choice at all, rather than labour to make a reasoned choice. I certainly felt happier choosing between two pairs of black pants that I liked rather than among five pairs of black pants, the majority of which were either uncomfortable or unfashionable - and which made me feel guilty for never wearing them, to boot.

Who knew that doing something so mundane could give me such a kick? By this point, I was jonesing for more of the clutter-clearing buzz, so while a pregnant friend opened her presents at a baby shower, I quizzed my fellow guests for new strategies.

"Focus on the dump zones," advised one friend. "You know, the dining room table, the kitchen counter, the place where everyone dumps their stuff."

"Right," I said. "Our biggest dump zone is a chair in our bedroom. We never sit in it, we just pile clothes and magazines on it."

"Junk attracts more junk. If you clear it off, it's likely to stay clear. And here's another thing," she continued. "When you buy any kind of device, put the cords, the manual, all that stuff in a labelled Ziploc bag. You avoid having a big tangle of mystery cords, plus, when you get rid of the device, you can get rid of the ancillary parts too."

"Try a 'virtual move'," another friend added. "I just did it myself. Walk around your apartment and ask yourself - if I were moving, would I pack this or get rid of it?"

"I never keep anything for sentimental reasons alone," someone else claimed. "Only if I'm using it."

These suggestions were helpful, but that last rule was too draconian for me. I'd never get rid of the "Justice Never Rests" T-shirt from the aerobics class I took with Justic Sandra Day O'Connor when I clerked for her, even though it never did fit, or the doll-sized outfit that our preemie Eliza wore when she came home from the hospital. I have a friend who keeps twelve tennis racquets, left over from her days playing college tennis.)

When one of my college roommates visited New York, we waxed lyrical over coffee about the glories of clutter clearning.

"What in life," I demanded, "gives immediate gratification equal to cleaning out a medicine cabinet? Nothing!"

"No, nothing," she agreed with equal fervour. But she took it even further. "You know, I keep an empty shelf."

"What do you mean?"

"I keep one shelf, somewhere in my house, completely empty. I'll pack every other shelf to the top, but I keep one shelf bare."

I was struck by the poetry of this resolution. An empty shelf? And she had three children. An empty shelf meant possibility; space to expand; a luxurious waste of something useful for the sheer elegance of it. I had to have one. I went home, went straight to my hall closet, and emptied a shelf. It wasn't a big shelf, but it was empty. Thrilling.

I hunted through the apartment, and no object, no matter how small, escaped my scrutiny. I'd long been annoyed by the maddening accumulation of gimcracks that children attract. Gliterry superballs, miniature flashlights, small plastic zoo animals...this stuff was everywhere. It was fun to have and the girls wanted to keep it, but it was hard to put it away, because where did it go?

My Eight Commandment is: "Identify the Problem." I'd realized that often I put up with a problem for years because I never examined the nature of the problem and how it might be solved. It turns out that stating a problem clearly often suggests its solutions. For instance, I hated hanging up my own coat, so I usually left it slung on the back of a chair.

Identify the problem: "Why don't I ever hang up up my coat?"

Answer: "I don't like fussing with hangers."

Solution: "So use the hook on the inside of the door."

When I asked myself: "What's the problem with all these little toys?"

I answered: "Eliza and Eleanor want to keep this stuff, but we don't have a place to put it away." Bingo. I immediately saw the solution to my problem. The next day, I stopped by the Container Store and bought five large glass canisters. I combed through the apartment to collect toy flotsam and stuffed it in. Clutter cured! I filled all five jars. What I hadn't anticipated was that the jars looked great on the shelf - colourful, festive and inviting. My solution was ornamental as well as practical.

A pleasant, unintended consequence of my clutter clearing is that it solved the "four-thermometer syndrome": I could never find our thermometer so I kept buying new ones, and when my clutter clearing flushed them all out, we had four thermometers. (Which I never used, by the way; I felt the back of the girls' necks to see if they had a fever). It's a Secret of Adulthood: if you can't find something, clean up. I discovered that although it seemed easier to put things away in general areas - the coat closet, any kitchen drawer - it was more satisfying when each item went in a highly specific location. One of life's small pleasures is to return something to its proper place; putting the shoe polish on the second shelf in the linen closet gave me the archer's satisfaction of hitting a mark.

I also hit on a few daily rules to help keep the apartment from constantly falling into disorder. First, following my Fourth Commandment, "Do it now," I started to apply the "one-minute rule"; I didn't postpone any task that could be done in less than one minute. I put away my umbrella; I filed a document. I put the newspapers in the recycling bin; I closed the cabinet door. These steps took just a few moments, but the cumulative impact was impressive.

Along with the "one-minute rule," I observed the "evening tidy-up" by taking ten minutes before bed to do simple tidying. Tidying up at night made our mornings more serene and pleasant, and, in an added benefit, helped prepare me for sleep. Putting things in order is very calming, and doing something physical makes me aware of being tired. If I've been reading under the covers for an hour before turning out the light, I don't get the same feeling of luxurious comfort when I stretch out in bed.

As the clutter behind closed doors and cabinets began to diminish, I attacked visual clutter. For instance, we subscribe to a huge number of magazines, and we couldn't keep them neat. I cleared out a drawer, and now we keep magazines stacked out of sight, ready to grab before we head to the gym. I'd been keeping invitations, school notices, and varaious miscellanea posted on a bulletin board, but I pulled it all down and moved it into a file labelled, "Upcoming events and invitations." I was no more or less organized than before, but our visual chaos dropped.

I'd dreaded doing the clutter clearing, because it seemed like such an enormous job, and it was an enormous job, but every time I looked around and saw the extra space and order, I registered a little jolt of energy. I was thrilled with the improved conditions in our apartment, and I kept waiting for Jamie to say, "Boy, everything looks terrific! You've done so much work, it's so much nicer!" But he never did. I love my gold stars, so that was disappointing, but on the other hand, he didn't complain about lugging five hundred pounds of stuff to the thrift store. And even if he didn't appreciate my efforts as much as I'd expected, it didn't really matter; I felt uplifted and restored by my clutter clearing.

Monday, 19 September 2011


As I mentioned before I am dedicating a week to "decluttering". I've been told it raises the joy factor substantially. Now, I'm a bit of pack rat and all over my room, I keep stumbling over pieces of my past that I had thought I lost. Clothes I no longer fit. CDs stuffed in a corner in a sort of disarray. (I really, really need a CD organizer - preferably a tall one, preferably two). Also more bookshelves. My books are stuffed into boxes or piled on chairs, my desk, my side table.

My filing cabinet (that I acquired second hand and with such pride) is collapsing in on itself. Time to shift some of the stuff out and reorganise what's left inside. Time to replace the separations within the cabinets as they have collapsed. Time to give away the stuff, stuff, stuff cluttering up the room.

My wardrobe has all but collapsed. It's been a constant pain for years...but I keep living with this inconvenience for so many years that I no longer notice it. Or rather, I notice it, feel irritated for a while, then shift my attention to some other irritation or bury myself in a book and hope it will all go away. (Typical!)

I didn't need a double bed. There's just one of me. And a double bed just takes up so much of my limited space. Yes, I need my own space...but until I make that great leap forward, I would have to make the most of the space allotted. So out with the sturdy bed frame and uncomfortable mattress with the springs poking through. In with a small single bed and the really comfortable doctor-approved mattress.

Addy said she would take the bedframe. But as for the wonky wardrobe and uncomfortable one would take in but one of those charity recycling vans that you can call to come get it. Problem was, I had lost the number. The real number. The one they put on those recycling hatches all over PJ is not the real number. I called it once and got a very irate woman telling me off.

So I would have to Google to find out what it was.

First, a trip to Ikea to see if I could get the necessary. No. I couldn't. I got a few boxes in which I could transfer the journals from the filing cabinet (if there's one thing I'm overflowing with, it's journals and this is why the filing cabinet was collapsing. Also to transfer the nice stuff, like cards, wrapping paper, ribbons, stuff that as a "gift fiend" I tend to use quite a bit.

I spent two days doing the transfers. It was fun, especially thumbing through old journals and trying to gauge my state of mind at any one point. Journals transferred. So far so good.

It took me two more days (in the Hari Raya holiday stretch) to transfer the gift-related stuff. With Grizzly Adams on in the background. Because Grizzly Adams makes me feel good. All those cute animals, mountain vistas, not to mention Ben...and of course, there's James...and Mad Jack. It's like a sanctuary of sorts. So, sanctuary of sorts in the background while I unload the bottom drawer of my filing cabinet and spread it out on the hall floor and start picking through the different things, writing out labels, put them in their respective folders in the box (I had forked out RM35 for the filing cabinet fillings).

So far so good. I ordered a new (and much larger wardrobe) as well as a single bed and nice mattress from a furniture store near the house. She said it would be delivered in a little over a week. After all, there were the Raya holidays coming up and deliveries would probably be put on hold for a week. So, OK then.

The lady called to tell me when the new furniture would be arriving. But a certain numbness pervaded. All through the weekend, I didn't do a single thing, not a thing, to prepare for it. Which meant that when the furniture movers arrived at our doorstep, firstly, I was stuck in a jam on my way home from work, secondly that rather than rush home first, I had to rush to the ATM to get the balance of the money I was supposed to pay them and thirdly, they had to move my present furniture (still unemptied) out of the room to put the new furniture in.

In all the commotion, Arnold, who was wandering around lazily, seemingly not interested, managed to sink his teeth into the calf of one of the furniture movers who has busy carrying something heavy into the house. Maggot, who had been openly hostile had been tied up. Arnold, who was not (openly hostile) had been allowed to wander free.

Could there be anyone more disorganised? If there is, I'd like you tell me who.

So there I was, new bed set up alongside old bed and covered in clothes I had just liberated from the old cupboard (which Dadda and I could then carry out in pieces). Grumpy as hell because I had left a shitload of work undone in the office to come back. Somehow everything seemed to be getting away from me.

And still the chaos swirled.

Vijay texted to ask if I was going to go watch Mark tonight. It being Monday. I replied briefly. "No." In texting word, a one-word answer is rude. I didn't care. I was surrounded by and knee-deep in chaos. If he had appeared in front of me to ask the same thing, I would have attacked him screaming.

(Moral of the story: when I'm frazzled, give me a wide, wide berth...of course, you would have to know I'm frazzled in the first place, which might be difficult if you had no warning)

I took out a box. I decided that any clothes I hadn't worn in some time would go into the exceptions. Well, maybe three dressed, but no other exceptions whatsoever.

So the box starting filling up fast. And I separated the work clothes from the going out clothes and hung them up in the separate cubicles in my cool new cupboard. I folded some clothes. Figured out what I would use each of my new four drawers for.

Slowly the pile receded and my mood improved. When Vijay texted again...I was less terse. And then I asked if he would be willing to be used for hard labour. (I wouldn't have blamed him if he said no, considering). But being a cheerful boy, he agreed. I needed his help to disassemble present bed. And move the pieces out. Also, to move the mattress. All heavy heavy stuff.

So, covered in dust, I had a quick shower, went to pick him, and brought him in to help me...we struggled to disassemble the bed as it had been over 10 years since I'd assembled it here. Sweat poured down his face. And then we succeeded and the bits and pieces were left in the room...while the mattress was moved outside. (We went out for a drink to Backyard after in celebration and caught the last bit of Mark's performance)

But the recyclers...I had lost the number. A simple Googling would have solved the problem. But I was too caught up with work that week. There was my Options cover to finish. Somehow, it was just not flowing. Not water but molasses. Thick fudgy gooey molasses....Wednesday night finally done...and then stuck around to see the story cleared, page laid out (with a break for mutton friend rice at Backyard 2) and when I got home, I tossed and turned and worried about possible lawsuits.

Another interview Thursday morning as I hadn't taped the interview before and I just couldn't write the story with the sketchy notes I had taken down. Heck, I could hardly understand the damn notes. A call to Lester who was busy pumping iron. Tomorrow morning Jen, now's not a good time.

OK, so tomorrow came. And I was tired. That kind of tiredness that comes from spinning your wheels in mud and wondering why the words don't coalesce. I had been working on the room in the looked kinda sorta OK. But the stuff outside my window...still yet to be picked up. And, and, just made me weary to think of it all...

Emptied out my drawers and found I had coins from countries I had never been to, like Belgium and Holland...also euros, a truckload of British pounds, some US dollars...euros....and what's this Deutschemarks, French francs, and is than an Indian rupee? All the travels and travails of the past decade laid out on the floor beside me. I started to separate the cash, count it, count it, count it...interesting.


Very tired.

And corporate story still not done.

Warrant story done though.

And I hadn't touched the Malaysia Day stuff. No problem, no problem at all.


Very tired.

Brain refusing to function.

Did a crappy corporate story. Cleared one Malaysia Day story. Wrote another. Enough, time for home, to sleep, perchance to be bitten by mosquitoes. swarms of them, swarms, simply swarms.

Wish I could fall
on a night like this
into your loving arms
for a moonlight kiss.

Weekend. Work sorta done. Hung out with Addy. Late lunch at Sambal Hijau in Kampung Sungai Penchala (authentic kampung Malay food) and then we each bought at Edge and sprawled on her sofa, giggling at the Wan Azmi interview, especially when he challenged anyone who said that his disposal of his stake in E&O was Daim-related:

"...a pair of pistols, Dataran Merdeka at dawn, and you beside me singing in the wilderness...and the wilderness is paradise enow..."

Finally found a number for the folk to come get the furniture. (Cats had begun to find the mattress interesting and hide behind it, where it leaned up against the remnants of the cupboard to the great indignation of one white Maggotty dog). They said Sunday ....and asked me for money for some cause or other. I figured RM10 wouldn't kill me. And it was worth it if they took the furniture. With it, went a box of clothes, an old suitcase, some shoe boxes, and the mosquito frier I had bought for Mum one birthday, but which didn't seem to work all that well. Oh well, it was still new. And relatively unused.

So now, all that's left is the bookshelves. Everything's more or less sorted.

Do I feel better? Well if you're asking me if I feel better than I was feeling at this time last week, I would say, probably. Maybe. I don't know.

Let's see what happens when I've put up the new bookshelves, transferred the books and declared, khattam shud.

I'd like to make myself believe
that planet earth turns slowly...

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Shining Like The Sun

It started with someone's Facebook update, quoting Tom Shadyac. Now, I knew that name because I was a huge fan of Patch Adams when it came out (although all my learned friends assured me it was just more Robin Williams shtick, I loved it, and still do, unashamed) and when I googled it (yeah, way back then) and saw Tom's picture, carrying some of the terminal kids piggyback, I developed a swift crush on him. Also, I thought he was Patch. I learned that no, he was not Patch Adams, but Tom Shadyac. OK, so that's why, when I read the quote and it referred to some documentary called I AM...I had to go google that to see.

Now you know.

And I'm glad I did. This blog, as you would have already seen, is a motley collection of all the things that bring me joy. I wish I were more varied, or had more varied sources, but I am confident, that before the year is through I would have learned a heck of a lot and maybe a few of the readers would have got something out of it too. I mean other than a kickass recipe for brownies. (Which, by the way, you can get from Godiva's website directly...yeah, that naked lady on the horse kinda chocolate).

Anyway, I came across Tom's blog and when I read the following post, I knew I simply had to repost it.

So here it is:

Everyday, we are assaulted with messages, images, slogans, and sound bites, that tell us of our inadequacies, the sad state of affairs that is you and me: “With this product, you can lose weight, with this one, you can gain muscle; if your breasts sag, our bra lifts them up; if you have wrinkles, this cream irons them out; if you’re sad, we have a pill that will make you happy; if you’re too happy, we have a pill that will bring you down; if you’re not as much of a man as you used to be, this pill will straighten you out (literally!). And everyone who’s anyone has itunes, the iphone, and the ipad, am iclear?

And we participate in this maddening chatter unaware, telling our kids that in order to succeed they have to get the best grades, get into the right school, and get the right job. We tell them that one day they must stop all this horsing around and get serious with their lives; we ask them who they are going to be when they grow up, warning them that life is all down hill after 22, declaring college the best four years of their lives; and finally, if they are lucky, they just might make something of themselves in this dog eat dog world. It’s enough to stress you out completely – but of course there’s a pill that can fix that, too.

Is this how life really is? Is our identity simply conditional and fragile? Is who we are really defined by the things we own, our job status, and the social circles we run in?

The mystics, those saints and sages who saw through to the inner workings of reality, proclaimed something very different. A little background here: The word “mystic” comes from the Latin word, “mysterium”, from which we also get the word, mystery. Thus, a mystic is one who sees into the mystery. So what exactly did the mystics see? And what does their vision of reality reveal about who and what we are?

Here’s what Thomas Merton said, after decades of meditation and contemplation: “As if the sorrows and stupidities of the world could overwhelm me now that I realize what we all are. I wish everyone could realize this, but there is no way of telling people they are all walking around shining like the sun.”

Shining like the sun. That’s you. He didn’t say, shining like the sun after you can afford the new electric Chevy Volt. He didn’t say, shining like the sun after your bust gets lifted. What he said was, right now, in this moment, with all of your imperfections, with all of your challenges in the temporal, with all of your worldly failures and successes, you are walking around shining like the sun!

Merton goes one step further with this concluding insight: “I am finally coming to the realization that my greatest ambition is to be what I already am.” Wait a minute. What about worldly status and success and power? Merton saw through all of that, and invites us to do the same. Can you imagine? What a lesson to embrace, to embody and even, to teach; to declare to our kids they don’t have to be someone, they already are someone. Now the cynic will undoubtedly rise up and warn that this will poison our youth; they will be so inflated with their own identity, they will surely sit back and do nothing. Quite the opposite is true. This knowledge compels those it touches, Jesus, Gandhi, St. Francis, Mother Theresa, Rumi, and Hafiz, to walk with power, to use their talents for the good of all, without the drag of invented pressure to measure up to some arbitrary social standard.

You see, (and it is a matter of sight!), what we are telling ourselves, the command to succeed and be someone, is just a story; it’s a story based on expectations. It’s temporal and finite. It is not who you really are. The Sufi mystic, Meera, wisely said:“You cannot play your role in time, until you know who you are in eternity.” And who you are is a drop in the ocean of divinity. Inside you is starlight. Inside you is the same infinite energy that created the universe. As the modern mystic, Irwin Kula, knew, “Everything is god in drag.”

So the next time you’re told you need to be somebody, rest in the knowledge that you already are. Hafiz implores us to wake up to this truth when he says: “I wish I could show you, when you are lonely or in darkness, the astonishing light of your own being.” Now what iphone or ipad, what present day pill or product can deliver that?

Saturday, 17 September 2011

There is a pleasure in the pathless woods;
There is a rapture on the lonely shore;
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep sea, and music in its roar;
I love not Man the less, but Nature more...

Friday, 16 September 2011

There are moments when you absolutely need someone to show up like magic, not because you need something nice, but because you need your worldview transformed. You need some hope to be born in you. You need to know in one moment that someone believes in you. You need a kindness midwife to hold the space so you can show up like magic for someone else the next time around... - Jen Lemen

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Deep Peace Of The Running Wave To You

Deep peace of the running wave to you.
Deep peace of the flowing air to you.
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you.
Deep peace of the shining stars to you.

(Celtic prayer)

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Lead Kindly Light

I'm in a dark place at the moment and I seem to be trying to wade through mud and thorns. I get bitten, torn, scratched and yet I cannot find the right way. It's dark out there and I'm scared and so I say, lead kindly light, amidst the encircling gloom, lead thou me on...the night is dark and I am far from home, lead thou me on...

Lead, Kindly Light, amidst th'encircling gloom,
Lead Thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home,
Lead Thou me on!
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene; one step enough for me.

I was not ever thus, nor prayed that Thou
Shouldst lead me on;
I loved to choose and see my path; but now
Lead Thou me on!
I loved the garish day, and, spite of fears,
Pride ruled my will. Remember not past years!

So long Thy power hath blest me, sure it still
Will lead me on.
O’er moor and fen, o’er crag and torrent, till
The night is gone,
And with the morn those angel faces smile,
Which I have loved long since, and lost awhile!

Meantime, along the narrow rugged path,
Thyself hast trod,
Lead, Saviour, lead me home in childlike faith,
Home to my God.
To rest forever after earthly strife
In the calm light of everlasting life."

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

She's Probably Somebody's Only Light, Gonna Shine Tonight...

I like this song, yeah, and I like Jackson Browne too. I haven't heard any of his tunes lately. Mark doesn't play him. Why, I have no idea. So I thought I'd do a JB here. For all those folks who enjoy a little bit of him.

Monday, 12 September 2011

There Is Only Goofy

I landed up in Kinokuniya a little unexpectedly (there was an oven disaster and I ended up on my Auntie Ann's doorstep with batter in hand and when the batter was baked, we decided to go where the wild things are, in our case, the KLCC...specifically, to our favourite bookshop) and I picked up this book I had never heard off by an author I had never heard off...but the fact that she was a blogger and that her first book was called "Drunk, Divorced and Covered in Cat Hair" was enough of a sell for me.

And I read it through, laughed out loud and enjoyed it so much, I am sending it on to my friend Katherine in Perth.

But before that I decided to excerpt the last bit, which smacked of my kind of wisdom.

So, enjoy...

This is the true story of me, who always thought I had to be half of something to be anything at all. My happy ending probably won't even be an end at all, just a beginning to some new bizzare, quirky story with new and strange forms of hair removal.

I am so lucky. I got the chance to see that I can be one whole woman: complete, responsible for my own happiness, responsible for my own well-being, taxes, comfort, choices, decisions - all of it. Happiness is an inside job. There is no list, no catalog from the Universe we sift through to order up a perfect life, a perfect mate, a perfect home. We make our lives. There is no perfect. There is only goofy, flawed happiness and everything in between. I can stop fretting about my unfinishedness.

We wake up each day and make it as good as it can be by deciding to see our lives as a continuum, not as a goal or a single resolution on a piece of paper. Meet a goal and it's over, on to the next goal! But a life lived for harmony, for balance, for goofiness, for jokes, for fart stories, for a bikini wax that you know will make a great story at a party - that is living. It's the tiny spaces in between the big goals that let me live. It's the moment I stood in line with no shame and said, "Table for one, please." It's the moment I smiled at a stranger on a train. It's the day I grabbed my camera because the cat was in a perfect ray of sunlight, all artistic and furry.

It's so simple. It's not the resolutions, the tidy endings. It's all the tangles that make up a life. A glass of wine you pour as your mom tells you about this funny thing the dog did. It's that afternoon spent making tamales with your father and he tells you something you never knew about your family.

Home is wherever you make it, whether you dine alone or dine together or sleep only on one side of the bed, leaving room for the unexpected future.

Home is where you wake up. Home is where you take pride in even the smallest thing - a zucchini you grew, the socks you made by hand, the poster board collage from a night full of laughter and glue sticks.

You take it with you. Home is everywhere you are.

Laurie Perry, Crazy Aunt Purls's Home Is Where The Wine Is

Sunday, 11 September 2011

It's Time For A Little More Tao

In between the theme weeks, I came across this little darling in the book I'm reading "The Writing Warrior" by Laraine Herring (what can I say, I'm a sucker for books about writing) and I just had to share it:

He who stands on tiptoe
doesn't stand firm.
He who rushes ahead
doesn't go far.
He who tries to shine
dims his own light.
He who defines himself
can't know who he really is.
He who has power over others
can't empower himself.
He who clings to his work
will create nothing that endures.

-Tao Te Ching, chapter 24.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

The Other Side of No

Here is one of my favourite stories from A Return to Love by Marianne Williamson. But before I launch into it, there is something I just have to share with you.

See, A Return to Love is one of my favourite books EVER. I read it and re-read it from time to time. Considering the fact that I'm ALWAYS buying new books so that means I have an unread pile to get through, on my desk, by the side of my bed, on my dressing table (and even on my bookshelf) to re-read any book, is really saying something.

Well, when I decided to have a forgiveness-themed week, I decided that this would be one of the stories I feature. And then something happened. I could not for the life of my remember where I had put the book. I searched all my bookshelves. I searched the boxes in which I have loaded my excess books. I went through everything. And still, I couldn't find it.

I couldn't believe it. Truth is, I had lost my first copy of A Return To Love in England the last time I went. I forked out over RM50 for another copy as soon as I could find one. I should have placed it at the centre of my favourite bookshelf. Instead, I had stashed it somewhere I couldn't remember. Or lent it out without remembering who I lent it to.

Not good, Benny. Not good at all.

I ranted and raved and scattered books like confetti across my limited floorspace.

And then I went quiet and said: Holy Spirit, if the book is still somewhere around here, please show me where it is.

And there was no answer.

So I decided to make chocolate pecan chews. (The why is not times of stress, we usually head for the oven to make sweet nothings that nobody will eat, because it makes so much sense).

Anyways, I mix up the batter, boil the condensed milk with the baker's chocolate...and then the gas gives out. Help!

I call my Auntie Ann, who is nicely into her afternoon nap, but being the kind soul she is, invites me to come right over an use her oven. OK, I remember that it was her birthday a few days ago and I hadn't gotten her anything. And earlier, I had been thinking of the last "Notes to the Universe" journal I still had...for a present (yeah, I ordered a few way back when I still had a credit card). Should I wrap it up? I have wrapping paper. No, I decide I will put it in one of those fancy paper bags...that I also have an abundance of.

I keep the journal in what I call my "Christmas box". It has new unused Christmas cards, Christmas boxes and a few possible Christmas presents. A large, yellow National Geographic box I got on assignment. And when I lift the cover of this box, what do I behold but A Return To Love? Apparently I had stuffed some of my books in this box as well, temporarily, only to forget that I did.

The Holy Spirit works in mysterious ways. And that's not all...when I got to my aunt's house and presented her with the journal...she told me a story. She had just been reading an article in Vogue about Lady Antonia Fraser's romance with Harold Pinter (the beautiful historian and the greatest living playwright) and she came to the part where Fraser had recorded details of their romance in 40 years worth of journals - and suddenly, she felt like she wanted a journal. And had actually gone looking for a suitable one to no avail. (Which is a miracle in itself as I find KL bookshops simply covered in pretty journals).

She wouldn't have found the Notes to the Universe one though because that's only available from Mike Dooley's online shop. Meaning it's kinda special.

So that's my own little story, before I get to the main story. And here it is:

I was dating someone several years ago when the Olympic games were playing in Los Angeles. The opening ceremonies were a marvelous theatrical presentation and it was very difficult to get tickets. Because he was involved in the media, Mike was given, at the last minute, one pass that would enable him to go.

I was very excited for him. Everyone in town knew it was going to be a wonderful event. We decided that I would watch the ceremonies on TV and we would meet afterwards. At the conclusion of the broadcast, I started getting dressed and figured that it might be an hour or so before I heard from him, since the traffic around the stadium was bound to be horrendous.

An hour passed and then another. Well, he's in TV, I thought, so maybe something came up. Another hour and then another. Midnight came and went. I took off my clothes and make-up. It was 2am, then 3. At times I fell asleep, at times I lay in the dark and stared at the ceiling, at times I was livid, and at other times I was scared he was lying in a ditch somewhere. I started calling his house. No answer. I'd call again. No answer. Finally, hardly having slept at all, I called at around 6am and he answered the phone.

"Hello," he said.

"Mike?" I said. "This is Marianne."

"Oh, hi."

"Are you all right?"

"Yeah, why?"

"We had a date yesterday. Did you forget?"

"Oh, right," he said. "I had a kind of late night."

I don't know what I said to get off the phone, but I know how I felt and it wasn't wonderful. I had been stood up and I felt the kind of blow to my self-esteem that starts in your gut and shoots emotional black ink through all your veins. Dazed, I somehow fell asleep. When I woke up, I had a whole new take on the situation. I just knew that he was going to wake up feeling sorry for how he acted. He was going to show up at my door any minute, carrying a dozen roses and saying, "Hi, babe, can I take you to brunch?" The scenario in my head called for my being oh-so-gracious: "Of course you can, darling" would come out of my mouth in a girlish melody. The problem is, he never came. Not only did he not come. He never called.

I was in a dark zone. Now what would A Course in Miracles say about that? I knew I needed a miracle. But all I could come up with were two choices for ways to deal with this, both of which I had tried before in similar situations, and neither one felt good or got me what I wanted.

My first choice was to get very angry and let him know it. "Who do you think you are to treat me like that, you son-of-a-bitch?" The problem with that choice was that it would completely invalidate my position. "Marianne's a nice girl, but her temper just doesn't cut it. She's hysterical when she doesn't get her way."

The only other choice I could imagine was to forgive him and let it go. But that didn't feel good either.

"It's OK you stood me up, Mike. I don't care. It doesn't matter." Unconditional love I could understand, but not unconditional dating. I didn't know what to do. I asked for a miracle. I considered the possibility of another possibility. I gave the situation to God and remembered that I need do nothing.

From a Course perspective, the first thing I had to deal with was my own judgement. As long as I was not at peace, my behaviour would carry the energy of my conflict. Conflicted behaviour cannot bring peace. It can only produce more conflict. First I had to deal with my own perceptions. The rest would follow.

So I came up with an exercise: I would repeat constantly out loud when I could and silently when other people were present: "I forgive you Mike, and I release you to the Holy Spirit. I forgive you Mike, and I release you to the Holy Spirit. I forgive you, Mike, and I release you to the Holy Spirit."

Since Mike didn't call the day after our early morning phone call or the day after, I had a lot of negative feelings to try to dissipate. My forgiveness chant - a kind of mantra, or repeated affirmation of spiritual wisdom - worked like a healing balm on my emotional turmoil. It deterred my temptation to focus on Mike's behaviour and kept me focused on my own feelings instead. My goal was inner peace, and I knew I couldn't have that as long as I perceived him as guilty.

In case you're wondering, it took him two weeks to call. The constant repetition of "I forgive you Mike, and I release you to the Holy Spirit," this willingness to forgive someone, had worked on my brain like a pleasurable drug. I didn't care whether I heard from him again or not.

So one day I'm in my house, the phone rings, and I hear Mike's familiar voice. "Marianne?"

Before I could even think about it consciously, a real warmth and love filled up my chest. "Mike? Hi! It's so good to hear from you!" And it was. It felt wonderful to hear his voice.

"How are you doing? I've missed you." (Can you believe he said that?)

I don't know if I said I'd missed him, too. His line was so ridiculous, I probably didn't say anything. But I do remember this: He said, "Well, when can I see you?"

I said, "When would you like to?"

"How about tonight?"

At that moment, words came out of my mouth that startled me as much as they must have startled him. I said with a lot of love and kindness, "Mike, I really care for you and that's not going to change. I'm still your friend no matter what. But when it comes to dating, we don't seem to do the same dance. So if you want to have lunch sometime, please call. But as far as a date is concerned, I need to pass."

We both mumbled a few more pleasantries and then got off the phone. I was worried that I had rejected a brother, but just as that worry came into my mind, I saw an internal image of lots of champagne bottles with their corks popping off in the middle of Heaven. I hadn't rejected a brother. I had simply accepted myself in a whole new way. He had a win - a lesson learned and a friendship if he wanted it - and I had a win. Forgiveness hadn't turned me into a doormat. It had taught me to own my yes and own my no, without anger, with dignity and with love.

A Return to Love, Marianne Williamson

Friday, 9 September 2011

One Step At A Time

I realise a week on forgiveness would not be complete without something from my personal stock of experience. Let's face it, this is one area where forget high school, I've barely passed kindergarten. I've got some grudges that have been set in place at the age of 2, which was when I started retaining and not forgiving what happened to me. Which is weird for a kid, because they tend to forget and forgive naturally.

Anyways, I've stopped talking to a dear friend. Or rather, she stopped talking to me. But I guess I started it, deleting her angry emails, not returning her phone calls (which from my point of view were growing increasingly hysterical about what I considered a non-issue).

She sent me three cards (registered) which never reached me and I couldn't be bothered to go chase them down at whatever post office I would have to go to (the irony is that if the cards had not been registered, the postman would have simply dropped them off at my postbox and there wouldn't have been any fuss).

So she sent me the contents of said cards...I skimmed through them and one had to do with me not sending her any more stuff (couched very politely, of course)...and another had to do with returning whatever of hers, I still had (again, couched politely). I ignored the polite phrasing, took the broad hints, and answered only what I thought needed answering. That her stuff would be sent back by next post. No, I hadn't watched it, and I couldn't be bothered to (she had said something about 'discussing' it and I didn't care to).

So I put them in an envelope, took them to a post office nearby and sent them off. In the meantime, more emails which I left unread in my inbox and finally deleted. Whatever she had to say, especially at this point, I was not interested in reading.

Of course I know that's not the way to go.

But I was angry, hurt and disappointed. And what I thought was this: I have been a good friend to you. I have been there for you. And now this. You fall out with me over something as stupid as undelivered muruku?

Of course, the muruku wasn't the point. The relationship had taken years to get to this pass, years in which I wouldn't or couldn't listen to any honest evaluation of me, years in which I was never honest to her, in return, about her own shortcomings, years in which we pandered to each other's hypersensitivity.

If a relationship is not honest, there is no way you can save it.

At least, not in its present form. What comes from lies, will dissolve in lies.

You can't paper over it no matter how hard you try.

She didn't like who I had become (or maybe, who I always was). And I certainly did not like who she had become.

So, there was this great wall of silence. I sent her a letter because I had been instructed to by a healer who said I had a tsunami heading my way from all the broken and then, disregarded relationships in my life. It was arrogant, the healer said, to discard people in that way. To say, henceforth you are dead to me.

I didn't want to write the letter. I argued: "She will probably just tear it up without reading it."

The healer said: "It doesn't matter. You're not writing it for her. You're writing it for you. It is an act of humility, humbling yourself enough to write to someone who has cut you off. Or someone you have cut off. Making the first move, so to speak."

So I sighed, ordered a glass or two of red wine, listened to Mark play, and wrote out the card I had picked. At Backyard, of course.

As expected, she didn't reply. Maybe she had torn it up without reading it. To tell you the truth, I was relieved. No need to revisit painful memories. No need to go over wounds that were still raw. No need to...whatever.

And so time passed, people asked me how she was, I replied not too good, I think, although of course I had no idea and no means of knowing.

Well, in five days time, it's her birthday. I remembered it and went and picked out a card. Then I took set it aside for days and days and allowed it to gather dust on my desk and I didn't feel in the mood to write anything. Nothing that came out would be sincere after all. And what if she just tore up the card?

The healer's voice in my head: "That is not the point."

Yeah, I know it isn't. And I didn't have to buy the card in the first place. It was the letter I was instructed to send. Not a birthday card.

So why did I do it anyway?

Late one night as it stormed and Maggot went cracker dog (he has Marley's reaction to thunder and lightning) I sat and wrote out the card. And then I picked up my address book and went out into the rain (it was still light at this point), with Arnold on a leash, overjoyed that he was getting a midnight walk, and posted it. I was wet. My dog was wet. The card (which I had stuffed under my tee-shirt) was not.

Not a great story of forgiveness or reconciliation (especially as there was none), at least there hasn't been any so far, but I thought I'd share it here.

You know, something real.

Without the gloopy words or window-dressing or sentiment that I am famous for (in writing, if not in real life).

So many bridges to mend.

So many relationships to sort out.

One step at a time.