Advent Days 23 and 24: A good sense of humour….

… and an easy laugh.

The non-blogging can be explained, I swear. I have spent the last two days paying with my sanity and composure for being in denial in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

Toys R Us is NOT a place for timid souls in the week leading up to Christmas, as I discovered recently– too recently for me to have forgotten the high-pitch cacophony of, “this Daddy! Mommy! I want this I want this I want THIIIIIIS!!!”.

But I have a reasonable sense of humour, so I managed to float through the place in a kind of slightly bewildered haze with a beatific smile frozen on my face. The bewilderment came from the sheer number of choices… But! I really must express my profound dissatisfaction with all this cotton-woolly over-cautiousness. Where are all the chemistry sets of old, with real chemicals and things that can go bang if you mixed it up right? Or the little paper-wrapped pellets filled with sand and gunpowder that went SNAP! when you threw them on the ground?

Everything is so tame these days.

I also managed to elbow my way through each aisle, then keep my spirits up in the Very Long Queue To Freedom Beyond the Cashiers, because I am easily amused. I have never before seen a bunch of parents so frazzled and wild-eyed.

I should say that I’m grateful I didn’t have my own screaming brat to deal with, but I was a lot more grateful that I could witness this pre-Christmas phenomenon from the outside with an easily-tickled sense of humour.

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Advent Day 22: Lego and princess tents

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Up until recently, I didn’t really know how to play with small humans. They’re quite a mystery to me, having been quite a serious, thoughtful, worried small human myself, prone to spending hours reading, building a sandcastle complete with moat and dams to protect it against the encroachment of the sea, concentrating on slowly forming very tall drip-sandcastles, or playing Lego in a blanket fort.

So, I did not become the child-friendly variety of adult.

Until recently…. when my aunt set up a pink princess tent for my very small, still-portable goddaughter. The little ankle-biter started putting all her fat-Lego pieces into the fort, so I went and sat inside and started making random things. That’s when the small human crawled inside, emitted a screech and a giggle…. And we ended up sitting there in amicable silence for the longest time– I clipping pieces together to make things, she pulling them apart with a satisfying “click”.

I even ended up having a wonderfully calming and entertaining time. She finally likes me a little more.

Yup, I’m grateful for princess tents and Lego.

[Mind you, if my “biological clock” (pffft, please; I question its existence) ever starts ticking, I won’t just press the snooze button… I’ll throw it out the window onto the pavement downstairs.]

Advent Day 20: Four things for which to be grateful.

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Swimming pools. When it’s scorchingly hot and sunny, and humid as a jungle.

Teletubbies. I am a young godmother to a small human, whose mother seems to have some kind of misplaced optimism in my child-minding (non-)skills. I don’t know what to do with a crying baby except to find the Sesame Street baby-equivalent on YouTube and desperately plonk it in front of it, gasping, “here! Here! Look! Teletubbies! You like Teletubbies, right??!!”.

IKEA’s small-things-I-never-knew-I-could-live-without section. Because Christmas and acquaintances.

Craft skills. Not drawing a regular pay check has its downsides! But it certainly prods out any artistic and creative craft skills….

Advent Day 14: I’m grateful for Christmas trees.

Oops. Missed the advent yesterday as was rather busy.

I feel bad for Christmas trees chopped down from their Northern hemispheric homes to be shipped off to, for example, the tropics, to stand dying in pots but bringing such joy and lovely piney smells to homes all over the world. But I do so love them. I love pine cones and pine nuts and Christmas is just not the same without that pine smell.

I’m grateful for Christmas trees.

Advent Day 10: I’m grateful for letters in the mail.

We are all so glued to our smart devices these days, particularly in big cities. We email, Facebook mail, What’s App, text, Viber, Line, Skype, FaceTime, tweet,  etc., each other. We expand our personal space at peak hour on the underground metro through our little screens, as we are squashed elbow-to-elbow with other commuters. Some families or groups of friends sit together in silence, absorbed in their respective virtual worlds, or are regularly interrupted by dings and beeps.

That’s why letters from friends in the mail are so precious these days. I recently received a little package from a friend who recently got married overseas. She had sent along her sweet little bomboniere, what Aussies call those thank-you gift for guests, with a lovely note. It was such a nice surprise. That’s why I still send Christmas cards.

So, I’m grateful for letters in the mail.

Advent Day 8: I’m grateful for blessings and prayers.

As you probably know, if you’ve been reading some of my previous entries, I’m not the religious type. I’m spiritual, but I’m really not into organised, doctrinal religion. Nonetheless, I find it touching when anyone– friends or family– of any religion tell me that they “say prayers for me” (for whatever reason). I mean, it’s a kind thing to do, when you’re busy talking to your god, to take the time to put in a good word for someone else, especially if that person is having a rough time. It’s like sending out good vibes into the universe on their behalf, to soothe someone else’s Karma.

So, I’m grateful for blessings and prayers.

Advent Day 7: I’m grateful for clouds.

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In the tropics and in the summer everywhere else, I love clouds. They’re like giant beach umbrellas. See, I love nature, just, you know, from under a big tree. I love swimming in the sea, sailing, reading and napping in green, grass-smelling parks (preferably next to a large body of water)… I just prefer doing it all from a shady spot.

Not being the sunbathing variety of human being, I consider clouds at least an ally.

When I was little, my parents always knew where to find me if I’d wandered off on a large beach: “She’ll be in the shallows near a tree somew….. Oh, look. There she is. Wading under that sea coconut tree. With a book.” I would emerge to swim only when the sky clouded over.

Clouds bring rain. And I like rain. I love how the air smells just before the rain– like crisp ozone and damp and steaming Tarmac. Clouds bring that, that electricity and attitude; or, at least, they certainly herald its approach.

I’m grateful for clouds.

Advent Day 4: I’m grateful for malls.

The next-door neighbour is doing renovations, and they’re at drilling-and-pounding stage. In the last few days, I’ve woken up at 8.30 in the morning to the strains of skull-vibrating drilling. And I telecommute. Needless to say, my laptop and I hang out at the mall most days.

I don’t really consider myself materialistic, so this sense of gratitude for malls came as a surprise to me. But I’ve come to realise that as a city girl, malls are part of my comfort zone. They’re like the McDonald’s of cities. Every city, even the ones with building height regulations, will eventually organically grow a mall, and the feel, organisation and scents of the place will evoke a sense of familiarity with every other mall in the world. (Except maybe the ones in Dubai. Those aren’t so much malls as multi-storey suburbs. With epic fish tanks.).

Malls are city residents’ climate-controlled refuges, from noise, rain, cold, heat, live-in in-laws… and, right at this moment, having just skipped home from half a day at a mall-bound Starbucks doing some work, I am grateful for their existence!

Advent Day 3: I’m grateful for the space to play.

I think the moment we stop playing, stop letting ourselves play, experiment, dance and sing and be silly… is the moment we begin to age, grow old, stagnate, and calcify.

Someone once told me that you have to decide if you want to be an adult or not; but I think the thing that he didn’t understand was that there are many ways to be an adult, many ways of defining “adulthood”, and many ways to be a mature person. It’s all semantic, all relative, all cultural. I think it’s a sanctimonious and silly notion that one person’s or one culture’s idea of what being an adult is, is the “correct” or definitive, well, definition.

Because I think that if all of us were to follow one definition of adulthood, then nothing new would ever be created. Because newness, creativity, crazy ideas, passion, the courage to break convention, to question, to ask, “why”, the clarity of mind and thought to see through layers of conditioning… these things come from the parts of ourselves that are carefree, young, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. It’s when we let ourselves play that we throw ourselves into things with abandon, find our true calling, effortlessly accept our true selves, and connect with each other at a primal, trusting, bravely vulnerable, lighthearted and emotional level that no conventional definition of “adult” could reach.

It’s not to say that they are at odds with responsibility, care, commitment, emotional management, self-discipline, and so forth. No, I’m saying that we should give our childlike selves the space to breathe, sing, dance in the rain and play with kittens and puppies, because that is the source of such divine inspiration. I think that it’s actually our responsibility to care for and commit to letting ourselves play regularly, that self-discipline includes scheduling playtime, and that emotional management begins when we can feel all our feelings, sit with them, hold their hands, play Pat-A-Cake them, listen to what they have to tell us, and then… let them go and let our adult selves handle the big decisions.

Without play, we lose our true selves. We lose childlike simplicity, the chance to develop deep and effortless self-confidence, and we lose the strength, energy, and courage to get up, dust ourselves off, and start all over again with renewed optimism, when life, as it sometimes does, falls apart.

Advent Day 2: I’m grateful for choirs.

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I’ll admit to loving great big choirs with full orchestras, diva soloists, and hot conductors performing big, fat choral works. 🙂 Screeching out some Verdi choral opera (barely) dressed in ecclesiastical gown (the music, not the choir), getting through a Mahler, bashing out the Bruckner Te Deum, trotting through a Beethoven, rolling through one of Haydn’s many Masses, Gounod, Saint-Saens, Mozart, Schubert, picking through some complicated fugue…. mmmmm. I have quite a bit of affection for big choral works.

There is something quite overwhelming about a live wall of sound like that. I’m not churchy and I am deeply suspicious of organised religion, so I discovered choirs late…. which, really, only made me a born-again chorister for at least two to three years. I mean, I sucked up choral and music knowledge the way I imagine a druggie would snort coke. The camaraderie was a bonus. And “getting” all the choir jokes– that’s fun. Heh.

Singing is portable, and choirs are everywhere. And, yes, sopranos do have the swishiest skirts and the longest hair, altos ARE earthy and sensible, tenors are spoilt, and basses are…. well, ok, I don’t know what basses are. Hairy, apparently. There’s something strangely comforting about going to a choir in some city in almost any part of the world, and finding the same… well, choral archetypes, dynamics, and scripts. And, often, shared repertoire to some extent.

And, of course, there’s the carolling. 🙂 Ah, I miss the carolling. Life has moved on and I no longer sing with a choir, but I am grateful they exist, for they add colour, depth and such vivid experiences to life.