Friday, December 14, 2012

And then there were three.

An extended medical leave. That's the official label for my sudden hiatus from work. Everything happened in a flash. It was Monday morning, I was all set for a full day ahead. So much so that I decided to give my office desk a good overhaul. Too much, too messy. I had finished organizing all the publications according to the months and years when something didn't feel right. 

And then everything was a blur from then. The bleeding. The panic. The tearful ride home. The wait in the doctor's office. The bed rest. The second visit. The worst fear. The news. The end. 

Everything else in between is just white noise. The minute the doctor pursed his lips and the silence that cloaked the room...I just knew. And I was so calm, I creeped myself out. This doctor had seen me here, in the same condition twice before, both times bawling my eyes out. But not this time. I nodded. Waved it off with a "oh it's alright. I knew something was wrong. Well, thanks for everything." He was kind. He gave us options and talked about tests, while I sat there nodding, smiling perhaps but hardly listening. I took five steps to the waiting room before the facade came tumbling down in the form of big, fat, salty tears. The H was swift and after dealing with the nurse, we left so we could grieve in private.

The H had to leave for a family trip the next day and I knew it pained him to leave me at a time like this. But I wanted him to leave with a peace of mind and insisted that I was okay. "Not my first rodeo," I could even joke. In the past few days since he's been gone, I knew that I had a choice: Wallow in my grief and rot in bed, hating God and the world OR have a cry, take a long shower and continue with the daily grind of life. While I am in no physical condition to return to the office, I took the initiative to have work sent to me. On days when I can will myself to walk around the house, I do. And I play with my dogs, do the dishes, sort the laundry and continue with my writing. I cook dinner, watch a DVD and read a good book and before you know it, it's bed time.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

Today is probably the hardest day. I opted for a natural miscarriage over a D&C procedure, which means I would not know when exactly my body would expel the baby. I thought I had finally come to terms with it but it didn't really hit me till I rolled out of bed this morning, bleeding and doubled over with cramps. And I woke up alone. I allowed myself five minutes of sobbing and wishing the H was here before I told myself to snap out of it. I prepared breakfast, cleared out the dog poo in my front yard (it's a bitch but it has to be done), popped painkillers, took a shower and submitted to the sofa for the rest of the afternoon, keeping note of the bleeding in case it gets worse.

I was miscarrying for the third time but I would not let it break me. Everyday someone loses a pregnancy. Perhaps even for the 5th, 6th or 10th time. And they keep going. Why couldn't I? Yes, we want children. But I realise I can't let that define me. To an extent, this is beyond my control. What I have definite control over is how I want to continue with my life, day to day.

I read that God isn't cruel and He has his reasons. We must experience loss so we have compassion, so we don't become monsters of self-regard. So we become less prideful and become better people. Perhaps this is my lesson in humility. Maybe even karma in some twisted way.

While I mourn another loss in my search for a baby, I draw strength from my three butterflies. While God has taken them away from me, in return He has given me the strength in tenfolds to become a more resilient human being. After all, it  never gets easier. I just get better.

Monday, December 03, 2012


The weather.

Your genetic predisposition to not growing past 5 feet 2 inches.

Your employer's genetic predisposition to being an asshole.

Animal sounds (cats meow, dogs bark. That's that).

The existence of pageant toddlers and past-their-prime mothers.

The colour of the sky.


There are some things in life that will always be beyond your control. There will be moments where you have to surrender: To change. To fate. To a higher power. 

Over the years, I've learned that the challenge in life is not to find the strength in accepting what life has handed you but more so to surrender and find the faith that there's a reason to keep going, no matter what the outcome.

Today, I find myself in a state of surrender once again. I trust You.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Oh my blog, why have I forsaken thee?

I'm not going to spew excuses for not writing in the past month. September seems to have been sucked into a vortex of activity. But on the flip side, think of it this way: I've been so busy living my life that I haven't had time to write about it.

Yes, I just saw what I wrote and yes, i know that was one hell of an excuse.

I've been cradling the Borneo Eco Film Festival ( the past few months and finally enjoyed (maybe that's too strong a word) the fruits of my labour last weekend. It was a success and more importantly, I walked away from the event reaping far more than I sowed. It was a great learning experience and while I've never been a certified tree-hugger, I've gained some insight environmental issues plaguing the earth and have new-found appreciation for the art of film making. Ok so I'm not joining Greenpeace anytime soon but I'll think twice before using that extra plastic bag for my groceries. Baby steps. 

So here's to October. I'm dedicating the last few months of 2012 to more writing. And I'm really excited about the year to come. So much to see, so much to do and so much to write. How have YOU been?

Friday, August 03, 2012

Have it all. Want it all.

I want a cape too.

When God created women, he was probably channeling the sick, twisted sense of humour deep down inside. He's thinking, "Let's see, I'll make them far more superior than men but they'll be too subservient to realise it. Also, let's give her the ability to bear children - we'll need complicated plumbing for this. Ah yes, make her more emotional too so men will always use this as ammo. I'll give her breasts: they'll think this a burden but the smarter ones will know how to use them to their advantage."

"Oh and just for fun, let's make her bleed five days a month and not die. This'll REALLY freak the men out."
Good God.

What a hand to be dealt with. On top of that, we're expected to 'have it all'. From the minute that first pigtail is spun, our future is carved: filial daughter, education, poise, relationships, career, marriage, children, caretaker. What does it even mean to have it all anyway? For a woman in her 30s, coming from a middle to high income bracket with tertiary-level education,  the expectation is pretty obvious - married, preferably financially independent, with a child or two (or three) on your hip. Oh and the whole time, keeping your figure in shape because God forbid you 'let go' after you get married.

First of all, give me a break. Although I'm married, I take offence that this day in age marriage is still an expectation in society. And it's so much harder on women. It's ok for a 35-year old man with male pattern baldness and erectile dysfunction to be single because a)he has a career to focus on, b)he doesn't have to bear children, c)he has other priorities, d)he has to take care of his elderly parents. Bla bla BLAH. But a 30 year old woman with no boyfriend in sight? Alert the UN, we have a crisis on our hands.

Not all of us can be Gwen Stefani: talented, gorgeous, married to a hot rocker, beautiful kids, makes millions and can wear red lipstick even at the gym. But I bet even she would never believe that she has it all (She named her kid Zuma. I think she sorta failed there).So why do we put all this pressure on ourselves? Especially when I feel like I can never win: I got married but I was already 31. I had a good job but it wasn't good enough so I left to start my own business. And now that I work independently from home, some people say it's a waste I'm not 'out there' climbing a corporate ladder. Financially, things have never been better and it makes me want to travel more (because I can afford it) but I should be thinking about having kids. So I waited a while to enjoy myself and now that I want kids, I can't get knocked up as easily as I thought I would (side-note: And here I was, trying NOT to get knocked up throughout my 20s. The irony). It never ends.
I speak to so many women out there in different situations.Stay-at-home mothers who long to have a conversation that doesn't involve purple dinosaurs or an annoying Spanish girl who thinks she's an explorer. And then I know mothers who have full-time jobs who feel guilty for leaving their kids at home 9 hours a day with nannies.Mothers who get to work from home AND spend time with their babies but feel like they have zero social lives. DINKs (double income, no kids) who grit their teeth and smile whenever someone goes, "What, no children? how lonely you must be!" (Dear Moron, they have each other so they're not lonely. Go take a long walk off a plank). Couples who feel they had kids too early and sacrificed their youth. Couples who had kids too late and wish they had them sooner. 

And women like me who are finally ready to have children but are learning to accept that sometimes life takes a detour.

Maybe the question isn't can we have it all. Do we WANT it all? Come to think of it, it would be really tiring and stressful to have perfection in complete balance 24/7. Women need to stop apologizing for wanting (or not wanting) things. Expectations should not be equated with aspirations.

Having it all would be too easy. And I think God made women far too awesome to rest on 'easy'.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Bring it.

Charge forth on Monday. You can advance your agenda quickly now, but you’ve got to move on it. By Tuesday and Wednesday, though, your usual determination and even thoroughness may be compromised. Look to your long-term goals for inspiration, and get another pair of eyes on any important work. The energy becomes more positive at the end of the workweek, allowing you to see compromises, communicate and convince much more so than usual. It’s an excellent time for negotiations. As for the weekend, a new alliance or connection might be found, maybe in an unlikely location.

I feel extra recharged and inspired this Monday morning. I feel like I can take on the world. Either that or that was some strong coffee.

Charge. Communicate. Negotiate. Let's do this.

Sunday, July 08, 2012


So many people treat the word 'busy' like a dirty four-letter word. Au contraire. First of all, busy may mean that you've got a full plate, a long list of to-do-see-go-make and obligations and engagements. People say, "I'm busy" with a sigh, a moan and a droop of their shoulders, longing for some quiet time of doing absolutely nothing.

I understand where these people are coming from. I can sometimes be one of them. While I agree it's awesome to be able to sit back, balance a tub of popcorn on my belly and channel surf, there are only so many hours in my life I want to spend doing that. Since I quit my full-time desk job some three years ago, I've been able to put a new perspective in my life. While I relish being the captain of my ship and commandeering my own schedule, there are days when I miss being stereotypically busy. The whole 'phone ringing off the hook' while meeting deadlines, attending restaurant openings and packing for a trip to the islands (indeed, I am lucky to be able to put this as part of my job description back then, I'll admit that). Enter the world of freelancing. Since I discovered the realm of working in my pajamas at odd hours and taking Mondays off, I must say I can't see myself going back to a 9-5 desk job. 

Ah, win some lose some. 

So while I've found some joy in my chosen career path, I was missing the buzz of being busy. Maybe taking it easy isn't always easy. Having anxiety attacks was not helping and I began to slowly lose my sense of self. Of who I was. Of what I was capable of. Of the accomplishments that were within my reach yet seemed so far. Believe it or not, having too much free time was taking a toll on my sanity. Maybe I was one of those mutants who thrived under pressure, who constantly needed a push. So I decided I needed to turn my life around. I would not be a victim of circumstance and this pity party needed to end.

Maybe my soul was screaming so loud that the Universe had no choice but to listen. I've signed on to do three book projects, am back at the Editor's desk for a magazine I used to work on (on contract basis, so my working schedule is flexible) and am translating films for an upcoming film festival. I've gone back to the gym and in an attempt to try something new, signed up for kickboxing classes. I come home exhausted but grateful every night. Being this busy means I have no time to listen to the Eeyore in my head, whispering endless 'if onlys' and 'poor me'. Busy means I am slowly replacing my anxieties and worries with focus and drive to finish what's before me. Busy means I am blessed.

In the chaos, I find my calm.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

That Crooked Tree.


Chuck Wendig is easily one of my favourite writers out there today. His (hilarious) advice on writing has helped me sharpen my craft in the last few months and it's true what they say about when you learn something the fun way, you'll always remember it (obviously, my childhood math teachers did not apply this in their methods). 'The Crooked Tree' is this week's topic for the Flash Fiction Challenge - something he poses on his site every now and then, jump-starting the lazy-ass minds of writers much like myself. I love a good challenge. Here's my take on 'The Crooked Tree'. Critiques welcome. Mean-spirited insults and spam mail are not.

The Crooked Tree
by Melissa Leong

I did not know where the crooked tree was but somehow I was finding my way. The purr of my 68’ Corona seemed to roar on the windy road, so quiet and so dark. I squinted, trying to make out the shadows and shapes on the side of the road. Just tall grass bending to the wind, as if they were weeping, praying perhaps. Or maybe they were pointing. Pointing to the crooked tree that waited for me.

I turned to look in the back seat. She was quiet. Probably dreaming by now. I didn’t want to wake her. “Almost there, princess. Almost there,” I promised, giving her a quick glance. She hardly stirred. I almost smiled. From the moment I met her, I knew we had something special. She was so shy, couldn’t even look me in the eye. But after a while, she was an open book, gave me everything I wanted. Needed. Without a fuss, without a whiny complaint. Not like the other spiteful creatures before her. They were such big teases, always promising but disappointing. But this one. This one was special.

I first saw her in the bookstore in a crowded shopping mall. I wasn’t expecting to meet anyone – the last relationship ended badly, leaving quite a mess on my kitchen floor for days actually. But there she was anyhow. Her dark brown hair fell around her shoulders and her lips tinged with bubblegum pink lipstick. A green scarf cascading around her neck. She thumbed through a travel guide. Turkey or Morocco, I couldn’t remember but it made me think of her walking barefoot in a busy sook. Her tiny hips swaying, swaying, swaying… That was when she looked up and saw me across the room. She quickly looked away and I pretended to flip through a magazine. I looked up and again, my eyes met her hazel gaze. This time, she smiled. And that was all it took.

I walked her home every day for a week after that. Made sure she got in safe and waited for her bedroom light to go off at precisely 11:42pm. Sometimes 11:45. We even had coffee at the same cafe after work, Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. She would have her coffee (two sugars, no milk) and I would enjoy my Darjeeling tea. Sometimes she would go to a bar but I didn’t care much for all that booze and smoke so I waited for her at home till she came home. To me. One night, she came home uncharacteristically late. It was almost 2am. And I had been waiting all night for her! I was so angry. So cold. So tired. How could she leave me waiting? I would never have left her waiting. She was surprised to see me in her bedroom. She screamed but I covered her mouth and told her not to wake the neighbours. Mrs. Marvis who lived next door looked at least 75 but she wasn’t deaf. No, no, don’t wake the neighbours, I told her. She nodded, her eyes wide and I was pleasantly surprised at what a good girl she was. No fuss. No fight. I inhaled her scent. Vanilla. And stale cigarette smoke. That angered me. I imagined how she must’ve been drinking and partying and draping herself with unpleasant male company all night, while I…I waited. She screamed again and I snapped. As did her neck. And just like that, she was quiet.

We made love that night and decided it was a lovely night for a drive.  She lay quiet in the back seat while I looked for the crooked tree. I’ve been here so many times before. With so many of them. I always forget my way and yet I always remember. Once we arrived, I didn’t want to wake her so I carried her to the tree and laid her on its protruding roots, which rose like waves above the earth, amidst the rocks and grass. She didn’t need to be buried, this one. She was so special that I decided this crooked tree would be her deserving throne. I propped her up and laid her arms on each side.  I looked up at the towering tree, its branches swaying up and down as if nodding in approval. Yes, she’s the best one so far, isn’t she? The leaves rustled in agreement.

  -727 words.