Good Things Are Around the Corner

‘Good things are around the corner,’ says my sister via zoom.

‘Hmmm, which corner, right or left? The way things have been, I hope they come at breaking speed. This world certainly deserves some positivity,’ was my sassy reply.

My sister and I grew up in a melting pot of cultures. No surprise considering our forefathers came from the four corners of the planet. In fact, across the generations, we have benefited immensely. We have been given the opportunity to learn and adapt different cultures, traditions, and languages.

Today we are celebrating Chinese New Year, also known as ‘Spring Festival’. It marks the beginning of the new lunar year. It is not a religious celebration. It is a time when we pay respect to our parents and grandparents and a great opportunity for family gathering and to indulge in delicious cooking and sweet delicacies.

When we were young, one of our duties was to decorate all doors and windows with red paper strips. Red being the symbol of luck, joy, and happiness. But first we had to vacuum and sweep the past, saying goodbye to the old year. Then we would light incense and welcome wealth and prosperity.

In the same way as we would do at Christmas, we would leave sweets, water, and beans to Zào Jūn, the Kitchen God. He would visit the mortal world before reporting back to the Jade Emperor about the situation of each family. But unlike Christmas, the Jade Emperor delivered good or bad fortune not only to children but also to adults.

Long gone are the days when I followed strict tradition. Maybe I have become lazy. Or maybe it is no longer a necessity now that our branches are spread throughout the world. Whatever it is, I still delight myself in the joy of eating. Instead of spending hours in the kitchen, I find it easier to pick something from the shops.

Last year I spent the day in China Town. The news of a pandemic had not yet reached us. We were fearless and in high spirits. The streets were alive with noisy parades of lion and dragon dances. Fireworks were set off to scare away any evil spirits for the coming months. Incense and offerings adorned the entrance of every shops. Performers, tourists, and locals all came together to be part of the soul and tradition of the Chinese community.  

A year on, a lot has changed. Restaurants and small shops are closed. China Town is deserted. Not a soul around, not even a stray cat. No fireworks to leave my ears ringing, no lantern lit. Gongs are silent, lions do not dance to the sound of the drums. It is quiet. Far too quiet.

Nothing will frighten away monsters. The evil spirit will hang around in the coming months.

This is the start of the year of the Ox. The rest of the year does not look promising. Are we are doomed?

I settle down to a quiet evening, looking forward to scrolling through social media and catching up with the other side of my world. While nothing is happening here, somewhere else must be busy. I can celebrate with some spring rolls and noodles.

20.00. The oven timer goes off at the same time as the dinner gong. For the past hour, a delicious aroma has been emanating from the kitchen, saucepans have been banging and the oven whooshing. My young chef has put a lot of thoughts and care in this sumptuous culinary feast: sweet and sour chicken, sticky chicken wings, fried fish, steamed bao buns, nems, red bean mochi, nian gao . . .

“Wait! Let me take a food selfie!”

“Come on, let’s eat!”

Time to say goodbye to the past. Prosperity, happiness, and good fortune are around the corner.

新年快乐 . . . Xīnnián kuàilè . . . Happy New Year!

The Day I Ditched My Bra

I grew up in a conservative household where any mention of body parts was frowned upon. No swear word could pass my lips without getting a whack across the head or facing the steely stare from my mother. So, no need to tell you that as soon as I hit puberty, I had to keep my body well covered from neck to knees. Hiding the shape of my developing body and the appearance of my breasts was a necessity.

In those days I was too young to wear a fashionable bra. My mother had an aptitude at assembling pieces of fabric together in a flash. I was in awe of her talent when under a couple of hours, she would present me with a beautiful dress. I would then rush to school the next day to parade in front of my envious classmates. So, it was all more natural that my first brassiere would be one of my mother’s creations.

To my dismay, it was not a lacy number which I saw in the women catalogue. Shame on me for even thinking of bringing attention to the shapely roundness of my blossoming breasts. My first bra, a home-sewn body piece felt and looked like a corset stiffened with whale bones. I was mummified – tight, uncomfortable, a nightmare. I cried and pleaded but my mother tutted and said, “That will do.”

“Freedom lies in being bold” – Robert Frost

Years later, as soon as I could afford it, I bought my first sexy bra. From a wide range of designs and fabric, from La Senza to Victoria’s Secret, I could choose whatever I wanted. My mother’s eyes no longer bore into me and I could indulge in playing safe or being naughty. I no longer felt swaddled. I loved the soft lacy feel against my skin.

I learned about what went into the construction of underwear during my college years. I worked on designs commissioned by Berlei and created my own showpiece. I could not be prouder. It was only then that I appreciated all the efforts my mother put in my first bra. I regretted those unnecessary tantrums and sent her an apology.

When I first read about ‘bra burning’ in the 1960’s, I could not understand why those women protested about their femininity. They protested for equal rights because they no longer wanted to be known as housewives and mothers. But refusing to wear a bra because they believed a competition valued women’s bodies more than their brain . . . I am still confused. Doesn’t a woman love to feel beautiful and feminine?

“Freedom is nothing but a chance to be better.” – Albert Camus

Over the years, while bras have remained part of women’s wardrobe, they are not a necessity. Depending on a woman’s breast size, a bra is worn either for comfort or to enhance her sex appeal. It is no longer a functional, restrictive garment.

There is no shame in going braless. It is a myth that not wearing bras would make our breast droop. Of course, they can improve our posture and prevent us from back pain if we are heavy-breasted. On the other side, not wearing a bra in the long run, can strengthen the pectoral muscles in the chest and redefine the breast shape in a better way.

The choice is ours rather than going along with what others tell us.  

The day I ditched my bra was at the start of the pandemic when we went into lockdown, almost a year ago. In the beginning I felt uncomfortable and self-conscious as though I could hear my mother telling me to keep my breasts encased. But with the restrictions, I needed to find a balance between comfort and looking after my mental health. Looking sexy was far from my mind too.

Today going braless has become second nature. Maybe when the world returns to some form of normality, I could dig out my romantic, sexy lingerie but for now, I prefer to let my assets free.

The Long-Awaited Snow

I wake up to screams of joy. Children shrieking. For a moment, I am confused. Aren’t they supposed to be at school? Then I remember we are in our umpteenth lockdown and schools are closed. As I open my eyes, I blink at the overly bright light flooding the room. The sun is already high up in the sky. It feels warm despite the heating not being on. I look towards the source of those high-pitched squeals. Soft fluffy flakes spiral down as though they are being blown by a gust of wind.

Excited, I jump out of bed and rush to the window. As I glance out, a picture-perfect scene spreads right in front of my eyes: snow-capped roofs, newly-clothed trees stand as proud as a snow queen.  In my neighbour’s garden, three children are chasing each other, throwing white gleaming balls. A small girl in a bright pink ski-suit lays on her back on the glistening ground, making a snow angel. Wow, what a beautiful scene. I feel goosebumps forming on my skin. The long-awaited snow is finally here.

Snow that has fallen soundlessly during my sleep. Snow that I have not seen for a few years. Snow that I love and miss. I am surprised – though I should not be. A couple of days ago, the Met Office warned of potential heavy snow that would sweep across the South-East. But as usual, I did not pay much attention. Potential does not mean actual. Temperatures barely reach below -1 degree Celsius around this part of the country. Also, we have not often seen a thick white blanket covering the ground. For that reason, I did not think it would snow. Oh, how wrong I was!

This magical landscape right in front of my eyes, takes my breath away. I grab my phone and open the window wide. The coldness bites my face and I shiver in my flannel pyjamas. I ignore the feeling. How long will it keep snowing? It might be the only chance I get to capture some everlasting memorable pictures. As I start clicking, I feel emotional. In the days when my children were small, they too, would have made a snowman and indulged in a snowball fight. Nowadays they battle in the world of Minecraft.

Snow, though beautiful, is not always practical. It can be treacherous. Snowfall can cause transport disruption at short notice – frozen rails, signal failure and delayed timetables. As snow turns to ice, roads and pavements become slippery and increase a risk of fall. I still bear the scars from the time when I slipped and crashed into a brick wall. I had ongoing pain and a swollen wrist for nearly a month.

Lost in my thoughts, I put the real world on pause. I hardly notice the time. I need to get a move on though. I must get ready for work. Of course, I would rather hide underneath the covers, sipping a hot cocoa and watching falling snow through the window. Instead, I stretch my arm and try to catch one of the millions of snowflakes in my hand. Next, I tip my head backwards and let the icy-cold flutter melt on my tongue.

“Right, enough of that. Get those legs moving”.

After giving myself a pep talk, I choose what I will be wearing. Because the temperatures have plummeted, extra layers will be needed to protect me from the cold. I put together five layers of thermal under an arctic heavy coat, weatherproof boots, gloves, and a woollen hat. With the face mask, I will be barely recognisable.

A couple of hours later, dressed as a snowwoman, I am ready to battle the elements. Anxious, I step outside as nervous as a novice ice-skater. As I move across the snow, my footsteps are light and soundless. The snow is powdery and fine, and it feels like I am walking on a soft pillow. I look up at the blue sky and hope the temperatures stay the same. In all likelihood, its thick coat will last for at least two days. On my return home, I too, will build a snowman.

Clutter. A Welcome Friend, or a Lazy Foe?

We are already mid-way through the month, having left behind celebrations, fireworks, and a stressful year. Some of us may have written a long list of new year resolutions that we know we should be focussing on. January is the month where we re-organise our lives and focus on a new project to better ourselves.

I decided not to make any resolutions for 2021 because I still have some unfinished plans from last year. Plans, that I have put on the back burner with the excuse that I would deal with them as soon as the pandemic is over. But days are going by fast, the world is no better, and I am letting them slip. Have I been too ambitious and unable to reach my goals?

I thought I could manage through the goals, but I must admit that my mind and my home are starting to feel cluttered. I could blame it on the ongoing national lockdown. It is so easy to be tempted by what is available online. I am undecided. Should I ditch my old plans and start a brand-new list or work through the old ones? I must find a way to re-organise my brain before it bursts.

“Edit your life frequently, and ruthlessly. It’s your masterpiece after all.” – Nathan W Morris

Not everyone keeps their stuff tidy and organised. Some people keep their homes clean while their cars are messy. Others focus on tidiness but do not care if inches of dust pile up on the surface. My life is organised in an arty type mess which other people call ‘clutter’. I know exactly where all my things are situated should I need them. I agree with Albert Einstein: If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?

Different people find comfort in different levels of organisation. A person’s clutter might be someone else’s treasure. It all depends what suits them best. I read somewhere that clutter is nothing more than postponing decisions – in other words, clutter is procrastination. It can cause stress which leads to physical and mental illness. It might also make it hard for us to focus and concentrate, impossible to relax and enjoy life.

I do not believe that I am a procrastinator, but I am aware that I have made many plans which are slow for me to achieve. I have let my mind run wild giving too much attention to the least important ones. I do not possess superpowers and more often than not, I feel snowed under. But it is not too late to rectify this. I can change course.

“You can’t reach for anything new if your hands are still full of yesterday’s junk.” – Louise Smith

There are 11 more months before the end of the year. I have plenty of time to get back on track and achieve my goals. First, I need to have a vision – draw up a plan that is achievable. I need to re-evaluate the targets I have set and get rid of anything that does not serve me, otherwise I will never get organised.

I need different tools to achieve this. Decluttering my home will not be the same as decluttering my mind. Getting rid of material things is easier than emotional baggage accumulated over the years. Throwing away an out-of-fashion dress is less painful than a broken piece of jewellery given by an old flame. Taking on too many responsibilities at work and feeling guilty towards my family can clutter my mind and spirit.

But I will not wait for next year to start a new list of resolutions. Neither will I put my life on hold until I get organised. By prioritising what I need instead of what I want, I can come up with a plan and re-structure my life with a new resolution. There are two main questions that I should keep asking myself to push forward: Can I achieve the goals I set and what steps should I take?

Decluttering old habits as well as material things will be another way to forgive myself for my laziness and regain healthy ethics. It will be hard to let go but by doing so I can release the old and make way to a new ‘me’.

The Gift of Gold

It is the Twelfth Night, the eve of Epiphany. Christmas is officially over. As tradition goes, it is believed that all Christmas decorations must come down by midnight or else, the whole household will be struck by bad luck throughout the year. With a heavy heart, I spend my entire evening making my living room tinsel-free. It is also a jolly good excuse to finish off any remaining sweets and half-consumed alcohol.

I usually leave my Christmas shopping until the second week of December. It takes two or three trips to the shops and a click of a button and presto, my shopping is done. Though I put careful thought into the presents I am offering, I pray that they would bring pleasure to the recipients. But I am not always lucky when I am on the receiving end as not everyone is as thoughtful as I.

You will understand what I am saying when I say, ‘Secret Santa’ – the last exciting event before the office is closed for the holidays. Having taken a name from a hat, I am careful in purchasing something that I hope they would like. Even though I might not know that person intimately, I would not want them to throw my chosen gift at the back of their cupboard. It is not just trusting my guts but also taking a leap of faith.

On the day of the big reveal … excitement … drumroll. From the big pile, I retrieve my anonymous present wrapped in glittery paper. Should I unwrap now or later? I hesitate. I weigh the tiny present in my hand, feeling the texture, guessing the content. What if I am disappointed? I will need to do my best to compose myself. As I do not have a good poker face it is best that I take my present home and unwrap it away from prying eyes. And if I do not like it, then, I can pass it on to someone who might.

Revelation

Epiphany is another gift-sharing occasion. It is the day when we celebrate the arrival of the Magi or Three Kings who brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to baby Jesus. The day is sometimes called ‘little Christmas’ in some parts of the world. Epiphany is also a moment of sudden realisation. Three Wise Men had an epiphany when they saw the lone star and decided to take on a hard journey to meet a newly born.

Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar must have started on their travel many months before. A long and uncomfortable journey on camel back. Imagine, how much easier it would have been if Amazon could deliver their chosen gifts! They battled the physical harshness of the desert because they were about to come upon beauty, purity, and divinity. A deity to whom they would present three material gifts.

Gold was one of the three gifts. One could say that a poor baby born in a manger would have no need of such a lavish gift. Why would Jesus, the son of God, need wealth and money? But as I ponder some more, I realise that gold also means purity. The Three Kings did not come to show off their wealth but to experience pure beauty.

‘Don’t trust everything you see. Even salt looks like sugar.’

Hence, I have learned that there is an ambiguity in practically everything I encounter daily. It is imprudent to take anything at face value. It is only wishful thinking to dream that I would be given a gift-wrapped bundle of wealth. Now that I have had my own epiphany, I need to trust and believe in myself and put the hard work needed to achieve success. There is more beauty in simpler things, and I need to keep it real.

How do you want to start your new year, gratitude, or resolution?

I am certain your first intention for 2021 is to set some new year’s resolutions and to say, ‘Thank God 2020 is over!’ It certainly has been a year we won’t soon forget.

Ten months ago, the world slowed down, and plans got cancelled. In a matter of days, our lives were put on hold as we went through new challenging times. From being forced to stay home, on furlough or redundancy, to being affected by illness or loss of family members and friends, we have found ourselves many times at breaking points. All those challenges took a lot out of us and made us revise our priorities, forcing us to strike a balance in our lives.

While some people were terrified and emptied the supermarket shelves, I delved into different topics with good intention of avoiding the pandemonium. As it turned out, the pandemic not only helped me to turn my attention to those things I once loved but abandoned due to lack of time and self-doubt, but I also reconnected with the person who was hidden inside me for many years.

New Beginning

At the start of this new year, I have decided to reflect on the months gone by – the challenges I faced and what I have achieved. I have been counselling others for more than 10 years … those who struggle with addiction, depression, abusive relationships, lack of self-love and suicidal thoughts. But until last year, I never applied that advice to myself. I felt I had more to give to others, rather than focusing on myself. I think that is what we call being selfless.

Many times, I have been called ‘super woman’, but only a few people saw how fragile I was inside. I would not have overcome the onslaught of the pandemic, had I not leaned on my family, a few friends, and the selfless online teachers. The techniques I learned, whether it being mindfulness, writing, art, and design, helped strengthen my mental resilience. I overcame anxiety and avoided sinking into depression.

Practising daily meditation and connecting with newfound online friends, helped me to feel more grounded and combat stress. I learned to reassess my health and adopted a new eating regime – no more emotional eating. I designed a new diet following the same approach as Keto and made my own goat’s milk kefir which helped alleviate my IBS symptoms and gave me a healthier skin tone. The difference is astounding. I feel so much better – I am no longer bloated and have a spring in my step.

Onward and Upward

In 2021, I choose happiness and good health. I look for light and hope to rise above all challenges. I think about all the people, present and deceased, who have helped me through the challenging times. Those who have enabled me to keep going when I would otherwise have been at the mercy of negative thoughts. I feel grateful for all those who gave their time free of charge. They have gratified many of us with freebies and we owe them a debt of gratitude.

January is a perfect time for me to look ahead and reflect on what I want. Before, I would regularly binge-read fiction books or watch movie marathons to chill. Now, I have learned the ability to be still. By being quiet, I can easily attain that level of satisfaction. I start my day with 15-30 minutes of meditation – that could be prayer, deep-breathing, or just complete silence. There is no time to feel guilty in giving myself some self-love.

I have learned that there is no need to look back and regret. Change comes from accepting who I am and what I am grateful for. I focus on ‘what I want’ and not on ‘what I don’t want’. I choose to be happy. I can reach out to anyone I have not spoken to, for ages and let them know how much they mean to me.

As I share with you these beautiful words from Pope Francis, I wish you all a healthy and peaceful year.

“Rivers do not drink their own water; trees do not eat their own fruit; the sun does not shine on itself and flowers do not spread their fragrance for themselves. Living for others is a rule of nature. We are all born to help each other. No matter how difficult it is, life is good when you are happy; but much better when others are happy because of you. Let us all remember then that every changing colour of a leaf is beautiful, and every changing situation of life is meaningful, both need very clear vision. So, do not grumble or complain, let us instead remember that Pain is a sign that we are alive. Problems are a sign that we are strong, and Prayer is a sign we are not alone!! If we can acknowledge these truths and condition our hearts and minds, our lives will be more meaningful, different, and worthwhile!!”

How Do You Celebrate When The Magic Is Gone?

In less than a week we are saying goodbye to 2020. On the stroke of midnight, I will be relieved to see the back of this unfortunate year filled with upheaval and sorrow. For some of us, in the UK, there will be no fireworks, no big celebration. We are in Tier 4 lockdown. Each household will stick to their own bubble, no mixing for fear of catching the virus or, getting a hefty fine from the police.

How do we celebrate when the magic is gone? A few days before December 6th, my family decided that we would not be having our usual celebrations. Even worse, Christmas would be downsized to one single gift per person. I was devastated because I was looking forward to a merry time spent with the whole family. Surely, we cannot cancel Christmas!

“Some days there won’t be a song in your heart. Sing anyway.” – Emory Austin

December is special for me. Not only it is the month of my birth but, I also celebrate religious feasts weekly – from St. Nicolas on the 6th to the birth of Jesus on the 25th. A long period of excitement, non-stop organising and celebrating. The house would be warm throughout, and a nice aroma of baking would be wafting from the kitchen. Baubles would decorate the Christmas tree and stockings waiting to be filled, would hang by the chimney.

But this year, things have turned out differently. I found myself in a situation that I had no control over. My life has been impacted dramatically since the start of the pandemic. From being in a full-time job to being stuck at home, from being independent to relying on others. I have had to steer through ongoing adversity.

“Like tiny seeds with potent power to push through tough ground and become mighty trees, we hold innate reserves of imaginable strength. We are resilient.” – Catherine DeVrye

At times, I would wake up with a pang of anxiety and feel overwhelmed. I knew if I did not do something about it, I would soon feel worthless and desperate. I needed to manage my emotions and find a day-to-day purpose. By adapting to a new way to thinking, I could function normally. All I had to do was to look for the positive among the negative.

With the help of online communities, I soon learned to be resilient. With their help, I kept going, never gave up. I learned to work at every challenge that came my way, using different strategies that got me through the day. My strength was tested, and I learned the limit I could endure. Through our daily connections, I was able to grow stronger.

“Hang on to your hat. Hang on to your hope. And wind the clock, for tomorrow is another day.” – E.B White

What 2020 taught me is that things can get bad. But what I do with the constraints and stress is what defines who I am. I have stopped assuming and now, I let go of anything that is not within my control. I am grateful for each day where I learn to be stronger and wiser.

I have learned to live on less and give more to others. By minimalizing my expectations, I know where my limit lies. I have the power to be kind to myself and the responsibility to pick myself up when I fall.

As the year ends and I reflect on the past, I am glad that I listened to my heart. I had two choices: let bitter circumstances affect my celebrations or embellish them with love, joy, and happiness. I chose the second. St. Nicholas and Christmas were a success. Bring on 2021!

How I Visioned 2020 And How It Changed Me

On the stroke of midnight, as we clinked our champagne glasses, I made a toast to 2020; May it be a year full of promising projects. Excited, I read through my new year resolutions – travelling was on top of the list. The year had started well. Or so I thought. China and COVID-19 were far from my mind and life carried on through its normal course.

“All great changes are preceded by chaos.” – Deepak Chopra

It only took three months before my plans would be compromised. With the lockdown, everything I considered doing, any plans, any projects were put on hold. I postponed all immediate travel plans. It was too early to get upset. I had to find ways how to ride the anxiety and fear that I knew would soon grab hold of me. Would it be better to take on a project that I had put off for years or challenge myself to a brand new one?

When I was at work, feeling tired and unmotivated, I longed to be at home. I longed to be safe in my bubble, away from the frantic activities. But, once the tables had turned, and I was no longer allowed to leave the house and with social distancing, I craved interacting with others. Yes, human beings are ridiculous. We are never satisfied with what we have.

Being unchained, without any guidance, it was hard to keep to routine. I did not like my freedom. I felt lonely while being overwhelmed by the constant presence of family members. Though I took up several projects for the sake of keeping me grounded, I soon found that I was lacking patience. In my job, I need a bucketful of it to deal with clients. Alone, I find it hard to settle on a plan.

“You must be willing to give up what you are, to become what you want to be.” – Orrin Woodward

Being someone who craved human touch, I initially disapproved of the virtual world. But I needed to be part of a community which would be essential for my well-being. So, I decided to take up meditation and mindfulness. Being part of a tribe, each morning acknowledging each other’s weaknesses and strengths, gave me an energy boost for the day. I soon looked forward to the hourly session and forgot about my aversion to Zoom.  The support and reassurance I needed, were aplenty.

When it came to work alone, I found it difficult to be creative when surrounded by worries and doubts. Back in the summer, I set up my easel, eager to create a masterpiece. I assumed I could pick up from my college days … before babies and work/life challenges. I was kidding myself. So, what happened? In my mind I was still the talented artist I once were, but I lacked practice and motivation. The passion formerly there, has now disappeared.

Painting to an artist is as important as breathing, eating, and drinking. Too much of self-criticism stopped me growing. I did not commit or persevere – I was unfocused. Five months later, the canvas is still half painted and will remain such, until inspiration comes back.

Meditation opened my mind and taught me to be more flexible in my way of thinking and acting. My life has been steered in a new direction. I have learned to accept this new challenge and create new habits. Now I give myself time for reflection and simplify my projects.

Change your thinking and it will change your life.

Though I have not been able to get on a plane, I have travelled the world virtually. I now enjoy reaching and engaging with others remotely. I have made new friends via different virtual communities. I am more creative, flexible, and resilient. So, even if you are going through a bumpy ride, by changing your way of thinking, it will in turn change your life.

Knowledge of Languages Is the Doorway to Wisdom

“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” – Nelson Mandela

In Nelson Mandela’s autobiography ‘Long Walk to Freedom’, it is stated that without language, one cannot talk to people and understand them; one cannot share hopes and aspirations, grasp their history, appreciate their poetry or savour their songs. We are not different people with separate languages; we are one people, with different tongues.

Most of the world population speaks more than one language but being multilingual is not all it is cut out to be. Is learning a new language easy? How difficult can it be? Can I speak another language in a week? Anyone can do it, right? Wrong! In my case, nothing could be further from the truth.

“The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.”– Ludwig Wittgenstein

My love of languages began somewhere in my teens, along with an obsessive desire to travel the world. It was during those long summer holidays when I was neither a child nor an adult – when going out with friends needed parental permission. I was bored. I thought it would be fun to learn another language, to escape in a world that only existed in books, magazines, and films. I was young, eager, and naïve.

As tempting as it was to be taught by a professional, unfortunately I could not afford the fee. My next best action was to borrow books from the library, and apply myself to learn German, Italian, and Spanish. Bizarrely, I did not appreciate that I was already fluent in three other languages. Yes, I was lucky growing up surrounded by more than half a dozen languages. But I was determined that three more would open my horizon. Ah, how the youth can be so ignorant!

I must have fried my brain or hit a plateau. Or maybe those early Latin lessons killed my enthusiasm because, it took me many decades to get anywhere close to perfection. Even now, there are times when I do not have a clue what word is coming out of my mouth. I admit I cannot make it pass the basic conversation, to the point of making a fool of myself in front of an audience.

“French is the language that turns dirt in romance.” – Stephen King

When my first child was born, I was dissuaded to introduce another language for fear she might be confused and mix up languages. I moved to a trilingual country and solved the problem for both her and her siblings; from birth, their brains have been wired to adjust to being bilingual. Although they are fluent in both languages, we have adopted ‘Frenglish’ or ‘Franglais’ at home. We use more English in our sentence structure when speaking in French.

“A different language is a different vision of life.” – Federico Fellini

I have features that could pass for a local, depending in which country I am travelling. One can see it as hilarious but to my children (language police), it is pathetic whenever someone speak to me in their foreign language and I reply with ‘yah’. It does not matter if they are speaking Russian, Korean or Arabic. To tell the truth I do not even know why I do it. Maybe I am too scared to check into my shallow list of vocabulary. Or maybe when in deep Russia, where no one speaks any other language, ‘Yah’ is forcibly acceptable.

Some years ago, on arrival at Orlando International, a security officer spoke to me in Spanish. Having spent nine hours on a flight, my brain did not register the language. I looked at her, shrugged, and out came ‘yah’. She must have thought I was stupid for she did not press on. I am lucky I did not get detained for further questioning.

“To learn a new language is to open another window from which to see the world.” – Chinese proverb

The brain, as any muscle, likes to exercise, so being fluent in two or more languages keeps the brain healthy and active. Studies have proven that it helps to delay symptoms of alzeimer’s disease. Our ability to multi-task and our concentration increase. Our memory improves and we become good at problem-solving.

I am aware I am not good at everything and I know some people are perfectly able to craft a very well-constructed sentence in whatever language they put their mind to. But there are other ways I can make myself understood. I am open-minded, empathetic and have good listening skills – I can easily connect to other cultures of the world. Using creative-skills, with mimes and key words, I stretch my vocabulary two thousandfold. I wing it. Happy days.

Someday, I Will Be a Beautiful Butterfly

“Someday, I will be a beautiful butterfly, and then everything will be better.”

It is the 20th of November. It is a special day. As I watch my baby girl blow her candles, my heart soars with pride. My baby is no more. She has transitioned from a teenager into adulthood – like a caterpillar, she has metamorphosed into a beautiful butterfly.

“Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly.”

A caterpillar wraps itself in its silky cocoon, awaiting the long transformation from chrysalis to butterfly. Similarly, my baby has gone through several stages in life, maturing into a beautiful young adult. Long gone are the mood swings, hoodies, and awkward shyness. Long gone are the monologues and erratic behaviour.

“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.” – Maya Angelou

There is no job more important than being a parent, and as your child grows, parenting gets even harder. I had no clue how she was going to turn out. Still, I lived in hope. As I watch her evolve from a gawky teen into a compassionate person, I am filled with joy mixed with a smattering of fear. For soon enough, she will discover she has wings and will want to fly further away.

I tell myself I will be okay. I hope. I have done a good job teaching her valuable life lessons so I should not let myself be consumed by sadness. She is expected to journey alone, to experience trials and challenges. Sure, she will want to create a new life for herself and undoubtedly, she will go through successes as well as setbacks. And when she falls, I will be there to catch her.

“And then God created the butterfly to remind us that change is a beautiful thing.”

Fortunately, the process of finding her feet will take a while. Like a recently hatched butterfly which tests its wings, she, too, will hesitantly learn to trust her own instinct. There will be time for her to blossom, responsibilities to handle. Not only will she find success but will also experience failures and heart aches. As I have learned with butterflies, the more you chase them, the more they evade you, but if you stand still, they will surreptitiously land on you.

As I watch her embarking on her new journey, I hope she does not collapse under the weight of adulthood. May she always remember that a storm today makes a brighter tomorrow. I wish I could take away her pain but in time she will learn nothing is achieved in vain. She will grow more empathetic and open-minded. And when she makes mistakes, I hope she learns from her experiences.

“Perhaps the butterfly is proof that you can go through a great deal of darkness yet become something beautiful.”

So, what lesson can you learn from a butterfly? Life comes with all its challenges. A butterfly represents change – a spiritual rebirth. Let go of any darkness and fill your being with peace, love, and hope. You too will become aware of your consciousness and will wait impatiently for the right moment to fly.