Tag Archives: friends

The Power of Acknowledgements

Flowers. I love them. When I used to stay in Beijing, the one thing I did religiously every weekend was to make a trip down to the wholesale flower market to buy a big bouquet of flowers for my apartment. Actually, they are for me. I love the sight and smell of flowers. They cheer me up. They remind me of the beauty in this world. They remind to stop rushing around and (literally) smell the flowers. I love flowers.

In the past month, I know of four bouquets of flowers that brightened up six lives. I sent my secretary a bouquet of flowers for Secretary’s Day – as it turned out, it was the first time ever she received flowers. She then sent her mother and sister-in-law flowers for Mother’s Day. I sent my gf a bouquet of flowers on her birthday, in the name of another gf who is now living in India and me.

There was a stretch last year when I was feeling low. My husband sent me flowers to cheer me up. It lifted me out of my malaise and melancholy mood. I was reminded that I am loved no matter what and every time my memories recall that file, I am reminded I am loved. (I couldn’t resist patting myself on the back for cleverly showing my husband my favourite online floral shop some time back. Ha!)

In the lift on my way home, I met a pair of folks whom I believe to be co-workers. The lady’s eyes lit up when she saw the bouquet and said, beautiful flowers, with a whimsical smile. The guy asked if it was my birthday or anniversary or some special day. Before I could answer, the lady added, did he do something wrong?

I laughed then and I laugh now at the memory of that short exchange. I remember I responded: They are from my husband, I was feeling a little down the last few days and he sent them to cheer me up. The woman blushed a little, I guess somewhat embarrassed about her last remark. The guy simply said, Wow.

My passing shot delivered with a smile: you don’t need a reason to send someone flowers. Everyone likes to know he is being appreciated in some way.

Acknowledgement is for everyone, anytime, anywhere. Flowers are but a tool; in my opinion a simple and effective one. You don’t need a reason to acknowledge someone. You don’t need to be a man to send flowers. You don’t need to be a woman to receive them. You don’t need to wait for a “special” day to do so. You could acknowledge someone for no reason and THAT would make any normal day special for the person.

I can think of a million reasons to acknowledge the people in my life but there really is only one that matters: because I can. Like the ones who make my day bearable when it gets tough going; the ones who make me smile; the ones who lighten my work and life loads; the ones who quietly exist in my life; the ones who left a footprint in the years passed; the ones who touched my life in the many small ways that I sometimes do not realise until much later.

It is with hindsight that I saw that the very buying flowers for myself in Beijing was an acknowledgement of my life in this foreign land; a simple acknowledgement of my courage to stay sane despite all the chaos I was experiencing. A willingness to look past the struggles, the flowers were an expression of my gratitude that I was able to still enjoy the simple beauty in life.

My secretary expressed her love and acknowledgement for her mother and sister in law with flowers, a simple act that tilted everyone out of their comfort zones and reminded everybody that something bigger is present, something hopeful and optimistic that is available in life. The flowers I sent was my way of saying ‘thank you for being in my life’. It over-rode my sense of inadequacy in our relationships and was my way of expressing my gratitude that I am blessed by their existence in my life.

Sometimes we forget to count our blessings. Yet, don’t just stop at that. Take it one step further – acknowledge the people for being a blessing in your life in the first place.

Acknowledgement is a simple act of generosity and kindness. When was the last time you acknowledged someone in your life?

P/s: There is another aspect to acknowledgement that applies in the not-so-pleasant aspects of life. I am leaving that for a separate post as it deserves its own space.

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Christmas murmers

A few friends asked me for hints on what I want for Christmas. A few asked my husband for ideas who in turn asks me. So I thought I will put a list together. If you see this, good for you. If you don’t see this, good for you too!

1. A jade bangle (done)

2. A pair of dumbells (done)

3. A skipping rope (done)

4. A earring tree (done)

5. Macbook Air 11″ (done)

6. CD by Joseph McElderry (done)

7. New clothes that fit me (done)

8. Book: Travel Photography by Insight Guides

9. 2in1 book: Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (Oprah book club)

10. Any travel book including travelogues but not Eat, Pray, Love as someone already gifted that to me

11. Any music CD except Michael Buble and Josh Groban – I have most of their CDs already…

12. Cookbooks for healthy, easy to cook meals

13. Anything that is handmade

14. Anything that reminds you of me

15. A call to say hello

For completeness, what not to get for me:

1. Food of all kinds (unless you are cooking!)

2. Clothes (I really need to try them cos I may not be the same size you remember me)

3. Shoes (I will wait till I have my own place again or else I would have to sleep with them in bed)

4. Perfume

Or how about, surprise me??

Enjoy this beautiful time. The get-togethers, the laughter, the shopping, the quiet reflections of the past year. I count my blessings that I receive gifts every single day, though sometimes I don’t even realise it. I am grateful for all the old friendships that grew, new friendships forged. I am immensely thankful for being alive and kicking, for being healthy, for being happy, for the peace of mind, for many a good night’s sleep; for the presence of mind and spirit to enjoy the people and things in my life, and not rue what I have missed or wished I had. For the people I get to miss and those who miss me.

This year is no better or worse than the yester years. It is what it is, and it is what it is not. This is my life and I intend to celebrate it with gratitude and humility. Have a wonderful Christmas and New Year to all of you who read this.

Love, Joanne Sofia

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Being a friend

I thought about what it means to be a friend today. I am surrounded by friendships. I am touched by friendships. I am blessed by those who so generously gifted their friendship to me.

For many years, I tried to be as good a friend as I can be. My way of showing that was being supportive through good or bad, whether I agreed or disagreed with my friend. I stand by my friend. Agreement is best, don’t impose, don’t push, don’t challenge too hard. It’s their lives to live.

Am I really a friend? Being in agreement all the time, holding my tongue, not daring to say what I think? And then cringe when things do go haywire. Don’t worry, I’m here no matter what happens. That, was something I used to say a lot to myself to convince myself I am a good friend.

What inauthenticity and what audacity. I was only interested in ME looking good. If I was really interested in the wellbeing of my so-called friend, I would have stood up and be counted, not afraid to be straight even if that may look bad. Sure, my friend may not agree with me or heed my suggestions.

It is living in NOW that I could possibly hope to have any impact on anyone’s life. Regrets, hindsight wisdom and if-onlys make no difference to anyone.

I have learnt that taking a stand for someone does not require me to be rude, aggressive or pushy. I will always remember what a coach once said in a class I attended: to be a stand is to be a listening for someone’s greatness to show up. Inside of this space, there is room for disagreements and different opinions.

The power of being a stand is simply accepting that someone can be great, without proof or evidence. You are great because you are.  

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A movie that touched me

My Name is Khan.

I watched this movie on a flight back from a business trip in October. Something about it touched a chord in me. I couldn’t quite express it then. Sure it was kinda corny in some parts, too good to be true in others, true Hindustani style drama in all. Yet, it has remained powerfully lodged in my brain, stubbornly poignant. I told everyone I met the days after the movie to watch it if they have not. I bugged my husband to watch it.

We finally bought the DVD version and watched it together. It was no less powerful for me. In fact there were a few scenes and segments that I did not remember watching before. I lapped them up, like a dog having its favourite snack twice over. Yet, I still can’t quite express what it was that touched me.

Today, a friend commented on my FB about the movie (I had after watching the movie the second time posted an update that I love that movie.) It came to me out of the blue. This is what I said to my friend in response to his comment:

There’s something about the way the story was told that goes beyond the obvious… mmm… like a possibility larger than what is reasonable and within norms… something bigger than all the differences amongst us. There is no other difference between you and me, just good deeds and bad deeds. And all of us are capable of good AND bad deeds.

A possibility larger than all of us put together, beyond what our intellectual capacity can comprehend or engineer. The possibility of unity and harmony, of love for the humanity for no reason or evidence other than that we are capable of immense love, if we so choose. Of forgiveness beyond reason, of a compassion beyond what we believe or see we can provide to a fellow human being.

I was privileged to be a part of such a possibility over the weekend. Miracles can and do happen. What I ask myself is not what the world can give me but what I am willing to provide (I am beginning to appreciate what John F. Kennedy said.)

There is no doubt in my mind – I am willing to be a space for greatness to show up, a stand that this crazy, crazy world WORKS.

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The superficiality of it all

Woke up past ten this morning, only slept five hours which is enough for now. The sleeping monster will catch up with me later… Plonked myself down at the dining table and started to thumb through the pages of today’s newspapers.

There seem to be quite a lot of interesting articles – thought provoking, in-depth to some some degree, analytical. Out of habit, I dive into them but unlike other mornings, I didn’t quite finish an article this morning. My eyes kept running off to the next thing to read, impatient to read everything but the brain is registering only very little.

I had a thought. Hmm. The more I read, the more I don’t know. To be more precise, the more knowledge I attempt to accumulate, the more I realize there is a lot more I am ignorant about or perhaps, have consciously or subconsciously filtered out.

On one hand, as my brain processes a piece of writing to decode the intellectual DNA imbedded i it, I experience an expansion of my world view beyond my own short sightedness, moments that are both satisfying and humbling; on the other I feel like someone just hit a panic button in me and i invariably experience, even for a fleeting moment, the ever-present anxiety of being inadequate in thought and action, the smallness of me in the bigness of life.

I do not think it is necessary to learn everything. In fact I think sometimes it is good I don’t know so much. The futility of it all. There is some truth to the phrase there is bliss in ignorance.

I enjoy simplicity in life though I do not always pursue that I must admit. There is a built-in pressure to know more with every passing moment, through every experience. What have I learnt from my past success and failures, other people’s experiences? Things happen for a reason, surely. Otherwise wouldn’t it all be in vain?

There is virtue in not knowing. Nobody gets to know it all, we are humans not God. The superficiality of it all brings some degree of comfort, takes the pressure off the pedal to keep pushing ahead. It is ok to pause, do stupid things, knowingly or unknowingly to participate in the lighter side of life. To partake in moments without going through a discourse of the higher purpose in life. In fact, I dare say we need such moments of a distinct lack of definitive purpose, moments of self expression just because we can.

It is a bliss to spend six hours with friends over late night mahjong, crappy football, spontaneous and sometimes irreverent jokes, dark chocolate truffles and 3 in 1 coffee.

No, let me correct that. It’s DIVINE.

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Aperture Army (aka A.A.)

Last Friday night, eight souls with a shared love for photography got together for a meeting of a different kind. There were six locals and two expats (though one of the expats might argue he’s become rather Singaporean already).

Of the six locals, one is studying to become a nurse, one works in a company providing photography services; their friend is a sweet girl who is too conscious of herself in front of the camera; one is an architect by training, a master in macro photography and a man of the world; there’s a sophisticated lady who runs her own PR firm and there’s me (well, I’m not technically ‘local’ but heck, I can’t see myself as an ‘expat’).

The two expats, coincidentally, are both Australians. One is a homemaker who has a gift for the lens and a beautiful creative vision, and the other a father-to-be who has made Singapore home.

For three hours or so, we talked and laughed. We brainstormed and discussed possible community projects that are grounded in photography and eventually decided on two for a start. We have two enthusiastic and competent project captains and we have a date to meet again this week to check out one of the projects we plan to work on. As of yesterday, we have a page of our own on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/AA/336365728983?ref=mf.

We call ourselves Aperture Army aka A.A. This group started from a very simple desire to make a difference using photography. I mooted the idea last year, asked a few friends whom I know like photography and was encouraged by the positive response. I had promised to organise a gathering to expand on the idea by the first quarter this year. And here we are. An idea that now has become reality.

This is an informal group but we are serious about making a difference and touching people’s life with photography. A group of photography lovers of various competency levels from all backgrounds coming together to enjoy the art and to make a difference. It’s a simple idea. Nothing grand, fancy or complicated.

Judging from the response and enthusiasm last Friday, I am confident that we can make a difference. Let’s do it!

p/s: Anyone and everyone who is willing and able to contribute through photography is welcome to be a part of this community. Let’s have fun using photography to make a difference to people’s lives together!

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Superwoman me!

Each Monday I spend about an hour in the morning reviewing my schedule.  Most of it I spend planning my working hours, getting present to what I have to accomplish in the immediate two-three weeks and setting aside time to do what I need to do in order to accomplish what I want to accomplish. (Ya, just having a goal does not mean it will miraculously happen.) Then there are other things like after-work private time, family time, personal trips and other private pursuits.

My schedule is super packed for 2010. I have good clarity about how I will be spending my time for the rest of the year.  (No, I am not kidding.) Each time I see my schedule, I am amazed by how hard I work my daily 24 hours. I am amazed how hard I push myself everyday. Yet I do not experience stress. What I experience now is my life has expanded, time has expanded. I have the same 24 hours as do everyone else yet sometimes I feel like I have more. I am amazed by how much I end up doing these days.  I have become the superwoman I have always aimed to be without even trying.

NO, I am not bragging about how productive I have become. In fact, I am very humbled. God has shown me a way to use my life to make a difference to people in my life (including myself). When my life focuses less and less on me, myself and I, it goes through a transformation. It expands beyond what I thought I was capable of handling; it opens up so many opportunities in my life that were not available in the past.  I feel like I am more alive, more powerful than ever and more ready to make a contribution to humanity. Inspite of a fully-packed schedule, I feel peace, an unmistakable sense of fulfillment.

I am fully present to the fact that I do not need to be perfect in order to make a difference in this world. Perfection is a fallacy, a function of agreement of the society we live in. What is the perfect human being?

God made us imperfect for a reason; I didn’t see that until very recently. I have, for the longest time in my life, pursued perfection to dire consequences. I sought perfection as if it was the ultimate key to release my hidden potential. It was something that I would someday achieve, this state of perfection. Until then, I am not worthy.

I finally realised that I have always had that key in my hand. Right there. All I have to do is to release my grip and there it is. I was, always have been, my biggest enemy.

I don’t have to wait for perfection to find me before I begin the journey of contribution.  There is no where I need to get to, no one specific way I have to be or become before I start making a difference to someone. I can do it right now, with all my imperfections in full glory.

I don’t have to be superwoman to live an extraordinary life. I am a simple person. I carry with me God-given talents, skills and flaws and I make the best of what I have and this life, not to my own enjoyment and self-gratification but hoping that whatever it is I say and do, I will touch someone’s life.

Thank you Pamela, for driving home this message for me. For sharing with me how I had unknowingly made a difference to you in your life. I was not aware I had that ability. Afterall, at that time, I was not in my finest moment. Thank you for empowering me to be the best person I can be every moment of my life.

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