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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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Our Deepest Fear

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness, that most frighten us.

We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous?

Actually, who are you not to be?

You are a child of God.
Your playing small doesn’t save the world.
There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.

We were born to make a difference, to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.

It’s not just in some of us, it’s in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.

As we are liberated from our own fears, our presence automatically liberates others.

– attributed to Marianne Williamson

(Thank you Tai-san for sharing this poem.)

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My Valentine

A friend posted on her FB yesterday asking if married couples (those who are married for a while) still celebrate Valentine’s Day.

My husband and I have no specific plans to celebrate this day except to spend time with each other. We talked about it but the conversation was brief. It’s not that we don’t celebrate our love. We share the view that we don’t need to wait for a specific day to show our love for each other; and the display of our love doesn’t come in the form of bouquets of flowers, expensive meals, gifts or doing anything out of the ordinary.

Now, I am not saying I don’t like flowers, gifts or my husband doing something ‘special’ for me. Come on, I am a woman! I do like superficial things like that, really.

I am saying we don’t need a reason or a special date to show we love each other.  

This morning he woke me up with a kiss as usual. As my eyes struggled to open, he greeted me with a smile and pointed to the dresser table. A present! Happy Valentine’s Day darling, he said. I smiled and thought, GOSH, he got me a present. In that moment, I am so aware of my husband’s love for me. I reached for him and gave him a kiss, hug and a big smile. It doesn’t matter what he bought for me; it was the way he was being with me. And BEING cannot be bought or faked.

My husband is my alarm clock. He wakes me up with a kiss every morning. He wakes up early so I get to sleep in. He would get ready for work then come wake me so I have the bathroom and room to myself to get ready for my day. He would kiss me goodbye when he leaves the house before I do. He romances me every day.

He makes me laugh. He laughs with me. He supports my choices. He listens and demands the same of me. He shares his life and dreams with me. He gives me room to be me. He loves me for who I am. He loves me for who I am not. We bring out the best and worst of each other. He apologises when he makes a mistake. He gives me room to apologise when I make a mistake. He watches chick flicks just because he wants to. He would record a show he likes on TV so I get to watch it too. He sent me a bouquet of flowers just to cheer me up when I am having a bad day. He indulges me and thanks me when I indulge him. I am me, he is him and we are us.

I have never felt more loved by a man in my life. His generosity, humanity and passion for life provide me a safe space to just be. Valentine’s Day reminds me to not to take him for granted.  I am deeply grateful for him giving himself to me everyday, in his own way. That’s the best gift I can ask for in a husband.

Happy Valentine’s Day, Emril. Now, where are my flowers?

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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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I am such a scrooge

Being empowering is something I’ve always wanted – to empower people around me to be the best they can be. Over the years, I have had different appreciation of what empowerment means, what it looks like, what it takes.

For most of my life, I experience empowerment to be “telling someone what to do and giving the person space to do it”. First and foremost, I must have the solution to whatever the person is dealing with. Then I posture myself in a way that allows me to tell/advice the person how to do it. Finally, allowing the person to actually act on my wisdom/suggestion/advice without me trying to do everything myself.  This particular view of empowerment leaves me feeling that I have to be Miss Know-it-all and Solve-it-all.

This form of empowerment, at some level, propels me to seek for every solution possible, within the realm of what I know. I became pretty good with solving problems. However, every now and then (which is quite often actually), I hit a wall. I draw a blank. I don’t know what to do, don’t know how to respond to a problem. I get totally stressed out about not knowing what the next step should be. If I didn’t know, how could I empower others??????

Since I took on being a coach in a leadership training program last year, I truly begin to experience empowerment in a new way. There is no right or wrong way to empowerment per se. Yet the way I have experienced it in the past year or so have left me with a whole new sense of freedom to be with people the way they are and the way they are not; with a brand new perspective to how great people can be when real empowerment – not domination – is present.

As a coach I saw for myself a few things that, when distinguished, opened up a whole new world for me:

1. My previous way of being empowerment was coming from my fear of being insecure and inadequate. If I didn’t have answers, what value do I bring to this world? A long-time, entrenched fear that I need to prove I am good enough at every chance I get or I am nothing.

2. I was trying to fix and change things, to become some way I want it to be. If it wasn’t the way I think it should be, any other way would render me pretty useless wouldn’t it?

3. Resistance, resistance. I resist the world the way IT IS NOT as it did not fit my view of how it should be.

4. I was trying to empower others when I would not empower myself. I mean how empowering is it for me if I do not allow myself to make mistakes, if I constantly beat myself up for being imperfect?

I get it. It is soooooooooooo clear. It was all a pretense – me wanting to empower others. My focus was on how I survive my perpetual doubts over my worthiness; yet I pretended that it was about others. And I have been wondering why empowering others never comes easy to me, no matter how hard I try. I was at war with myself: pretending to be empowering others when I am really only interested in how that makes me feel about myself.

I am such a scrooge. Not only was I totally not generous with myself, I was unable to be generous with the people I claim to want to empower. Instead of giving them space to just be themselves, create space for their greatness to show up, my focus was validating my existence by me providing as many answers as I can in life.

In fact, I now see very clearly that empowerment is all encompassing, not a single dimensional problem solving process. 

Generosity is like the front and back of our hands – if I am not generous with myself, I can’t be generous with others. If I can’t live with my mistakes, I cannot tolerate other people making mistakes. If I cannot appreciate my own greatness, I cannot possibly see the greatness in others.

Empowerment is now to me an act of generosity to self and others. Giving myself permission to make a difference to others given all my imperfections. Giving others the space to keep growing and defining their own greatness, in areas of their life that matter to them and are important to them.

Thank you Landmark Education, for giving me a whole new way of living my life, for experiencing myself and humanity. Thank you for empowering and enabling me to live my life with peace and power. I love my life!

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Turned on the TV and the cast of Glee started to sing this song. I’ve never heard it before. The lyrics are beautiful.

I was smiling and tearing at the same time, something I seem to do quite a bit of the past week… when I went through old photos and compiled an album on my Dad. When I receive messages of love from people in my life expressing their support to me in the face of my Dad’s passing. When I speak with my mum who repeatedly tells me not to worry about her. When I look at the one and only picture I have as a baby with my Dad.

Of course I miss my Dad. I will honour him by never stop smiling, no matter how tough life becomes. That was how he lived his life.

Lyrics of ‘Smile’ by cast of Glee

Smile though your heart is aching;
Smile even though it’s breaking.
When there are clouds in the sky, you’ll get by.
If you smile through your pain and sorrow,
Smile and maybe tomorrow,
You’ll see the sun come shining through for you.

Light up your face with gladness,
Hide every trace of sadness.
Although a tear may be ever so near,
That’s the time you must keep on trying,
Smile, what’s the use of crying?
You’ll find that life is still worthwhile,
If you just smile.

That’s the time you must keep on trying,
Smile, what’s the use of crying?
You’ll find that life is still worthwhile
If you just smile.

Michale Jackson’s version of the song:

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Live and live well

It’s been slightly more than a week since my Dad passed away. The single most intense emotion I’ve experienced since his death is gratitude. Yes I am sad but Dad’s passing also reminded me to be present to my own life.

In the past week, I looked around in my life with detachment – not without emotion but without judgement; just be with what is there and what isn’t. I am immensely thankful for everything and everyone in my life, and everything and everyone that isn’t. As I grief, I can still smile from my heart.

Thank you Pa. You did it again. Without saying a word, you have reminded me that I have to live and live well. I love you Pa.

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