Death and Dying

My father is ill with lung cancer. He is very very sick. It won’t be long until he passes into the next world. His skin has a grey sickly pallor to it. His body is frail, his legs are feeble as are his arms. His skin is like fragile lawyers of tissue paper that tear and rip on anything and everything he knocks, giving him bruises and bumps and bleeds. His eyes are blood shot, but I can still see the majestic blue. He coughs and his chest is continuously filled with gunk that he coughs out, but it is still not enough to help him breathe well. He has lost control over his organs. He wets the bed at night and does not have a desire to eat very much. He has lost his voice, barely a whisper, but at least we can still talk. He is beginning to lose the lucidity of his thoughts and his eye sight has left him with blurring and contorted vision. It is ugly this cancer. It eats him up from the inside out. He is beginning to grow lumps on the outer parts of his body they are multiplying like a bacterial growth in a petra dish.

Death smells. The decaying body rots away leaving a very strange musty smell in its wake. But, we have time to talk. And the talks have been good; upsetting, but good. You see my dad was robbed of any real life when he turned 28. The year after he and my mum got married. That was the year I was born.

Before my birth, my dad was a farmer. He had the dreams and passions of any young man to go out and make something of himself. He wanted to be the best farmer there was. He wanted to work on machinery and figure out how to build it up or fix it. He didn’t have an education past the tenth grade, but really he had the mind of an engineer. He could build anything when the schizophrenia had released its hold on him. However, unfortunately, this was a very rare occasion.

When I was born, my dad had his first ever nervous breakdown. Today, while I sat and talked to him, he told me, “It was a miracle you survived”. He went on to explain that, it was the beginning of the voices in his head and they told him to kill his wife and daughter. He said he fought with those voices, but after a while they can be convincing and you lose all sight of yourself through them. It was only after this first episode did he know that he had this disease that literally took his soul away piece by piece for the next 40 something years. They are still there, but the medication he takes is so strong he can manage them and identify them as being “the voices”, but when a schizophrenic has a mental relapse those moment of lucidity are lost, and the person questions the voices in the real world or the voices in their head.

My dad has so many regrets about his life and this makes me sad. He was a good man, a kind man, but he fought hard against an ugliness that controlled him. It was not an easy life growing up with this disease. For him and for us. Life was like a loony bin, and as you can appreciate, this affects the very nature of who you grow up to be as an adult. Masking the pain, hiding the guilt and shame that are attached to such a horrible disease. There is still so much we need to learn about it and so many people that need help, but for my dad it destroyed him.

The medication meant he had no energy for work and thus he began to lose all sense of who he was. He lost his identity, love with his wife because after several break downs my mum could no longer cope. Basically he was left with a shell of the person he could become.

He taught me kindness and caring, but it saddens me to think that this precious beautiful life amounted to regrets and lost dreams. While I sit and listen to him talk about his regrets each one linked to this horrible disease tears fall from his cheeks and I remind him that “dad you were a good person, it was not your fault”. But I do not know what else to say.



Life moves in waves.  It really does.  Sometimes I feel the upcoming wave of joy and happiness and then it suddenly crashes or crashes gently onto the sandy beach.  Mostly, at the moment those waves are moving up and life is good.

Except for a weird stomach problem I encountered yesterday.  I’ve been on a herb juice detox for the past three weeks and ever since really cleaning by body it gets sick awfully quickly; if I eat the wrong thing. Incidentally I don’t think I really ate anything different from the usual stuff.  I had over night oats for breakfast and my usual lemon juice. At lunchtime I had lentils which my maid had made for me on Friday so they were three days old, then I ate a bowl of fruit and had a soy latte from Starbucks.  I got really sick after that. I had to leave early from school.  My juicing friend thinks that all of the fruit and lentils made a bad combination in my stomach and the lentils fermented causing undesired gas.  I really don’t know, but what I do know is that my stomach was filled with agonizing pain, gas and I went to the toilet non-stop.

Today I feel a lot better and I’m so excited that we are doing vegan pancakes in the Green Team after school.  The students asked for vegan cooking.  I’m so excited.  I think it was a continuation of all of the fun green things we did at school with the kids late last year on the Sustainable Development Day.  They are all fascinated by vegan food and making it.

So at the moment I feel this wave really reaching up towards the sky.  My children are beautiful precious little beings, not perfect, but they are behaving nicely towards each other.  I have yoga tonight with an incredibly compassionate lady who is doing a natural healing course as well and I’m working through a mindfulness class on my own after school.  Life is good.


School Holiday Blues

I feel like I’m a big failure as a parent. Saying that is painful. Not exhilarating, as it should be because those words are out. It’s heart-breaking.  Heart-breaking because I thought that when I eventually had children I would be a perfect example of that “cliched parent” – happy, calm with an amazingly balanced family.  My family would not be like the family I grew up in.  We would not have hardships, we would not fight over trivial things, my children’s parents would not be fighting all of the time or screaming at the top of their lungs like my parents did.  Nope, I would be a perfect mum, pretty, fit, I’d have time for me, I’d be able to easily squeeze everything into my day and not be overwhelmed.  I would be graceful and smile if there was a slight problem, because of course we’d have to expect problems from one time or another.  But mostly, I’d let those problems wash over me and get onto the nitty gritty of living and really live a happy life filled with happy children.


I waited to have kids. Not waiting through choice. Each year another of my friends would fall pregnant and there I was trying my best to be happy for them and yet breaking down into tears. Crying to my husband “Why are we so unlucky”, “What’s wrong with us”. And then praying to God, “Why are you so unfair?” “What lessons should I learn, I’m ready”? Of course God didn’t answer and my anger just built up at the injustice of it all. Why oh why?.  But eventually after six years of trying this and that, I adopted a little girl who brought so much joy to our lives.


But of course all things are balanced so with the joy came the tears and tantrums.  And her tantrums were extreme.  I wasn’t sure how to manage them.  I’ve always thought that she is bipolar and if not bipolar then perhaps ADHD or both together.  But man riding out her tantrums was difficult to say the least.  They could go on for hours.  Screaming, incessant anger, biting, scratching, punching the door down and the energy she had was endless. Her tantrums were the beginning of defeat within me.  Have you ever had to rangle with a three year old tantrum?.  It’s exhausting, and even more so when we consider that it takes place over a couple of hours.  My husband and I begun to argue right about this time about which way was the best way to deal with her emotional outbursts, and his extremely strict authoritarian respectful Asian upbringing was not on par with my liberal western views on raising children.  I’d been beaten enough times as a child with my dad’s belt and the toaster cord to know that I was not going to put my children through the same tortuous upbringing I had.  I wanted to let them ride out the anger followed by discussion and reflection.  That was a good enough plan in theory.  But having differing views here has made it difficult to be balanced in our approach to dealing with issues.  Then Amber came along followed by Kai.


Three kids wow, incredibly rapturous joy when they get along.  When they don’t my house and my mind feels like a mental institution. Annisha is going through precocious puberty, she still has temper tantrums at nine years old, but mostly I can ask her to go to her room and think about her behaviour, but she goes through periods of incredible sadness and when those tears fall they fall like a cascading waterfall breaking my heart because I remember what is was like to be a young girl hitting puberty.  On top of that, Amber is showing a very strong defiant streak mostly triggered by not eating at the right time and when that kicks in her tantrums can go on for at least an hour and they are physically, mentally and emotionally exhausting.  She squeals and kicks and carries on, not wanting to take herself off to her room to reflect on her behaviour, nope, she wants everyone in the house to hear her squeals and anger.  So that they can give her the attention she needs.  And then there is three year old Kai who is also a tantrum maniac.  It’s exhausting.  Doubling exhausting when my husband and I fight about ways to deal with the tantrums.  This is only the tip of the iceberg when I look at my parenting failures.  


I read and watch and try and learn about how to deal with them, but it’s incredibly hard.  I wonder if it’s made harder by this perfect image of what a family should be, this image that society is constantly placing on us OR IS IT self-sabotaging expectations and standards I have placed on myself.  I’m glad to say that when I cry out for help on social media people tell me “yup,it’s the hardest gig out there”.  This kind of support helps me to be mindful.  It’s not just me!

Twists and Turns

I’ve often read, “When life deals you lemons make lemonade”.  I always thought that my life was pretty good.  It wasn’t perfect, but I was happy enough and I was grateful and always able to find that happy place to go to.  But turning forty, giving birth to my second child and my husband going off to study in the evenings changed all of that for me and my perspective on how good life could be.

I’ve always been slightly anxious socially, and a thousand thoughts a minute race through my head constantly about what people are thinking about me and how should I act, will they like me?, I hope they like me! etc.  Maybe these feelings are apparent in all of us, but I do believe more apparent in some of us rather than others.  Anyway when things get tough, social anxiety can grab a hold of you and drag you down.  Some people seem to go through life dealing with every blow by the “dog eat dog” version of things, or by “I just don’t give a shit” and move on with it.  But not me.  I’ve always been introspective and socially inadequate.  Anyway, this anxiety has always been there, but when I hit rock bottom I never thought it could get quite so bad.

After giving birth to Kai I was ecstatic, as most women are – but things suddenly went down hill.  After years of telling my husband to go off to university he finally decided to go ahead with it.  I thought it would be perfect timing.  He could study in the evenings, help out with Kai during the day while I was working full time (mind you we have a nanny) and during all of this upheaval I also turned forty.  They are three pretty big things to go through and to top it all off my husband seemed to fall for someone at his university ( I stress seemed to as he denies any of it ever happened).

It was after I went back to work that rock bottom really hit.  I was feeding my son at work everyday during breaks and lunch (thus no social time with colleagues), working full time, getting up in the middle of the night to deal with feeds, going to work tired all day, taking care of my other two children, and then coming home to Kai all by myself every evening.

Meanwhile my husband was off studying.  We never saw each other unless I waited up for him each evening and I was so exhausted by my days and nights that;that was a huge ask for me to put myself through.  Tired, exhausted, moody.  My period was coming every two weeks and I fell into despair, deep dark sad despair.  I had no way to pull myself out of it.  I was constantly worried about my relationship and his involvement with his female friend who he was communicating with secretly.  He turned away from me and I felt so ugly, overweight, vile, sad, lonely and loveless.  I became depressed.

When I look at all of this now I can see how that could happen.  I was exhausted.  I was giving all of the time and getting nothing from nobody in return.

I loved my Kai and my girls, but even they were not enough.  When I questioned my husband about everything he denied it, but things on the surface were not good.  He was not even giving me any time on the weekends it was all for his university friends, when he was with me he was online with them on his secret group.  My life got so low I felt like I needed to end it (but I never would because I’d think about my children, they were my only hope).  I was crying all of the time and I was lucky I had work because for some part of the day I could just forget about everything, but mostly I couldn’t focus on my work either.

Physically I was sick all of the time and one way to pull yourself out of depression is through exercise, but even that I couldn’t do.  I had no time.  Life dealt me lemons and all I could do was produce bitter tears.  It pushed me into a deep dark hole.  I didn’t want to speak to anyone.  I didn’t want to see anyone.  I couldn’t be happy.  I was constantly thinking about ‘him and her’.

This went on for one and half years.  I tried drinking vinegar to change my hormones because I was still getting my periods every two weeks which caused me to go into deep moody depression and sadness alternating every two weeks.  I tried the pill and after consulting with a psychic online I finally went to the shrink and got some medication for my depression.  Although I knew I was sad I thought I was going to be able to combat it.  That I would have the strength and will power to change it.

The first few days were horrible.  My depression was worse than ever.  I felt suicidal and dirty like I’d taken illegal drugs and my mind felt crazy.  I rang my shrink right away and she told me to keep taking the drugs as it was my depression I was feeling. Then for the next couple of weeks I went into a kind of bubble like state where I was on the inside looking out it stopped me from feeling anything.  During this time I was unable to meditate or even cry.  I felt like I wasn’t my real self like I was an ice queen incapable of feeling.  After several months though, I found myself feeling good.  I can live, I can appreciate life again.  I can see colours and sky and sunshine and feel.

I remember a friend of mine telling me her husband was often depressed and never comprehending the concept of depression.  I said to her “surely he can pull himself out of it”, but you can’t, it’s a one tracked thought process and you want to, but you just can’t stop it.  It’s like your brain is programmed to cry or to recall every failure and mistake you’ve ever made or in my case every worse case scenario my husband could be doing.  I felt like my whole life turned upside down from this depression, and although I’m still in recovery I feel like I am recovering.   I had to grow spiritually in a different way.  Something in my life had to change.  Now I know I just have to slow down.  I was completely overwhelmed, drowning and getting no support.  After my medication I started turning my life around.  The way I was being treated was unacceptable.  I demanded more of my husband and I promised to give him more of myself.

To anyone out there.  Take my word for it.  If you feel overwhelming sadness see someone about it.  You need medication it could very well save your life.  Don’t let your social anxiety get the better of you and take away the beauty that life has to offer.

What Have I Become?

I live in an Asian country, Indonesia.  I’ve been living here for 17 years, yes, 17 years.  It’s hard for me to actually believe it myself!

I’m sure there are so many wonderful things which have transformed within myself while living here,but today I was unhappy with what took place within myself and the way my husband reacted to the situation.

This morning on my journey to work an accident had taken place on the toll.  A truck had smashed into the barrier wall and through it onto the other side of the road.  The truck had hit a car and all I could see from that was a broken back window and the car had been severely crushed in the back.  But what I saw on my side of the road was the reason for the accident.  The truck had hit a person.  Probably a gardener or someone who was working the tolls.  I assume the truck driver broke too late and I think he had killed this person whose body lay crushed on the side of the road.

My first reaction was to ring the police to do something.  I was shocked and began crying at the sight of a body lying on the road.  But we didn’t stop.  I asked my husband to do something and he proceeded to argue with me about why we couldn’t stop,that the police were probably on their way and that someone had stopped on the other side of the road.

Inside I am screaming.  This is a person.  We just drove off on a person who was lying dead on the side of the road.

Of course I feel horrible.  I feel like my chance to serve society to be a good and honorable person has been crushed.  I feel my humanity slipping away from me and this is my moral dilemma.  How many times have I let this kind of thing happen in Indonesia?  What kind of person have I become? Am I stuck in the ‘us and them’ divide.  Does this happen to people when they become a part of a society where you can’t afford to care because caring means money?

I want to model to my students what it means to be a righteous person and yet here I am doing this kind of thing.


Gong Xi Fat Cai

New Year’s Resolutions

Happy Chinese New Year.  Gong Xi Fat Choi.

I’m so blessed and fortunate to have a holiday to celebrate the Chinese New Year.  I didn’t really have time to stop and reflect on the turning of the calendar year from 2011 – 2012 as I was off having a whirlwind family visit to Australia.

I’m grateful for the fact that this holiday falls at the same time that one of my best friends has come to enjoy the end of a week long yoga camp in Bali.  She’s had an extremely difficult year experiencing the loss of her father and dealing with a range of other issues and took it upon herself to take a trip to Bali  so that she could reconnect back to her inner self.  Her hubby is happily taking care of her two children and she asked me to join her for the remaining three days of my holidays.  I’m sure that the planets have aligned to bring us back together and this time is just as important for me to reconnect with my spiritual self.  So here I am all alone without my children or husband on my way to Bali.

I experienced a giant shift in myself this year when I returned to Jakarta and am pleased to note that I’m finding time to sit and practice my meditation for 30 minutes every night.  This I have found has had a huge impact on the way in which I view the world and the gratitude I feel for everything.  I also believe some planetary alignment has benefited my change in mood as I really have come into this new year awakened.  In the present.

Since I’ve got this weekend to reconnect with my beautiful friend, who happens to be my soul sister.  I’ve also got the chance to reconnect with myself and to reflect on what elements of my being in the present moment will be a focus for this year?  How will I encounter this year’s hurdles and make the most out of life?

1. Becoming a Better Mother.

I’m currently reading ‘Buddhism for Mother’s’.  It’s a book dedicated to being present as much as possible for your children and recognizing presence and patience, but also about being kind to yourself.  I just need to listen more and be there more for my girls and promise to do this each day when I finish work.

2. Speaking Chinese.

I’m determined to begin my Chinese lessons again.  Having the ability to speak two languages has brought immense wealth and understanding to my life.  In the future I’d like to live in China and I’m visiting Shanghai in March so I really want to be able to converse even if it is ever so briefly with the people there.  Steven has promised to help me with this endeavor and we will identify one hour a week to our sessions.

3. I intend to be 65 kg

This is a difficult task for me and it means exercising and being conscious of what I eat.  Being healthy and choosing only good wholesome foods.

4. Being a vegan when and where possible.

I’ve already began this new year on Bridghe’s vegan challenge.  This has taught me an enormous amount about eating consciously and living consciously.  How much thought do we actually give to the food we are eating and the people or animals that have contributed to it?  I hope that after completing this challenge I will have the knowledge to make better and more informed decisions about what to eat.

5. Getting my Class Blog Up and Running

I have assigned this as my school wide goal so really need to make sure that this happens in the next few weeks.  Step one almost complete step two and three yet to come.

6.Being Kind

I always come back to this each year and am constantly trying to remember it.  If you read this post and I’m unkind or I could show more kindness please boot me up the bum.  I love that Shruti mindfully opens the doors for people, my friend Gabby looks deeply and intently at people when they are talking, and my friend Libby always respects and shows interest in what people have to say.  Remember one mindful act of kindness a day. (at the very least)

7. Being Creative

I’m always encouraging my kids to be creative and do so admire how they just sit and immerse themselves in it. Jabiz has promised some work on this one, so I hope he can find the time in his busy schedule.

8. Sharing with the community

I’m so blessed to have the life that I have and all of the opportunities it brings me.  I want to share my knowledge with some children who are less fortunate than me to ensure that they at least develop a love for reading.  Annisha and I will spend one Saturday morning a month for an hour at the local village school behind my house reading stories to children and creating activities for them.

9.  Creating Engaging and Fun materials for my Classroom

This is constantly something that I strive to do and I hope with my new use of technology in hand will be able to do this even better.

I’m posting this up here for all to view I hope in doing this I am more inclined to achieve each of my goals for this year.

Facebook and Friendship

Personally a friend is someone I can share my ups and downs with.  They support me when times are tough and we live up the good times together.  I hold my friends dear to my heart and always strive to make ‘real’ friends. Friendship is even more important to me now that I live away from people in my home country.  It has been a struggle for me at times, and I’ve found life as an ‘expat’ or as ‘the other’ isolating and alienating.  Facebook once saved me from this suffering and when it first came out it was important for me to feel ‘liked’ and to have as many friends as possible.  In fact I went to the point of accumulating over six hundred friends,but did I know them? Did they really fit into my personal category of what makes a friend?  How real were these friends? These questions beckoned some thinking from me over the break and I’ve had a change of heart with my facebook page and who I want to be connected with.

On my recent trip home to Australia a friend of mine from high school commented to me that she had recently gone through her facebook friendship list and defriended many of the people she’d hooked back up with from high school.  She lived in the same town with many of these people and her logic was that none of them ever talked to her in real life, so what was the point of having them connected to her as a friend on facebook.  A logic that I’m beginning to come around to.

Another friend of mine at school commented on how she and a person she’d once worked with had left on bad terms.  When he requested for her to be his friend on facebook she declined, but she was happy to have him as an acquaintance on   Linkedin a professional version of facebook.

My husband is an Indonesian and his idea of a friend is different from mine.  He is very sociable and has a large network of what I would call ‘acquaintances’ , he doesn’t really have a close group of friends, but he is very happy to socialize with everyone on any occasion and he thinks it’s important to keep these networks of acquaintances alive as you never know when you need them.  How many sticky situations has he got me out of because of a friend he’d met along the way.  My husband’s facebook page has over 800 friends and he is very happy to keep on accumulating these people in his friendship list.  However, I have now begun the cumbersome process of defriending people from my facebook page and really thinking about what this platform is really for. So far it’s taken hours for me to defriend 100 of them.  Do I really want to waste my time with people that I don’t really know, that I don’t really share my life with?  Obviously not.

As I get older and wiser, I think back to His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s thoughtful philosophy on friendship ‘make friendship an art’.  For me that art means we need to refine and redefine.  I want to learn and share my life with people who are interested in sharing their lives with me.  If it means through an electronic platform or on a personal day to day to day basis then so be it,but I will definitely get back to wilting down the number of people listed as my friends on facebook.

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