Sure as Autumn Flame


Post-Surgery: Recalling the accident

For the record, I have no memories of falling off my bicycle. This is similar to a car accident I was in nine years ago, when the left side of my head went into trauma because it was at the point of collision between two cars. One car accident, a trained guard-dog that lunged at me and left a cut in my left eye-lid, a knee operation to repair a torn ligament from a wakeboarding injury, and a brain surgery later – I’ve pretty much chalked up one too many trips to Accident & Emergency units the past 9 years.

I digressed. I flew off the bicycle I was travelling downslope on 12 days ago, after letting the other cyclists fly past me and attempting to slow down. The only thing I remembered – skirting a pothole and wobbling on the bike. I woke up hours later gagging on a breathing pipe stuck down my throat in hospital.

So this was what the rest told me after: I had a gash on the top of my head, some surface wounds on my knees, knuckles, hips and shoulders because I broke my fall with a roll (hence no broken limbs). I was very awake and even checked myself into hospital after the ambulance sent me to Changi General, right down to remembering my phone’s password when others needed to contact my mother.

I even said, “Please don’t tell my mum.” Who would have listened to me then, really?

My boss arrived at the hospital too, thank heavens. An immediate CT scan showed that I had a blood clot in my brain, which didn’t require immediate surgery because it might go away by itself. Alarm bells rang when I was asked what month it was, and I said “February” and I seemed to be falling asleep on the spot. Doctors decided to go ahead with surgery that night.

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So, they cut a C out of my skull to drain the blood clot, and supposedly stitched up my head wound. One of the bones in my ear is also dislodged slightly, due to an impact-related minor fracture between my ear bone and the base of my skull. 12 days later I learned that the wound wasn’t stitched up properly by a junior doctor who happened to be on duty that fateful night, so I sat through a re-stitching by another senior (and cuter) doctor.

It has been almost 2 weeks of strange sensations. This morning, the re-stitch was done with local anesthetic, which allowed me to feel the needle and thread going through and the skin of my head being pulled closer together…with no pain. The feeling of having 25 staples pulled of my skull could not be described otherwise because you literally feel the staples leaving your head. Weirdest feelings, ever.

Waking up after an operation to great girlfriends, a concerned boss and his girlfriend, and my panicked mum was great. Although it was a terrible blur now, for my memory is not exactly at its best right now.

Headaches have been part of everyday life. More interestingly, I am medically certified to disengage from stress, annoyances, grief, drama or anything that causes tension build-up in the brain. They get better day by day, except for throbbing sensations, or when the volume of my mum’s voice goes up a notch.

I can’t handle bright lights, loud noises, too many questions, nor turn around too fast. All these become too much for my senses to absorb, and the brain goes into an overdrive.

The right ear’s deaf from its internal fracture and blood clot, but it would heal over time. Once again, balancing on one leg becomes an issue, and I constantly hear a shrill in my right ear – the kind you hear when you are in a room too quiet.

Stretching becomes painful, because muscles tense up in accidents. I must have had taken half the impact on my butt and left shoulder, because the left shoulder and hamstring protest with each movement I make. It brings to memories the nine months my physio and trainers nursed me back from crutches to running and jumping post knee-surgery; it reminds me how amazing the body is, and the strength it moulds in your character.



To be Alive, not Dead.
May 25, 2013, 1:46 pm
Filed under: Life's fragile recollections, Two Cents' Worth | Tags: , , , , ,

To begin a new post with such a dramatic headline, I suppose it is uncalled for, but I am incredibly blessed to be sitting at home without any broken limbs now despite surviving a cycling accident. Many cyclists I know have suffered fractures, near-deaths, unfortunate deaths, terrible injuries from being on the road. I too, have joined the community whose members have been burned by the road – most of the time due to an unexpected turn of events that we can’t really say we could have prevented.

So, a downslope journey and an attempt at slowing down caused me to fly over the bicycle, land on my head and break my fall by rolling. I remember none of these, for they were told to me by those who were with me that night. A blood clot formed between my brain and my skull, hence the surgeon at Changi General Hospital that midnight called for a neurosurgery – one to cut open my skull and drain the blood clot – a successful operation that left my head half-shaven, stitched and staples closing a C-shaped scar.

One night in the Intensive Care Unit, another in High Dependency Care, and six nights in a hospital ward to monitor the effects of a post brain-surgery, muscle trauma and zero broken limbs. I thanked God how incredibly lucky I am to be alive, recovering well (save for the damn headaches), and dealing only with two open wounds, a temporary-deaf right ear and a healing head injury.

There were moments that got me frustrated for a second. Having no hair, a deaf ear, and not being able to deal with an overload of questions and problems were some of them.

But walking into my ward and life were the best friends and companions who reminded me that my life I hold so dearly was greatly based on the relationships I have with them. Colleagues, clients, friends from the cycling + outdoor + wakeboard + gym community, primary and secondary schools, some I knew through work but turned great friends came by. Truth be told I never expected so much care and concern from them, but they reminded me how fragile life is, and how much they matter to me.

Traumatic an incident it was, it also created a closer bond between my mum and I. It was a time she fully showed her love for me, and came to accept how much of an adrenaline junkie her only daughter is. It was a good break, for I’ve spent too little time with my mum when I placed work and past-relationships above her.

So here’s a month (or more) of a much-needed break. A time when my head actually tells me, “No, I can’t deal with this. You stop it.”

And every minute’s worth of thanking God, I am still alive. 🙂



The (New) Year’s Resolution
January 12, 2013, 12:53 am
Filed under: Rhyme & Riddle, Two Cents' Worth | Tags: , , , , , ,

As the decadence of December unwraps its long bony fingers from my throat, I gasp – both from the release of its slow choking grip, and at the first inhalation of January’s crisp (and if I must say, jarring) bitter winds of change.

What a year it has been, and what a ride it seemed. One thing for sure, my brakes certainly weren’t working in 2012.

As the devil on my right shoulder would have it, enough of the year already. His pointed ears and arrow-tipped tail would already be dishing me my next glass of whisky and pulling me to bed to busk in his glory. For each time a person on the surface of this earth makes a new year resolution, it is the devil’s job to have them break it: a symbol of his victory.

So I’ll play the fiddle that strokes his enlarging ego, I’ll jump onto the derailed train that moves at a speed that pleases him;

I’ll whirl around the carousel of champagne, whisky and wine, while he thinks – this lady in cloud nine, ain’t she divine?

So I seize the devil by his horns, you think of me: your puppet, and you: my master of indulgence – right and wrong;

I laugh the devil’s laugh as I ride into the sun, his cries of anguish and frustration rise a note with each gallop and bound;

I tease him with his pitch fork as I would tantalize my lover with charm, not the devil’s, not the devil’s charm;

I let the devil sit on my shoulder, if he whispers, I listen, alas my attention long gone.

###

I clutch at my throat, feeling the indents of December’s cold grip. January comes billowing in like Santa’s sleigh up my driveway, with its promises and hopes that the year could bring. Surely, spring would warm my soul and ease away those tendrils of pain. Then summer could set ablaze dreams to plans, turning amber to flames – of fulfillment that tastes so sweet.



“25 Life Lessons For My Daughter”
November 1, 2012, 2:14 am
Filed under: L.ove, Two Cents' Worth | Tags: , , , , ,

I came across a blog post I archived years back, in hopes of living my life by them. As titled, these were advice from a modern-day Dad, and I find it tragically funny that I had to take advice from a digital piece of writing, because I never had the opportunity to get my dose of life’s advice from my dad.

So as humorous as they are at times, they make alot of sense. I have lifted from MetroDad’s post, his 25-liners for his daughter:

(1) When posing for any photos, assume that the only people who will see them are me, your mother, your boss, and the dean of admissions.

(2) Lennon, not McCartney. Keith, not Mick. Page, not Plant.

(3) Life is too short not to order the fries.

(4) Never date a man who is rude to waiters, doesn’t say “bless you” when you sneeze, or won’t offer you his jacket when you’re cold.

(5) Never order drinks that are pink or come with an umbrella in them. Don’t be fancy.

(6) Don’t worry about being popular. The “weird” kids are much more fun and will end up being your most interesting friends. Also, when it comes to friends, you can’t trump quality with quantity. Choose wisely. Who would you call to drive your white Bronco?

(7) Give charitably, generously, and anonymously.

(8) Crocs are for people who have given up on life.

(9) Never cheat. Not on exams, the crossword puzzle, or your boyfriend.

(10) If you love someone, tell them. Don’t hold back.

(11) It may be a small world but it’s a huge planet. Grab every opportunity to see as much of it as you possibly can. Most people don’t.

(12) Keep your eye on the ball and follow through, both in sports and in life.

(13) Speaking of sports, pick a team and stick with them. There are few things more important in life than loyalty. It’s a dying trait currently in short supply. Trust me. I’m a Mets fan.

(14) Never regret staying home alone with a good book.

(15) If you feel the need to reinvent yourself, at least be original. No tattoos unless you’re in the armed forces. No body piercings unless you become a pre-Columbian tribal Aztec. No orange hair unless you join the circus.

(16) Learn from the bad as well as the good. Fall down, make a mess, break something occasionally. And always remember that the story is never over.

(17) Don’t make a scene.

(18) Learn how to entertain yourself. Close the door, crank up the stereo, and dork out. Invent new dance moves. Play the air guitar. Practice your touchdown moves. Too many people are self conscious even when they’re alone. Don’t be one of those people.

(19) While you’re at it, learn how to laugh at yourself.

(20) When you realize that everyone comes from a dysfunctional family, life gets a little easier and you feel a little less crazy.  The only normal people are the ones you don’t know very well.

(21) Thank you notes are to be written promptly by hand on personal stationery. E-mails, phone calls and text messages don’t count.

(22) Remember that nice guys do finish first. If you don’t know that, then you don’t know where the finish line is.

(23) Learn to cook one thing really well.

(24) Happiness is not fame, money or power. The key to life is finding your sweet spot.

(25) Take every piece of advice anyone ever gives you with a grain of salt.

———–

Truth be told, a huge part of me feels angry that I was given another sort of advice as life’s lessons – points that I do not agree with because they aren’t in my character to stick to. Another part of me feels sad that I had to discover such common sense advice through my own idle reading, and never having the wonderful privilege to know a role model to live life by.

So on the contrary, below are the life lessons given to me:

(1) A woman’s goal in life is finding a rich man who will love you, care for you so that you never have to work a day in your life.

(2) Happiness is having so much money that you never have to work a day in your life and you can do whatever you please.

(3) Always study hard no matter what, because that’s going to get you a good salary, and a good life.

(4) Always lift the toilet seat up; you don’t want the next person to have her butt wet while taking a piss or dump.

(5) Cook only in the kitchen if it doesn’t make the counter and floor oily, because it is stressful having to clean up.

(6) Always eat from a disposable container with disposable cutlery when you can, to save on washing up after that.

(7) Never work harder than what your scope of work requires you to. People never appreciate what you do anyway.

(8) Bliss is finding the man who is able to provide you and your family with a comfortable life (read: big house, maid, car and holidays)

(9) Don’t play too much sports because men are never gonna love scars on women.

(10) Skincare regime begins from 21 years old, because the Chinese saying: “When you do not burn a joss-stick as offering to the gods regularly, they would not come to your rescue at the last-minute even when you hug them at their legs.”

———

And perhaps, for good measure, here are my personal anecdotes to start with:

(1) Spend time finding out who you are, because once you have discovered and love that, it becomes for others to love you.

(2) Travel whenever you can. Nothing beats chalking a life full of stories to share over a round of beers.

(3) Decide if you will work for passion or for money. The best you can achieve is a balance of both but never more of your preferred choice. The grass is always greener than the other side.

(4) If you realise you are decent-looking enough, use your good looks to your advantage – get people to remember you, make an impression, and most of all, be NICE.

(5) Honesty is the best policy. The more you lie, the more you have to remember to make your stories consistent.

There are a great many more…but these are enough to start off with, for now.



The Mother of all Detox Plans (till date)
September 23, 2012, 10:54 pm
Filed under: Beauty & Health, Food, Two Cents' Worth | Tags: , , , , , ,

Detoxing is an ocassional 1-3 days plan I embark on in my years of living insane schedules (ie. work hard play hard exercise harder party decently hard). The great thing about detox is that it doesn’t last very long, it cleanses the body inside out, and you feel pretty good again and ready to start that cycle till the next session.

I was kidding about repeating the cycle. However, I also have to point out that we inevitably fall into the cycle of living it to extreme, and going cold turkey via “detox”.

image from Press Tag

My usual routine was honey-lemon water or green tea throughout the day, fruit juices or fruits for 2 to 3 days. Flushing everything out felt really great, but you would be ready to devour KFC by the end of the 3-day programme. This kinda thing is easy especially after festive occasions such as Christmas, Chinese New Year and Thanksgiving when your body takes in four times the normal amount of turkey, roast, beer and wine.

Plus, I was never really a fan of diets. I believed in eating what I liked and burning it all off through exercise.

However, I reached the point in my life when work took over exercise, and the pleasures of wine and dine are alot easier than hauling myself to the gym. Sure, there was the 50km bike ride I try to clock once a week, yoga once a week but the weight stubbornly clung on.

Until my friend told me about the Optrimax 5-day programme. Or rather, she did not really tell me about it – she asked if I detoxed and I gamely said yeah, and she plonked the detox kit on my desk after sending me an email containing information which I confessed to having no time to look at.

Optrimax 5-day plan: The contents of one meal

The instructions were simple. 5 days worth of meals that come in the form of smoothie shakes, and one after-dinner snack at the end of it all. I picked a week where I was busy running events so that I don’t have time to eat and think about food, figuring it would be a pretty perfect way to get through the week – get busy, get work done, get detoxed.

The Optrimax Guru also tells me what I need to do to prepare, even offering cheat tips just to make me feel better. I have to admit, those almond nuts (as pathetic as eight of them sound), salad, fat-free yogurt helped curb those nom-nom-nom pangs. I’ll leave out the instructions and stuff because all it really matters is, how did I feel?

Day 1: Went through 3 meals, only to discover that I could only eat one damn sng muey (sour plum) at the end of the day? Shake tasted strange, but acceptable. The stress from work certainly did not help, I was depressed, feeling faint and needed Vietnamese coffee – badly.

Day 2: Went through 2 meals before my body suddenly decided it ain’t gonna go through another strange-tasting shake without some proper food. Looked through cheat-sheet and resorted to skinny flat-white. (They said I could drink coffee!) Day felt better. Colleagues did steer clear away from me though, they noticed I was alot grumpier than normal and immediately attributed it to detox.

Day 3: Back in office after two hectic days of running around. Fatigue helps because all I wanted to do is to sit down and not eat, and hammer away at the keyboard. Went through the lot of shakes with coffee in between. (I really needed the coffee). Lots of toilet breaks for me – seems that Optrimax did work its way through my system. Unhappy with sng muey treat at the end of the day though. Optrimax, if you must, please do not call it a treat but stick to your reason why green tea powder and sour plum helps in keeping the weight low. Having a good reason to eat that is way better than rewarding a grumpy person with a sour plum. I would chew the head off someone who says that to me!

Day 4: Out filming again, with mad rush around town. No time to have lunch, not even make a shake. I made it up by having Starbuck’s Green Tea Soy Latte (sorry I cheated 😦 ! ) Came back to office starving and really stressed. Needed a beer but decided against it. Ordered Timbre’s pizzas for the team and my talents and watched them eat…damn.

Now here’s the amazing bit. After 4 days of initially not very enticing smoothie shakes, my palate got used to the taste by Day 4 dinner hour. I got really used to having nothing to munch on, and when I finally played cheat on Day 4, I nibbled one small square of the pizza crust and felt really satisfied after that. I supposed the Green Tea Soy Latte helped loads too. But hey, it’s green tea powder and soy milk, still reasonably healthy, yes?

Back to Day 5: Figured the way to downing those shakes is to have really cold water, squeeze out ALLLLL the fruit punch, shake the Zymes and VG bits in and chug it down. Got through breakfast and dinner, lunch was coffee again because I was feeling really sleepy. Decided to celebrate by joining the night cycling group on their usual Friday night 40km leisure cycle, and realised I was feeling more fatigued than usual, must have been the lack of food and sleep. Left the group halfway and went home to crash hard, dreaming up my next proper meal to come.

image courtesy of KFC Singapore

And recall what I said about post-detox. I really had KFC on post-detox Day 1.

Verdict: The MOTHER of all Detox plans, this one is a challenge both mentally and emotionally. 5 days of having no solid food is bound to get anybody…ANYBODY hungry enough to devour everything in his/her way. To be fair, I did lose 2kg (mostly water) and almost 1cm off my hips. Ate probably half of it back, but appetite’s definitely smaller now. 3 days of this would be enough, though. However, the weight tends to stay off alot longer because you somehow enter a habit of eating less, feeling incredibly satisfied even after a small portion of whatever-food-you-wanted-to-have.

I’d still stick to my insane exercise plans. This definitely works when I’m busy – worth a shot, but you had better keep at it.



An Awakening
July 16, 2012, 1:33 am
Filed under: L.ove, Two Cents' Worth | Tags: , , , , ,

“Goodbye cuz, till I see you in Singapore.”

This trip to Kuala Lumpur brought me home, in every sense of the word. It was perfect timing, from coinciding landing times on Thursday with another cousin who flew home from Canada, having clients and friends in KL to play catch-up with, and the start of my break from work.

“Do you remember the times when we used to go to Yom Peng and play? Funny how 20 years later we are sitting here having coffee and talking about what we want in life.”

I spent the entire Thursday with them: we had lunch, went shopping, took ourselves out to this really awesome restorant-under-the-bridge, and spent the night skyping with another aunt, watching TV, talking, and dozing off. It was too short.

“I wish you could spend more nights here,” my aunt said.

I wish I could have planned it better. Mentally making a resolve to return for another weekend, I thought how it took me 20 years to find my way home. Leaving Malaysia for good meant saying goodbye to my closest family members, to my cousins I grew up with. My mum and I made every excuse not to visit although we were just a few hours away. In our pursuit for life, and the potential of gold it holds, we have drifted our ways and kept telling ourselves, next time next time. Till today as we caught up over coffee we realised our hunger for freedom and to taste the world has not hindered us a single bit, but fueled us to become who we are today – him as an Associate Creative Director in his own design firm, his sister in Social Couselling, and me, a consultant in Public Relations.

You are more than welcome to stay with us anytime, you know that.

That was my uncle, a man of few words. When he speaks, his words carry a halo of sincerity that warms you all up inside. I knew I could come back here and feel right at home, as I came this time to seek familiarity that is naturally there for me. True enough, I did. The slight similarities that remind us we are related by blood unfold themselves in the most peculiar ways ever: our late sleeping habits, our need to catch up with social media, our habits we formed since young, and the ease we moved about one another.

Everybody put your hands in the air!

We even party similarly. We never fail to turn heads as three of us lanky legged ones stride the mall or pump our fists in the air in the middle of a music festival. We did not really care, to be honest. One night of beers, food, hoots and laughter brought us closer than ever, for we were young (forever) that night. We would have our partners in our lives, but nothing mattered more than who we are to one another – first cousins.

Ramlee Burger. Universal Studios. Coffee hideouts. Sunway Lagoon all over again. 

Hey, how about USA to visit Jennifer next?

So we planned our next trip, just like that.



Tonight the wind is in my hair
July 11, 2012, 10:48 am
Filed under: Rhyme & Riddle, Two Cents' Worth | Tags: , , , , ,

Summer lovin’
Paradise surfin’
Close the tab, let’s go ridin’
Down the highway we are cruising.

Tonight the wind’s in my hair
Playing, teasing without any care
I close my eyes and feel like I’m up in the air
Let my mind go, wandering, the rest of the world can stare.

Teeny boppin’
Too much acting
Screw the crowd, let’s go ridin’
Into the rising sun we go cruisin’.

The morning chill creeps up without knowing
Caressing, stroking like a lover anticipating
The sun god descends like warm breath on my skin
Smoothing goosebumps and dispelling tingles I’m washed from sin

Then the wind comes playin’ with my hair
Teasing, tangling without any care
This isn’t a time to stop and stare
But perhaps, steal a second, to have my soul shone bare.