Trust the Magic of New Beginnings

Lily 1

Dear Baby Lily,

I had all the feels to write something on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. But the festive season can get so busy. And just like that, the days have blown past me like a hot clammy breeze – they are gone now, never to return.

Now it’s almost the end of the second day of the new year. Like most ‘second days of the year’, today’s a bit of a letdown from the exuberant promise of New Year’s Day. After all that toasting and feasting, most of us don’t set out on anything resembling a grand adventure.

Life hands us a blank canvas. We write a few New Year resolutions on it. And then, we trek to the nearest cafe for a comforting coffee to resume the life we’ve always known.

Which is so scary. Because, the years pile on insidiously. Sometime in your 30s, time starts to chase you like a psychopath with a machete in a bad thriller – the kind with no clear plot and 2 hours of gratuitous screaming.

If you’ve watched a bad thriller, you’ll know that it’s a losing race. Each year, you can buy a new calendar, buy a new set of face creams, change your wardrobe and pretend you are starting afresh. But slowly and surely, time chips away at you with that machete. Each year, it takes a little of your energy, your glow, your body, and past a certain age, the lucidity of your mind.

If this sounds gloomy, it is not.

Because last year, you came into my world. Out of nowhere, you appeared and utterly flipped the script.

I named you Lily after your decreased grandmother not because I knew her well (she passed away when I was four). I named you after your grandma because to me that signifies life coming full circle; it signifies renewal.

You see, your grandma has been dead for 33 years now. She didn’t really bring me up. I didn’t really get to know her. All I know is that she desperately wanted to have me. She had fertility issues, and went to see several doctors. She later discovered something wrong with her fallopian tube, and had an operation before she got pregnant with me.

Because she had me, today, I have you. You carry within you, a piece of her DNA, her spirit and her hope. Because of you, she is never ‘dead’. She is renewed again in you – Lily.

To me, you are a daily reminder that the love we give blossoms in ways beyond our understanding. It reminds me that things that seem to have withered and faded may be infinitely revived.

As I turn the page on 2018, I would like to share with you what a crazy year it has been. I have never been busier in my life. When you first arrived, you were the klutziest little thing I’ve ever met. One time, you pulled your hair so hard, but didn’t know you were pulling your own hair, cried in pain, and pulled even harder… As I was trying to extricate you, I was so afraid you’d pull your scalp out.

Because you couldn’t help yourself, I made 2018 all about you. I dedicated 100% of myself to you. And that left me with so little for myself or anything else. I had to learn to let go of things beyond my control.

But you’re almost nine months old now – you’re a big girl. I can see you gaining independence and confidence each day, and I’m so proud of you.

And because of this, I also think it’s time to reclaim myself a little.

So in 2019, there will be lots of times mummy can’t be there for you 100% like before. Because mummy is not only your mummy. I am also a friend, wife, daughter, traveller, writer, and proud human to two cats and a chihuahua.

This year, my only resolution is to continue to nurture those things, so I can become more than I was before… so that when you grow up, you may get to know me as a multi-faceted person, not just your mum. That I should be able to have a meaningful and interesting conversation with you not just when you’re 5, but when you’re 25, 35 or 45 (if I should live long enough).

You’ve given me so much in 2018, baby girl. You taught me the power of hope, renewal and new beginnings. And because of you, I no longer fear time with its stupid machete.

I know the pieces of us that time chips away are renewed in ways beyond our imagination, and transfigured in beauty. You are a living manifestation of that.

Happy New Year, baby girl! I can’t wait to see what 2019 has in store for us.

An Open Letter to My 8-month-old Daughter

Pick a flower on Earth and you move the farthest star.

Dearest Baby Lily,

The day you were born, a star in another galaxy shifted. Nothing seemed to have changed in our world. But yet, in every meaningful, mystical way, nothing could ever be the same again.

It was a terribly ordinary day in April. On our way to the hospital, the taxi driver was listening to some Mandarin FM chatter punctuated with terribly unsubtle ads. As I was suffering through my contractions while waiting for my cervix to dilate, I remember feeling a little let down because the hospital Subway had run out of peanut butter cookies.

That was it. The day my world shifted ever so imperceptibly and irrevocably on its axis.

I’m sure that in cubicles everywhere, no one even sneezed different. Nobody’s heart skipped a beat. No irate driver whose lane had just been cut felt the magic in the air.

Why am I writing this, baby girl? Because I want to tell you that some of the most extraordinary things in the world can seem so ordinary to the naked eye. Just like the day you arrived like an astronaut, an alien or a budding flower from another galaxy to light up my world.

You, whose little body fills up with so much personality each day that it periodically bursts forth in rippling laughter. You, who taught me everything I thought I knew but didn’t — love at first sight, all-encompassing love, how to throw my head back when I laugh, how to crinkle every inch of my face when I smile, how to sing out-of-tune lullabies when I’m nursing a cough, how to dance till I can’t catch my breath…

Why am I writing this, baby girl? Because as I see you learning to take your first fearless steps, I imagine the day you’ll spread your wings and go forth alone into this world – this wonderful, magical world; this (sometimes) unimaginative and unkind world.

I’m so excited for you, baby girl. But I’m also scared… scared that someday, you’ll want something that seems a little out of your reach, fall in love with someone who doesn’t love you back, or lose faith in something you’ve always thought you wanted. That the world might break your heart and your spirit. And, for a moment, you just might think you are (and life is) ordinary.

But if you could see yourself through my eyes, as you are today, chuckling uncontrollably on your baby mat, you will know that that can’t be true.

You, life, the entire universe you brought with you when you came to this world, is anything but ordinary. Even if I may not be around then to catch you, kiss you and rock you to sleep, you will always be my most beloved, beautiful little girl. Even when you can’t see it, like the stars, my love for you will follow you wherever you go.

And you will always be special, irreplaceable, un-dimmable, no matter what they say.

Lily, the day you were born, you moved the farthest star in another galaxy. Nothing will ever be the same again. Mummy was there, and I swear it’s true.

A Passing Memory

Many years ago, I was assigned to write a story on a hospice for a small Singapore-based health magazine.

The PR person for the hospice scheduled me to interview two patients, both of whom seemed happy enough to spend one precious day in the last days of their lives sharing their life story with me.

On the day of the interview, I came down with a bad cold. I didn’t want to infect terminally ill patients so I rescheduled the interview. When I called back a few days, I was told that one of my interviewees had passed away from complications.

So I did my interview with just one patient who was down with 4th stage lung cancer that had spread to the bones. I only remember that throughout the interview, she kept telling me, with a brittle smile, a hoarse voice and a twinkle in her eye, that she knew she’d be well and home with her family by Christmas.

She passed away a couple of weeks after.


At that time, I was very affected by this. I was not quite sure if I was inspired or simply depressed.

Because of a common cold, I lost the opportunity to meet a dying man with a story to tell. The woman who I did speak to was frail as a leaf, but so tenaciously optimistic – a poster girl for infinite human capacity to hope. And if that wasn’t enough irony and pathos, why would two people on the brink of death chose to spend their most treasured time speaking to an utter stranger when two years ago, they might not have spared me the time of day if I passed them on the streets.

Having said that, I really don’t want to milk this experience for moral summaries or trite truisms.

It was, as I told it.
It moved me and shifted the course of my life forever (if only by a micro-inch) – just like all the people we’ve met, books we’ve read, movies we’ve watched, places we’ve been to… everything that left a lump in our throat.

I’m starting this blog because I believe that extraordinary and ordinary inspirations happen every single day. And I don’t want to miss them.