Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Splendid Sodankylä

I've been silent due to many reasons. One of the major reasons is my wrist/thumb/arm problem. I've been staying away from using the computer to rest my active hand fully. The second major reason is linked to my previous post. 

Let me try to summarize it. Basically speaking, written text is by far my most fave form of communication. Always has been, always will be.

The barrage of written text after the Paris attacks was like the last straw that broke my back. It's like this: if written text is like my fave chair in the house (bad analogy, I know), then I feel like people are throwing their fave chairs at one another instead of inviting other people to sit there and have a good, private discussion. And it scared the shit out of me. It was disturbing enough to be surrounded by the mirrors of what-I-could-have-done (I could easily have been one of those people), but it was all the more disturbing to see so many chairs being hurled at one another. It also disturbed me that people used social media as a means to somehow say this: "This is what I stand for. If you're not with me, then you're against me." "If you stand for XX, then I'll delete you from my friend's list." Ugh. Ugh. And more ugh.

My most fave form of communication never felt like the destructive two-edged blade the way it did after the Paris attacks. And it hurt. It hurt. It hurt that I became scared of using that tool to express myself, even though it had always been a tool that makes me feel the most alive. And another disturbing thing is the TMI factor. It feels like in the past, we only get to know other people's inner beliefs/personal opinions when you talk to them/write to them/spend time with them in real life. These days, it almost feels like Mel Gibson in the movie where he suddenly got the ability to read people's minds. On a smaller scale, it doesn't feel disturbing, but when it feels like the global world is giving you TMI, it's overwhelming.

So I took time to recharge and stay away from all the "white noise" and figure out how I wanted to use social media. Here are some things that I've found during my cave time:

- We all make mistakes. We all fuck up. I'm also prone to reacting when I'm in fear, prone to lashing out when I'm angry, prone to defending myself, prone to be narrow-minded and obstinate in my beliefs and ignorant. I've also hurt other people with or without intending to do so. My words have been misunderstood or taken out of context. My words may have fueled other people's feelings to a certain direction and may have created more chaos than peace. But you know what? That's all a package of life. The only people who don't make mistakes are the ones who don't do anything. Yes, silence is sometimes better and wiser than words and yes, I've made the mistakes in speaking when I'm supposed to be silent and not speaking when I'm supposed to speak up, but what matters most is that as long as I have another day to live, then it's a brand new day to do better.

- Life is a journey of learning. So go and write, speak and make mistakes and learn from them. Learn to be brave to speak when you need to speak up and learn to shut your mouth when necessary.

- No matter how hopeless an act of peace can be among those who want to create chaos for their own personal reasons/gain, keep striving to spread peace wherever you go, because the world doesn't need more hatred.

- Even though there is a potential of darkness within each of us (like Yin/Yang), I shouldn't be afraid of the darkness (during my low moments I felt like dark shadows were creeping out from the corners to get me), but instead I should focus on how the darkness can help me see some things better, for example how bright the stars and moon can be when it's pitch dark all around me. Focus on those stars and moon (or the Aurora or other people's lit inner candles) instead of the shadows that you're afraid may swallow you up whole.

On a totally different note, I went for a walk along the river bank yesterday and took a video. I combined the video with last year's Christmas video, added a song and some quotes. Here's my End of Year greeting to you all...

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Broken Mirrors

I've been staying as far away as possible from FB for a while. I had been feeling low before the Paris attacks. After the Paris attacks, though, it got worse as I couldn't help reading some random FB discussions/wall posts convos. PMS didn't help, either. The lowest point was when I asked God, "God, I don't understand why You still love us. If I were You, I'd have destroyed the entire world many times over."

Yep, no gratitude whatsoever. Just confusion, anger, disappointment, and frustration. I had a hard time sleeping well at nights and my thoughts and feelings were all muddled. I was disappointed at some of the things people have written in FB, but mainly I was disappointed being human. I wanted to stop being human, if that makes any sense at all. I felt like what should have been talked about privately shouldn't have spilled outside in public places like FB as it only produce more reactions instead of healthy discussions. I felt that people should have just shut up instead of posting things that may only provoke other people.

All those random things that I read in FB made me feel like I was surrounded by so many mirrors, each reflecting my dark sides that had been lurking in the back, threatening to swallow me up whole. It was very disturbing to be made very aware of those sides that dwell inside of me, because all I wanted to do was to close my eyes and stay the hell away from those mirrors or break those mirrors altogether.

Reading Ecclesiastes comforted me somehow. I wasn't the only one who felt like everything we did was like chasing the wind, yet for days my brain was still muddled. Yesterday I finally found a clarifying moment. What disturbed me the most was knowing that I could have been one of those people who fussed over nothing amidst a tragedy (for example why one puts up/doesn't put up a tricolor profile photo), who posted reactive texts instead of discussing my thoughts/feelings in private, who shared stuff without thinking/checking twice, etc. 

You see, if I read about what a psychopath has done (for example), I feel that there's a huge emotional distance between what that person is capable of doing with what I am capable of doing, but what about the emotional distance between me and those people in FB? Well, the distance between us was way too close. I get where they were coming from. I could have easily done similar things. I have been guilty of similar things.

A few nights ago, I had a dream where I had been attacked. All I remember from that scene was that I was standing up, still alive, looking like Frankenstein. Lots of cuts and bruises ALL over me (including my face) and stitch marks all over. Yep, my dream was very much in line with my inner world. But you know what? I was still alive. That was the part that I held on to. I'm still alive. I still have a lot of inner work to do, but may I learn how to be wise with my words and actions...

Monday, October 5, 2015

What Next?

The question "What next?" had been on my mind for a while. After a period of contentment in this childless-not-by-choice life, something that other people have failed to understand (such as what I wrote here), I began to wonder what else I wanted to learn that could bring me joy and excitement. The combination of moving to Finland and infertility have dampened my quest in setting a long-term project/goal. I used to set long-term goals and worked as best as I could to reach those goals with gusto. I enjoyed both the process of getting closer to the goals and the moments when I was able to reach them. Moving to Finland and infertility have helped me become more able to focus more on the present and enjoy each moment (something I'm forever grateful for), but I must admit that I miss the joy of chasing after a long-term project/goal. 

Because I don't feel like going up the ladder at work, I need to find a project/goal elsewhere. You see, back in High School I studied Japanese for two years, though I wasn't really serious and it was only once or twice a week, so I never did learn that much. The idea of (re-)learning Japanese occurred to me a while back already, but I was afraid that it would only mess my brain even more, so at first I told myself that I would only start learning Japanese after I became more fluent in Finnish. However, at the back of my mind something was nagging me. Was it just an excuse? Why did I want to postpone? For how long? The excuse couldn't stay too long, though, as the thirst to learn something new kept on growing as time went by. 

I started off by using some online resources from the basic: learning Hiragana and Katakana once more. When I was doing the trace sheets, I realized that I remembered some of the characters, but the rest looked completely strange (I couldn't believe I could memorize both Hiragana and Katakana already back then!). I also realized that it felt awesome to be able to hold a pencil in my hand and trace those characters as it felt a bit like drawing (something I rarely do). However, using online resources was challenging as I got distracted quite easily.

So, to keep myself committed, recently I've purchased some Japanese books from TheBookDepository (I love them because they ship anywhere around the world without any postal charges and since books can be heavy, that means a lot to me!) and they've just arrived. WOOOOHOOOOOOO!!! I know there are plenty of free online resources to learn Japanese, but I love learning a language through books first (I still love the feeling of holding a book in my hand and being able to sift through the pages). Once I sort of get to know the basics, I can then move on towards using the online resources. That was how I studied Finnish on my own before I started going to Finnish courses.

This Japanese self-learning started very slowly and I even had lots of breaks in between (due to being busy at work and being sick after our holiday), but now that I'm having my second batch of summer holiday, I'm psyched to learn more. It feels GREAT to have a long-term project that would expand my brain without any pressure from outside (and my Mochi with his tick-tocking tail is just as excited LOL!!!).

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Rising Strong

What probably prompted me to create Mochi (see my previous post) was listening to Brené Brown's talks and her mention of how the narrative (story) we tell ourselves have a big effect on our lives. So there I was feeling forlorn and melancholic because my chamber of cheerleaders was rather empty and I was wondering if I could somehow manipulate that story in a creative way. Here's what I'm talking about: Brené Brown's Rising Strong Excerpt.

You know what? After creating Mochi in my mind, I played with my imagination a little. I imagined a dozen versions (or more) of Mochi dancing around and playing around in my chamber and I felt GIDDY with excitement. Like a little kid with a new toy. Or an adult with a delightful secret. I don't remember when the last time I felt that giddy, but now whenever I close my eyes and imagine Mochi, my devoted imaginary cheerleader, a smile always appears on my lips. 

Anyway, if you want to listen to her talk about Rising Strong, here's the video below. I managed to catch half of the video live, but had to wait for the video link to be uploaded to watch the first half of it.


Friday, September 18, 2015

Introducing Mochi!

These past few days I've felt melancholic. It doesn't help that the weather outside has been rainy and grey as well. There have been some things that have made me feel this way (other than the refugee crisis and the heated debate on the changes the government has proposed for this country). One of the reasons is that some things have made me more aware of the hollow echoes of my rather empty chamber of cheerleaders. I'm thankful for a few people who have been able to share my joys (my "Eureka" moments) that are otherwise missed completely in today's world, but every now and then I visit the chamber and realize how hollow it feels like compared to how it used to be. 

Yes, the nostalgic part in me took over. Someone wise reminded me that the few people who shared my joys were truly genuine and she was totally right, but I couldn't shake the melancholy off completely. But then a part of me wonders how much my imagination can help in terms of filling the rather empty chamber. I have, after all, felt the benefit of conjuring up my inner BFF whenever I need to. My inner BFF is the splitting image of myself, but maybe I need a separate image to be my own personal cheerleader. Would it work? If our reality is made up of happens in our mind, then would it help to have an imaginary cheerleader? No harm done in trying, I say.

So last night I began thinking of my own personal cheerleader and I came up with a name. Mochi! Mochi is one of my fave snacks made of glutinous rice ha ha ha...This time my personal cheerleader is in the form of the only cat I ever had in my lifetime. A CUTE ginger tomcat who has a short, curled up tail that only goes tick-tock-tick-tock. Seriously, my cat had a tail like that and it made him super special LOL! Anyway, Mochi is smart and he has the personality of a dog. He's fiercely loving and loyal to me, but also very playful and independent. He's a much better dancer than me as he's very nimble and light on his feet (think of a dancing Puss in Boots with a curled up tail). Best of all, he's always ready to share my joys and jump up and down like crazy by my side.

I'm truly looking forward to having a lot of fun with Mochi. :-D

Sunday, September 6, 2015

A Shame Story

I've got a confession to make. For a loooooooong period of time, whenever I read articles about how a CNBC could be the "fun, cool aunt" or be involved in various children's lives, I had a mental image of a shrinking Amel who was backing away slowly to the corner of the room, cringing in fear of being judged. "Errr...but I'm not like that!" I thought to myself. 

I never felt really compelled to be involved in other children's lives and I can honestly say I'm almost scared of the thought of having to babysit a young child as I have no idea what I have to do (I'm really not used to being with small children). I feel that I can do better with older children, but even so we've spent so much time being with just the two of us that I'm rusty in that department. I have far more confidence dealing with young adult kids like my husband's elder brother's kids.

The last time we went back to Indo, I felt glad to go back to our hotel room after spending time with my brother and his family (and two kids). I had fun buying them toys and clothes, but I wouldn't volunteer to babysit the kids (for example). I wouldn't volunteer to babysit my friend's kids, either. In fact, I feel awkward when they come for a visit with their smaller children. If the child is already 7+ above, I feel less awkward with him/her.

That said, though, it still fascinates me how much I wanted/longed to be around little children when I was still trying to have a baby (I helped out at a daycare for 3 months back in 2010). I know that one reason for that was to prepare myself for motherhood, but one other reason was the strong need to prove myself that I could also be a decent mother. One other reason was probably more hormonal, because I've noticed a similar thing happening to a friend who's been dying to have a child of her own. Ever since the motherhood dream kicked in, she's been saying that ALL babies are cute and she wants to spend more time around little children. I remember vaguely that during the time I was so into my motherhood dream, I felt more fondness towards many children compared to (for example) these days. These days (after the motherhood dream is buried), I feel more selective fondness towards children (just like I did before we started TTC).

In short, I've never felt like I'm a kiddo lover, though I don't hate them, either. I think some kids are cute, some aren't. I admire (childless) people who love kids and love hanging out with kids (of various ages) and love being involved in various children's lives, but I have to admit that at times I struggled with the feeling of being "less than" those people. At times I wondered if I was lacking something as a woman and human being because I didn't actively choose to do anything much with various children.

For a loooonnngggg period of time I felt this type of shame coming and going. I wonder if the reason I felt this type of shame also had to do with the subconscious message from society that kept on throwing away the "Why don't you just adopt?" line to the infertile in general. I mean, it's as if those who want to have their own children desperately (but can't) should become like Mother Teresa or at least they're expected to do something as equally life-changing for other people's kids. 

My saving grace was remembering something that happened many years ago. You see, one woman I know wasn't that maternal in her younger years compared to her peer, but when she became a working mom, she was so devoted and involved in her children's lives that it took everybody by surprise. When we complimented her and joked that we would never had thought she'd be that maternal, she said, "Well, but it's different when it's your own kids, you know?"

Remembering that story was the first step for me to help me let go of my shame. The second step was inviting my inner BFF for a long, heart-to-heart chat. The third step is publishing this post. :-)

Friday, September 4, 2015

Methods of Coping: From Sarcasm to Parody

As a couple who enjoy watching TV series and movies, we are bound to see those typical "miracle pregnancy" plot twists. Infertility grief has made me become more sensitive towards a miracle pregnancy plot twist or any pregnancy plot twist in general (esp. the ones used as THE happy ending for the character/characters in the stories). 

In the beginning of my grief process, depending on my mood, whenever I sensed that the story was going that way (a pregnancy/miracle pregnancy was on the horizon), I would usually feel annoyed and angry and somehow disappointed as well that not many characters represented us, the childless-not-by-choice (CNBC). Of course logically speaking I know that it's foolish to expect it from the entertainment industry. After all, more often than not, people watch movies or TV series to escape real life. Thus my weapon of choice in the beginning of my grief process was oftentimes sarcasm.

"Of course she gets pregnant. They ALL get pregnant in movies," I'd say to my husband (gritting my teeth and seething inside). 

My husband, who said nothing much in the beginning, started picking up the theme quickly. After hearing me say those lines on different occasions, he started being the one who said it first every once in a while when we were watching movies/TV series. I was/am glad to have a comrade-in-arms.

Over time, my anger diminished, though sometimes when I'm PMSing, I tend to have a stronger reaction towards this type of plot twist, but in general my sarcastic comments shifted into a more "meh" and "blah" tone whenever I blurted out, "Of course she is/gets pregnant."

I remember a while back I was feeling so excited when a character in a TV series that we had been following was described to be having trouble conceiving with his wife. I wanted to say to the character, "I can relate!!!!! I cannnnn!!! Gosh, I wish we could meet up and talk about our grief!" (side note: Yeah, delusional much? LOL!!!) 

Anyway, back to the story: the couple in the story then started off an adoption process. The man had filled up his car with baby stuff, ready to pick up the baby, when he heard news that the adoption fell through. My heart broke for the couple, though secretly I was wondering and hoping if they could be a CNBC representative. Needless to say, a few episodes ahead the wife announced in an ingenious way that she's pregnant. Back to feeling "meh" and "blah" with a mental head slap for having irrational hope towards the entertainment industry.

During our recent holiday, though, my husband started using parody out of the blue. While we were watching a movie on TV in our hotel room, all of a sudden he blurted out, "I'm pregnant". He said the words as though the character in the movie was saying it and because he chose an absurd time and place to say it (one time he even said it for a male character), it was hilarious! We were both giggling and laughing like crazy. :-D

Now back home we've both started using this parody coping method to entertain ourselves with this fertility/infertility theme. For example: there's a scene where a man and a woman who are in love with each other will have to separate soon due to one reason or the other (I don't want to be too specific as it'll become a spoiler). Before they have to separate, the woman professes her love again to the man, so they end up kissing and making love. After doing the deed, they hold each other and the man says this, "I hope you can find a better man that you deserve. Be happy without me."

Before the woman can respond, it's a good time to insert some parody! So one of us can say something along this line: "Don't worry! In the next episode I'll be carrying your child, so I'll have a piece of you with me even when you're gone."

Something like this (or even more absurd lines) ended up making us laugh uncontrollably. This parody technique works for us! These lines will also end up as our insider joke, so we have nothing to lose in using parody from now on. Sense of humor has saved us time and time again (even before infertility) and it's proven to be one of my most cherished methods of coping with life.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

What Is Your Greatest Achievement?

Note: I've been MIA due to being busy at work, then taking time off from my PC due to my wrist/thumb problem, then we went on holiday where I also took time off PC and now recuperating from an infection (otherwise I'd have started blog-hopping to catch up already). I wrote a post in my head before I got sick so now I'm going to write it down here before I start blog-hopping tomorrow or this weekend (my head still feels a bit woozy but I don't want to lose momentum with this post).


Last week I tried imagining someone asking me the question "What is your greatest achievement?"

That sudden question made me search my database, but I couldn't come up with a definite answer in such a short time. Instead, a part of me blurted out, "Does it even matter?" 

Another part of me, though, was curious. Could I come up with a definite answer? I kept searching and searching and searching to no avail. I haven't found a cure to any disease nor have I created an effective system that helps many people. I haven't come up with any theories that revolutionize anything. I'm not an athlete nor a musician that wins lots of medals, either.

However, what has actually given me the most trouble finding a definite answer is my belief that whatever I've achieved in my lifetime isn't based on my sole efforts (or intelligence or talents). Every single thing that I (or the world) can call an achievement has been made possible because of God's help and the (direct or indirect) help of the many random individuals (either online or IRL, dead or alive) that are too numerous to mention. I couldn't have accomplished many things without the help of God and those many random individuals (some of which I've never met and will never meet in this lifetime because they have inspired/taught me through their words/stories post-mortem).

I'm learning to "take pleasure, not pride" when it comes to my achievements. I'm learning the balance between believing that I'm only one super tiny drop in the vast ocean of life (who am I to think that I'm the centre of the universe?) and believing that even as a super tiny drop, I do matter. Easier said than done, I know.

Conclusion: rather than coming up with a definite answer to that question, I'd like to spend some time being thankful for God's help as well as the help of those random individuals (including you all who have left me very loving and thoughtful comments in the past). Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you for your existence, love, support, guidance, inspiration, thoughtfulness, presence, wisdom, life lessons, examples, encouragement, sense of humour, acceptance, warmth, forgiveness, comfort, friendship, vulnerability, and openness.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Feelings...Nothing More Than Feelings...

Recently I was reminded of something I felt when my mom announced that my brother and wife was having another child a few years back. Even though I was happy for my mom and my brother and his wife (and happy to know that my nephew would have a sibling), there was a part of me that felt a bit frustrated that I was losing my mom to "more grandmotherhood" because I knew she would fall in love with the new child and her life would revolve around the child. And I know that when the grandchild is still young, it'd be more of a challenge to take my mom out for dinner or a movie or both when I come for a visit to Indo because her mind would be all about the child (she was the same way when we were young).

What made me remember that feeling I had a few years back? Well, a friend of mine has just announced her second pregnancy and although I am happy for her and her family, I couldn't help feeling like I was losing her to "more motherhood". One of the first things that came to mind after getting the pregnancy announcement was the timeline of events, moments, and stories that can happen in a child's life. I felt that I was also losing her to more motherhood bonding with the other mothers as they would be naturally swapping pregnancy stories/comparing with the previous one, birth stories, and many more future stories (first day of school, girlfriend/boyfriend, wedding, etc.). The feeling of being left out once more was palpable because I wouldn't be able to respond with my own personal stories.

For what it's worth, she was really sensitive towards me and she gave me plenty of signs beforehand that they had been trying to have a child. She even wrote me first to tell me the news herself before she told the others and I'm very thankful for that, but you know what else I feel? I feel a tad sad that she had to be that sensitive with me because of my infertility history. Her email had a sweet, apologetic tone and it broke my heart a little. I couldn't help feeling "if only I hadn't been CNBC, then she wouldn't have had to be that careful with me when breaking such happy news..."

Yet the second that "what if" thought appeared in my mind, a part of me gave myself a good whack on the head, because I certainly did not ask for this to happen and I'd like to think that if I were on the other side of the fence, I'd be sensitive towards someone in my position as well. It's not my fault, it's nobody's fault. That said, her sensitivity reminded me of the many (side) effects of infertility and I mourned a little. 

Another thing I've realized lately is this: I've been waiting for some (specific) friends to breed and be done with it so that I can have some respite from the similar feelings of losing them to "motherhood/more motherhood bonding", though I suspect that in the far future the cycle may start all over again when they start having grandchildren.

On the flip side, though, I've felt some connection with two different women on two different topics altogether. The first case reminds me that every now and then we all struggle to embrace/remember our innate self-value and to find our own personal mission in life regardless of whether or not we have children. The second case reminds me again that my infertility grief journey is beneficial, irreplaceable even. I'm grateful for these two occasions as they remind me that despite the disconnect I feel sometimes, connection is still available in unexpected places.

Friday, July 10, 2015

When Heart and Mind Collide

When you talk about letting go (esp. letting go of complicated things), many times over your mind knows already what to do and your mind is totally ready to let go and has probably started to let go, but your heart will have to catch up and it's taking its own sweet time. The mind is knocking your head over and over again while saying, "You should know better! You should know better! Let go!" but then your heart is saying, "I'm not quite there yet, you know? I need more time." The mantra "be kind to yourself, be kind to yourself" must then be repeated over and over and over again as you try to let go of your own frustration.

Today is a friend's birthday and it reminded me of something that crossed my mind during TTC. I was born two days before my mom's birthday, so in a way I was her early birthday present. This fact never really raised to the surface of my consciousness until we started TTC (chuckle!). And furthermore, on husband's side, his eldest brother had the same birthday as their dad. At that time the idea of being able to get/give a birthday present this way (either for me or my husband) was really appealing.

I realize now that this was one of the things in my "baby dream package" that I had to let go of. This and the fact that I would like to be able to tell our child her/his birth/childhood stories the way my parents did. These wishes are just a few examples of the many, many, many layers of invisible losses. No wonder it takes a lot of time and a lot of work, especially when your heart is taking much more time to catch up. And no wonder it's so misunderstood, don't you think? When the world scratches its head and responds, "Loss? What loss? Get over it, I'm not comfortable with your pain!", what we truly experience is a complicated maze of losses or rows and rows of buried wishes (some of which we'll only find further away in the journey) and in the depth of it all, it's so overwhelming that it's difficult to even begin to explain it to someone outside the journey. All you can do is find your own tribe and take as much time as you need...

Anyway, this is something unrelated, but I'd like to share this gorgeous video clip with you all. Someone in the comment section wrote this: "this performance was dedicated to their former teammate, who died from brain cancer. this was the song he used to perform with when doing the individual competitions. usually group gymnastics have teammates cheering them, clapping before/after each big feat, but for this they remained quiet for their said teammate. so moving and so beautiful!"


Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Mourning Has Broken

Today I'm taking as much time as I can to mourn the heart distance between me and some people...

Friday, June 26, 2015


As a Chinese descendant in Indo, in my younger years I struggled with the idea of belonging. I felt that the nation itself didn't acknowledge me fully as their own, so I wrestled with the idea that I wasn't a native anywhere. Where did I belong then? The Chinese (mainland Chinese) would have nothing to do with me as I don't even speak their language and I don't know their customs and their way of life. I wasn't interested in learning the language at all as it was a grueling process that needed money and determination (I chose to study English instead) and in my young mind at that time, I didn't want to be even more "Chinese" than I already was. I was bitter and angry for some years because of this.

A square peg in a round hole. That was what I felt. My saving grace was the fact that there was a big Chinese community in Indo and I had lots of friends that were in a similar position and I grew up with lots of relatives and cousins. When the riot happened in 1998, I felt sick to my stomach that my Chinese facial features could have made me a target of attacks (FYI my family was safe), but there were others who were in a similar position, so I didn't feel alone and I was definitely not alone. We tried looking out for one another as a group and we tried to stay home as much as we could. After the political situation got better in Indo, I started to be more at ease and the older I got, the more I came to terms with the non-native idea. I'm a citizen of the world, native to none and that's OK. 

Now, after having lived in Finland for a little over 8 years, I'm partly Chinese-Indonesian, partly Finnish, and partly Indonesian. Even with this hodgepodge of cultures within me, I can still find other people like me relatively easily through the wonder of the internet and as an expat in Finland, it's again relatively easy to find other expats and relate to them.

Being a childless-not-by-choice woman, though, that took the isolation to a whole new level as regular people (even those that didn't lack empathy in other areas) couldn't really relate to this. The first time I used the world "infertile" in my emails to my closest friends, their reaction was so strong that it made me feel as though I had jinxed myself for using that word to describe myself. Yet I desperately needed the term to find my support group, to find those people who could understand and validate my inner chaos (and thereby validate that I wasn't a bad person just because I had my inner chaos). After we decided to let go of this dream, I started using the term non-mom or childless-not-by-choice (CNBC) as my self-identification in order to find my support group.

That said, these days I've started thinking more about labels and how I'd like to call myself. All through these years there's one thing that never changes about me: I LOVE exploring my own thoughts and feelings and finding out why I feel the way I feel and then figuring out what to do with them. I enjoy the ecstasy of screaming out "EUREKA!" when I finally find out why I feel the way I feel, even way before I can figure out what to do with them.

So hereby I'd like to declare my current badge: I'm an Eternal Self-Explorer. Nice to meet you. :-)

Image taken from here

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Monday, June 15, 2015

Beware Nostalgia!

A few years back I read those words in a book. "Beware nostalgia", Jean Vanier said in reply to someone who was wondering if she had left her previous mission place too soon (Jean Vanier Essential Writings, page 56). I never really thought much about those words, though they stuck in my mind. The other day, though, the words really spoke to me personally. 

Jean Vanier's words and the conversation I had with some friends helped me a great deal in dealing with my nostalgic feelings and angst. Suffice it to say that if friendship were an entity, I had been holding on to its dying body all these years because I couldn't yet let go of the nostalgia. I kept holding on to the good that we had had together, hoping that the body would function better if only I kept on trying to give it CPR. However, my efforts only made me more resentful, because an imbalanced friendship never works. I tried lowering down my expectations a few times, but apparently the CPR I kept on giving to the dying body only acted like a venom to my own psyche. The venom of unmet expectations. When one wants and longs to give more time and effort, but one needs to hold back because the other party cannot give as much anymore, it is a loss. It is devastating to turn a forever friendship into a no-strings-attached (acquaintance-like) friendship.

The body of friendship was dying, so I had to let it go completely. No more holding on to nostalgia to keep the body alive. This time I arranged a sea burial in my mind. I placed the dying body on a raft and set it to burn. The waves carried the burning raft away to the darkened horizon. After a while, my gaze turned to the sky, where the stars were twinkling away...and I feel lighter.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Post Mortem

One of the places I visited on my last travel was Highgate Cemetery. When I was there, I couldn't help thinking of all the texts or quotes written on the stones. I haven't noticed any additional texts on the gravestones here in this village, though I haven't really looked, either. Yet walking around Highgate Cemetery, which was filled with so many texts or quotes, made me think of how people choose them for their loved ones. Those texts range from "beloved by all" or "in loving memory" or "finally together again" or "he/she was much loved" or "at peace with God". My hopeless-romantic part love those different texts. :-)

My logic, though, is a different matter. I've given up any thought of how I'd like my body to be dealt with when I'm gone because it depends on who will be left behind and that person(s) left behind may not be anyone close to me because half of my family lives in Indo. That said, though, this tablet managed to reduce me to near tears as I was leaving the cemetery through the gift shop:

Anyway, here are some lovely quotes by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross (many more in the link below):

“We run after values that, at death, become zero. At the end of your life, nobody asks you how many degrees you have, or how many mansions you built, or how many Rolls Royces you could afford. That’s what dying patients teach you.”

“People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.”

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

Thursday, May 21, 2015

On Moving On

Note: I've been a bad blogger and blog-hopper lately. I got sick twice already this year (both times on antibiotics), been so busy with work and other things in my life (including lovely travels). Kinda overwhelmed now with the thought of having to catch up on things, but I'll do it slowly. I'll be less busy in a few weeks, so I'll blog hop then, but now need to share this post.

A while back someone wrote me an email, saying something roughly like this, "Ummm...I don't know the details of your infertility history, but I recall that you've told me that you've moved on. However, I notice that you still share links about infertility and you still write infertility-related stuff in your wall posts in FB and that makes me worried that you haven't really moved on at all."

Cue the sound of me falling off my chair. Okay, not literally, but it seriously made me shocked on several levels. First of all, how dare she tell me whether I have moved on or not, especially since she doesn't know the details and doesn't bother to know the details! I couldn't help but think that she thought I was in denial or something!

Secondly, I felt cold all over a few seconds later because her email left me with this thought: "Is that what the general public think of when they see my infertility-related links in my FB? That I haven't really moved on?" What a staggering thought!

I then asked another individual about her opinion whenever she saw an infertility-related link that I shared in FB. Her response was different. She said, "Well, I know you enough to know that if you tell me X, you mean X. So if you've told me you've moved on, then I know you've moved on. Secondly, it's a huge part of your life, so it's only natural that you'll want to talk about it."

What a relief! But then again she knows my story and she knows the details. Even though she probably doesn't understand fully, yet she has followed my story, but what about the general public? It's not that I care that much about what other people think, but what is staggering for me is the possible misconception about moving on in general (specifically in a case of a childless-not-by-choice life). 

Anyway, I explained to the person who emailed me that childless-not-by-choice was like losing a real person. The difference was that I didn't have any memories to hold on to. And if she thought that moving on meant that I had to stop talking about it completely, then she had it all wrong. After all, if you've lost a person dear to you, moving on after your beloved's death doesn't entail never talking about that person ever again, because you loved him/her and even though he/she is gone, you still love him/her. 

Just wondering: has anyone of you ever encountered any conversation like this? 

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Holding Space

A friend sent me a link to an interesting article about holding space for someone else, but at the end of the article, I found out that there was another link about holding space for yourself first before you can hold space for other people.

The first article reminded me of the struggle I had with jealousy, grief, anger, etc. in the beginning of my infertility journey. At that time I felt the desire to fight them and chase them away, but after some exhaustion and failure, I began to wonder if I was actually supposed to just embrace them as they were without trying to fix/change them and whether the act of embracing them would enable me to be less judgmental when someone else was experiencing those (ugly) feelings that I tried to keep at bay.

Anyway, here are the two articles:

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Badge

Haven't been blogging or blog-hopping. Been busy with work, being sick (yeah, I finally couldn't avoid it in the end), busy with life and some travel plans this year. I'll catch up on blogging later. 


In the beginning of my infertility journey, when I wore the badge called "infertile", my close friends' reaction took me by surprise. After that one year was up, their reaction made me think that I wasn't supposed to call myself an infertile (just yet) and it made me wonder if I jinxed myself if I used that term to describe myself. For me at that time, though, it was more of a clinical term. I needed a term to call myself so that I knew where to find more info on what to do next. That meant reading a lot of infertility blogs out there for my research. After a while, though, that term began to grow on me. I got used to it and other people started to get used to it, too. So from then on I wore that badge while I tried to navigate life in all its complications of wearing that badge. I clung to that badge, trying to find connection, understanding, support, and direction.

After we decided to turn to childlessness-not-by-choice road, slowly the title on the badge turned into "infertility survivor". The further away the healing took me, the more endearing the badge became to me. Funny how the old badge called "infertile" had a totally different feeling to it. I wasn't ashamed at that old badge, but that badge carried a whole different world to it. That badge contained so much confusion due to the roller-coaster ride that we went through each month. That old badge was a mother lode (pun intended) of chaos and brokenness.

These days, though, I've felt another shift. These days I no longer wear that badge daily. I even forget to put on that badge sometimes. I've just realized this recently, especially after talking to a mother about her challenges the other time. She openly told me stuff that made me felt privileged to be the listener and to my surprise, my "infertility survivor" persona didn't appear. Instead, when she was confiding those private stuff to me, what appeared was just "Amel the human being". That way I could respond to her accordingly. In the past, sometimes the infertile/infertility survivor persona automatically appeared and it took every bit of my power to take a step back and focus on the other person's story first instead of focusing on my pain/grief/needs. 

Anyway, I can't believe it's almost the end of March already! Where did time go? However, I do enjoy the coming of spring (I've also been enjoying some Easter chocolate LOL!) and afterwards summer to Lapland!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Busy Bee

Been busy with stuff, so haven't been blog-hopping or blogging much. Haven't had too much inspiration, either. Plus I'm now spreading myself even more by trying to write more regularly in my Finnish blog, so I need time to recuperate in between. 

Anyway, for those who want to see the article, here goes. It's a mobile phone photo. 

Other than being busy, I'm trying not to get sick. My boss is currently sick and I hope it won't spread to us, because we're already having pretty full schedule now that the winter holiday season has started amongst us. That said, I've been rewarding myself with some alcoholic-filled Easter chocolate at home ha ha ha ha ha ha...

These beauties are really good! 


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Tears Without Pain

I'm PMSing at the moment and I've been a crybaby (as usual, getting touched so easily/crying so easily if I see/watch/read a touching event/story). The other day I saw a touching scene on TV between a mother and her daughter and I instantly shed some tears without any twinge, any pain, any grief on my part.

There was an instant when I thought to myself, "Oh, how beautiful it is to be able to have that moment with your own child" but it was more like a moment when you see someone else's magnificent photos (your not being a photographer yourself nor do you attempt to be a photographer) and you're so touched by their beauty that you can't help blurting out, "WOW! To be able to witness all those moments/places and to be able to capture them in their glory must be something!"

I want to write this down for future use, as this is the first time I've felt something like this. That moment surely felt surreal.

That said, I felt something when I saw an article on myself in the newspaper (it covers Lapland). You see, a few weeks ago a reporter contacted me because he was writing an article on expats in Lapland and I agreed to be interviewed. I assumed he was covering other expats, too. Turned out the article was only about me (Doh! My introvert side cringed!). Anyway, during the interview I told him that we had no kids because the interview was also about what kind of services that expats needed or what challenges expats were facing. I mentioned our childless state to let him know that I couldn't give any input in terms of daycare/school and stuff like that. And no, he didn't ask why we were childless.

The article came out last week and when I read the part where "she and her husband have no kids", I felt something. I searched my heart to figure out what I was feeling...I believe it was fear/worry. Fear/worry of being judged by random people. It was hard not to wonder what the article readers thought about that sole fact. It was one thing to let selected people/my regular customers know that we have no kids, but I have no clue who else the readers of the article could be and how many of them had read the article. It was not only the scale of the article (as opposed to talking one-to-one), but also the fact that it was written in black-and-white for the public eye to see, I suppose.

However, funnily enough I was also somewhat glad that the article mentioned my age (the reporter was very polite, he even asked me for permission first if he could ask about my age or not with a very apologetic look on his face he he he...), because people here think I'm younger than my real age. Even though people here don't pry about children as much as Indo people, a few of them have blurted out, "Ah, you still have time" when I told them that we had no kids (without giving further explanation).  

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Inner Circle

You know how sometimes you only start realizing something after talking about a certain topic with someone else/other people? Well, the other day I was talking online about inner circle and I suddenly realized that my view of what I call my inner circle has changed. 

In the past, before infertility, I used to have a specific group of people as my inner circle in my sacred chamber. I believed with all my heart and soul that they would be there forever. I believed that they were my chosen ones and that nobody else could take their places. Infertility shredded that view to pieces and now my inner circle consists of random empathetic people who enter that sacred spot and stay there for a while with me and my pain. I am thankful for and cherish those people and their presence in my sacred chamber and then let them go. I more than welcome them if they happen to drop by again, but if they don't, I'll cherish the moment that they spent there with me. 

P.S. Here's a view of the gloriously pink sky outside today. It was -25'C when I took this photo. 


Sunday, January 18, 2015

Grief Connections

A dear friend of mine has just lost her husband on NY eve. It came as a shock, even though I knew he had been sick for a few years.

The other day I had a long text chat with her and it was uncanny how many similarities there were between her grief and my worst infertility grief. When I shared with her what happened during my worst moments (I had never shared these with her before), she said that now she understood what it felt like as she had felt it, too. And when I shared with her the other feelings I felt (anger, self-pity, jealousy, bitterness, guilt, etc.), she began to open up about those feelings, too. She said that she wouldn't wish this experience on her worst enemy and I told her that was exactly what I felt at one point in time.  

Grief connections. If I hadn't experienced infertility, I wouldn't have understood this kind of experience and if she hadn't experienced this loss, she wouldn't have understood what I felt. Granted, the both of us wouldn't have wished to have this kind of connection in the first place, but I'm thankful for this grief connection. This is one of those moments when I believe with my whole being that my pain isn't for nothing and I dare say that my pain is worth it.

Rest in peace, dear friend...

Thursday, January 15, 2015


The other day at work I had this amusing encounter.

Two customers (a man and a woman) that I've met on and off came to the store together. As far as I know, they're not a couple, but who knows? The woman is more or less my age, maybe slightly older (i.e. nearing 40) and from the bits of chit-chats we've had, I don't think she has children. I don't know anything much about the man, but he's quite new in town.

The woman then asked me if Santa came to our place and I was feeling cheeky at the moment, so without thinking twice, I put on a wicked grin on my face and replied, "Yes, but it's a secreeetttt!"

Both the man and the woman went "OooooohHHHHHH!" when they heard that and the woman added, "Is this the kind of secret that will be revealed in 9 months?"

In a split second lots of thoughts were whizzing through my mind. WHAAAAAAAAAAT?!?!?!?! Where did that come from? Mental forehead slap! Of course! D'oh! I shouldn't have said it like that!

I immediately corrected her, "No, no, no, no, NOOOOOOOOO!"

Then the man said, "Maybe she's got a Ferrari."

I smiled and said, "Yes, a flying Ferrari!" 

After the exchange, I couldn't help feeling amused with the fact that the woman immediately thought it was pregnancy, whereas the man thought it was a Ferrari.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Writing Challenge: Treasure

Her legs buckled. The soft, thick carpet softened her landing. She slumped back to the edge of the bed, needing support. A long, raw sigh was heard, then her lips began to tremble.

Why did I decide to do this bloody autumn cleaning? she groaned inside.

Her right hand was holding the family heirloom given by her mother. It was an old bracelet made of white and yellow gold with a classic side clasp. Yellow gold lined up the outer rings of the bracelet, whereas the middle part made of white gold had intricate leaf patterns carved into it. Nobody made that kind of bracelet anymore. Her mother had received it from her own mother. God knows where her grandmother had gotten it from, but one important fact remained: she was planning to give it to her own daughter or to her son's bride.

Except that there was never a child.

She hugged her knees, feeling a wave of pain bury her under. No time to escape. The wave came so fast and hit her like a ton of bricks. She squeezed her eyes shut as grief clenched its mighty fist around her heart, making it hard for her to breathe. Hot tears started rolling down her cheeks and soon her sobs broke the silence of the room. Her sobs rose to a crescendo and then she started wailing as the intensity of the pain only seemed to grow. She let out a loud cry of anguish as she looked up and opened her eyes. More wailing, more groaning, back to sobbing until finally the sobbing stopped even though the tears kept on coming.

She felt drained. She stayed there for a long time, going back and forth mentally from her inner self to her surroundings. The tick-tocking of the clock, the subsiding pain in her chest, the neighbour's dog barking outside, the salty taste of her tears, the absence of children in her house, the intricate patterns on the soft carpet, ghosts of self-pity that threatened to come out from the shadows, the annoying tick-tocking of the clock, back to the hollowness inside. Then she hit the brake, wiped her face with the right sleeve of her shirt, and summoned her logic.

"What is the biggest lesson that you've been learning so far?" her logic asked.

"Letting go," she answered.

"And that is what you shall learn again, my dear."

Forty six years later...

I have been living here in this antique shop for a few years, waiting for my new owner to come and get me. Until then, I'm going to make the best of my time here surrounded with many other antique friends, talking about our previous owners and their lives.

This is a piece of writing that I started months ago as my response to a group writing challenge, but I was really struggling with it. It was tough to get inside the character and feel her pain and it was tough to find the kind of ending that would satisfy me (yes, this is a highly personal one). Once I finished writing it, though, I felt that I had somehow healed a tiny part of myself. How uncanny! Healing through writing. :-) I'm going to keep on exploring this wondrous world of writing. :-) 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Random Thoughts on New Year

I've noticed some shifts in my healing journey again. I think the further along the way I am in this journey, the easier it is to take the stand of a witness/bystander instead of the victim/the target. I remember back in the days random words could feel like an arrow shot right into my heart or like a stab of a long, serrated blade, even though the speakers of those words didn't mean to hurt me at all.

The other week I had a conversation with my mom who had been getting in touch with her old school friends. She said that some of them had also lost their husbands, but she was just reacquainted with another one who was living alone (no kids). When she was mentioning the fact that she had no children, I felt that she was sorry for her. 

However, instead of taking it personally (in the past this would make me feel defensive and hurt), I felt like a bystander. The words amused me and disturbed me a little. It disturbed me not because it hit a nerve in myself, but because I thought that this particular woman may not think of herself as a pitiful human being and that's what matters most. If she herself thinks that she has a pitiful life without husband and children and tells my mom about it, then it's a whole different thing. The words also amused me to a certain degree because of the possibility that my mom could be so wrong.

Another thing I've felt lately is about all those things that parents say about children/parenting/fears on child-rearing. Lately I've read some bonding messages between some mothers concerning child-rearing (not smug parenting talk but real sharing/bonding between parents), but I haven't felt what I used to feel anymore. In the past I used to be upset because those words made me feel like I was less than a human being (couldn't understand what they were going through, couldn't empathize) simply because I wasn't a mother. 

These days I think that it's pretty normal/understandable for parents to say those words, because in the same way that those who're in my boat can understand my thoughts/feelings much better than those outside of my boat, isn't it normal for parents to be able to understand more layers of parenting life better than me? I've also been watching how parenting changed people and I noticed that many of them were surprised by the depth and breadth and width of their love for their children and I find it fascinating. I think from an evolutionary POV, it's beneficial for parents to be able to feel this way towards their children. Anyway, from this particular spot where I'm standing, I don't feel that they're trying to disregard my ability to empathize anymore.

P.S. However, when they say "as a parent" in a public arena, I still feel that it's way too political (I don't like politics), that it's a card that they're playing instead of creating special bonding moments between parents in a more intimate setting.