Gratefulness

Beholden to my Mother.

I’d say that’s true.

For loving me so much she’d rinse my crying eyes of shampoo.

Beholden to my Father.

For there’s no doubt 

that he opened the door for all the laughter the world would allow.

Beholden to my sisters.

There’s no room to question

that they’d cross the universe with me at the slightest suggestion.

Beholden to my brother.

For that is certain.

His smile fills the room like the sun when you draw back the curtains.

Beholden to my Grandmother,

I’ll always believe

her spirits larger than anything I could conceive.

Beholden to my heart 

with no hesitation 

Their love fills it with a joy beyond explanation.

I spoke on stage for the first time & I didn’t die 


I spoke at an open mic for the first time in a long time at Busboys. It was a poem that I’d written for my Dad’s birthday in March but been too nervous to share. 

I was given a voice & I can’t let fear be the thing to halt me & keep me from moving forward. 

Fear has been a driving force in my life and has informed too many of my behavioral choices to the point that it’s ingrained in me. Fearful thoughts are the first thing I hear. With that fact echoing in my head, I still have to step forward. I won’t grow if I don’t. 

And my biggest fear is being stuck. Never growing. I have to hush these voices if I want to step into the light, out of my comfort zone towards true authenticity. 
There is no other option. My parents cannot speak, so I speak for them. I won’t let fear blind the path of potential any longer. Sure, I’ll always be afraid, but I won’t let that be a reason for me not to speak. I will feel that fear & go. Feel the fear & go. Go.

Happy 50th Mommy 😊


Happy Birthday to the strongest, funniest, and wildest woman I ever knew. Happy Birthday to the woman who taught me how to walk, laugh & listen with my heart. Happy Birthday to my best friend, my reason for living, & my source of strength. I love you with every single part of me – from my toes to my lungs. Happy 50th Birthday Mommy, Tovoia, Tinka! 💕💕💕 We’ll see eachother again one day. 

|Chasing Recollection|

Chasing Recollection
I had a mother. Sometimes I can’t remember her looks

To spark my brain, I look thru her bins of Polaroids and unfinished photo-books

Her smile presents flashes of times, distorted, but shared

Slender hands, big laugh and coiled dark hair

Time passes, my eyes close, and her face leaves again

In darkness, I see her nose, more distinct now than it was then.

Large, to the point of cartoonish, I know it’s only in my mind’s eye.

It’s shiny, sharp, and Latin and death-defyingly high.

My brain forgets a face, but remembers a nose that stands tall.

 I’d rather have this piece of her than nothing at all.

Now, hope clings tight for memories to come.

What’s next to find? An eyebrow? A thumb?

Any reminder of her presence will satisfy me now.

Until the ache of loss is overcome by all the joy the universe will allow.

I have a mother and she has me too.

Time steals memories, but Angels can make them new.

Re-building from rubble.

A lot has changed for me since I last wrote. In March last year, my father died.

I’ve lost a parent before, but this was different. This was final.  No longer was there a foundation of the kind of love, support, and hope that was the relationship I had with my Mom and Dad. Suddenly, I was 24 with no where to stand. I say sudden because that’s what it was (another reason it was different from my mom’s death). His death was painful for him, I know that. I had it described to me. It was sudden, swift and , in my opinion, violent. No one wants that.

I am thankful and saddened that I wasn’t there when he passed. I was on the 0ther side of the world, planning my next project as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Indonesia. I was nearing my second year, and I was only shy of 2 months when everything happened.

When my sister told me quietly over Skype that our Dad had just died, I immediately began grabbing things and throwing them into bags. It didn’t matter what is was that I grabbed, as long as my hands were busy and my mind was occupied. I used packing as a excuse to avoid my host family through that entire day. I knew the moment my sister told me about Daddy that I wouldn’t be returning to Indonesia.

The good-bye to my host-mom was painful and short…I made sure to time it that way. I didn’t want to see her cry or hear her ask when I was coming back. She did both in that small window of time. She hugged me tighter than I knew she was capable and cried for her own loss and for mine. I think she knew I wasn’t coming back either, but she asked any way. I answered in a small voice over and over again “Saya tidak tahu” (I don’t know) and then I was gone.

Now, a little over a year later, I can say the pain of losing my Dad and the experience surrounding it runs deeper than I’ve ever experienced. When my mother died when I was 20, I still had my father. I still had him and he was there. He promised to be here when I came back. His hugs meant the world to me…they always have. His smell. His laugh. His smile. 

My mother’s death left a void that never healed and losing my father widened the gap. The pain of her death echoes inside me, but my Dad’s absence screams. It wracks my body at night and leaves me exhausted through the day. Not only did I lose my best friend and strongest source of affirmation, but I was ripped away from a family I’d built in Indonesia. I could go back (& I will) but the pain of that night will always be with me in some form or another.

I am 25 with no parents. Though my parents are no longer here, I can still find joy in the family I left behind. My 2 sisters, brother, and I lean on each other for support. We hold each other up. We are each other’s foundation.  We’ll take road trips with my father’s urn in the back seat, blasting his favorite music with the window’s down. We’ll scream the lyrics till the sun sets. We’ll find joy with each other and the people who love us.

I decided that life is decidedly short & I will fill this void with as much happiness that I can find. This past year, I’ve been scrambling for a sense of self and I’ve found it by embracing every single part of me. I am a living memory of Quentin and Tovoia. Those are the parts of me and they are beautiful. I leaned on my father’s foundation of affirmation to help me navigate a world that told me I wasn’t enough. I still lean on that foundation and I embrace it. This life I’m living is mine and I choose to live it the way I see it.

Hitam Manis

“Hitam manis” (Indonesian for sweet black) is not a compliment. When you first hear it, it may feel like one, but after the 100th reminder that you are the “black” exception to a long-held standard ideal of beauty, it is a slap to the face. And the sting resonates long after the words are spoken.
It’s the same as hearing “oh you’re pretty for a dark skinned girl”. Sometimes it’s said like the words are a gift of light I’ve been searching for in a dark room of insecurity and uncertainty. Quite the opposite. It is not a confirmation of beauty; it feels like words urging me to hold tighter to the foundation of what I consider beautiful: An all encompassing, infinite beauty. An all-color, all-shape beauty. I am not “Hitam manis”. I will not claim something that negates someone else, my history and the history of others.
I am beautiful. Plain and simple.

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Connection In the in-between

The last I held my mothers hand, her fingers intertwined with mine. Our hands were exactly the same size. It was like holding my own hand.
I realized ,in some way, my sisters and I were stepping into a place that my mother was moving away from. Her hand was my hand and it’d never fit so perfectly before.

Since then, I’ve looked everywhere for that fit.We love those who fit the peculiar voids within us, our hollow wounds. We love to fill the spaces old loved ones left behind. This filling feeling that I feel is never permanent (though it lingers). It comes and goes in comfortable familiarity with friends or strangers, a connection brought on by raw openness and honesty, and in moments of reflection. I live for those moments, but that doesn’t mean I feel lost in the between. Seeking these moments of connection, between the spaces, is thrilling. It’s an adventure that began the first time I held my mothers hand and mine only wrapped around one of her fingers. Though, I don’t physically hold everyone’s hand that I meet, it is in that moment of authenticity and genuine happiness that I feel the warmth of the spirit of humanity’s hand, tugging mine to wander the uncharted. I will follow.

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60 pounds of self-preservation gone

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It is so easy to lie to yourself. I’ve been taking the easy way out for years. I call it “self-preservation through denial”.

After 8 years, it stopped working. Life slapped me hard and I didn’t recover fast enough. The lies I told myself for years were exposed and they couldn’t hide from my scrutiny.

Rather than facing a hard truth about myself and then deciding to re-bury it like I’ve done hundreds of times, I pushed it to the forefront. I acknowledged it as a truth. It was a brand new feeling: knowing exactly who I am at the moment and what I do not know and what I want to know.
It was a huge relief. I was tired of treading lightly in my head.

I write this to say that it is so very,very important to be honest with yourself. Feel what you feel in that moment in its entirety.

It was in these moments of honesty that I formed a new kind of preservation that was all about becoming a better version of myself. It was through this process of honesty that I changed my lifestyle. I ate more (I hardly ate food before) and when I ate food it was good, good food. Real food. I exercised often despite every excuse I made for myself. I walked, dance, kick-boxed and moved more than I had than I had in my 22 years of life. Nothing that happened in my life, I decided, would get in my way. I let go of placing blame on the people I’d blamed for my choices. This time, even with team-support from family, I did not stop when they stopped for whatever reason. I didn’t want to look in the mirror and see all of the empty promises I made myself. It was never easy, it still isn’t, but I think it gets easier. The difference between me now in 2013 and 2012 isn’t just the 60 pound weight loss:(1) I have a much stronger, more urgent need to pursue my goals, (2) I am much more grateful for everything in my life (3) I am happier because I was honest about the things that made me unhappy.

I was waiting for a magnificent change in my life. It took honesty for me to realize that I’m waiting on borrowed time.if there’s something you want, go get it. If you think you can’t get it, try to get it anyway. What’s the worst that could happen? Now that you know all of the things that could possibly happen: do it anyway. Feel the fear and go.

I’ve lost nearly 30 pounds in 5 weeks (:

Have you ever had those moments when you sit and think about your life? You reflect on the things that have happened to you, to those you love and how it has impacted you? In your self reflection, you go through high’s and low’s and it’s a roller-coaster  After you’ve reached the conclusion of your grand self-reflection,do you have some type of epiphany and vow to make a change for the better?

I’ve done this hundreds of times. I’ve made promises to myself that I made an effort to keep and then those self-commitments die away after a little while. In addition, I’ve questioned why my commitments to my own promises have faded to the back and I have answered with excuses (“I’m tired. I need to do this. I need to go here before I can do that” etc). The truth of it all comes down to one thing: laziness.

One of the hardest things is facing a truth about yourself. After trying and failing to keep a commitment, I eventually had to face the truth.

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Now, as I said earlier, I’ve reviewed my life and vowed to make changes too many times to count. So what was different about this time? What was so special about this time?

After my Step-Grandfather passed away on January 2nd, I had another of my grand reflections. But this time I decided that I would not lie to myself. I decided I would strip away all of the excuses I’ve been telling myself. You still have time. You’re young. You can put off your goals for a little longer, just watch this 30 minute show. 30 minutes won’t kill you.

I was tired of letting little things get in the way when Bigger things were happening in my life.   I was tired of letting little things get in the way when my Goals are larger than those little things.

I had to face the truth that the majority of the people who I lost in my life died from something that could have been preventable. Diabetes, High blood pressure, and other grave diseases are prevented by what I put into my body.

The difference between those times when I’ve reflected on my life before and now was that I didn’t give myself any excuse. If I felt myself forming an excuse I shot it down. What’s more important: this 500 calorie slice of pizza or living a healthy, happy life? What do you value more: this all day Doctor Who marathon or being able to run, walk, and move with BOTH legs when you’re 74?

The difference between then and now was that I had been giving myself empty promises and I didn’t want my family to bury me young for something I could have prevented. I want to give myself the best chance at life. I realized that I needed to take care of myself to eventually take care of my family. How could I think about my future, my goals, my outward commitment and success, then completely ignore my body?

I had to be hard on myself and I had to reach out to people in my life who would be honest and supportive with me. My sisters were in the same boat as me, and we’ve been working together. Having people there to support you is vastly important especially for those like me who lack self-motivation. I decided to grab that moment of motivation and hold on to it, rather than let it slip through my fingers as I had numerous time before. It can be hard sometimes and it can be fun. I’ve slipped up a few times, but this time I will not let myself fail. I learned that I must accept my mistakes and move forward  from there. It only becomes a problem if I decide to stay stuck in one place of denial or decide to go back to where I was before. I cannot allow it. I’ve tried this before and I have completely thrown in the towel after one slip up. I refuse to do that to myself and my family.

I am proud to say that through commitment, watching everything that I eat, and working out, I have lost 28 pounds over the past 5 weeks. I have fun this time around, I eat delicious low-calorie food, I do the work outs I want to do, and I stay informed. I will continue to follow what has been working for me and I will work to be my healthiest self. This is not a temporary promise to myself, it is a life-long commitment. I’m learning the value of patience.

There’s probably a whole bunch more to be said, but the one hour I gave myself on my computer is up and I  need to go running (:

-Mani

P.S. I’ve taken up hiking and it is amaaaaziing.

BEST NEWS SO FAR!

HI!

I have heard the best news I have heard in a long time. After nearly 5 months, I AM MEDICALLY qualified! I will be contacted by my placement officer soon. ON to the next step. This is becoming more and more real as time goes on (:

Read part of the letter below (click on the picture):

I’m SOOO HAPPY

After months and months of having a bunch of test run, and doing everything to fulfill medical requirements. I am finished! After FIVE looooong months. I want to scream!

I spoke to my Dad, who has always encouraged me to follow my gut, and he’s taking me out to celebrate. I am so grateful to have a fantastic support system.

I am so close to dream. I had a period of time when I was in doubt, but doubts can hinder you. I am definitely headed in the right direction.

-Mani