You Reap What You Sow

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There are times when I think people are very blind to injustice and unfairness. 

If you cannot speak up against small injustice that happens in your surrounding and general environment, then you have no rights to talk about how bad the state of corruption in this country. How can you expect ministers and government officials to admonish their prime minister, when we ourselves cannot even speak up about things that happen in our own very small, very insignificant environment?

I personally do not feel the need to kowtow to people or kiss anyone’s ass at the cost of justice and fairness. If the cost of building harmonious relationship is by sacrificing justice and fairness, I don’t need to preserve such relationship. 

I keep friends that have the same core values and similar life principles. Other friends can choose to align their principles with me or not… their choice. But I am not keeping close relationships with those who cannot appreciate basic tenets of fair treatment and justice. In this, I am firm. 

If I am a client of a CBT session, the therapist would say that justice is my core belief. It is the lens through which I examine every single matter in life. Relationship is important, but not as much as justice. I didn’t say this, the Quran does. 

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Even in things that do not affect me personally, if I think it is wrong, I will speak up about it. And I am not like this by nature. No one, in their nature, simply for no reason likes to ruffle feathers and makes things uncomfortable. I am like this by training. Because it was ingrained within me (by my father, by my learning of  the religion) that if you don’t have the strength to speak up against small injustice that happens around you, what makes you think you will have the strength needed to fight for bigger things later? 

Some people told me that “decision has been made”. I just laughed. No one is questioning about whether or not decision is made or NOT made. We are questioning the fairness of the decision. Other people may not say it outright that the decision was wrong (because not many people are like me.)  But they think it, they feel it. And they will remember it. 

At least, when I am honest in my opinion, it gives everyone the opportunity to pause; to think first and not make a wrong decision. Or an unjust decision.

I have full insight regarding how I might come across when I am too blunt. But I still won’t change because I notice that without my bluntness, it is easy for people to sweep issues under the carpet and pretend that everything is right. 

Umar ibn Abdul Aziz, may Allah have mercy on him, said, “May Allah have mercy on a man who shows me my faults.”

Al-A’raf 7:164 taught us that we should never be among those who are not worth mentioning. The people who are not worth mentioning are those who in this life, when they saw injustice, they fell silent. 

***

No one likes to do extra-work.

But if you have failed miserably to complete your task last year, you should have the spine to shoulder the responsibility this year and try to compensate for what you didn’t accomplish last year. Other people had done their part. And now if it’s your turn, you have to develop the strength to get it done.

Someone who cares about you will take you aside and tell you, “Look, Allah will not put you through this if He doesn’t think you can handle this. This is your turn to do it. No one likes to do this task. That is why we should develop rules on how the decision is made regarding who must do it. As long as you haven’t completed your turn, other people will always feel resentful when they have to do something that you somehow can skip. When you give excuses like this, it reflects badly on you. People talk about you. How they have to pick up on your slacks because you couldn’t do what had been originally assigned for you! So, please do this! I will help you!”

A person who doesn’t care about you would say “Well, decision has been made. If the authority says you don’t have to do it, then you just don’t have to do it. No need to discuss anymore. Let the authority choose other people to replace what you should be doing. You can just ignore what other people feel about how you have shirked your responsibility.” A person who doesn’t care about your personal growth and development would encourage you to have the sort of behaviour that he himself has displayed all these while. So that you can become as chronic as him!

Is that a real friend?

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If I had a friend who (by rights of justice and fairness) failed to do her responsibility, I will take her aside and tell her, “I know life is difficult for you. But citing a random personal reason for not doing something that you should be doing is not the right thing to do. Come on, you are better than that! There is more to you than that! I will help you!”

Strength of character is not developed by maintaining the same routine each and every time, hoping that you can somehow escape your task. We won’t get any new experience by behaving like any extra work is a burden rather than a challenge. 

When I had to do it, did I like it? I didn’t! But I had to do it, so Alhamdulillah, I did it. When my friend had to do it, she didn’t like it too. But did she do it? Yes, she did. When she asked for my help, I felt GLAD to help and be involved in whatever way I could because I wanted her to be able to do it too. Now, that’s real friendship. 

Real friendship is NOT you encouraging your friends to abandon ship and let it sink when the going gets tough. Real friendship is whispering to your friend’s ear “when the going gets tough, the tough gets going. Let’s do whatever we can to keep the ship afloat” Real friendship is telling your friend, “I will help you with your task.”

Don’t let it be said that men are slackers and it takes women to complete simple task that men simply cannot perform. Rise to expectation, and trust Allah to help you.

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Trust in the most uplifting, most motivational Sunnahtullah that Allah has taught us: Effort is required to qualify for Allah’s help. As simple as that. 

 

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The Enlightened Man & The Pygmalion Effect

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My father turned 61 a few days ago. He was born on the 5th of March 1957, the first born in his family. We all had a simple celebration at Swensen for my father’s birthday; Me and Alida’s treat for the whole family.

Even though he is now 61, but I still remember him as a man in his 30s, strictly checking my academic tasks and asking my mother or my nanny (my beloved Kak Milah) whether or not I had studied according to the schedule that I was supposed to adhere to.

As a child, whenever I heard the sound of his car on the driveway when he returned from work, I would run out of the living room (where the TV was, hahha) into the study room and pretended that I had been lost in diligent concentration of whatever academic book I was supposed to be reading at that time.

But then he would pop up into the study room and said, “Kak Ngah, tadi lupa tutup kipas kat depan ke?”

Damn! Busted! Hahaha.

When I told my friends about why I couldn’t go out to play for too long, all my friends in the neighbourhood never really understood.

And me? I never understood why their parents never asked them to study like my parents did.

I was also surprised that among my friends, the mothers were the ones who would pester them to study or to finish their homework. In my household, it was always my father who would put the fear of God in our hearts to perform our academic task. There are times when I wonder, how would my father deal with an ADHD child or a slow learner child? Haha. It would be interesting to see.

My father did not pester me to finish my homework, because he knew I would finish it on my own (simply because I didn’t want to be scolded by teachers. And I also had a reputation to maintain. I couldn’t let it be said that “Afiza is not as good as Afzalina at school.” Hahha. Sibling rivalry helped me stay motivated. Looking back, I really did owe my elder sister a lot.)

Instead, he would pester me to finish an additional academic task that he set out for me. I had one English article to translate per day. Every week, he would buy The Star or The New Straits Times newspaper, and then he would put an asterisk mark to seven articles he wanted me to translate into Malay for the whole week. In our childhood life, that was the most torturous task for me and my elder sister. But my elder sister had it even worse than me… she had to translate 5 articles per day.  And she had to do it for 2 years. I only had to do it for one year…

Whereas Izati and Alida did not have to do it daily like I did. And Wani… didn’t have to do it AT ALL! (I guess, by the time  the younger sisters were at the age to do the article translation, my father was pretty busy with his business already and didn’t have the time to monitor them properly. So they got away from the worst academic task of me and my Kak Long’s life)

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I have to admit that I have been the cause of many rules formation in the household.

Until now, whenever we siblings get together, we STILL reminisce on the crazy brain-racking article translation that we had to do. And we would have a great laugh.

It is good being the middle child. Because the eldest child always gets it worse when it comes to parental expectation. The eldest child is the victim of parental enthusiasm. The eldest child is ‘the project’!  The experiment! If the eldest child is successful, then the chance that the rest of the siblings would also be successful would be high too… or so most people thought.

My father only has daughters…. five of them. No sons. But because he is an enlightened man, we never got saddled with a lot of what society would label as ‘women’s task’. We mostly got saddled with academic tasks. Whenever people commented to my mother “Bestnya ramai anak perempuan. Boleh tolong mak.” my mother would roll her eyes. Because we rarely helped her in the kitchen, if truth be told. (Sometimes, I feel sorry for my mother. Most of us inherits my father’s genetics; not just in looks but also in temperament and personality.) Of course, she made sure that we knew how to take care of ourselves; we could make our own drinks, we knew how to cook scrambled eggs, simple fried rice…and we knew how to sweep or mop the floor, and how to operate the washing machine. We took care of our own school shoes and our own school uniforms and wrapped our own text books. My mother would always say, “Kak Milah is for me… to help me. Not to help you. Wash your own school shoes!” But we were not expected to do only house chores. Academic tasks always took precedent over anything else… because my father said so.

One of my friends used to tell me how her brothers never had to do any housework and she was the one who had to do it as the only daughter in her family. I remember thinking, “Thank God, we don’t have brothers.” (Look, I don’t mind doing housechores, but it must be equally divided, gender notwithstanding! Otherwise, I would totally rebel.)

My father has taught me a lot throughout my life. Even without learning psychiatry, he kind of applied the concept of Pygmalion effect (or Rosenthal effect) in raising us.

Basically, in the theory of Pygmalion effect, it states that “we become what is expected of us.” It all  has something to do with expectation. It is a form of self-fulfilling prophecy in which we strive and behave in a way as to be in concordance with our own expectation (or other people’s expectation of us). It can be seen among students at school. You can see the difference in motivation and attitude among students in the first class and students in the last class. Students with poor expectations from their teachers (those in ‘kelas belakang’) internalize their negative label and perform poorly, and those with positive expectations internalise their positive labels and succeed academically. (That’s why whenever possible, make sure your kids stay in  the first class…. teachers’ expectation on first class kids would propel them to succeed. It is the Pygmalion effect. You can google it yourself if you want to know more about this. I learned this in my Part A specialist exam.)

“You delivered because you were expected to.”

–> That is the gist of what Pygmalion effect is all about.

So you yourself can apply this Pygmalion effect on yourself. If you put a high expectation of yourself, then you will push yourself to deliver. Even if you might not obtain the kind of result that you originally wanted, the result would STILL be so much better compared to when you expected nothing of yourself. My father might say that he expected all of us to get number one, but he was still just as happy if we obtained among the top ten. Had he not expected anything at all, we might feel complacent with just minimal effort.

There were so many incidents in my life in which I had internalized his positive expectations and manage to deliver what he wanted. 

 

1)He taught me to stand up to bullies. Always.

When I was 10 years old, Izati who was seven years old at that time got elbowed on the face by a 14 year old boy in the school bus. I still remember what had happened. This 14 year old boy had stepped on Izati’s shoes. Izati was upset because her school shoes was new and white. She was just like a typical excited standard 1 girl who would be upset when people step on her school shoes. So, she retaliated by stepping on the boy’s shoes, just to even the score. The boy then elbowed Izati’s face on his way out of the bus. I was shocked but I couldn’t do anything at that time as the boy was already gone. My father always kind of expected me to look out after my sisters at school but at that time, heck, I was scared. I was a child myself. 

Izati then told my father about what had happened. My father turned to me and said “Kak Ngah, esok Kak Ngah pi bagi warning kat budak tu.Kalau dia buat macam tu kat Izati lagi, ayah akan jumpa dia.”

I was like, “Whaaatt? Why me? It’s not my problem! Why can’t Izati warn him herself? Apa kata ayah terus pi jumpa budak tu saja? Why do I have to give him a warning? He is a big boy. He is in secondary school!” But I couldn’t say the words. Because I didn’t want my father to think I was afraid. (But of course, I was! Hahah). My father EXPECTED me not to be afraid, so what could I do, right? 

When my father was out of the earshot, I turned to Izati, “Zati yang cari gaduh, kak ngah pula yang kena pi bagi warning!” I was so upset at Izati for putting me into this trouble. But I didn’t have a choice. My father ALWAYS followed up on the task he had given me to do.

So the next day, I gathered all my friends who also boarded the same bus as me and strategized about what I should do. It was a bad idea to talk to my friends about it. They made me even more scared. They were telling me, “Afiza, dia tu budak sekolah Al-Bukhary. Budak sekolah nakal tu. Dia tu memang kaki buli. Dia pernah tumbuk orang tau!” I was like, sh*t. What had Izati gotten me into?

But the thought of not doing the task my father had assigned me to do was never an option. I was more afraid of failing the task my father had set me out to do.

Another friend of mine said “Lepas awak bagi warning kat dia, awak terus lari pi seat belakang bas. Jangan tunggu depan dia. Nanti dia tumbuk.” In my mind, I was like “Lepas bagi warning, aku lari? Damn! The warning won’t be effective like that! It would look like I was such a coward.”

But what choice did I have?

So that was what I did. When I got into the bus, accompanied by a few of my loyal friends who also boarded the same bus, I went to the seat where he was sitting and said in a shaky voice, “Weh! Ayah aku cakap, hang jangan nak pukul adik aku lagi. Ayah aku warning dia akan mai jumpa hang kalau hang buat macam tu lagi.” I was trying to put on a brave face. And that was the first time I used ‘aku-hang’ to anyone. Hahah. I didn’t really plan to run, you know. I wanted to casually walk away. But then I saw him getting up from his seat. So, without further ado, I ran. Hahha. I ran to the back of the bus where I had more friends waiting for me there. Somehow, he decided not to pursue me to the back of the bus. I was so relieved. Maybe my warning was effective after all. Hahha. When I got home, I straightaway told my father that I had delivered the warning. My task was done and dusted! (Of course, I never told him that I ran away afterwards. Haha)

 

2) He taught me hard work and perseverance always yield a good outcome

Whenever I told my father I could not do some academic task or that I found certain subjects difficult to master, he would always say, “Baca sekali tak faham, baca lah dua kali. Tak faham juga, baca 10 kali. Sampai faham.” In short, you just have to accomplish your mission. No matter how hard you have to work at it, you just have to do it.

Just do it!

My father’s name in Arabic means The Determined One. The Resolute. The name suited him really well.

When he wanted something, he would not cease his effort until he got it. He told me that his life’s motto is “usaha selagi daya”. Admirable, isn’t it? He was the only one among his siblings who pursued a university degree. Also the only one among his cousins who has a degree. Despite my grandfather’s insistence that he stop schooling at the age of 13 (to help my grandfather with rubber tapping), he somehow got someone who was respected in his neighbourhood to convince my grandfather that education was important and he should be given the chance to finish secondary school, at least. My grandfather gave in under the neighbourhood pressure and my father’s determination.

My father was sent to Sekolah Menengah Khir Johari, living in a hostel where he could focus more on his studies. My father really enjoyed the school. He was the best student in his school for SPM. He wanted to continue into tertiary level studies but my grandfather could no longer spare him  the luxury. So, he worked as an immigration officer, and when he was about to marry my mother, he switched his job to a police officer for a better pay. When PDRM offered their officers a chance to pursue a fully-funded tertiary education, my father jumped at the opportunity. But instead of taking law like many of his friends in the PDRM, he took Accountancy. I guess, he loved business and maths and calculation and stuff like that. (I certainly didn’t get that genes. LOL. The Math gene went to my elder sister who is now a statistic lecturer). After he finished his degree, he quitted PDRM to do business. I guess, he was never the sort who can work for others or follow the dictation of someone whose order he couldn’t understand or respect. Blind following is never his strength.

During the financial crisis of 1997-1998, he was hit really hard. It affected all of us, I still remember. But my daily routine didn’t change much… school was still our priority. My father made sure that there would always be money for school stuff and for books… but perhaps not for Taekwondo lessons or school trips or camping expedition that Scouts organized. After all, there were 5 of us to feed, all in schooling age. 

My UPSR was in 1997, the year of the financial crisis. My father had promised me that if I could get straight As for my UPSR, I would get RM50 for each A that I got. But if I couldn’t get straight As for UPSR, I would only get RM20 for each A that I got.  Despite the financial constraint, he didn’t break that promise. And when I obtained my 5As, I was given RM250 on the very day I got my result (but he made me save half of it in the bank. LOL. I spent the rest of the money on story books, of course.) I remember feeling bad for taking the money. I was worried that they might feel burdened by the promise they made. But I knew, my father would have insisted that I take it anyway.  So I said thank you with a lump in my throat.

My elder sister got offered to go to MRSM Taiping after being  the school’s best student for PMR at that time. Whether or not she was going to MRSM, was never a question. Not even when the expense was quite high. She went to MRSM Taiping all the same. We let go the maid. I helped my mom with house chores. After a few years of financial constraints, my father managed to bring the family’s finance to a stable condition when he joined his cousin in setting up a security company. And Alhamdulillah, it’s been stable since then. By the time I was going to MRSM Langkawi, we could afford a maid again. I remember saying to my sisters, “When I was around, mom didn’t need a maid. When I go to MRSM, mom needs a maid. Because you guys are such lazy bums and couldn’t be relied on to help mom! PMR tak score, hangpa siap!” My younger sisters simply rolled their eyes.

Throughout the financial crisis (which my younger sisters did not remember much. Only my Kak Long and I really vividly remember the experience), I never saw my father give up his efforts. He really is the determined one; the resolute.

 

3) He placed education as the most important aspect of childhood

Perhaps, he was affected by his hard life as a child who had to fight his own father simply to stay at school. And that might be why he worked hard to make sure we got the best schooling experience he could afford. We all went to the best national school in the state of Kedah. He would change his address to make sure we all got into Asma School. Perhaps, he didn’t want us to experience the difficulties he had to undergo as a poor child in school. Maybe he wanted to give us the opportunity he himself couldn’t get as a child.

My father loves education so much because that was something he had to work so hard to obtain. He was very single minded in his effort to stay at school. When most kids his age had started smoking (because smoking was cool back then), he never did because he couldn’t afford the cigarettes. All his scholarship money (apparently during his time, secondary schoolers were given scholarships) went for books and savings. Not clothes, not cigarettes…things that other kids who received the scholarship would buy at times. He had to take a longer route to get to the uni. But he did it finally. 

Until now, he is STILL very passionate in encouraging us to continue our studies. He stopped asking my Kak Long to study ONLY after my Kak Long had completed her doctorate. (My first nephew was born ONLY after she was done with her thesis. Priorities, huh?) At the moment, I am pursuing my studies as well, so he stopped pestering me already. He supported my effort by sponsoring my hotel and flight tickets for exams. He is now pestering Izati and Alida to do master every time they come home for a visit. Wani’s time to be pestered will come once she has finished her first year dental officer, I am sure.

As a child, I knew that he would not listen to any excuse of why we couldn’t perform well at school. He would tell me, “Ayah nak pi sekolah, naik basikal buruk tok wan. Jauh berbelas kilometer; naik bukit turun bukit kayuh basikal. Bila naik bukit ayah tak larat nak kayuh, so ayah kena turun basikal, tolak basikal naik bukit. Ayah tak bawa bekal pun, tak ada duit sekolah. Waktu rehat ayah lapar. Tak ada duit nak beli kat kantin. Kadang-kadang cikgu bagi ayah makan. Kadang-kadang ayah minum air paip. Tapi ayah pi sekolah. So korang demam sikit-sikit, kena pi sekolah. Semangat lah sikit!” 

I think for my father, the option was easy. It was either rubber tapping, or going to school. Of course he would choose school! For me, it was either story books/playing, or going to school. Of course I would not choose school, if given a chance. We couldn’t be as motivated as he expected us to be. But none of us had ever skipped school; well, except when we had chicken pox. 

When I told my father, I could not do Add Maths, he was concerned. Add Maths simply stumped me. My father asked to see my Add Maths textbooks and revision books when I got back from the hostel at the end of Form 4. I didn’t know why he wanted to see my textbooks. Perhaps, he wanted to see whether or not he could teach me himself. (There were a lot of things he could teach me himself when I was a child. And he could teach them better than most teachers. I did not have to go to any tuition class for my UPSR or PMR)  When he found out he couldn’t grasp Add Maths, he simply hired me a private tutor because he could not teach me Add Maths himself. “Tak payah pi mana-mana cuti ni. Kak Ngah pi belajar Add Maths saja dengan Cikgu R hari-hari. Dia ajar Kak Ngah sorang saja, 2 jam sehari. So Kak Ngah kena tanya semua benda yang Kak Ngah tak tau… Buka sekolah Tingkatan Lima nanti mesti dah pandai.”

In my mind, I was like, “Hmmm, I couldn’t ask what I don’t know. In Add Maths, I don’t know what I don’t know.” Hahha. But the private tutoring ended up to be really helpful, even as I regretted my lack of holidays that semester break. I did get an A in Add Maths later for SPM. Thanks to my father who refused to give up. He pushed me harder when I just thought that I could only get 9As1D. I was very proud when I showed my parents my SPM result at the end of the year.

When my younger sister Alida was having trouble with Accountancy during her SPM year, he taught Alida accountancy himself. (As my father’s degree is in Accountancy, he did the tax for his own company every year. He still remembers most of what he learned). Alida ended up teaching her classmates when she became the top student in Accountancy for her class.

 

4)He taught me to do my best work

He taught me to learn from the Chinese. To emulate Chinese’ work ethics. To work hard like them.

He is not a typical Malay, my father. He is always on time, for example. He is very logical and very practical. He doesn’t like to talk non-stop about something nonsense. He is a serious guy who doesn’t crack stupid jokes all the time in an effort to appear jovial and approachable. Like me, he was not that comfortable with small talk. He is very reserved and taciturn. He even relied on my mother to keep in touch with his own relatives. Hahha (Actually, all of us relied on our mother to smooth the way for social interaction with relatives)

He is also very meticulous in his work. Before he started his security company, he worked as a Chief Inspector in PDRM. I remember the time when he brought me and my mother to his office one day because he needed to pick something up while we were on the way to go to some place. There was a clerk outside my father’s room who was so nice to me. I couldn’t remember her name. But that clerk had told my mother, “Tuan Azmee ni cerewet. Kalau surat ada tak kena sikit, tertinggal titik ke.. dia suruh taip lain semua.” They used a typewriter at that time. So can you imagine the trouble of having to write everything again just because of some minor error? My mother could only sympathize but she could not do anything about it. My father was exactly like that at home too.

But the good thing is, people learn to present their best work when they deal with my father. He wouldn’t put up with anything less.

 

5) He taught us to prioritize practicality over idealism

“Kak Long dengan Kak Ngah nak jadi penulis? Nak duduk di tepi sungai… berkhayal…. dan makan pasir?” He asked both me and my Kak Long sarcastically when he caught both of us writing a story when we were supposed to be studying. I was only 8 years old at that time. I still remember the story I was composing. It was about a couple of brothers named Steve and David who just moved into a new neighbourhood. The plot revolved around them investigating about the ghosts who were disturbing them in their new house. They were trying to find out how the ghosts came to be haunting the house and how did the ghosts die… well, something like that. As an 8 year old child, I thought it was a very good plot. Haha. (I was influenced by Tamar Jalis stories. Hahha. Except that I was writing my story in English.)

I was so absorbed in writing those stories in an exercise book that I didn’t hear my father entering our study room. I could not hide the exercise book from his view fast enough. I was caught red handed… and the lecture ensued. *sigh*

There were so many times when me and my Kak Long were caught reading fiction when we were supposed to be studying. Every single time, we would get scolded and sometimes given a stroke of rattan on our palms. But me and my Kak Long never learned our lessons. No punishment was enough to keep us away from stories.

My father is the original language lover in our family. He wrote poetry on the front page of his text books when he was a student. Or he would write some quotes he made up himself. It was not unusual for me to find some words of wisdom scribbled on the front page of any old textbooks of my father’s which I took from our bookshelves. It was ironic that he would not let us pursue something that he himself had loved.

I guess the hardship of his own childhood taught him that “Yeah, it is great to do what you love. But in reality, we have to survive and earn our living. We have to be responsible, and not simply follow our hearts or our ideals.” 

He just could not imagine us being able to survive on writing. He didn’t envision his daughters as merely housewives. He believed education is the key to a good life. So he was alarmed if any of his daughters played too much or became absorbed in stories too excessively. He was distressed when we did not display the sort of diligence he expected from any of us.

His expectation ended up making me a doctor.

 

6) He taught me to have excellent work ethics

People have always said, “Don’t be a doctor because of your parents’ expectation. Or else, you wouldn’t be able to do it. And then you will quit half way.”

That’s not true, guys! There are many people who become a doctor when they didn’t originally want to be one. I am one of the examples. Many of my friends are like that too. You can be whatever you want and succeed in things you never dream of. But you have to put expectations on yourself! You have to put standards about your work ethics. You have to possess the right attitude about responsibility and behaviour at work.  Just…have some standards and expectations on yourself! The rest, leave it to God.

My father never pushed me to be a doctor. I could be anything I like (except as a singer/model/actress or anything in the entertainment industry. My parents would have my head if I ever choose to do something like that. Not that I ever had any talent in those things. Hahah). And I wanted to be a lawyer. But the scholarship I was offered was for medicine. So, the rest is history.

Because of his expectation towards all his daughters, all of us pursued our tertiary education in overseas fully-funded by government scholarships. My sister’s master in Statistic was in Warwick, UK and her doctorate on statistical analysis for three-arms clinical trial was in Sheffield, UK. I went to Australia for medicine, as you guys well-know. Izati and Alida went to Auckland for biology and TESL, respectively. And Wani went to India for dentistry. His investments in us as children (he invested his time, teaching us the right values about education, lecturing us, fighting with us against what we wanted to do VS what we should do) saved us from having to borrow from PTPTN because our SPM results made us eligible for scholarships. We started our working life debt-free.

I couldn’t be what I am today without his effort to shape my behaviour and my character. When I was a houseman, he never told me that I shouldn’t quit my work whenever I told him about certain MOs and specialists I just really hated. He said, I could work with him at the company, if I ever wanted to quit housemanship. “But if you want to quit, do it properly. Don’t simply not turn up to work. ” He emphasized.

But I knew he preferred that I completed my housemanship. Because all my life I was taught to do my responsibility, I didn’t quit. Looking back, I don’t think my pride could ever handle that sort of failure. I knew that my MARA contract stipulated that I had to serve the government for 3 years. It was my responsibility to finish what I had started. So, I handled the pressure of working life and gradually found myself able to enjoy housemanship after finishing my first posting! I had only one day of EL as a HO when I had to send my parents’ for hajj… until now I never again had any EL. I’ve only had one day of sick leave for anaphylactic reaction when I was a HO… and then never again. All my holidays are planned. I take my work seriously. Just like I take education seriously. And those are the things my father taught me and all my siblings. His work ethics and my mother’s work ethics were really admirable. I could never surpass them in that.

And because of  this, I must admit that I look down on people who took ELs for petty reasons. Really, I look down on people who are not serious about their work. Sure, you can EL if your family members are sick. I can understand that. But NOT for reasons like “Mak mertua aku mai.” or “Aku kena handle pasal rumah sewa somewhere.” or “KL jammed… tak boleh balik hari ni.” or “flight delay.”

Look, your mak mertua will just have to handle your absence because she came when you were supposed to be working. She would learn her lesson next time and plan her visit properly. And if you are intelligent enough to plan for contingencies such as “KL Jam” or “flight delay”, you wouldn’t need to take ELs. You can plan your departure one day earlier. 

The word ’emergency’ in the phrase ’emergency leave’ MEANS something!  All right? And if it is the same person who repeatedly does this EL thing almost every month? Well, my patience would be running thin! I have expectations on people! Not outrageous expectations… just reasonable ones. I like people who can display some shame when they trouble other people. Because when they feel ashamed for having no choice but to take ELs, I know that these people have standards!

My study leave was deducted from my own cuti rehat! My friends take unpaid leave when their children were sick too long… or they simply took a maid to help with the kids if they wanted to continue working without having to take repeated ELs. Solve your problems! Don’t trouble people continuously with your lack of life-management skill!

Just…plan your life! Please! That’s another thing my father taught me. To plan! Troubling people with our lateness/ tardiness/ flakiness is NOT acceptable.

 

7) He trusted me with his company; his life’s work.

When my parents went for hajj in 2011, they had told me that they put me and my siblings names on some of their properties. They said, if anything were to happen to them, each of us is the trustee to the property under our name. But each property must be EQUALLY divided later on regardless of under whose name it is.

For example, they put my Kak Long’s name for the house and my younger sisters’ name for some of the lands they had acquired before. 

My name was placed for my father’s shares in the company. My mother said, “Ayah cakap, Kak Ngah lagi garang dan lagi pandai nak bergaduh kalau ayah punya partner nak tipu saham or duit. Ayah tau Kak Ngah mesti takkan lepas saja.” I wanted to laugh.

See? He expected me to behave like that, so for sure I would fight nail and tooth if any of his business partners ever try to cheat me out of my inheritance.

Because my father does not have a son, we talk about inheritance/ hibah a lot. My mother and I made sure that my father had done a proper hibah to all of us. Not because we want the money so much (not that my parents were wealthy or anything). But because if faraid happens, I won’t have the money to pay my uncle for his share of the house/cars/shares according to faraid laws. If my mother and us want to keep my father’s house, we will have to fork out the money to pay our uncle for his rights to the house and other properties according to the Faraid laws. And that’s something I don’t want to have  to do, if I can help it. I don’t want my mother to be stranded with minimal security should anything happen to my father. 

I even posted and shared a lot of facebook status about hibah. I also followed the page of Roslina Sabiyah & Co which deals with a lot of inheritance issues. I think it is important that we understand that Islam is very beautiful and gives a lot of options in dealing with any matter. Faraid is only one of the options in dealing with the issue of inheritance.

Below is one of my facebook status regarding Faraid Vs Hibah. I believe, that a responsible man should never rest easy until the security of those who are dependent on him are taken care of properly.

Screenshot 2018-03-09 12.32.27

 

***

Not many people are lucky to have a father they can be proud of. In my experience as a psychiatry doctor, I certainly witnessed many sick, irresponsible bastards who think being a father is about being a sperm donor.

Truly, me and my siblings were lucky.

In psychiatry, we have this theory called ‘Goodness of Fit’. Between me and my parents, there certainly exists ‘goodness of fit’. They put pressure, and we deliver instead of breaking under it.

Goodness of fit is defined as the congruence between the child’s temperament and the personalities, attitudes and parenting practices of the parents. A goodness-of-fit is seen as fostering healthy psychological and social development.

Whenever I saw the children in my child clinic refusing to go to school, or was depressed by parental expectations… I always wonder why I didn’t react like them when I was placed under various expectations and pressure? I couldn’t understand why the parents couldn’t manage to persuade their children to go to school? In my household, we have always known that the parents are the boss. Their words are law! If they say I have to go to school, then that’s where I am going. It seems like our parents were so much better at rearing children when there was very little knowledge about psychology and psychiatry in their days.

Now, with so many books on child rearing and general psychology, parents are even more clueless!

Parents would say, “Kalau kita tekan dia sangat, nanti dia buat perangai. Kita takut dia stress.”

And I was  thinking, how come my parents never thought that my siblings and I would get depressed by their expectations? They expected anyway! We got punished, anyway! They didn’t handle us like a fragile, easily-broken porcelain china dolls. As though we will shatter at the slightest stress. Pfftt! Teachers back then were even more fierce than teachers these days but none of my siblings ever refused to go to school and neither did most of my friends at that time. Is it possible that parents these days are just too ‘soft’, and therefore the kids are spoiled…. becoming as fragile as the parents had expected them to be (Pygmalion effect, remember?) Paradoxically, it may be that our softness and indulgence, instead of making them into happy children, make them less resilience in facing pressure in the future.

Nowadays, we have kids that fail to launch themselves into adulthood. Kids who couldn’t take scoldings and stress… with poor coping mechanisms. They grow up into big babies instead of mature adults. (Some HOs rely on their parents to give their specialists some excuses for why they couldn’t turn up to work! This is ridiculous!)

Resilience is not really born. It is made! And it wouldn’t get made if your kids never had to measure up to reality and expectations. Attitude and work ethics are not born, they are acquired… and taught… and carved… into being a deep-rooted character of a person. It is not something you develop suddenly when you start working. So if you want to see what kind of adults your children would be, see their attitude to homework and house chores now. You have to start teaching your children the right values now… when they are still malleable kids. This is something I believe with all my heart.

***

So this blog post is especially dedicated to my beloved papito. I have often written about my mother on her birthday. This is a first for my father.

This year, as usual, I bought him a shirt. In fact, all of us bought him a shirt. He doesn’t have to shop for his own clothes because he will get many new ones on his birthday.

Allow  me to share with you guys some of the pictures we took at Swensen to celebrate my father’s birthday. We were sad that my eldest sister and my youngest sister couldn’t join us due to work commitments (but it didn’t stop us from enjoying the food. Haha.) But the three middle sisters were available for the fun family times. Alida’s and Izati’s husbands were also around.  And of course my beloved niece and nephew (Alida’s children), Ammar and Arissa were also with us that day.

It was a great catching up session.  As we all are grown up now, get-together event is not easy to organize and plan. Selalu tak cukup korum. Adeh!

I don’t have a lot of my father’s picture here because he is a shy one and he only takes group pictures; never a selfie. The role of the selfie queen in our family is shared by both Alida and Izati.

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My father really enjoyed the lamb chop here!

 

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Ammar, my 2 year old nephew, really loooved the mushroom soup! But we still think that the mushroom soup at Dave’s Deli is still the best we have ever had.

 

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With Mom, the other love of my life, and Izati.
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The middle sisters! All with identical  thick eyebrows… my father’s genetic gift to all his daughters. Thank God that the model, Cara Delevigne, makes thick eyebrows fashionable these days. I used to grow up feeling like my eyebrows were too thick for a girl. LOL!
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With Izati…. the person who had caused me the trouble to face up to the big boy who had elbowed her face when she was in standard 1. We still laughed about it until now.

 

And the food guys! Especially the dessert! I love, love, love desserts… I have always had a sweet tooth, which is why I need to exercise regularly. Because I just couldn’t say no to ice creams and cakes and basically, anything fattening, really! Haha.

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This is the best dessert we had that day! No question about it! I think it is called Banana Crumble in Sizzling skillet… or something like that. So good, guys! I feel like going there right now to order this dessert again, as I am writing this.

 

 

Until next time, my dear readers.

Have a great weekend. And enjoy the time spent with family and loved ones. There will be few and far in between as we grow older. So cherish all the time you can get.  *sobs sobs*

Adios! And lots of love from yours truly.

My Friendship Policy

Disclaimer: This is a rant! Do not read beyond this part if you cannot take the negative vibes of outpouring annoyance from yours truly. 

(I did warn you. Proceed at your own risk)

***

Family and friends are some form of rizq. A blessing, really. Your treasure, truly.

Take me, for example. With my family, my best friend, my close friends (some of them work with me in the same department, and some are my school/uni friends), I can be irritable, bossy and annoying… but somehow I manage to keep them anyway. Or they manage to keep me. Or perhaps, we decide to keep each other. Maybe, (well, hopefully haha) my good traits outweigh my annoying traits and the net result is, I am considered fun enough to hang around with. Haha.

I was told that INTJ don’t keep friends. But friends keep them. I think that used to be true, before. But now, I too have learned to make an effort to stay in touch with them and did not depend merely on them to keep in touch with me. As I grew into adulthood, I learned the true value of great friendships that stand the test of time.

I play fair with friends. I don’t like to take without giving something in return. I don’t allow myself to take advantage of my friends. It is just against my friendship policy. I will feel ashamed of myself if I keep taking your generosity without returning it in some way. 

If you have always been there for me, I will rush to you in time of needs. 

At the back of my mind, there is always that account columns I need to keep in balance. It hurts my sense of independence if I feel like I owe something to someone no matter how small. I don’t want to feel like I just HAVE to comply to anyone’s wishes, just because they have been nice to me or because I have been indebted to them. I don’t owe anyone any blind loyalty because  when it comes to friendship’s give-and-take, we have been almost equal. I have made sure of it! You can’t turn around and say, “Afiza, you have to do what I say. Remember how much I have given and sacrificed for you?” Haha. None of that. We are equal in terms of favours and services rendered. I don’t like to owe anyone anything. So when I am pissed off with you, I can be straight and upfront about it. And when you are pissed off with me, go ahead and be straight and upfront about it. In true friendship, we survived all that. And those are the friends that I keep.

With my best friend Dr. F, we take turns paying for food or movies. We decide together where to go for hanging out. Neither one of us has more power over the other. We understand the tacit rule of what makes friendship work. 

With my close friends from the Newcastle Uni, I still keep in touch with them in our WhatsApp group all the time. While all of us are busy with our own lives, any of them can simply holler any of us and ask for help/opinion/a listening ear. It is not unusual for us to ventilate in that group about our daily stressors in our working life and our collective frustrations with the Malaysian way of doing things. There is no fear that other people would say “Pi la balik Australia. Dah suka  sangat compare-compare!” Haha. We have been through a lot together when we were in Newcastle, having only each other for support and strength when our own families were not around for that whole of 5 years. Those kind of bond is not something that can be easily broken… because we have shared a very significant and meaningful past. A beautiful period of life. 

In friendship, I don’t allow myself to be taken advantage of. At the end of the day, if I don’t enjoy being with you, I am just not gonna keep you as my friend. (And I won’t enjoy being with you if I feel that I was being taken advantage of) Sooner or later, I will drop you…. because we just don’t suit. But I wish you all the best, regardless.  

If you are too high maintenance (in terms of time, money and lifestyle), I don’t mind losing you. I can’t hang out with you at expensive restaurants all the time, even if you are paying (because next time, I will insist to pay to keep the balance… but then, your lifestyle is out of my budget. Haha). I have never been the sort who is easily affected by peer pressure even when I was a kid. I didn’t pester my parents to buy me branded stuff so that I could hang around the cool kids. In my opinion, kids were cool if they were intelligent and competent. That’s it! If they also happened to be beautiful and kind-hearted, my interest in them will surpass into the realms of admiration. Otherwise, I was just not interested to go out of my way to please anyone… I won’t try too hard, beyond casual friendship. Even in those I respect or admire (perhaps because of their intelligence or kindness or charisma), I don’t necessarily want to be their friends. Friendship requires certain alignments in values, principles, habits and taste… it takes time, adjustment, compromise… and over time, you will reach that stage when you can just be frank and honest with each other when it comes to any issue. There is no longer any need to stand in diplomatic ceremony with one another. Your friend could  take one look at your face and just knew that you were upset about something and pretension became pointless. 

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Every layer you see is a “true” part of a person, but different people will have access to different layers. I think this analogy is especially true for INTPs/INTJs

 

If you want to hang out with me, you are just going to have to tolerate my wanting to be in nature and go hiking once in a while. After all, it is free. Expensive restaurants all the time may not be the way I like to spend my money. If you expect too much of my time in order for me to keep your friendship (heck, I have house chores to do, cats to take care of, plants I need to water, parents I need to see, academic books I have to read, and uh, non-academic books I have to devour haha. And there are times the introvert in me needs to be alone and I just don’t feel like hanging out) then I am more than willing to let you go. Go find your own friends. If you expect the sort of investment I could not commit to, I think it is only fair that we go our separate ways.

It comes down to values. Me and Dr. F… we have the same values and therefore we understand each other’s decision. We both value our study time…so if one of us cannot keep in touch because we were busy studying, we don’t go around feeling hurt. We both value punctuality to time… we are always on time whenever we plan to meet each other. (Because if you are not on time consistently and habitually, I will not keep anything beyond casual friendship with you. All of my close friends are on time. Whenever we couldn’t be on time, we actually have the courtesy to let you know immediately so that you can adjust accordingly and won’t have to wait). We both value our families…. if we could not keep our promised date because some emergency involving the family came up, we would simply cancel the date with no hard feelings. We both value honesty, ethical way of doing things… we share the same frustration towards people. We share similar kind of humour too.  And most importantly, we share similar culture and similar background, and thus similar way of thinking. (We were in Sekolah Rendah Sultanah Asma, then Sekolah Menengah Sultanah Asma, then MRSM Langkawi. After that, we were separated for some years after she went for her A-Level and her medical school in the UK ,whereas I went for my IB and my medical school in Australia. We returned for housemanship in the same hospital. We became MOs in the same hospital but in different departments. And now, both of us are furthering our studies. We just found out recently that we even attended the same kindergarten when one of our kindy friends shared our kindy class photo and tagged us on Facebook. We never knew before that we had attended the same kindergarten. See how beautiful fate works? Very serendipitous, ain’t it? )

It is the same with my colleagues. We tend to gravitate towards those who share our values. Opposite doesn’t attract… likeness does. I like people who can get things done. Who have a sense of responsibility. Who would do the hard thing just because it is the right thing. 

We annoy each other, occasionally, of course. But we also respect each other. We stick together without being too clingy and dependent. There are space to BREATHE in that kind of friendship. We run programs / events together. Take exams together. Or went for a hiking/kayaking trip together. Or we went out to eat together outside office hours.  Or went to travel across the border to Thailand together. 

It is through doing all those things together that friendship is developed and strengthened and before you realise it, you are already comfortable with each other and consider each other not just colleagues, but friends. It developed very naturally, without anyone trying too hard, or trying to push our boundaries, or trying to get us to be dependent on him/her so that he/she could dictate how things should be done. 

With real friends, none of us has ever tried to over-step the boundaries or micro-manage one another. It just never happened. If it did, we would voice it out and the person would understand and back off and everything is right again. There are times when I can be bossy. But there are times, when they can be bossy with me right back. There are times when I make decisions. And there are times when I ask them for their decisions. Like I said, I need that account balanced. 

My weakness is… in dealing with people I cannot stand . These are usually people who did not understand basic courtesy like I have mentioned above. People who don’t understand boundaries. People who don’t respect each other’s private time by his/her constant whatsapp messaging. People who always come up with “helpful” suggestions and ideas ad nauseum, ad infinitum…  or people who want to micro-manage other people so that other people would become dependent on him/her, so that FINALLY, he/she could pretend that he/she is somehow relevant and likeable. 

Here’s a tip: If you notice that everywhere you go, you end up not having friends, no matter how ‘nice’ or ‘helpful’ you have been… please do some self-introspection. Doing any of your ‘extra efforts’ will not get you to keep friends if they end up feeling uncomfortable with you. In fact, all your ‘efforts’  would even alienate you from them. 

Like I said, I don’t have to be ‘extra-nice’ or ‘extra-helpful’ or act like I am the manager of everyone and everyone must depend on my direction in order to keep friends. I don’t rely on friends being dependent on me in order to tie themselves to me. (Heck, to all my friends, please be independent for your own sake. While I am more than willing to help you when you are in a tight spot – not just because I am your friend but because I am a Muslim – I have no desire to be anyone’s super hero. I have my own life to lead!) 

In a naturally-developed friendship, we keep friends when our friends happen to have the same values with ours, complimentary attitude to ours, or when all of us happen to enjoy spending time together due to our common interest. We don’t try to force the friendship at the early stage of getting to know one another, and ‘offer’ them help, and ‘get them to feel dependent on us so that we can then dictate the course of events’. Trust me, people will resent you when you try to manipulate people like that. While you may appear nice and tolerable at first, one by one of your friends will walk away from you because they resent your obvious attempt at your over-involvement and manipulation.

And me? I am a very independent person. At the slightest threat to my autonomy, I will leave the friendship. And if you try to control me and boss me around? That’s a NO-NO anywhere, any time, any place… and any one!! You broke that cardinal rule, I am done with you.

So, I’ve left her a long time ago. But I thought, maybe that was just my own issue. I never tried to influence other friends against her.  But over time, I realised… it was not just my own issue. Because other friends also keep away from her without me even having to say a thing. 

***

Another one of my friendship policy is: I do not influence any of my friends regarding how they should perceive others who I don’t get along with. 

I mean, hey… we are not kids, here. (My gang will not mix with your gang and all such nonsense). I don’t have gangs. I have friends. They are free to make their own decision regarding who they want to be friends with. I value the principle of autonomy and freedom. I would never subject my friends to an ultimatum of “if you are her friend, then you are not my friend.” I have more self-confidence than that. Well, I have more pride than that. I don’t need to resort to such things to keep friends. In fact, I would really be upset if my friends try to dictate to me who I can be friends with. Just because I am your friend, doesn’t mean I can’t also be her friend. Just because she is your enemy, doesn’t mean I share the same opinion you have about her. 

Live and let live! Be professional. Be mature. Respect each other’s autonomy.

So, when some of my friends had asked me. “I heard that you don’t get along with her? Why?”

I never told them a single thing. I simply said, “Our personality clash. Nothing really major.”

I never tried to ‘poison’ their minds about that person. I don’t need anyone to fight my battle for me. I can handle it myself. Any of my friends are free to go out with her or talk  to her and collaborate with her… whatever. You do you.   

I believe, time will tell. Time will tell why that person is somebody I cannot tolerate.

And true enough, time did tell the rest of my friends what is it about the person I simply couldn’t stand. Slowly, I watched how people came to me and said “Now, I know.” 

In general, I don’t do public fights or snappy comebacks in Whatsapp groups. I ignore people I dislike. People I dislike do not warrant a single iota of my energy being spent thinking about them. 

However, all bets are off if that person becomes too annoying or try to push my buttons. If you cannot take subtle hints, I will give you the obvious door-slam to shake you awake! And if you lit my fuse in public, then expect an equally public display of fireworks. I am not a doormat. And unlike others who have been secretly moaning over your behaviour, I have no problems simply being forthright to you about it. Yes, even in public.

And I didn’t try to hide my obvious displeasure at her over-involved behaviour, and at her ‘trying too hard’ to stay relevant. Funny enough, without me trying too hard to be diplomatic and ‘helpful’ and ‘over-involved’, I still keep friends. Despite my straightforward, forthright “garang” ways, me and my friends maintain our friendship. Yet her, with all her efforts… manage to piss people off and drive people away.  

Because at the end of the day, please know that friendship comes from a place of genuine regard, respect and acceptance. Never manipulation! Once you have reached a level of comfort in your friendship, friends will tolerate each other’s bossiness, quirks and habits. Because they remember all the good times they’ve had with you and would not ditch you when you are occasionally being difficult. Haha. But if people were never comfortable with you in the first place, and you’ve never had a place in their hearts because of your general annoying habits, do you think people will tolerate your bossiness, quirks and habits? NO WAY!!

Please know that the worst thing you can do to a budding friendship is you trying to force the natural way a friendship should develop at its INITIAL stage by all your manipulative “I am such a helpful person” behaviour. Without you knowing it, you are taking away their autonomy and freedom. And instead of being thankful to you, they wish you to perdition! They feel smothered and suffocated by your over-involvement and your ‘helpfulness’. 

Some people can take the hint when people are put off by their behaviour and they will back off. But some people are oblivious to diplomacy and tact. Getting them to read between the lines is as painfully slow as pulling teeth. So sometimes, you need to be assertive.

When push comes to shove, I will push, shove and slam-dunk! Then you know, that you won’t get away treating me the way you have been treating others before. Others have tolerated and avoided having to deal with your bossiness. But not me. Never me. I don’t tolerate rubbish and nonsense coming from anyone! 

I will deal with you! So that you yourself won’t want to deal with me again.

So remember, not everyone you can poke at without you being poked back! Certainly not me. And if my friends are like me (and most of them are), certainly not them too. We are a bunch of independent, go-getter ladies who give as good as we get. We are not going to depend and rely on anyone without bringing along our own judgment and autonomy.

And most certainly, we are not going to rely on bossy people trying too hard to stay relevant. 

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This is what  an INTJ thinks when people talk non-stop (or whatsapp non-stop). Come on, that’s harassment, ok.

 

Adieu, Compulsive Fiction Reading

I think I have come to that saturation age where fictions have stopped being exciting. (God, I sound so old).  

Guys, I am grieving.

I am grieving over the fact that I no longer have the time to read commercial fiction. When I finally do read fiction, I didn’t get the same kind of enjoyment that I used to get as a child (like any addiction, this is a symptom of tolerance, perhaps). Nothing surprises me anymore. I could guess the plot half-way into the novel that by the time I reached the end of it, I felt like “meh, is that it?”

I still remember how Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code amazed me throughout the whole time I was reading it when I was 20 years old. But his latest book ‘Origin’ that came out a few months ago, well, I just didn’t get the same kind of buzz from it. I imagine, if I were to read Origin at the age of 18 or 19, I would get pretty excited and couldn’t wait to discuss it with my sisters and friends. Now? I just went, “Same old, same old, Dan Brown!Can’t you create better stories? Ok… you are good at writing because you are Dan Brown. But why can’t I enjoy it as I used to? Is it you? Or is it me?”  

I was just as upset with the latest book in The Millennium series ‘The Girl Who Take An Eye for An Eye.’ I was disappointed by how simple the plot really is. I used to feel really excited when halfway through the first novel in the series (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo) I still couldn’t figure out who the culprit was. I even enjoyed the second, third and fourth instalment of the series. But this latest book felt flat and plain uninteresting to me. 

Is this anhedonia, or what? (Hahah. But my appetite, sleep, function and most of everything else is normal. So don’t worry about me, ok). 

***

Let me tell you how reading fiction used to feel.

I daydreamed about it at school. I prevaricated (read: lied to my father) that I had a kelas tambahan or latihan sukan at school so that I could get my reading time at my school library (I finished the whole Nancy Drew Series in Asma School library. And then I started on other mystery series by Enid Blyton interspersed with the series featuring Alfred Hitchcock and The Three Investigators. All of them were read in the school library. Because at home, I had other academic tasks to do and would not be excused from them by my parents.) I hid library books that I hadn’t finished reading during recess, by placing the book in different shelves (in between revision books far away from the actual shelf it should be placed) so that other students would not be able to get to it until I was done with it. And the reason I did that was because most of the time,  I had reached the quota of books I could borrow and therefore could not borrow any more. And thus, the only alternative I had was to hide the book from other students. (I was bad, bad bad. And I did that while being a school librarian *facepalm*. In my own defence, it was my elder sister who taught me to do it because she too had done the same thing. After all, desperate times call for desperate measures. Hahaha.). 

In MRSM Langkawi, I became a school librarian again so that I could spend my time in the library for, ehem, librarian duties (haha) instead of having to be in  the class for prep.

For birthdays and rewards, I wanted fiction. I saved half my school money to buy fiction every month. The anticipation was half the pleasure. Like I said, I daydreamed about them. 

When I finally got my hands on the book I had been daydreaming of, the happiness was immense and intense. When I finally started to actually read the book, my mind was empty of other things. And I was transported to another land… I was there with the characters… doing all the detecting, thinking the same thing the characters were thinking or speculating, going through the same adventures, the same trials and heartaches and facing the same evil force. And when they triumphed at the end, it felt like it was me who had succeeded. Whenever something sad or something bad happened to me, I would remember to be like the heroes that I read; heroes don’t give up, they push harder until they win, they never give in to the evil force; if they die, they will die with honour while accomplishing a critical mission.

To me, reading fiction was all the motivation and inspiration that I needed.

I didn’t need to read books like “How to be happy in 10 simple steps”…. or “La Tahzan,”… or “Chicken Soup For Whatever”…I don’t think I would follow the advice in such books anyway (I know some people love reading non-fiction self-improvement, self-help and motivational books like that. And as a psychiatry doctor, you might think it is weird that I don’t read books like that. But to be honest, I was never able to finish such a book, alas)

Books like “7 habits of highly effective people”, I could never finish them! If I wanted to be effective, I thought of Sherlock Holmes. If I wanted  to be kind and fair, I thought about Atticus Finch (To Kill A Mocking Bird). If I wanted to push myself to do the right thing and be firm, I thought  about the story of Umar Al-Khattab. 

I was motivated by stories. Not self-help books or motivational books. 

So, a large part of my life was influenced by fiction. And I enjoyed them… so much…. until recently.

Well, actually, when I really think about it, I started noticing my lack of enjoyment since early 2016. I still loved reading fictions in 2016….but the feeling was not the same as when I was a teenager or even as when I was a HO. The level of enjoyment and excitement was not like before. It still gives me pleasure, but it wasn’t as intense. 

Am I becoming jaded? ‘I have read everything, I knew everything, no author can surprise me anymore’ kind of jaded? 

Or am I just finally grown up?  Haha. Maybe all these while, I was still a kid trapped in a woman’s body. And now, my soul finally catches up with my physical body, wrinkles and all. Haha. (When you think about it, books are like my toys. If you ask a girl aged 4 years old about whether or not she would ever find playing with barbie dolls a boredom, I am sure she could not imagine being in the position of not loving barbie dolls ever. Because at 4 years old, that was the only thing she knew to find pleasure in. That was the only thing important enough at that age. Her world is small and limited. And in that limited world, Barbie Doll is the best! But when that girl reaches a certain age, barbie dolls will stop being entertaining anymore. Now, there are video games, and school sports and academic stuff to focus on. So her attachment to Barbie Dolls diminished.  Maybe, I am just like that girl. It’s just that with me, because books are varied by different genres and different characters, it took me longer to detach myself).

In 2016… things happened that made me reevaluate how I used my time (like how I could have died in an accident that happened in Ramadan 2016; and when I survived the ordeal unscathed, I had wondered whether there are things in this world that I am supposed to accomplish that go far beyond fiction reading; things I must accomplish before I can finally meet my Maker) 

And then there was the exam… I took my Part A in December 2016. 

Since then… reading fiction makes me feel guilty. I used to be able to forget everything when I read… but now, even as I am reading Jeffrey Archer or Dan Brown, my mind was thinking about the house chores I haven’t done or the academic stuff I haven’t mastered, or the fact that I should visit my parents this weekend because last weekend I had already stayed at my house reading. It lessened my enjoyment of my fiction considerably because I just couldn’t be as absorbed as I used to. Adulthood, responsibilities… they stopped me from being absorbed… and therefore I couldn’t enjoy it as much as I used to. (Well, make no mistake. I am not saying I don’t enjoy reading at all now. Because I do… reading is still my number one hobby. I just didn’t get as much euphoria with it now.) 

Then, there was also that soft whisper in my heart telling me that I could die tomorrow not accomplishing anything worthy in this life because I was busy reading fiction. That other people got involved in NGOs, doing charities, organising events for the greater good of the community… they were out there doing things that are good for others, that would benefit them in the hereafter. (I really do admire my friend Dr. T… she is so devoted to her NGO. Me? I have issues about committing to an organization. I am afraid of restrictions, ‘kepatuhan kepada pemimpin’ and group thinking and all that. In fact, I have trust issues with any hierarchical organization… I just don’t like it. I will avoid belonging to one if I can help it. But then, another friend of mine who knew my issues had recited to me an old African proverb “If you want to go fast, go alone. But if you want to go far, go together”. This is why people join NGOs or any organization despite all the hassles! Because they want to go far. Because they know they can’t do much to benefit the society when they are alone. But hah… my aversion to hierarchical organization always rein me in. Each and every time, I just couldn’t do it.) 

I saw people who become the best at what they do because they spend the bulk of their time on their career. For example, maybe I should spend my time by doing a study on some aspect of psychiatry that I can then publish in a reputable journal. Maybe I should spend my time writing a book about psychiatry for lay people. Maybe I should do a vlog in you tube for education purposes. (I followed a few dermatologists who created a youtube channel talking about skin care and busting the myth of beauty products out there, educating their viewers with their knowledge so that their viewers can make better life choices. I mean, that is a very useful way to spend your time, right… by making educational videos and at the same time promoting your service at your practice! Such a clever and business-savvy thing to do!) 

Below is an example of a dermatologist-youtuber, Dr. Davin Lim, whose videos I actually find very educational. He spends his energy on educating the public while at the same time attracting a lot of future clients to his private practice. That is brilliant marketing without being shallow or cringe-worthy.

Look at Neelofa guys! She is so successful. Maybe this is why people become successful… they focus their energy and their free time doing beneficial things that directly or indirectly propel their career and their life forward! 

When Neelofa has an instagram account… that instagram account actually serves a purpose of promoting her product and herself as a brand. 

Look at Vivy Yusuf… her instagram, her blog and her you tube channel all serve a purpose to promote her business.

And that’s why she and Neelofa made the Forbes 30 under 30 list last year! 

Look at us, ordinary people. Our instagram and Facebook accounts are used just for fun. Not for career purposes or anything really meaningful. When Neelofa and Vivy actually update their accounts, there is a higher purpose to it other than simply updating or checking in just for ‘fun’ or just for the heck of it. 

See? We waste our time! Our time and energy are scattered and unfocussed.

Maybe  if I were a journalist or an English teacher or a novelist, I can justify how much time I spend reading fiction because reading fiction would inspire more ideas and improve my language command which I could then use in my career as a journalist/English teacher/ novelist. 

But I am a doctor. I should spend more time reading doctor’s stuff, right? *sigh*

So either I give up reading fiction, or I change my career? 

Or…. I must tell myself that I can only read fiction sparingly because there are other things that are more important in life that deserve my time more. And I have to make myself happy with just that! Happy with just sparing reading. (Can I do that?)

Can I be happy struggling with myself to read journal articles instead of commercial fiction? I don’t know. But the need for me to moderate my obsession is there… especially now that my enjoyment in reading is dimmed by my own realisation that I should spend my time better. That there are bigger things in life other than my own selfish enjoyment. (cognitive dissonance is really wreaking havoc with my ego! I am in the eternal battle between my id and my superego)

This really feels like a relationship break-up, you know. Actually, it’s like a divorce. Haha. (When I think about it, this break-up has been coming gradually for the past few years. I was just never ready to admit it. In fact, the crack started slowly in medical school even as my seniors were telling me that I should spend more time reading Islamic books. I have had attacks of cognitive dissonance on and off since then….but I held on because reading fiction was my first love. But I guess, I grow up now and have become more matured. Like the girl with the barbie doll. Maybe I am more ready to give up fiction now when I never was before.)

  

And therefore now, I am grieving. Because once upon a time, reading fiction has been a beautiful journey and experience to me. I said before how it shaped my character; it gave me my ideals and principles and philosophy. The fact that I could write a blog, compose a poetry and express myself in writing like this… I owe all of it to fiction reading. Once upon a time, when I was a kid, a teenager and a young adult, fiction reading was very important to me and I revolved my time and my life around it. I turned to fiction reading during times of sadness and tribulations as well as during times of happiness. Fiction reading to me is like a toddler’s version of a favourite blanket or a bantal busuk that the toddler needs when his mother is not around. To the toddler, the blanket and the pillow is a substitute mother that calms his anxiety when his mother has to leave him. 

Fiction reading was my emotional crutch. 

So this, indeed, feels like a break-up. Like I am saying good bye to a certain lifestyle I have always known. 

But eventually, everyone leaves their attachment blanket and pillow behind. They have to… in order to mature and break away from their restrictive cocoon. 

But I remember a story that has been told numerous times before that will console my grief. The story of rocks, pebbles and sands and how they all can fit in a glass jar. I admit now, my fictions have been my sands all these times.

 

It’s time to make more room for rocks and pebbles, eh?

 I am really going to do this, insya-Allah. I am so ‘berkobar-kobar’ right now, that I will be surprised if you cannot feel my enthusiasm as you read my post. LOL. 

But for now, I need some time to properly grieve.  *sigh*

Adieu, compulsive fiction reading. Adieu!

 

 

P/S:

I do feel quite moody lately. Is it because of the psychological withdrawal of not reading fiction? Haha. Been restraining myself from reading fiction since the start of the new year. (This is part of my new year resolution!) That means I have not been reading fiction for the past one month! Detoxifying from fiction is really full of suffering, guys. *sigh*

CBT

Now my replacement therapy is this non-fiction I am currently reading, a book on Cognitive Behaviour Therapy authored by Judith S. Beck (she is the daughter of Aaron Beck. Aaron Beck is the father of Cognitive Therapy, which is one of the most commonly used psychotherapy in the psychiatry field) which I had ordered online straight from the UK. So far, I am not bored yet because this is directly related to my work. But Wallahi, there are times when I seriously pine for the next mystery and thriller. 

Ya Allah, grant me patience. Can’t do it without Your help.  

Glorious

I was sitting in my room, in front of my laptop, thinking whether I should break the bad news first or the good news first to my dear blog readers. Finally, after a long, hard contemplation, I decided to break the bad news first so that the good news later can heal whatever pain the bad news might have caused. Say  Hooray! to logical progression (the Afiza’s version, anyway). Haha.

My dear readers, I have a bad news.

I failed….

….I failed to honour my post-exam promise. In fact, I have broken them so many times, I am embarrassed to even own up to the count. But yeah… I have gone berserk reading many fiction books for the past few weeks (not only one book per week as I had promised to do. My justification was “Nanti result exam keluar, you won’t be able to enjoy reading anymore. So do it now!”). I also have not started studying consistently every day as I had promised I would be doing (I am terrible, I know. I don’t like studying because I like fiction more. Haihh!) I also have not started reading any non-fiction or religious books yet (Yeah… I am hedonistic. Afiza is always ‘lagha’ and is always utterly lost in her fantasy world of fiction where everything is fair in the end and justice prevails, and the good shall always win and the bad will always perish. Haha). But I did socialize more in an effort to be erm, nice and more savvy at mingling with society… I went out a few times with friends and colleagues (when in fact, I’d rather be in bed, reading. Surprisingly, I did enjoy myself after I got over the fact that I had to postpone my reading in order to make time for socializing).

Have patience with me. I am learning to slowly give up letting fiction-reading monopolize all my free time. I am slowly building up the momentum. One day insya Allah… I will reach my target to reduce my fiction preoccupation to only one reading per week. You see… it takes time and training to alter a habit of a lifetime. I cannot do it drastically because I will surely fail at it! All my life… I read fiction almost every day! All my life! I am trying to change my unhealthy ways… to fill my mind with more academic and factual things than fanciful stories… but don’t expect abrupt result. I am only human, after all. Haha.

Well.. now that I have gotten the bad news over with, here comes the great part. Are you guys ready for the good news? *excited grin*

The good news is, Alhamdulillah, somehow, miraculously, GLORIOUSLY… I passed my MRCPsych Exam Part B. Alhamdulillah, Alhamdulillah, Alhamdulillah.

Allah, The Most Gracious, The Most Merciful, has been so gentle towards me. So merciful and so benevolent is He towards His undeserving slave. What did I do to deserve this happiness, I knew not.  But if Allah’s blessing must be earned, then I shall never be able to earn it. It is His Grace towards His slave… nothing I could ever do would ever qualify me for His  boundless mercy. I can only thank Him that He decided to have mercy on me regardless of my various sins and shortcomings.

Ya Allah, You know me in all my flaws. Yet,  You grant me happiness still. How patient You are with me. I am overwhelmed by everything I didn’t deserve that You bestowed to me regardless.  I can never say Alhamdulillah enough but I mean every single one sincerely and deeply.

***

I would like to share with you how truly epic my suffering for Part B was. I didn’t share this part of my Part B journey before, because I was preoccupied in worrying about whether or not I would actually pass. Now that I knew I have passed, I am more open to talking about stuff.

I was a pain in the proverbial ass for everyone around me throughout the duration of my Part B effort. At the start of my study leave, when I found out how MUCH I had to cover, I promptly shut myself off in my house, not replying my family’s whatsapp messages and limiting my involvement in the rest of the Whatsapp’s groups that I belonged to. All my friends were like “Afiza memang jenis ‘out of sight, out of mind’. Bila dia exam, tak ingat benda lain dah. Takut nak kacau Afiza, nanti dia marah.” Hahah. They were joking, of course. They knew I value all my friendships… but I am the sort of person who place priorities where they belong according to the level of their urgencies. I am not a social person, even in the best of time. And since exam is really NOT the best of time, I have a tendency to regress to my old self even more. My schizoid personality traits become more prominent when I am preoccupied. Haha. Friends who are very close to me did not mind that I was less responsive to their jokes/conversation in the whatsapp groups. They already knew me and they knew I would be back once the exam was over.

20171007_095615-1.jpg
How messy my work station was during my study leave! Believe me, I am not usually this sloppy.  *sheepish grin* The messiness of my desk is proportionate to the level of my preoccupation at any single time. 

Alhamdulillah for my parents and my family. They didn’t take it personally when I didn’t reply their messages promptly or when I did not answer their phone calls occasionally (because I was either sleeping my exhaustion away or simply couldn’t be bothered to turn on my phone). They have been so supportive. You see, I am a whiner (But I only whine to those who are close to me. Dengan orang lain, buat budget cool, tak cakap apa-apa. Haha). And they patiently listened to all my self-doubts and my incessant complaints about how I never get to enjoy my life  since I was young because I was always struggling with one exam after another! (I exaggerated, of course! I love my life when there are no exams)

My mother and my youngest sister accompanied me for my exam because they wanted to go sight-seeing in Singapore as well. (hotels and flights sponsored by my father.  Muchas Gracias, Papito! We love you!) I was studying my short notes throughout the journey from Kedah-KLIA-Singapore when an overwhelming sense of impending doom assailed my senses. (Hahah. Drama queen MUCH?) I was so tensed because I knew there were so many things I had already forgotten. I was saying to myself “How the heck am I going to answer my exam tomorrow if I have forgotten many stuff I have already read?” You see, there were so many materials to cover…. some of them I had read many weeks before but I didn’t get the opportunity to revisit them since (because I couldn’t read everything TWICE when I was struggling to just finish reading everything at least once. LOL ) So I was FRANTIC, going through everything all over again 2 days prior to my exam. At the same time, I did such a good job of stressing myself out with self-torturous blame “You should have studied sooner. You should have studied consistently. Of course you couldn’t read everything twice, because previously you were busy reading fiction! If you fail, you know you deserve the heartache.”

Hahah. See? I was really neurotic, even I cannot stand being around myself… so I don’t know how other people do it! (Unfortunately for my family, they have no choice. They have to be around me regardless and they have to love me anyway. I feel sorry for them. Haha.)

I was frowning and becoming inwardly annoyed at random people in the airport who were coughing, crying, laughing or clearing their throats. The slightest, most innocent thing that they did had the power to distract me when I really needed to focus at that time. I couldn’t remember how many times I had to take a deep breath in to calm myself down so that I would not glare at those random people menacingly. (Haha. Because if I were to do that, it would be very unreasonable of me, right?)

My mom turned to me and said “Kak Ngah… mak tau kak ngah boleh pass punya. Tak payah study dah. Kalau macam ni kak ngah lagi stress kan?”

“Mana boleh tak study, mak. Angah dah lupa semua benda. Angah kena study juga. Angah dah ready untuk tak tidur malam ni. Kalau tak, esok mesti angah tak boleh jawab.” (Yup… I only slept 2 hours the night before my exam. Until now, I can feel myself yawning just remembering how sleepy I felt at that time and YET I couldn’t sleep because I was so nervous!)

My youngest sister rolled her eyes and turned my worry into a comedy with her facebook status. (All my siblings love making fun of me. They said I am the most ‘garang’ in the family. But I think, I am not ‘garang’ enough actually. A ‘garang’ person won’t be made fun of as consistently and completely as this!)

Screenshot 2017-11-04 07.03.40

(I was posing behind my mom with my smiley face, like everything was cool and I had no stressor whatsoever. Hahaa. So, don’t believe everything you see in the social media, including all those great pictures of people having fun in facebook and instagram. Those pictures are not real and almost 90% of them are mere acts! Even though I was smiling, there really was nothing amusing at that time about my inner struggle worrying for how I would do in my exam the next day. So yeah, this was my fake smile! It looked genuine, though. Haha.) 

Initially, I didn’t even want to go to dinner. I told them that I just wanted to lock myself in the hotel room to study. But then I felt horribly guilty… I couldn’t bring myself to abandon my mother with  my youngest sister (whose sense of direction was non-existent, I think. I think I am the most travel-savvy person among the three of us. Haha). How would I cope if they got lost in the city? Instead of studying the night away, I would be frantic searching for them if they didn’t make it back to the hotel. Rather than worrying about the possibility of them being lost or getting in trouble in a foreign country, (in which case, I would not be able to concentrate with my studies anyway) I might as well just join them for a quick dinner.

And that was what I did. Look at how good I was at faking my smiles as though I was enjoying myself. All for the sake of taking pictures! Hahah. Behind the scene, I was like “Jom mak, cepat makan. Angah nak balik study ni.” LOL. I was in such a hurry I forgot to take pictures of the food. *facepalm* Sometimes, I wonder how my family can bear with me and my occasional bossy ways! I thank God for them every day of my life.

On the exam day itself, I was a nervous wreck. I was sleepy, exhausted and cranky. Two hours before my exam, I arrived at the Trent College and huddled myself at a tiny corner to continue revising my study materials. But Wallahi, I couldn’t concentrate for long. So, I decided to stop studying one hour prior to my exam time. My brain couldn’t take it anymore. I could feel that my brain was fatigued and it would not be good if I walked into the exam hall in this pitiful condition. I walked around the area, doing my breathing and relaxation technique. I bought Coca-Cola and drank it slowly, savouring the taste fully (Coca-Cola was my favourite childhood drink. I boycotted Coke when I was a medical student as a protest against their support to the Zionist cause. But occasionally, I would indulge my craving. I especially crave for Coke when I am stressed. If you see me drinking Coke, you know the reason for it. When I first started boycotting Coke, it was hard for me. But these days, I could go for months without touching Coke. In fact, when I was a medical student, I went for years without it. Alhamdulillah, I am no longer that obsessed with Coke. Now, if only I can replicate my success with Coke when it comes to reading fiction, I would be a very happy woman, indeed.). 

As I was walking around the area with Coke in my hand, I gave myself a pep talk. “You know, everything has been written. You have done your part. It would never be perfect. You can only do so much. Exam is like marriage. You are never ready until you have no choice but to do it.” (Hahha. Yeah, I can crack a stupid joke when I am stressed. But at least, I was laughing while thinking it out. That calmed my nerves a bit.)

I said a lot of istighfar. I talked to Allah a lot in that last hour. I told Him all my worries and how much I was dependent on Him alone. I remember the prayer of Prophet Musa  when he was stranded in the desert of Madyan, a lone wanderer with only the clothes on his back as his wordly possession. He had said to Allah, “Aku ini terhadap apa sahaja kebaikan yang Engkau turunkan padaku, tersangatlah fakir.” I am in need of whatever help you can bestow on me. Whatever help, in whatever form, anything… I need it.  At that point, I had run out of effort already.

As I have mentioned before, the exam itself was hard. One third of 200 plus questions were on statistics and critical appraisal alone. There were a lot of maths and stats. (I have  hated maths all my life!). By rights, I should not spend more than 54 seconds per question. But I’d spent so much time on critical appraisal and statistics that there was very little time left for the clinical part. (The reason I had used up so much time on the statistics section was because I had my OCD attack at that time. The questions in the statistic section was long and required deeper analysis. And I calculated, recalculated, and reconfirmed my answers over and over again. So I ended up spending more time on statistics than I should) I went into my panic mode when I discovered that I still had 60 questions to answer in the 30 minutes time that I had left. So at that point, I had to answer every question in 30 seconds without bothering to think carefully. For the last 60 questions of my Part B paper, I just went with my instantaneous instinct.

What I did actually violated every principle of my usual exam-taking SOP. I am the sort of person who would go through each answer before I commit to the right one. Even when the question is obvious and I can already see the right answer straightaway in one of the options, I STILL need to go through in my head why other answers are wrong. For example, I would talk to myself inside my head, “The question asks about this. Answer A is wrong because of this. Answer B is wrong because of this and this. Answer C is wrong because it is not relevant. Answer D is wrong because the question was more specific. So, Answer E is correct because….bla bla..” 

I rely on that procedure so much in my exam-taking career so far! For every single question, I would do that mental debate with myself. Check and recheck, and tell myself my reason for choosing or not choosing each option; why each option is wrong or right! I never deviated from the procedure before. When I was doing Part A, I did the same procedure for every single question and it was hard to do. I ended up having just enough time for Part A. But I was still able to stick to that procedure.

But this time, with 60 questions left in 30 minutes, I rushed through every question and shaded the answer without bothering to do my usual reasoning! At the end of the exam, I felt terrible! I felt like I was totally dependent on pure luck and very little on my reasoning prowess. Honestly, I felt that I was being reckless with this exam! But what choice did I have? Should I be reckless or should I be careful but end up leaving some questions unanswered for lack of time? The choice was obvious at that point, wasn’t it? Looking back,  I didn’t feel I could do any better. “If you have to be reckless, then you have to be reckless, Afiza. You have to do what you have to do.”

When my parents asked me how I did during my exam, I was earnest when I said, “I did the worst I have ever done!” 

So when I saw my exam result yesterday, I was simply overjoyed. Another miracle in my life, thank God. After all the headaches, heartaches, worries and tears, interspersed with prayers, hopes and wishes, Allah gave me something joyous.

And Alhamdulillah, it was glorious!

 

Glorious

In the silence of the night,
It was You that brought me the light.
In my frustrated mental wrath, 
You guided me to the straight path.
It was You who hushed my mental niggle,
With consoling  words into my mind,
“Be brave, dear slave, in your struggle,
Believe me in the end you shall find,
That the outcome shall be glorious.”

So I toiled, I burned the midnight oil,
So I prayed, remembering what You said,
“To seek help through patience and prayer”
Those reminders a soothing balm to my ear
That calmed the chaotic mess in my mind
Telling me to “oh, be brave in your struggle
Because in the end you shall find,
That the outcome shall be glorious.” 


So I charged ahead, went to war,

fought the battle, to reach the bar,
thinking I would never win,
that I was surely now beaten,
Except something great happen,
Something marvellous,
Nothing short of miraculous. 
Dear Allah, as you promised, 
It was glorious. 


I lowered my head to the ground,
To You I am eternally bound,
I thought aloud, it echoed in my mind.
“It is You, oh Allah, the Glorious One.”

-Afiza Azmee-
3/11/17
9.50 pm

P/S: My mother said in a joking manner, “Nasib baik Kak Ngah pass, kalau tak habislah kita semua malam ni. Mak pun akan pening kepala sekali.” Alida laughed and added  “Aku rasa Allah bagi hang pass sebab Allah kesian kat kami. Kalau hang tak pass, kami semua akan stress sekali. So actually, hang pass demi kemaslahatan kami semua”. Hahha. Yup, they love making joke at my expenses! Really, I am just not ‘garang’ enough! 

Why Taking An Exam Is Good For You

The real title of this post should be:

Why Taking An Exam Is Good For You : An Attempt By The Author At Positive Thinking When Facing Mental Torture And Suffering.

Haha.

But it’s too long for a blog post title, no? So I decided to make it concise and do all the necessary elaboration in the actual post itself.

Joke aside, I personally, do believe that taking an exam is good for you, not just intellectually, but also spiritually (and when you actually pass the exam, it is also good for you emotionally as it raises your self-esteem; even when you KNEW that your success has very little to do with your own effort and ONLY because Allah has blessed you with it.)

My study leave has just started today for one month! Woot! Woot! #Happiness

But instead of studying today, I spent half my day sleeping (because I only had 2 hours of not-so-good-sleep last night) and the other half of my day was spent blogging and reading (ehem, I read non-academic books. I told myself that this is one last fiction that I would read before I start studying SERIOUSLY).  I think I deserve the rest after the crazy hectic on-call I had last night! I should have known that I can never get away with a relaxing on-call on my last day of working before my study leave. The universe just never works that way with me. I am not the sort of person who subscribes to the notion that certain colours can exacerbate or reduce the level of on-call hecticness (aka jonah-ness). But I had worn black blouse, black pants, grey shawl and cream shoes (just in case, you know.) All those are very unobtrusive, non-striking colours. But I think, God has punished me for doing that! Maybe He is saying “You should have known that colours have NOTHING to do with jonah! That’s khurafat and you should have known that. You claimed you don’t believe such a thing! But your action proved otherwise! Now, here you go! You are, hereby, punished with the most unrestful on-call you have ever had for a long while! Enjoy!!”

Okay, God… I admit, I deserve it. Please forgive my stupidity! I will actively wear red next time I am on-call. I will prove to You once again that I don’t believe such a stupid khurafat of jonah-colour crap ever again! *facepalm*

Since I am officially on my leave for a month for studying, this post is my attempt at pumping myself up for the upcoming exam.

Here it is! My list of reasons of why taking an exam is good for you! (If you can make yourself believe it. Heheh)

1)It feeds your intellect.

This is, like, self-explanatory and self-evident. Human beings are intellectual creatures. One of the core feature that differentiates human beings from other creatures in  the animal kingdom is the fact that we are a thinking, analytical machine by virtue of having a mind, and not just a brain. The brain is the physical element of our thinking machine. It is the hardware that most animals possess in varying degrees and levels. Whereas, our mind is the sophisticated software that turns our brain into a functioning one. 

And every software must be updated to keep it relevant! But some people are too lazy to update their software (their minds!) because they are comfortable with the way things are already. They didn’t know what they didn’t know (and therefore their ignorance is bliss) and what they already knew has been enough to keep them going, so far. (I mean, I went for on-calls just fine with what little knowledge I had before taking Part A and before studying for Part B, right? Even without studying for any exam, what little knowledge I had was enough before, no?!) So, of course, in such a situation, no one would have the impetus to want to update their software. Because you don’t really have the urgent need to do so!

Then, comes the scary exam! NOW! Now,  the impetus and the urge to update the software intensify! And you can no longer postpone the update process this time. Hahha.

Lazy people like me need exams to read something academic. Otherwise, I will only read fiction. I can’t help myself! I am not really an academician (that would be my elder sister!) and I hate studying, until I am forced to do it. At which point, I will tell myself ‘you have to do what you have to do, Afiza’ and I will then start studying regardless of how I feel about it. 

So, exam is great because it forces you to upgrade your brain software in a manner you would not be motivated to do, otherwise.

So, yup, I love exams! (Ehem!)

 

2)It feeds your spirituality

This is quite difficult to explain. Because this is only my personal experience with regards to exam.

The thing is… I pray more during the time of exam. *sheepish grin*

I am usually an early sleeper and also an early riser. I am not the sort who would sleep after subuh because my most productive time is in the morning! When exam is near, I rise even earlier to study. Sometimes, I was up at 3.00 a.m.

Wallahi, I don’t have the highest level of iman to always perform the tahajjud prayer every night like some other  more pious people out there.  When I was a medical student, I used to wake up early for studying and simply got started on studying straight away. But, perhaps the usrah sessions were so successful in changing my dunia-oriented self (my naqibah should be proud of her achievement in changing me, lol) that  there was always this feeling of guilt inside my heart telling me “You are soooo dunya!  You can wake up early to study for exam, but you cannot offer a few minutes of tahajjud prayer? Afiza, buck up, will you?!”

The guilt prompted me to be more worshipful, I think. It brings me closer to God.

But there are times when I questioned my own intention. “Do you pray all these sunnat prayer because you are really being more pious now, or is this just a temporary thing while you are struggling with exam?”

Errmm…..

Well, I don’t think I am the only one like this. Most of my friends are like me too. We even talked about it and discussed the issues when we were in med school. And we came up with a conclusion that everything needs a level of forcing (and a conscious effort) before it can become a routine that would evolve into a sincere deed. The same thing goes to fasting and the obligatory 5 prayers. When we were kids, we were forced to do all those things before they became something that we now do sincerely, right?

All I can say is, please God, correct my intention and make it easy for me. I mean, really, life is a struggle and we all have our own personal jihad. This one is mine! Once upon a time, I did not even feel guilty when I didn’t offer tahajjud and simply started on studying straight away. Now, at least, I do feel something whenever I abandon my tahajjud in favour of immediately starting my study. So, that is an improvement, right? Hopefully, if my intention needs correcting, Allah will help me correct it as I go along. Amin.

 

3)It builds character

If you pass your exam, you learn to be grateful. You see people who have taken the same exams multiple times and work as hard as you do and yet they still do not pass… and you are grateful that Allah has eased your way for you. You know, your effort does not guarantee anything. You are only doing your end of the bargain. The other end is totally up to Allah. Allah does not guarantee anything out of your effort but Allah asks you to put in the effort, regardless.

tie your camel

 

On the other hand, if you fail your exam, you learn the concept of humility. And you develop the character of persistence, perseverance and grit, as you push yourself to take the exam another time. And another time. And another time. (But God, please, not another time. Hahah).

The prophet had said, whatever happens in the affair of a believer is good! Remember?

affairs of believer

Whether you pass or you fail, it is good! So don’t worry about it (but honestly, I am just an ordinary human being. Of course I worry about it. LOL! But only to a certain point, and then no further! This is how I keep my life sane. Whatever I feel…. it will only be up to a certain point, and then no more. Whether it is sadness, grief, fear, pain, love…. I will put a limit to it in terms of intensity and duration! And then, my rationality will kick in, and hopefully, I will make myself do the right thing. Learn to feel the right thing. I think that is the best Modus Operandi for not getting a mood disorder when we are assailed by life’s trials and tribulations. Put a limit! And tell yourself, that’s it!)

 

4) Exams make me read something I would not otherwise have read. And exams make me watch/listen to YOU TUBE videos I would not otherwise have watched/listened. Exams broaden my horizon!

I would be lying if I said that I only study academic books without taking any ‘lagha’ rest in between. Seriously, I am not an angel. I have to rest, you know. Haha. 

When I am not facing any exam, I don’t feel guilty reading commercial fiction, or listening to pop songs or watching movies on the internet and you tube.

But when exam is near, my superego told me that I MUST use all that time for studying ONLY and reading something ‘lagha’ like a mystery or a thriller or a fantasy would make me feel so damn guilty!  But my id wants me to rest and read fiction. So then, my ego forces my id and my superego to compromise by making me read a non-fiction book or  a classic literature, instead. This is actually how I started reading non-fiction books such as ‘The Doctor In The House’ (autobiography of Dr. Mahathir) or ‘The Authorised Biography of Nelson Mandela’ and ‘Moonwalking With Einstein’. (I comfort myself by saying that when I read those books, it is not exactly wasting precious study time. Because reading non-fiction actually update my store of general knowledge, even when it is not academic-specific. But it is STILL knowledge, right? Then the guilt is settled and I get to relax. hahah.)

When I want to rest from studying, instead of picking up the latest John Grisham/David Baldacci/Matthew Reilly/Jeffrey Archer books (all of them are my favourite commercial fiction authors) I picked up best-selling non-fiction books that I would never read otherwise. And I will surprise myself when I discover something new and I will feel amazed that I could enjoy other books other than my usual commercial fiction. 

Likewise, instead of watching YOU TUBE videoclips of western pop songs (I am sorry, God), I actually listen to nasyid. Hahah. This is how I come to know a lot of nasyids when I was in medical school. Thanks to exam! (My sisters laughed at me in disbelief when I told  them that I did listen to nasyid when I was in medical school. Because I never did, before that. I was more into Backstreet Boys and boybands etc etc and so were my sisters. So I kind of understood why they found it so surprising because even I was surprised at myself too. A lot of changes in myself happened when I was in Australia, when I think about it. I think my spiritual growth accelerated exponentially when I was in medical school overseas, where Islam was the minority. Weird, isn’t it?)

Here is one of the nasyid I actually put on repeat when I am studying.

I have also discovered classical musics by Mozart, Beethoven, Bach and Vivaldi. You can find in YOU TUBE a video with the title ‘Classical Music For Studying!’ Hahha. Really awesome! My personal favourite is Vivaldi’s Winter (Four Season), which is arguably, the best study music ever! Here is the video… listen to this and wait until you get to the chorus. Hehehe.

So you see, I have a list of what I call as my ‘study songs’. These songs are a perfect in-between that would satisify my superego and my id! So, I can enjoy my time listening to these songs in between my studies without suffering from any guilt!

When I want to watch something else other than YOU TUBE tutorials of statistics and neurology, instead of watching YOU TUBE movies like I usually do, I watch lectures by Nouman Ali Khan, Yusha Evans and Dr. MAZA instead. This is actually how I discovered these precious gems in the ummah when I was in med school. I had wanted to watch something fun when I was resting from studying, but my superego could not handle the guilt of wasting precious study time by watching ‘lagha’ movies. So I decided to watch religious lectures instead. And I discovered something even more valuable than anything else; the CORRECT understanding of my religion that years and years of studying Pendidikan Agama Islam in Malaysian schools did not give me! I also discovered the wonder of comparative studies on religion! I also found out that all those Israillyat stories that I had stupidly forced myself to believe as religious -even when my instinct cautioned me that ‘this is weird’ when I first heard it – were all really false, just like what my instinct had told me in the first place. I discovered that my religion makes sense! That it is logical! If something religious doesn’t sound logical, dig deeper, investigate further… until you find the truth! I discovered that religious authorities (even JAKIM) can be wrong and can confuse the masses! I learn to use my brain as a filter before I let ANYTHING or ANYONE to influence my idea of what is right and what is just and what is true!

And I learn to like things I never thought I would like. Now, I have started buying non-fiction and literature books even for the times when I am not studying for any exam. I have also started listening to those nice, innocent, classy ‘study songs’ even when I am not actually studying. I have also started listening to lectures at least a few times every week even when there was no exam to prepare for.

See, how exam has broaden my horizon, expanded my outlook and changed my habits even in the times  when  I am WITHOUT any exam !! It is amazing isn’t it?!

***

It is only through exams, tests, and trials that you learn to become better than you once were! Not only in academic exams but also in life exams. Your lost! Your sadness! Your fear! Your anxiety! When you face them, you can bet your life, you will be a stronger and better person for it! That is like sunnahtullah, like the law of the universe. 

So…have I convinced any of my readers that exam is good for you? I have even convinced myself at the end of this writing! Haha. Please tell me that I succeed at sounding positive about all these!

😉

Pray for me, my dear readers. I need all the prayers I can get.

Until next time, take care!

Thoughts On Trauma and PTSD

Writers, in general, find inspiration by things that happen around us. As a doctor (who happen to have an interest in writing), things that happen around me are things that happen to my patients or to my colleagues or to myself.

Lately, we have a couple of PTSD cases in our ward. One of my patients developed PTSD after being involved in a relatively minor road traffic accident. 

Just a few weeks ago, I was asked to present a topic on psychological management of patients with Burn Injury and one of the subtopic that I covered in my talk was PTSD among war veterans living with blast injuries.

And just yesterday, one of my colleagues had a minor accident on the way to work, and she jokingly said, “Oh no, I hope I don’t develop PTSD like our patient.”  She is one of the funniest person in my department but part of me feel worried if she might not be joking about her worries on developing PTSD. She admitted to me once that she is the OCD and anxious type. 

It reminded me of my own impending PTSD last year (I use the word ‘impending’ because I never actually developed one. But I could have developed one, I think, if I didn’t straight away get a grip on myself and took steps to prevent it from developing. One of the steps I took was by refusing to talk about it or mentioning it to anyone other than to my family members who knew about it. And I continued doing my daily routine as though nothing serious had ever happened to me. My method worked because Alhamdulillah, I don’t have PTSD).

All in all, I feel like this is PTSD month for me and therefore this is what I am inspired to write about.  

***

If you have read the non-fiction book ‘Shrinks: The Untold Story of Psychiatry’ by Jeffrey A. Lieberman (The Former President of American Psychiatric Association and one of the key contributor to the development of DSM III, a dramatically and drastically more systematic manual than the previous DSM I and DSM II), you will find a very interesting chapter that he wrote on how unique, personal and mysterious the development of trauma can be. 

download

Why does trauma occur in some people and not in others? And how come the development of trauma has nothing to do with the scale of danger involved? Jeffrey A. Liberman related two events that had occurred in his life; one incident was life threatening (he was held at gun point by a robber in his house), and the other was just a minor accident (he accidentally dropped an air conditioner from a multi-storey building and the air conditioner almost hit the doorman downstairs but in the end, no one was actually injured) and yet he developed PTSD over the minor accident rather than the one that might cost his life. 

Below was his own thoughts regarding how puzzling the development of trauma can be:

“What is it about traumatic events that produce such intense and lasting effects? Why does trauma occur in some people and not in others? And how do we account for its seemingly unpredictable incidence – after all, it seems rather counterintuitive that dropping an air-conditioner elicited PTSD-like effects, while a violent home invasion did not. During the latter episode, I was assaulted and my life was in genuine danger; during the air conditioner’s plunge, I never faced any physical hazard. Was there some critical factor that determined how my brain processed each event?”

When I read this particular chapter of the book, I remember thinking that “PTSD is so fascinating.”

Out of all 265 diagnoses in DSM-5, all of them are defined without any causes being explicitly referenced, EXCEPT for substance use disorder and PTSD. While we all know that drug addiction is due to actual effect of  chemical reaction leading to neural changes in your brain, PTSD is a psychological reaction to an event that produces lasting changes to a person’s mental state and behaviour. Like substance use disorder, the cause for PTSD was clear cut (unlike other diagnoses in DSM-5). Before the event, a person was mentally healthy. After the event, the person is mentally wounded. (and treating a mental wound is a whole new headache that is not as straightforward as treating a physical wound. A mental wound is something you cannot see directly. In a sense, it is like ‘benda ghaib’ that you cannot fully grasp. How do you treat a ‘benda ghaib’? It is so difficult and it can be so frustrating sometimes, trust me).

 ***

Until now, it remains a mystery to me as to why I was able to move on with my normal routine after I was involved in a major MVA last year, but in contrast, I was an emotional wreck after the passing away of my ex-classmate many years ago. 

I was very emotionally affected after the death of my ex-classmate when I was 18 years old. Something about mortality scared me as a teenager. The unpredictability of death – that it could occur to someone as young as my ex-classmate in a sudden manner – shocked me out of my complacence about life in this world. I never had to think about death before. Intellectually, I knew it could happen to anyone at any age. But spiritually, emotionally, I was just a teenager who was enjoying life and didn’t think about mystical, existential stuff like that… until the death of my ex-classmate. I was not in any danger when the news of her death was informed to me. I remember feeling shocked but I was not affected straightaway. So I could not understand why a few days later I found it difficult to sleep and this continued for months. (But my appetite was intact, Thank God. Maybe NOTHING can ever reduce my appetite. Haha).

Last year in Ramadan 2016, I had made plans to visit my sister on the weekend. We were going to meet in Tanjung Malim and we were going to hang out in KL to have some sisterly fun times. On Friday, right after my sahur meal, I made that journey to see her. It rained heavily that morning. I ALMOST did not fasten my seat belt when I started my journey. In general, I didn’t like wearing seat belt. I felt that it limited my movement and made me feel very uncomfortable to drive. But I don’t know why on that day, I decided  to fasten my seat belt. Something about the heavy rain  gave me pause and made me decide  to err on the side of caution. (I thank God for that decision every day of my life and I never again drive anywhere without fastening my seat belt.) 

I had just passed the Pendang area on the PLUS highway when I accidentally hit a big puddle of rain water while driving in high speed and all of a sudden, I lost control of my car and it spun around so many times and then it actually went into the air before it flipped over and I ended up upside down inside the car. While the whole thing was happening, my mouth only said “Ya Allah, Ya Allah, Ya Allah.” (Seriously, I could not remember the complete syahadah at that time. I guess, the complete syahadah is something I associate with dying in bed rather than while struggling with my car).  As my mouth kept uttering the name of God, my mind kept thinking that “I am going to die soon.” Then I thought of what my family members would feel. And then I remember thinking “Well, at least,  I die in the month of Ramadan.” But a glimmer of hope inside my head also said “If not death, then at the very least, you might end up in ICU.” I thought about intubation, brain injuries and chest tubes while struggling with my car.

 

I have never experienced such an absolute loss of control over anything before in my life. That was the first and only time that I truly felt that my whole fate was out of my hands (even though, when you think about it, your whole life is NEVER in your hands. You are never in complete control. Everything has been written.)

Alhamdulillah. Alhamdulillah. Alhamdulillah. I did not sustain any fractures. I did not even sustain any bruising. Not even an abrasion. I was upside down in the car a few seconds after the whole crazy movement ceased and I thought to myself “I am alive!” I still remember the song that was playing on the radio at that time while I was digesting the fact that I was alive. (It was an arabic, Amr Diab song.)

Suddenly, an elderly stranger broke the window of my car, and pulled the door open and lifted me out of the wreckage. He thought I couldn’t walk, so he just lifted me up without asking whether I could walk myself. (I remember thinking “Hopefully I am not too heavy for you.” haha) I tried to tell him that I could walk, that I sustained no injuries. But he didn’t hear me due to the heavy rain. And I was too exhausted to shout twice. I would forever be indebted to him. He was such a kind-hearted man.

He was so surprised that I was unharmed. He said, “Ingat mesti dah pengsan, patah riuk dah.” I reassured him that I was fine. I thanked him very much for helping me out of the car and for going back inside my car to retrieve my handbag, and my phone. A few people also stopped by my car to help. 

“Nasib baik kebetulan tak ada kereta lain waktu tu.” said the kind uncle. 

Yup, it was a major accident involving me and the divider only. Thank God that I did not cause any injury to anyone else. (I don’t think I could live with that.) It was because I hit the divider that had caused my car to stop spinning. But unfortunately instead of stopping, it went into the air and flipped over. And the most miraculous thing is the impact from the collision did not even trigger the air bag to deploy. If it did, I would surely have some remarkable injuries on my face.

I called my father to tell him that I was involved in an accident. I didn’t tell him how bad it was over the phone. (In my experience, whenever I was involved in an accident – even when it was not my fault – somehow he would blame my driving. I must be driving too fast, he would say. But seriously, other than this particular major accident which only involved me and a highway divider, the other accidents were not my fault… all the police reports confirmed that. How would my fast driving cause other drivers to make mistakes in their own driving? In the previous two accidents I was involved in, the other drivers themselves had admitted that it was their mistakes. My own NCB was not affected in any accidents I had had before this one) 

While waiting for him to arrive, I prepared myself mentally to be scolded by him. (Because unlike the others, this one must be my fault. I can’t exactly blame the highway divider, right? I must have lost control of my car because I hit the big puddle of water, isn’t it? So this IS my fault. And I knew I would surely ‘kena leter’). But to my surprise, my father did not say anything after he saw the condition of my car. Perhaps, after seeing how bad the accident was, he was too shocked to the point of speechlessness. Or maybe he was just relieved that I escaped without any injuries.

Because he did not scold me as I had expected, I actually burst out crying right there and then. I was holding myself really well before that. I did not burst out crying until he arrived in front of me without a word. Perhaps when I saw how very uncharacteristic the behaviour of my father was, it then really hit me that I could have died. I could not remember the last time I cried in front of my father prior to this incident. It must be many many years in the past since I have cried in front of anyone. See? Even I was behaving uncharacteristically on that day. Haha.

My father eventually made a joke “Sejak bila Kak Ngah jadi pelakon stunt, buat lagak ngeri ni?”

I laughed in the midst of tears.

On the way back home, me being a PSY MO, I thought about PTSD. I have seen a few patients who stopped driving after being in an accident. I have seen patients who have panic attack while driving. I was afraid that I might develop such symptoms. Which would be so troublesome, because I don’t want to have to depend on other people to get me to places I could so easily drive myself. That kind of dependency, resulting from unreasonable out-of-control fear, would limit my freedom. And I really love driving. Despite what my father always said, I think I am a skilful driver. (It is just that my skill is so good that it belongs in the race track. Haha.)

I started to formulate ways on how to prevent myself from developing PTSD. I didn’t know whether or not it would work, but I had made all these plans inside my head as my father was driving me home. 

1)Start Driving Again Straight Away

In one of the books I read, the protagonist develops fear of horse riding after she fell from her horse in one of her practice session. Her tutor had told the protagonist, “You should have gotten back on the horse straight away after your fall. Everybody knows that the longer you wait to get back on your horse after a fall, the harder it is to regain your confidence.” So based on that principle that I remember reading from a Sweet Valley High novel, I decided to straightaway drive my father’s Ford Ranger a few hours later in order to go to the workshop and retrieve some of my leftover stuff from my wrecked car.

My father and my mother offered to accompany me to go to the workshop since it was so soon after the accident (2 hours post-MVA!) but I told them that I had to do this by myself. I had to drive by myself because I wanted to be able to drive by myself for the rest of my life. I don’t know whether there is a window period, within which time, you must create a new experience to undo the bad ones. (this was just my theory, at that time. Not sure if it is scientifically proven or true. Haha) So, I decided to hasten the process of driving again after my accident. Alhamdulillah, I was fine. No anxiety (well, maybe just a little) and no panic attack whatsoever.

 

2)Start on your normal routine straightaway

I stayed at my parents’s house on the day of my accident to please my mother (because my mother was remembering how my cousin had passed away one day after his accident despite being discharged from A&E with no detected internal bleeding. His passing away was a shock to the whole family.) But the next day, I told them that I wanted to go back to my own house. I wanted to see whether I can stay at home by myself after the accident. Having my own space to relax and read and escape from noise and hectic environment is important to someone like me. Being able to enjoy my solitude without fear and anxiety is imperative to an introvert like me. We need our alone time in the same way we need our basic physiological needs (well, maybe not in the same way we need oxygen, but almost in the same way we need food and drinks.) I need to be able to do that. And I wanted to test my ability to do that straightaway. My mother did not approve of my plan but my father had no objection. I think my father understood the practicality of my decision… it was just as practical as my decision to start driving straightaway.

At the end of the day, we must control our anxiety and our fear by facing it head on and moving on. We must prove to ourselves as soon as possible after an event that there is nothing to be anxious about and nothing to fear. The sooner you get the ‘testing and proving phase’ done and over with, the sooner it stops having any power over you. 

Even though I had no injuries, no scratch and no abrasion whatsoever, the muscles all over my body started to ache slightly and felt a bit stiff the day after the accident. My mother suggested for me to take a leave on Sunday. But I decided not to do that. I wanted to get on with my routine as though nothing traumatic has happened. In my normal life, I get to work on Sunday, and therefore I MUST go to work on Sunday as usual.  Routine, routine, routine… my main aim was to get back to my normal routine.

The muscle ache? I just pretended  as though I had a heavy work out at the gym. 😉

 

3) I kept my accident a secret from everyone at work and even from my best friend.

On Sunday, they asked me why I was driving my father’s Ford Ranger instead of my usual Toyota Rush. I told them that I had an accident (I didn’t tell them that it was bad and it scared me shitless when it was happening. Hahha).

A few weeks later when they still saw me driving my father’s Ford Ranger, they commented that the workshop where I sent my car took too long to repair the car. I simply shrugged my shoulder and said “Yeah, I don’t know why they took so long. Maybe insurance issues or something.” I ended up getting back my car after 3 months of repair work. And my friends kept saying “Why does it take so long?” 

Hmmm… 

I just didn’t feel like talking about it. I was studying for my Part A MRCPSYCH exam at that time and I had read that debriefing was not recommended for PTSD. In my mind, I felt like talking about it might be like some sort of mini-debriefing and therefore I simply avoided talking about it by making it a secret. I think it worked.

(Deep inside, maybe I kept it a secret because I was afraid people would comment or tease me about my driving skill like my father always does. I am quite touchy about my driving. I hated it when guys think women are bad drivers. I think I am a good driver and I don’t want anyone else to think otherwise. Haha.)

 ***

So Alhamdulillah, I can really tell you that I did not get any PTSD/anxiety/fear of driving/ fear of rain/ panic attack after the accident. In fact, when I compare the emotional impact between this accident and the death of my ex-classmate, I can honestly tell you that  I was more affected by the death of my ex-classmate than this accident. I had no trouble sleeping at all after the accident.

It was weird. But as Jeffrey A. Lieberman had said, development of trauma is such a mystery. Does it have anything to do with our brain processes while the trauma was happening or our brain processes after the trauma has happened? Our amygdala, hippocampus, and our prefrontal cortex are all involved in the pathophysiology of trauma. But when do they start forming the ‘traumatic memory loop’? Why do some people never develop that loop despite whatever traumatic experiences they have gone through?

Until now, I am still wondering. Could it be that I had prevented any development of PTSD (traumatic memory loop) by normalizing my life as much as possible right after the accident? Maybe somehow, I had stopped the process of ‘traumatic memory loop’ formation by tricking my brain into thinking that everything was normal and the next day was just another day. 

Whatever it was, one of the things I told my colleague after learning about her accident was, “You must drive straightaway.”

Because it helped with me. So hopefully, it helps her too.

In the whatsapp group, all of us were sharing the pictures of our previous encounter with road traffic accidents. And needless to say, my picture won the prize of the most horrifying accident to ever happen to any of us. And then it occurred to me, “Wow, I finally talked about my accident after all these months,”

***

With my colleague’s accident, I remember again all the thoughts I had about my own accident in the aftermath.

I had thought, “Maybe I didn’t deserve a Ramadhan death, after all. I am not that good as a person.” (God, that sounds depressing but unfortunately, it is the truth. I have that much insight about my impatience and my lack-of-tact and diplomacy.)

I had thought that “Well, maybe God saved me because He loves me and He wants to give me a chance to repent and do as much good as possible while I still live.” (This sounds less depressing. Hahha)

After nearly tasting death, you realize that things that happen in this world are so insignificant that you should not stress yourself about it at all. Nearly tasting death gives you a strange sense of freedom. You knew that the most stressful thing that can happen to you is death.  And if that is the worst thing and you have nearly encountered it, what makes you think you cannot handle the rest of the other life stressors that may come your way in the future? Life is one struggle after another …so don’t be afraid, stick to your principles, speak the truth and do what is right no matter how much it would compromise your position because ‘in this world’ is your only chance.  Death can happen at any time. And thoughts of death renders everything else in this world meaningless. But paradoxically, it can motivate you rather than pull you down, if you have the right methodology in thinking about it.

I remember thinking about miracles and guardian angels after the accident. In Islam, we know about the Hafazah angel…

For each one are successive [angels] before and behind him who protect him by the decree of Allah . Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves. And when Allah intends for a people ill, there is no repelling it. And there is not for them besides Him any patron. (Quran 13:11)

According to Wikipedia, The Arabic term al-mu’aqqibat (commonly encountered in the definite plural, Arabic معقبات “those who follow one upon another”) is a term occurring in the Quran (Q.13:11) which some Islamic commentators consider to refer to a class of guardian. Therefore also these Angels are also called al hafathah (الحفظة) which means the guarding angels. They protect us from the harm of evil jinn and shaytan (شيطان).angels who keep people from death until its decreed time.

In Islamic tradition a guardian angel or watcher (angel) (raqib “watcher”) is an angel which maintains every being in life, sleep, death or resurrection. The Arabic singular for mu’aqqibat would be a mu’aqqib “a person which follows.” These angels are included in the hafazhah (“the guards”) and the concept of the guardian angel in Islam is similar to the concept of the guardian angel in some Jewish and Christian traditions.

At the end of Ramadhan last year, I reflected about my remarkable experience by writing a poem entitled ‘Hafazah’. In that poem, I was meeting that guardian angel  when I make it to heaven and we were having a conversation. Hahha. It was a fanciful poem but it was deeply felt.

The month of Ramadhan has always been special to every single practicing Muslim out there. It is the month of miracle. I knew that before. Intellectually, I believe that. But now God let me emotionally experience the miracle. It was a blessing, actually. And so, I have nothing else to say but Alhamdulillah.

 

Hafazah

Katakanlah nanti suatu hari
Kita bertemu sekali lagi
Jasad, jisim, jirim ukhrawi
Bukan di sini, di syurga abadi
Akankah kau aku kenali?
Akankah aku kau dekati?
Akankah kau aku hampiri?
Lantas berkata dengan lirih,
“It was you then, wasn’t it?
In the world once you’d saved me,”
Akankah kau menjawab kembali,
“No problem, dearie, you don’t owe me,
It was my job, so I did it. 
The ink has dried, the pen is lifted.”  

Akankah aku berkata pula
“Sudah lama ingin berjumpa,
mengenali dia gerangan mana,
menjaga aku tika bahaya,
mengiringi ku dalam duka,”
Kemudian kau akan ketawa,
“No problem dearie, you don’t owe me,
It was my job, so I did it. 
The ink has dried, the pen is lifted.”

Akankah aku melirik padamu,
Lalu dengan suara esak tersedu
Mengucapkan puisi dalam sendu
Yang kau balas dengan menyeru.
“No problem dearie, you don’t owe me,
It was my job, prescribed by God 
So I did it, not for you
I swear, nothing else is true,
It wasn’t your time, or it would be done”

Atau mungkin kita tidak akan berjumpa,
Kerna layakkah aku menapak ke syurga?
Mencarimu di sana adakah terdaya?
Mungkin madah ini takkan termakna
Hanya tinta beku coretan pena
Catatan kaku selama-lamanya.

5/7/16, 30 Ramadhan 1437

5.30 pm