Posted by: soulvoyager | September 4, 2010

Goodbye for Now

Dear friends, I have decided to stop blogging at Soulvoyager for a while to focus fully on recovery. I shall still be blogging, just at another address, and I really hope to return to Soulvoyager when the time is right.

Several months ago, I had been toying with the idea of doing this. But I didn’t have peace in my heart because I was worried that if I stopped expressing myself in this way, I would not have any outlet for my feelings, and that always means bad news when it comes to recovery. I was also concerned that resting from this blog would cause me to be more isolated. But after much contemplation and seeking the Lord in this matter, I finally found a solution that I am truly happy with. I am confident that this will help me focus on my recovery and still allow me to continue writing and being open to my support team. It was certainly not an easy decision, especially after sailing with Soulvoyager for the past one or so years and all the blessed human connections that it has brought me. But at the same time as I am grieving this loss, I have the full assurance in my heart that this is the direction I should take for now.

Thank  you for being with me on this journey thus far. I am disembarking and setting foot on another adventure which I know will certainly be no less exciting. I thank God for the immense privilege of having all of you as my wonderful travel companions. I hope our paths cross again. I will be back one day if the Lord so wills, as a healthier, happier, and a much more rejuvenated Soulvoyager. In the meantime, take good care of yourselves and may the Force be with all of you!

Ship Pictures, Images and Photos

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Posted by: soulvoyager | August 27, 2010

Who Am I?

Ever felt that you were just a hollow coconut husk, small and insignificant, bobbing about in a sea of faceless people?

Call it prolonged teenage angst, or an extended bout of identity crisis if you like. That search for that sense of personhood – does it ever end? Not for me. Not yet, at least. But at the same time, I’m not even sure what I am expecting at the end of this search. Is it the illumination of something concrete that I can clearly describe, touch, and feel? Or is it a sense of peace in knowing that I am who I am, unique and special, with no compulsion to be anyone else. Where does that concept of self come from? Where can I find my center? As I navigate through the winding paths of life, I find myself constantly redefining ‘me’ in terms of my relationships – with my family, my friends, my colleagues, Sleepy pig. But does not my identity also come from the places I’ve been to, all my past experiences, my values, thoughts, feelings, what I do, and God? Perhaps it is a sum total of all these things too complex for my mind to comprehend. And if my identity comes from being God’s child, how am I to live that out in my life? What consequence and impact does it have? What does it really mean to be identified with Christ? I constantly grapple with these questions and more.

I was never a confident kiddo during my teenage years. Yearning to be among the popular crowd, I could only watch on enviously as others went on to become prefects, or earn medals and trophies in prominent sports. I wished with all my heart that I was just that little bit more athletic, or artistic, or charismatic. I longed to be anyone else but myself. Other girls in my school unbuckled their belts, wore colorful sport shoes,  sported unkempt hair, all in a bid to flout the school rules and show that they were different. I wished I was as daring as they were, but I didn’t even have the guts to be defiant in this way. Among a whole bevy of girls who seemed a whole lot more worthy and talented, I was just one girl not good enough and one person too much.

That search for identity took me through the dungeons of the eating disorder. I wouldn’t say that that was the whole cause of it. But it was definitely a contributing factor. The minute the psychiatrist diagnosed my illness, I became “the anorexic”. Initially, it was a label I took on with a smidgen of perverse self-satisfaction in my heart. At last, I had an identity. At last, people were taking notice. At least, I was better than the rest. Of course, this ecstasy was short-lived. I soon realized that it was causing me more pain than anything else. And most of all, it robbed my real identity and substituted it with a false one synonymous with “Ed”. With Ed around, I was never allowed to continue to discover my true sense of self. Instead, I buried it under layers and layers of masks. I was riddled with guilt and paralyzed with fear. I avoided food in an attempt to avoid relationships and people. I exercised and exercised to run away from all the scary things in the world I thought I had to face alone. But I was really running away from myself. I was afraid to face ‘me’ and to ask who I really am, apart from all the expectations and desires to be someone else. I was freaking scared that if I dared unpeel the masks, I would find out that I was really nothing inside – an empty kernel, unworthy and insignificant.

Ultimately, using the eating disorder to define myself is a fruitless quest, because there is nothing I can do make me more or less precious in the eyes of God, my family, or people who love me. If I were to stare at the photos I took when I was a little girl and imagine telling that little girl that she was worthless and unloved, I would never bear to say it. Nor would I bear to say it to any other child. So why do I do that so much to myself? This self-condemnation only blinds me from my real identity, security, and purpose that can be found in Christ and Christ alone. As the bible says in Romans 8:31-34:

“What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died – more than that, who was raised to life – is at the right hand of God, and is also interceding for us.”

It is God who bestows me my true sense of self. It is only in Him, my Creator, that I can be found.

I used to think of myself as a rotten, speckled egg, sticking out like a sore thumb and never matching up to others who looked so much whiter and purer. But now, I am learning to see myself, blemishes and all, as a unique masterpiece of God’s creative energies and the culmination of His loving nature. What a staggering concept – to be thought of by the Lord of the universe and to know that every micrometer of me was tailored specially by Him!

On a separate note, I just watched a local play, “Boeing Boeing” this week with a good friend of mine. It was absolutely hilarious. This is the first time that I laughed so hard in a theater. And to think that I almost sacrificed this for a night with Ed. Well you see, I was really half-hearted about this play at first because it was something out of schedule. I still struggle somewhat with defying the routine. But I decided to give Ed the heck this time and just enjoy myself. And enjoy myself I did! In the end, not only did I have a totally side-splitting laugh at the show, I also enjoyed a nice cozy chat with my friend. What a perfect end to the evening!

It’s little things like this that spurs me on to move forward in recovery no matter how difficult it is. I recently read this poem that I thought I’d share with you…

When things go wrong as they sometimes will

When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill;

When the funds are low and the debts are high

And you want to smile but have to sigh;

When care is pressing you down a bit

Rest if you must but do not quit

Success is failure turned inside out;

The silver tint of the clouds of doubt;

And you can never tell how close you are

It may be near when it seems so far;

So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit

It’s when things go wrong that you must not quit.

~ Unknown~

I pray that this may inspire you to keep fighting no matter how much the tides are against you. You may be so close to your goal, so don’t give up. The rainbow will emerge later though you may be braving a thunderstorm now. Have a blessed week, dear ones! May the good Lord bless you and keep you, now and forevermore.

Posted by: soulvoyager | August 20, 2010

My Bermuda Triangle

Ripples that grace the lakes with their expanding arcs.

Waves that surge slowly across deserts in the form of sand dunes.

Iridescent rays of light scattering in the pre-dawn and twilight skies.

Spirally helices that twirl round to form exquisite seashells.

Crystalline snowflakes exhibiting perfect symmetry.

Taken from Wikimedia Commons. Under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

Branching motifs in trees, leaves, and river networks.

Geometric properties of mud cracks and wakes produced by ships in motion.

The dazzling arrays spinning in a kaleidoscope tube.

Taken from Wikimedia Commons. Under the GNU Free Documentation License.

Patterns, they permeate our world, trumpeting the amazing unity of nature and the intricate creativity of a God at work.

But regretfully, there are certain patterns that I just don’t take to.

Like stripes…

and polka dots…

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I would never wear a dress that has stripes or little circles on it. But it just won’t be my preference.

Likewise, there are certain shapes that I adore.

Such as hearts…

Taken from Wikimedia Commons. Under the GNU Free Documentation License.

They remind me of LOVE, elusive and paltry in this world, but found so fully and abundantly in Christ.

And stars…

For the superficial reason that they are pretty, and the not-so-superficial reason that they inspire me to reach for my own stars – those goals that tug me forward, especially in the stark nakedness of night.

And there are shapes that make me feel uncomfortable.

Like triangles.

Call me weird to pick on a poor triangle. But it’s just not my favorite shape because it’s edgy, sharp, and unfriendly. When I was little, I always thought that it looked like it was going to hurt me any minute. And it didn’t help that many road signs signaling “Danger!” or “No entry!” were all enclosed in… you guessed it right! Triangles.

Ever heard of the Bermuda Triangle?

Also known as Devil’s Triangle, it is a region in the western part of the North Atlantic Ocean where a number of aircraft and ships allegedly disappeared mysteriously. It had been postulated that these disappearances were due to the paranormal or activity by extraterrestrial beings. Well, I read about the Bermuda Triangle when I was just a little girl.  Being the scaredy cat that I was, I freaked out. Just the thought of things so many times larger than me disappearing into nothingness sent chills down my spine. I pictured the Bermuda Triangle to be like a greedy black hole, gobbling down anything that passed its way.

I have a Bermuda Triangle of my own too. You see, I have three moles on my face. Actually I have more than three moles on my face. As people have observed, I am a very “mole-y” person coz I have many moles dotting my arms. But those three moles, situated strategically around my mouth in a perfect triangular constellation, are the ones that have caused me much anguish, especially in my early years. I don’t really know when they appeared on my face, but I only noticed when my classmates started teasing me about them. They earned the nickname, “The Bermuda Triangle”.

That was when the struggle within myself started. Once during a visit to the doctor, Mum casually asked whether those moles could be removed. The doctor said that I could do so when I was older and more vain. In the end, I never got to the point where I had enough courage to go for an operation to remove the moles. But I still detested them, grudging myself and God for allowing those moles to appear on my face, of all places. Whenever someone took a longer-than-usual look at my face, I would always wonder awkwardly whether they were thinking my moles were ugly. That sense of self-consciousness pervaded my entire perception of myself.

As the eating disorder took over, I gradually started finding fault with other parts of my body. Now that I look back, it is no wonder that just like the Bermuda Triangle, my mouth became something to be feared, something greedy, something with an insatiable appetite, a cavernous entrance to a bottomless pit. My mouth also became like a black hole. Things like horrible feelings and self-condemning thoughts went in, but never came out. They went into my stomach and got banished to the back of my mind, never having gone through the process of digestion and assimilation. I became an enigma. People never knew what I was thinking. Perhaps they thought I was just acting out or being stubborn. Inside, I was tormented by confusion and inner turmoil. Those thoughts wrangled my mind like a snake writhing its way through the crevices of my brain.

I realized that little Valerie at that time didn’t know how to speak up for herself. If I was there with little Valerie then, I would tell her that God wouldn’t make trash and that He created her just as she is, a wondrous, beautifully crafted being. I would whisper in her ear that a woman’s beauty does not rest on a facial mole, but on the indwelling of a gentle and quiet spirit yielded fully in obedience to Christ. I would teach her not to be downtrodden by the hefty weight of others’ comments and to find value in things that matter the most. Most of all, I would take her hand and assure her that I would be there to take care of her always.

Now that I am older and wiser (hopefully), I don’t have to let others’ comments hurt me any longer. I choose not to be embarrassed about my pain, but I want to go through it with dignity, and acknowledge how it helped me to mature over the years. Moles are just that. Moles. An accumulation of melanin. Why should I let myself be beholden to what others have said twenty years ago? It’s funny how we humans cling so tightly to self-destructive things though we know fully well that they are not good for us. I wish to let go and just be. Me.

As Oscar Wilde said,

“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist. That is all.”

Do I want to wait till I am six feet under the ground before regrets set in? No.

Do I want to spend an entire lifetime of bitterness about my past? No.

Do I want to waste any more time on self-abuse through my eating disorder and miss out on all the wonderful things life has to offer? No.

By God’s grace, I will be able to walk out of the Bermuda Triangle that had swallowed me whole into the gaping void that was its belly for the past twenty years. By that same grace, I will be able to emerge from the shadows of my eating disorder a much stronger and better person.

As Dr Seuss says,

“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than you.

Are you willing to just be? You? Today?

Posted by: soulvoyager | August 12, 2010

Just Like That

Don’t just stand at the door. I’ve got plenty of room here for you. And you. And you! Come on in, all you sweethearts, and join me for tea. We all need some pampering on special days, don’t we? You know what I mean. Those special days when all you wanna do is prop your feet on a couch, lie back, and daydream. Let’s make today a special day, shall we not? My Ocha is already brewing nicely in the pot. It won’t take long. Ahhh… There you go.

I’ve got the most lovely tea cups prepared. Just for us.

Can you smell the fragrance of the roasted rice? That invigorating aroma – it makes me wanna linger. On and on.

Let’s see. What else have I got here? Oh dear! Have you spotted it? I should have remembered. Go on and help yourselves. It’s right there in the pantry. I hope you don’t mind. It’s not any posh nosh. Just good old homely kueh dadar. Mine’s already sitting comfortably on that pretty plate.

Oops… my apologies! I couldn’t wait. It was just too tempting.

So I ate it. Just like that.

You know my history. Just two years ago, I couldn’t have imagine myself doing this – eating my favourite food, just like that. I wouldn’t even have let it brush past my lips.

But today, I did it.

No planning.

No counting.

No guilt-tripping.

No compensating.

It was as it was. Peaceful. Luxurious. Blissful.

And of course, so very special, because I got to share it with you.

I want to be free. Totally free. Just like that. Do you?

Posted by: soulvoyager | August 6, 2010

Excursion to the Zoo

Wow, my last post sounded like a rather macabre tale, didn’t it? I certainly hope it didn’t frighten you. Come, come! Take a short interlude from all that somberness and join me at the zoo! Aww… come on. The sun’s too damaging for your skin? Zebras and chimpanzees too unsophisticated for the cool dudes out there? I say, think again… When was the last time you made a trip to the zoo anyway?

For me, it seems like eons ago. No kidding! The last time I went was probably on an excursion with my class in primary school. The moment Mommy signed on the dotted line of the consent form, I could barely contain my excitement. I was practically craning my neck for the day to come. I waited. And I waited. And I waited. Needless to say, the day before the excursion, I spent a sleepless night fantasizing about all the animals I would be visiting, looking forward to all the packed lunches and biscuits with my friends, and rejoicing about how great it was to skip one morning of school for a whole dollop of fun, fun, and more fun.

I don’t know when that unsullied, innocent child-like fervor was soon replaced by cynicism, laziness, and procrastination. How I have changed over the years. In primary school, I loved to dance and sing. In fact, I was in the choir and I would happily volunteer to dance in front of the school. I would compose songs and stage mini-musicals with my sister for our beloved Mum and Dad. But over the years, I became more and more jaded. I guess that part of it was due to a loss of confidence in my own abilities. The other part was due to wanting to blend in with the rest. If others deemed a national day song as too cheesy to be sung, I would feel too embarrassed to sing it out loud as well. If my friends avoided school mass dances like a plague, I would follow suit too. But I must admit, there is a tiny part of me that longs to sing, dance, and caper around, foolish as I may look, simply because I love it!

I had soon condemned zoos as suitable for only two groups of people – kids and tourists. But what’s the common thing between them? They both have an inquiring mind, an eager heart, and open eyes to explore the world out there and to learn new things. If you fit that description, then you’re good and set to go on a trip to the zoo with me! So pack your water bottles, put on your cap, and let’s go!

Ooh… do you see what I see? A frisky troop of Hamadryas baboons hailing all the way from the great rift valley of Ethiopia!

A little baboon lost blissfully in his own lala-land…

With heads bowed low, a whole gang of them taking a lazy afternoon siesta…

A matronly figure looking on fondly, her toes dipped in the cool water as the young ones scamper around playfully…

Papa and Mama monkey caring tenderly for their little one… Check out their swollen, red bottoms!

Watching this scene just melted my heart to bits. Isn’t this what love is about? Sharing and helping one another? Even baboons know how to do this instinctively. Do we humans do it as much as they do?

A bird perched on a rock, flaunting her magnificent wings…

Drats! I should have written down the names. My sincere apologies but I forgot what this creature is called. I need to ask Sleepypig or anyone kind enough to tell me. Help!

Oh, don’t worry. I know this animal. I haven’t forgotten my primary school science. The tall, spotted giraffes towering over us! How nice it would be to have such a birds’ eye view of everything.

A kangeroo looking like it’s scratching its leg. Hmm… do kangeroos itch too?

The agile cotton-top tamarin…

Apparently, other monkeys help each other pick their ticks too.

Oh, I simply adore these arboreal creatures – the orang utans! They are so, so, so cute! Pardon my high-school girlish squeals. I am seldom this way. But I am really amazed at how human-like these orang-utans are! Their behavior mimics us so much, it’s almost like they’re just a hairier version of us.

A little orang-utan hungrily eyeing the food in the other’s hand…

Hmm… he looks a bit disgruntled, doesn’t he? Guess he didn’t manage to get the food…

Phew! All’s well that ends well. They made up again with a light, heartwarming smooch. Looks like orang utans aren’t afraid to display their affection publicly.

A baby orang utan clinging to Mama for all it’s worth…

This one’s just contented to be munching on his own grub, unperturbed by all the pandemonium around him…

The slippery otters sliding back and forth…

Wobbly penguins waddling happily in their aquarium…

Grunting pigs, their wrinkled skin enveloped by a layer of mud half-baked and crusty under the scorching sun…

Polar bears with their coat of fur as white as snow…

Hmmpf… some white rhinos are just too stuck-up to grant us an audience. Fine! Don’t look this way then!

Still too busy feasting on their bed of grass to bother about us.

That small black bird was happily pecking away at a bloody-red wound on the rhino’s back. Yikes! That definitely sent shivers down my spine.

Mr Tortoise chomping down his veg at his usual unhurried pace…

The zebras ever so striking…

Just look at that white tiger strutting majestically across the log! What an awesome catwalk in the full literal sense of the word!

Deers, graceful and slender, grazing in a distance…

As I traipsed along in the zoo, I suddenly remembered a song I loved to sing when I was little – “Home on the Range”

Oh, give me a home where the buffalo roam,
Where the deer and the antelope play;
There seldom is heard a discouraging word
And the sky is not cloudy all day.

Chorus
A home, a home
Where the deer and the antelope play,
There seldom is heard a discouraging word
And the sky is not cloudy all day.

How often at night when the heavens are bright
With the light from the glittering stars
Have I stood here amazed and asked as I gazed
If their glory exceeds that of ours.

As a little girl, I loved the lyrics so much because it represented all of what I dreamed of… a home right next to glittering streams, prancing antelopes, and endless fields of wild flowers, where no one mutters a word of discouragement, and where the sun’s radiant beams chases away any hint of despair.

What is your dream home? And what is your favorite animal?

I guess you already know what’s mine. Here’s the adorable me and the even more adorable monkeys! Hehe… =P

“If you carry your childhood with you, you never become older.”

~ Tom Stoppard ~

“There is a garden in every childhood, an enchanted place where colors are brighter, the air softer, and the morning more fragrant than ever again.”

~ Elizabeth Lawrence ~

I hope you enjoyed our mini excursion to the zoo as much as I did! Have a wonderful week ahead, dearies! Tata for now!

Posted by: soulvoyager | July 29, 2010

Storytime! My Recovery Journey (Part I)

It’s storytime this week, my dear ones. I will doing a journaling exercise on recovery. I got the idea from Eating Disorders Blogs: Your Write to Health:

What image helps you to view recovery?

So here goes… Hang on tight for the ride!

———————————————————————————————————————

To me, becoming an eating disordered individual is like venturing into a forest. At the beginning, I was merely playing at the fringes, frolicking among the bright, yellow roses under the overarching canopy of the sky.

Then I sensed the allure of the dark woods beckoning to me. I thought to myself, “It’s still bright and sunny now. I’ve got plenty of time. I’ll just go in, see what’s there, and return just before dinner. Plain and simple. Nothing to worry about.” So I stepped confidently inside, fully assured that I would be out in no time. I was fascinated by my new surroundings. It wasn’t pretty and quite a few times, I glanced back at the home that I had left behind some distance away. But I thought about all the nasty things that was going on outside. Suddenly, the woods seemed to be like a nice, warm cocoon. I felt safe and glad to be away. So I ventured deeper and deeper, wondering what I would find along my way. Before I knew it, night fell. I began to feel afraid. The sinewy tree trunks that were once tall and protective morphed into shapeless phantoms trying to throttle me by the neck. I hacked my way through the trapping weeds and overhanging branches. My knees bled as nettles brushed against my delicate skin. I was tired and hungry. But the fear in my gut was my fuel. The all-consuming thought pounding in my brain was “Home! Home! I want to go home!”

I spot a light ahead of me. Moving cautiously forward, I squinted my eyes to see where it came from. Like a castle rising magically from the sea, the light gradually took the form of a delightful candy cottage, just like the one in Hansel and Gretel. Hope filled my weary heart. My aching legs leaped towards it with an energy I never knew I had. The chocolates, sweets, and ginger bread that were once dangling on the walls of the cottage soon disappeared into a cavernous void that was my stomach. To my surprise, they simply grew back on the walls again. Puzzled but too overcome by hunger to think any further, I gulped them down ravenously, one by one, never wanting to stop.

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Finally sated, I opened the door and let myself in. The cottage was filled with mirrors.


I heard soft murmurs issuing from inside. As if in a trance, I chanted along with them, “mirror mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of us all? Who is the fairest of us all?” Then, I reeled back in horror as they spat out the names of every person that I knew. Everyone but me. I was NOT the fairest among all? NO!!! I turned to run away, but suddenly, the soft murmurs dissipated and gave way to a loud, grating cackle. I spun around and saw her – the witch – right there in the mirror, as hideous and horrible-looking as a witch could be.

I wanted to escape, but she leaped out of the mirror, stretched out her slimy, grotesque arms and caught me. I wanted to scream, but no sound came out. She reached down into my mouth and wiggled her fingers in my throat. It was painful and uncomfortable and it was hurting me. I tried to bite her, not understanding what she was trying to do. After a big tussle, she finally withdrew her hand. I felt nauseous and disgusted as the gooey muck dripped from her razor-like nails unto my tongue. Then I saw it – a brilliant, round pearl gleaming in her hand. It looked beautiful like a precious gem. I wanted to take it from her, but she closed her palm and shoved me to the side. I seized the chance to dart away as quickly as my legs could carry me. I ran, on and on, till I could run no more. Traumatized, terrified, and feeling downright battered, I sat down and wept. Tears streamed down my face and unto my blood-stained knees. I sobbed and sobbed. Suddenly, I realized that my sobbing had no sound. The witch had taken my voice away…

———————————————————————————————————————

We will leave poor Valerie for now. Stay tuned for the next installment!

Posted by: soulvoyager | July 22, 2010

Still, my soul be still

Ahh… what a luxury at the end of long, tiring day, to be able to stretch out my legs under the warm tungsten lights of my cozy room and just be me. Sometimes I feel like there are two Valerie’s within. The adult Valerie is all grown-up, confident, able to assert herself, and mingle with people. Meanwhile, the little Valerie is crouching behind the pillars, afraid of stepping out, fearing the unknown, wishing she didn’t have to go out and meet anyone. All through the day, the two sides of me jostle for attention, seeking to show their faces in the myriad of situations I find myself in. Sometimes, I wish I could just be brave and not worry. Sometimes, I wish I could go back and nurture that bit of courage into that scared little Valerie. But in the privacy of my own room, I am free to be just me. No need to stop any part of me from surfacing. Freedom to just be Valerie, that amalgamation of adult Valerie and little Valerie respecting each other’s feelings, dignity, character, and whatever baggages they may be carrying at the moment.

Recently, I have been facing bouts of anxiety and fear. I struggle to make sense of the situation that I’m in. Why? Why? Why is God making me go through this? So far, I have not experienced any “Eureka!” moment. All I can hear is God telling me to be still and to know that He is God. That must be the reason this song has been reverberating in my mind ever since I heard it for the first time in church last week.

Still, my soul be still

Still my soul be still
And do not fear
Though winds of change may rage tomorrow
God is at your side
No longer dread
The fires of unexpected sorrow

Chorus:
God You are my God
And I will trust in You and not be shaken
Lord of peace renew
A steadfast spirit within me
To rest in You alone

Still my soul be still
Do not be moved
By lesser lights and fleeting shadows
Hold onto His ways
With shield of faith
Against temptations flaming arrows

Still my soul be still
Do not forsake
The Truth you learned in the beginning
Wait upon the Lord
And hope will rise
As stars appear when day is dimming

It speaks so much to me in the situation I’m facing right now. I am reminded of the many times I prayed to God for a closer walk with Him, a closer relationship with Sleepypig, a closer bond with my family, and a closer fellowship with my discipleship group. And God is now answering all my prayers in a way that I could never have expected or asked for. This trial I am going through – this is His answer. Though it is still a huge struggle, I have been receiving a bounty of blessings from it. Never have I felt closer to my friends than now, as I witnessed how they bothered to stay till past 11pm just to discuss our situation, try to find solutions for us, and unite in fervent prayer. Never have I experienced such a grueling trial of faith, where all I ever knew and believed were called into question, and yet still be able to experience God’s presence and overwhelming peace. Never have I felt a closer connection to Sleepypig than now, bonded by our human weaknesses and vulnerabilities, yet strengthened by our common faith in God who sustains all things. Yes, this is a time of great testing. But it is also a time of great rejoicing, for it is when everything is stripped away that we can see Jesus for who He really is, and we realize that He is really all that we need – our great Provider, our perfect counselor.

With God, I need not fear the winds of change that may rage tomorrow. I need not clamor lesser lights or be distracted by fleeting shadows. And I need not be afraid of the fiery darts of temptation. Instead, I am called to rest, to trust, to remain steadfast in spirit, to hold on to God’s truth, to wait, and to hope. Yes, with God, I will not be shaken.

I recently saw this article and it reminded me of many things that I had known but shoved to the back of my mind in the midst of the hustle and bustle of life.

How true it is that time cannot be retrieved. I don’t want to waste any more time on living with Ed or on meaningless comparisons with other people. As dear wise Dad just reminded me, outer beauty is fleeting. What is most important is to have a pure heart, for that will not fade away, even with time. So, as promised, here is my back-to-basics plan to get back on recovery track.

  1. Be mindful of my hunger signals and honor them.
  2. Be mindful of my level of tiredness and honor it.
  3. Restart my fear food challenges.
  4. Continue to practise eating outside and in social situations.
  5. Stick to my exercise limit.
  6. Do one lovely thing for myself everyday.
  7. Do something out of schedule everyday.
  8. Take time to relax and to have my own personal space.
  9. Set aside time for my family and friends.
  10. Indulge in my hobbies (blogging, photography, piano, baking, reading, scrapbooking)
  11. Don’t look at calorie labels.
  12. Don’t let myself be bonded by what Ed say I should or should not do.
  13. Read the bible and pray to God when I feel vulnerable.
  14. Get support from my support team.
  15. Look at my calming list and pick one activity there to do when I feel stressed or anxious.

I hope that the article and song above inspires you too. Dear friends, I pray that God will, by His infinite grace, empower you to keep persevering, to keep trusting, and to keep hoping regardless of whatever difficulties you’re facing. Remember that with God, all things are possible! And with God, you too will not be shaken. Many hugs from me to you! =)

Posted by: soulvoyager | July 17, 2010

Getting Back into Recovery Groove

As mentioned two posts ago, I want to get back into into the recovery talk groove. I realized recently that things have been somewhat stagnating. Though I have still been trying to go out for meals with friends, I haven’t been pushing myself much in terms of food challenges. I have also been settling for the idea that the place that I am at is fine just as it is. I was trying to convince myself that there is no need for further change because I have already come so far and I seem to be doing ok. But really, when I dig further into myself, I realize that I am really afraid. Afraid of moving out beyond my comfort zone. Afraid of facing people’s snide comments once again. Afraid of all the uncertainties that lie ahead. Afraid of growing up and having to face what I don’t want to face. Afraid of really surrendering myself to God and recovery and not knowing whether I will lose control of myself. Afraid of reaching my target and finding that it is really not that great after all.

But even as I, or rather Ed, tries to convince myself of how good Ed is and how secure he makes me feel, there is also a nagging unease gnawing at me. If I’m really honest with myself, I do know where that comes from. Contrary to what Ed says, I know that I am NOT really ok with where I am now in terms of recovery. I know that I still have some way to go. I know that recovery is a restoration of mind, body, and soul. And in all three aspects, I still have much to work on.

Therefore, I decided to renew my recovery goals here once again as a reminder to myself not to break from working on them. At the same time, it is also a signpost of where I currently am at now, the things I want to improve on, and where I want to go from here. So, my recovery goals are:

  1. To be flexible about meal times
  2. To be flexible about meal quantities
  3. To not freak out even if the meal is in large portions (such as at a 10-course dinner or a set meal) and just eat till I am full
  4. To not be anxious about eating out at restaurants
  5. To be flexible about the variety of food I eat
  6. To exercise within moderate limits
  7. To listen to my body when it needs rest and not force it to exercise
  8. To allow myself to rest and relax
  9. To be able to set boundaries and have personal time and space for myself
  10. To be able to go out, socialize, and spend time with family and friends
  11. To not be rigid about everything being the same or going according to my plan
  12. To spend time doing activities I really enjoy
  13. To be able to eat without counting calories obsessively
  14. To be able to tune into my body and identify hunger/tiredness signals and heed them
  15. To not criticize my body or compare my appearances with others
  16. To take responsibility for my own body and not push it beyond its limits to compete with others
  17. To be able to eat without being affected by what others say or fearing their comments
  18. To not get triggered by other people’s exercise routine or eating
  19. To be at a normal healthy weight
  20. To feel healthy, energetic, and not cold
  21. To be able to eat food out of schedule
  22. To be able to eat in front of others without feeling shame

I will share more about my recovery plan next week. But I know that struggling alone is not easy, especially when my adversary is Ed. So I decided to enlist the help of my support team once again. To tell the truth, I was really afraid of opening myself up to them because I was afraid that they would force me to give up whatever I am doing now. But I also know that if it is what they say, then it is good for me. They would never do me harm. I have to learn to trust them once again, especially when I am still weak and vulnerable to Ed-based thinking. I wrote to my bestie and asked her to keep me accountable about my food challenges every week. I also tried something new at the hawker centre that I hadn’t tried in a long time… Pontian wonton noodles and I told Mum before and after the challenge just so that I could get support and encouragement from her coz I knew that Ed would surely try to sabotage my efforts. And guess what? I really enjoyed my bowl of noodles together with a good friend whom I haven’t spoken to in a long time. It was just wonderful not having Ed barge into the conversation and ruining everything. =)

As the bible says…

Though we may be weak and vulnerable alone, God has also blessed us with people around to help us. Sometimes, it is a matter of being willing to reach out and accept the help. Sometimes, it is also a matter of communication, opening up, and letting others know our needs so that they can do their best to help. I always fear imposing on others and inconveniencing them. But that is how human relationships are meant to be. Alone, we cannot do everything. But we can provide help and support to each other in the areas that we each struggle in. It helps so much to know that there will be someone there to lean and depend on in times of trouble.

I feel so very blessed by the love of my family and friends around me. I know that even as I gradually break away from Ed, I will not be abandoned and that gives me a great deal of motivation and courage to move on in recovery. To those of you who are reading this, you are a great support for me too. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

The greatest healing therapy is friendship and love.

~ Hubert H. Humphrey ~

As we think about the love of God drawing to us the substance necessary for support and supply, that substance begins to accumulate all around us, and as we abide in the consciousness of it, it begins to manifest in all our affairs.

~ Charles Fillmore ~

May the love of God fill your hearts too, and empower you to walk the path of righteousness and freedom in Christ. Lots of love and hugs from me to you!

Posted by: soulvoyager | July 9, 2010

London/Egham Adventures (Part II)

Welcome to the second installment of my adventures in UK. I know, I know. This is long overdue. I apologize for the delay, but I’ve been running about like a headless chicken for the past few days. Ok, I exaggerate. But I was busy almost every evening and I just needed time to chill out and just not do anything. =P Enough of rambling. I’ll let the pictures do the talking.

I started out my much-too-short one-day trip to London with a visit to one of my favorite places in the world – Covent Garden! I absolutely love the whole atmosphere there. Words would do it no justice, so come see! Come see!

I was kiasu (sorry for the Singlish but there is no better word to describe my kiasu-ness), so I set off from Egham early in the morning at 7.30am. I arrived at my destination at 9 plus, all ready to begin the day when I realized that Covent Garden was not open yet. Silly me! Anyway, I decided to just walk around to pass time. Slowly but surely, the place started rousing to life. What a delight!

Sellers setting up their stalls…

A young lad busy chopping onions…

The crowds filling in…

Pretty trinkets…

Stylish clothes…

Old couples enjoying a nice, leisurely, hot cuppa at the cafe…

Warmly baked pastries hot from the oven…

Bread galore…

An English artist deep in thought… Love his rugged hat and frayed jeans

A musician with his beanie and guitar strumming his heart out…

Mr Red-Nose Clown teasing the crowds…

The human statues who amuse little tots by moving suddenly when coins are tossed into their trays…

A diligent cook hard at work…

A look of concentration… I am intrigued by how seriously these people take their food. Obviously, they deliver only the best to their customers.

Can you tell now why I love this place so much? It just seems to exude a unique charm of its own. Here, the pace is brisk but not frantic, bustling but not deafening, endearing but not cloying. In all my travels, I have never found another place like this one. I could linger here all day. But alas! The hands of the clock marched mercilessly on and I soon realized that I had to leave soon. After a frenzied bout of shopping, I headed down to Leicester Square to meet a dear Christian sister of mine. I got to know her while I was studying in London. We read the bible and prayed together. Though we don’t see each other much nowadays, she’s been a great support in my struggles with Ed and a constant encouragement in my walk with God. So very thankful to have a friend like her! After that, I met up with two other friends from university. It was another great meetup. Friendships… they sharpen. They challenge. They nourish. They encourage. They grow.

Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some stay for awhile and leave footprints on our hearts. And we are never, ever the same.

~ Anonymous ~

When you’re so deeply immersed in a place, you sort of take on all the quirks and character of it. That’s exactly what happened to me in London. With my friends, I did what typical Londoners do… sip tea in a cafe, sit on the lawn to bask in the sun (the luxury of springtime! I’d never do this in Singapore!), jostle with the crowds on the tube, marvel at street artists as they work their magic on the drawing board. It felt as though I had never left the place!

After a long tiring day, I finally dragged my aching legs back to Egham. I was now all ready to return to Singapore. I wished I could have spent more time in London to visit more places I used to frequent, as well as to meet up with more friends. But oh well, next time perhaps. Next time. Till then, it’s goodbye to London for now. I’ll miss you so very much!

These photos are the very reminder I need that recovery is worth it! It is not just so that I can have the energy to visit the many places I want to visit. But I think about how there is a world out there much, much, much bigger than me, pulsing with life, surging with an uncontainable energy of its own. No matter how difficult my problems are, there are but a drop in the ocean. And regardless of how heavy my burdens may be, God who created this vast universe is able to provide me with sustenance and whatever I need to continue my journey.

I just received a piece of ‘bad’ news yesterday. Like what Sleepypig said, it has been an emotional roller-coaster for the past few months. We have been veering maniacally between brimming hope in one instant and glum melancholy in the next. But I know that everything has a purpose. I have been tempted to rest from recovery because of all the perceived obstacles ahead. But I know that this is precisely the time to dig in the heels and work real hard on improving my ‘health’ in every sense of the word.

Adversity is like a strong wind. It tears away from us all but the things that cannot be torn, so we see ourselves as we really are.

~ Arthur Golden ~

Through this difficult time, I have not only learnt more about myself. I have also seen others for who they truly are. I have always feared that people would judge me or us for our current situation. At the beginning, I crouched behind a veil of secrecy because I feared they might think badly. But through Sleepypig’s encouragement, I slowly opened up and started sharing, first to my close friends, then to my colleagues, support group, and finally to my discipleship group. Sometimes, it gets tiring to have to explain the situation over and over again. But God is teaching me patience. He is also teaching me to allow others into my life and to minister to me so that we may share and carry each other’s burdens in fellowship. I realized that not only did they not judge me. They showed unceasing love and support, praying for us and taking time to find out about the latest updates. It was a huge load off my mind, knowing that we are not alone in this and that there are many people around to support and pray for us, even as we continue to ride out this long, seemingly endless waiting period.

With this, I know that I need not rely on Ed to cope with my situation anymore. Sure, the temptation will still be there. But I do want recovery because recovery means life. Recovery means not fearing food and living in bondage to eating/exercise. It means more energy to serve God, to love others, and to truly live!

May the Lord grant you all the strength and courage to walk your path too! Have a wonderful, love-filled weekend! =)

Posted by: soulvoyager | July 4, 2010

London/Egham Adventures (Part I)

Say hi to Groovy, the wonder-dog!

Though he may appear floppy and droopy, he’s actually a super-hero in disguise! His long ears are wings that can fly him from one place to another in a matter of nano-seconds. And that was exactly what he did just two weeks ago on the Sunday of 20th June. He took to the air, zoomed past fluffy clouds, narrowly escaped swooping eagles, whizzed across the continents, and finally landed in London! But me? Poor me. Being a mere mortal, I had to endure 13 full hours of claustrophobia as I was squashed in a crummy space together with a tad too many wailing babies and fidgety passengers. At the end of the flight, I was mighty thankful to finally feel the solid ground beneath my comfy Ecco shoes.

Groovy looks a little blue, doesn’t he? Oh dear. I guess he  must have been knackered and missing home, coz he’s had to fly to faraway Egham in Surrey, England, stuck in a small room he had to call his accommodation for the next 6 days. Let me give you a glimpse into what it looks like. I do apologize for the mess on the table. After much ado about the shower and the room key malfunctioning, I was much too tired to do anything else but lie in bed and catch up on beauty sleep.

Here’s Gowar hall where I resided in. It’s actually a student hostel. Since it is now the term break, the university lets out the rooms to travellers at a supposedly cheaper price that usual hotels. You know, there are certain scents that just trigger an emotional response in you? That’s what I experienced the minute I stepped into the hall. It smelt of late night sleepovers, burnt sausages, friendly morning chats with students from all over the world,  gatherings in the kitchen to watch television, and so much more! Memories, oh precious memories…

As I was attending the conference for most part of the day, I didn’t have that much time to explore Egham. But I did explore a bit of the university, the town area, and the sprawling gardens about a half-hour walk away. As I walked up to Founders building which is the nexus of the university, the branches of the nearby trees hung like a curtain draped across a work of art, adding to the sense of mystery and anticipation.

Lo and behold! Here it is in its full glory!

This reminded me of the unique architecture of British buildings. The red bricks. The Victorian style hailing from an era long past.

Everyday I would take this little path which meanders through the woods to reach the venue of the conference. Each time I traipse through it, I feel like Alice in Wonderland entering her secret garden. There, my spirit seems to be awakened. I become acutely conscious everything around me – the frenzied scuffling of squirrels, the occasional bee that buzzes mischievously by my ear, the grey bunny with the pink nose that twitches ever-so-curiously. In a magical instant, I become Snow White, blessed with the animals of the forest as her companions and friends. Suddenly, I stop feeling so alone in this foreign place.

As I ventured downtown, I received even more reminders of typical British life as I once knew it. The ubiquitous pubs that lined the streets…

Soccer fever, the World Cup and the English League …

My favorite supermarket, Tesco, that I frequented so often during my days in London…

To celebrate having survived 4 full days of talks at the conference, I decided to reward myself with a stroll at the gardens. What I thought would be an easy 20-minute walk turned out to be an hour-long trek, partly because I kind of lost my way. I panicked a little and I was afraid that I wouldn’t get back by nightfall. Fortunately, there were road signs like this that led the way. There were also helpful locals who pointed me in the right direction. It’s always reassuring to know that you’re on track.

I finally reached Saville Gardens. It was really huge with nice, idyllic lakes and big, open spaces. A totem in the middle of the park…

The biggest lake in the gardens – Virginia Waters.

It was a really long stretch. Thankfully, the weather was cool and sunny. That made the walk a whole lot more pleasant.

I was so mesmerized by the sight of the ducks preening themselves in the still waters. Against the setting sun, the ripples that emanated from their bodies seemed to wrap around them in a luminous halo. I recalled the story of “The Ugly Duckling” which taught me not to judge people based on appearances because one day, the ugly duckling can become a beautiful swan. I have always loved that story because it gives me hope that one day, I too can grow into my full potential and soar to the heavens. But now, I wonder, why must a duck be labelled as ugly or inferior to the beauty of the swan? So what if it quacks and waddles, albeit a little awkwardly? So what if its color may be duller that the pure white of a swan. That does not make it adulterated in any way. In fact,that is what makes it so unique! There is no shame in being a duck, and a duckling needn’t be ugly at all! In the same way, there is no shame in you being you and me being me. We are who we are, exquisitely created in God’s image. There can never be another you, or another me, in the world! Recently, I’ve been reminded of the phrase,

“Compare and Despair”

All too often, I have the tendency to measure myself against others and deem myself as inferior or of little worth. The negative tapes in my mind tell me that I don’t deserve to take up space in this universe. That was one of the reasons I slipped into an eating disorder – to make myself as small and as unnoticeable as possible. But I have to constantly remind myself that there is no need to compare myself with others. It only results in meaningless competition. In the end, nothing else matters at all apart from God and my position before Him.

I have a lot on my mind now about recovery and where I am at now in terms of recovering. It has not been easy over the past few months. But this calls for a period of re-evaluation, renewal, and re-commitment to my goal of freedom from Ed. More recovery talk and thoughts later on.

I have so many photos to share that I had to split up my post into two. So I will follow up with my trip to London/Egham, part II, in my next post. But the final thing I want to say now is, I absolutely love springtime in England. It amazes me when I see flowers everywhere, especially by the roadside. They weren’t planted by human hands. No, there was no need to think of growing them. They just do, because their gardener is God, the Creator, himself.

Luke 12:27:

Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after such things, and your Father know that you need them. But seek first his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.

I will give a second update on my trip in a few days’ time. Meanwhile, have a lovely week, my dearies. May His word and truth dwell in your hearts, and lead you in the way everlasting.

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