It was the washing machine and cat pee that sent me over the edge.
To be more exact, it was when the washing machine broke down when I had just filled it up with a load of clothes soaked in cat pee.
In a bid to start off 2021 on a clean slate, I decided that I was going to do an overhaul of my wardrobe and go Kon-Mari by dumping everything onto the floor and piling them into bins of ‘Love it’, ‘Hate it’ and ‘Never Even Got a Chance to Wear it’. It was a week-long project and inadvertently with three cats in the household, one of them had gotten into the ‘Love it’ pile and left his own little love note all over my favourite pieces. So feeling a strange mix of fury and resignation, I yelled at all three of them while proceeding to stuff the soiled pieces into the washing machine. Then I turned on the switch, saw the little yellow light blink and then shut down forever. Fuck, you’ve got to be kidding me.
I switched the plug out and tried again. Nope. I opened the door and took some pieces out, maybe it was overloaded. Tried again. Nope. Kept pressing the little button at different corners, perhaps one of its sides was jammed and that would do the trick. Nope. It was completely dead.
It seemed pretty straightforward enough.
I was upset because the washing machine broke down.
Because I couldn’t wash the cat-peed dirty laundry.
Because it threw a wrench into my schedule.
Because it’ll be hard to get a repairman during the festive period.
Because I didn’t budget the cost of a repairman in.
Because I don’t know how much a new washing machine would cost.
Because buying a new washing machine means I couldn’t spend on a new tattoo.
Because why don’t I make more money that I wouldn’t even need a budget.
Because why don’t I have enough savings to be able to just walk out and buy a new washing machine to fix this right now.
Because this is my late mother’s favourite item in the house.
Because I wrote “Mummy” after my first calligraphy class on a sticker and she promptly placed it on the washing machine door.
Because she had always wanted this particular model and finally got it after so long.
Because we broke it only a year after she passed.
Because we can’t take care of the house without her.
Because why am I even doing so many loads of laundry that it would break down.
Because I have too many clothes unworn which I bought this year to wear in Europe.
Because I was suppose to reunite with my love who’s stuck there.
Because we’re both stuck during this pandemic with no idea of what’s next.
Because I don’t make enough to just say Fuck it and be able to fly off at a whim.
Because I don’t know if I should just go out and get a regular 9-to-5 job and not whine.
Because I shouldn’t have to worry about something as simple as a washing machine breaking down.
Because I share too much.
Because I spend too much.
Because I don’t plan enough.
Because I don’t save enough.
Because I’m too much of a mess.
Because I’m not enough of an adult.
All in the span of 15 minutes, my mind started to flicker its own version of the yellow light and I was starting to break down. I stopped myself, took a deep breath and said out loud “NO’ and stepped away.
“Ok, just stop and go wash the dishes.”
So as I stood at the sink and robotically scrubbed the dishes and let the soapy water run through my fingers, my mind started again.
“It’s ok, there’s the laundromat in front. It’s 24 hours. We have a dryer at home. We can go old-school and hand wash clothes during our showers. Next month’s paycheck is coming in. There’s so many sales going on I’m sure we can get a good deal. You can get a tattoo in February. Why are you thinking so negatively? You need to have a positive attitude. Only when you’re positive that abundance comes in remember? Ching, Ching, Ching goes the money tree! Look at all the times when you got an unexpected project!
… but it’s not just a washing machine. It’s Mummy’s. Is this a sign? Is it time to let her go? Is she unhappy with us?
Oh look, the kitchen tiles are kinda dirty too. Oh man, Mummy would have never let this happen. How can I let it all go like this and not help out more at home? How can I be a good wife? I can’t even wash dishes properly or take care of the sink? Maybe I’m going to die alone. Is this my life? Why do I take 2 steps forward, 1 step back? Why am I not as successful as my friends? Why am I not a good older sister to my siblings? Why didn’t I appreciate Mummy more when she was alive? Why do I seem to love her more in death? Am I a hypocrite? Why can’t I take care of anyone? Why can’t I take care of myself? Who am I to start a blog and write about life and love for others?”
I paused. No, no, no. Stop. I turned off the tap and went to my desk. I took a deep breath and closed my eyes. Maybe I needed to ground myself. Just imagine bright white light from the top of my head down to my feet. Passing through the chakras. Deep breaths in, imagine black smoke and negative thoughts going out. In, out, in, out, in, out.
An ex of mine used to laugh at me and said I was always so dramatic and I would have feelings about feelings. He said I was too sensitive, prone to overthinking and so selfish to the point that the whole world has to revolve around me. I believed him for the longest time. But I didn’t know how to stop. Once I have a thought, it just naturally flows to the worse-case scenarios. Didn’t he know how much I wanted it to stop? It’s fucking exhausting.
Logically, I knew all the causes. It’s anxiety attachment, it’s imposter syndrome, it’s being raised in a household where you always have to be on the lookout for what mood your parents are in so you don’t trigger any meltdowns from them. It’s being an empath. I just need to be grateful for all I have right? I just need to be still and count the 5 things I can see, smell, feel and hear. Just be in the now. Just stop.
But you and I both know – that knowing what we’re suppose to do and should do; and what we want to do and actually do; can be two separate and distinct things. And sometimes we can’t see them until someone points it out. Or even when we have the whole collective telling us what to do next, unless we’ve reached the point where we feel ready to take the next step on our own, this is where we’ll just have to wait and hold space.
I never really got the meaning of ‘holding space’ except just as a phrase thrown around in self-help books and mental wellness resources. I prefer the guidance of horoscopes, tarot-readers and psychics to tell me that everything will be alright and I just have to go through the motions right now. Remember how I always bounce back after each fall? I can’t even remember how I tripped in the first place nowadays. And on the bright side, I get to write it out on the blog now. There’s always a lesson behind each story. Or at least a funny story.
It was when I was coming up for a vision board for Shy & Curious that I came across a random quote on Pinterest.
‘Honour the space between No Longer & Not Yet’
Ooo la la… how profound! How concise! How apt! So I stuck it on my vision board. But as my mind was starting to spiral and break down over a washing machine, the quote popped up again. I started seeing a therapist this August after years of thinking I don’t need one. I was assigned one by AWARE for a separate case that’s a story for another time. And at that moment, while I was freaking out at the sink, my therapist’s voice came up in my head:
“You seem to spiral when you’re comparing yourself to others and where you are. But once you start comparing where you are now and where you want to be next, you sound very composed and methodical and know that there are certain trade-offs you make now to get to where you want to go later in life. So each time you start to spiral, switch your mindset to that.”
So I took a deep breath, hugged my cats, went into the shower with my pile of soiled laundry, the bottle of detergent and turned the shower head on.
Then a distant memory suddenly came to me. I must have been 6 years old. I was peeping at my mother who was in the bathroom with the door wide open because she was hand-washing the clothes. She was surrounded by buckets of laundry, scrubbing away on an old wooden washboard with a bar of solid detergent and wearing just a sarong tied up to her chest. I remember seeing her sweat as she scrubbed each and every single one of our clothes. She had the radio on at full blast. She was focused and quiet. She was in the zone. Yet I remember feeling sorry for her. How hard she must have been working as a young mother and running a household by herself with grandma being so far away from us.
Then it faded quickly to a different memory. I remember the pride I felt when I handed her my little sticker. “Look what I learned today in class Mum” as I drew it on the spot for her. This must have been 5 years ago. She glanced at my penmanship – of course she had to furrow her brows and say “Mmm.. it’s senget (crooked)” like any Malay Muslim Mother®. But I knew she loved it when she walked over to the washing machine and promptly stuck it on the door.
We had our first washing machine when I was in primary school. That meant she’d been washing for a household of 5 by hand for almost 10 years. Her dream machine came 19 years later.
I turned off the shower head, stepped outside and brought the radio next to the shower. I turn it on to Gold 90 FM, took a deep breath and went back into the bathroom. I felt like I was 6-year-old Noorin peeping at my mum. I started to scrub the clothes and soon enough, I felt lighter as the soapy suds and water ran over my hands.
Scrub, rinse, scrub, rinse, scrub, squeeze the water out.
I felt much better. I started to sing along to the radio. It’s ok. I know I’m not there yet. But I’ll get there.
It’s the last day of the year and I’m sure there are a million thoughts, feelings and what-ifs going through you right now. I should know – I wanted to recap the highlights of the year and tell you all about the wonderful things in store for Shy & Curious. But honestly, I don’t know what’s next. I started this blog thinking it’ll be informative, educational and all about breaking taboos. I thought I’ll stick to infographics, functional guides and showcase videos. “Think Sesame Street but for adult stuff!” was what I used to pitch to my friends before launch. (They hated that tagline by the way, so good call on them). That’s still part of the plan for 2021 and more. I’ll love to meet you in real life over coffee and talk about the more risqué stuff like the sexy how-to’s and relationship dynamics.
But then the blog slowly became a conversation. Conversations I used to share with my mum. I used to complain to my friends that there were so many things I couldn’t tell her. But now, I realize how many more things I couldn’t tell anyone else but her. I miss her more than we both would have ever imagined.
So instead I started sharing my personal stories of heartache and love with you. Stories I’m proud of. Stories I’m ashamed of. I can talk all about sex and bodies with zero hesitation but if you ask me about material wealth, career status and filial duties, there’s where I pause while my mind starts its descent into shame.
So I understand.
It’s not easy to talk about these things. The things that shame you. The things that make you spiral. The things that are easier to pretend are going well while the reality is that you’re trying not to break down over a washing machine on a Monday morning.
It’s ok. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. Just enjoy the moment right now. Just hold the space and zone out for a while. You’re not there yet. But you’ll never know what’s going to happen in the next 24 hours. And at least you’re also not back there anymore. It’s going to be ok. It always is.
Writing it all out and having you as part of my journey has helped me healed so much. I hope to continue the conversation with you for as long as I can – and that’s the only thing I can confidently predict without any tarot-reader in sight.
So thank you for that privilege and may 2021 be the two steps forward to this year’s one step back.