Author Archives: Sally May

About Sally May

Amazon-bestselling Author, Speaker and Health Coach on a mission to inspire, educate and empower others to love themselves enough to take charge of their own health and live a life of luxurious wellness.

A Stranger in my Own Land

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It was just a simple decision … a personal ‘C’mon, don’t be a wuz!’ moment. You see, I own a car and drive everywhere while in Singapore and have been since I got my driver’s licence all those years ago. The exceptions being if I am enjoying the odd big night-out – then I’d hop in cab like a smart person.

I happen to have a rare not-so-packed Saturday afternoon yesterday so instead of driving to where I needed to be in Orchard Road (which is Singapore’s busiest shopping street – think Oxford Street in London, Harajuku in Tokyo or Central in Hongkong), which will be jam-packed and a B**** to park, I thought I’d do the smart thing and park on the outskirts of the city and take the MRT (local underground) instead.

Boy, I did not expect it to be such an emotional experience for me.

The last time I took the MRT in my hometown was…let’s see…I can’t remember really. So let’s call it ten years ago. At first, it felt kinda nice when I walked into the City Hall station (one of the busiest)…like I am a tourist on holiday :)) It brought a sense of deja vu – like I am in London again (miss it big time!). In fact I know the London underground system better than this one in Singapore! Strange, right?  I do not own one of those stored value cards and so had to buy a ticket. I had to consult the train map and a real human being standing next to that big map to make sure I did not hop onto the wrong train. What a story I would be able to tell then, huh? Can’t even get onto the correct train in my own country!

MRT

Anyway, I got onto the right train going my way but along the way…a new wave swept in as my senses took in everything. The lights, noises, sights, stares, odours and fragrances. Familiar yet very strange at the same time.

Once on the train (I did remember to hold onto a handle, thank you!), I was able to engage in my usual pastime of making a mental count of how many people at a glance are glued to their digital devices. I have said on several occasions to whoever was listening that if aliens landed on earth today and observed human behaviours, they would certainly want to know why most are staring at screens instead of looking up, around or talking to one another BUT I digress! While doing that in my head (about 80% were digitally-glued, in case u wanna know),  I also noticed several young female fashionistas (accent on hair and eye lashings!), male urbanistas (headphones appear to be an important male fashion accessory) and the conservatives (“Don’t see me, I wanna be invisible”), the half-asleeps and the I’m-too-cool-to-be-here types. Hmm…which type am I?  In my casuals, flats, sunglasses on head, carrying a big bag (which I used as a weight for resistance training, btw, why waste the journey, right?)…

Look, it’s not like I have not observed people before this but somehow, being in the same carriage on the train yawing back and forth and screeching, makes it feel like a cinematic experience, only very very real and makes me feel very very weird and out of place.

Then off I hopped when I arrived at Orchard where the real bustling and jostling began. Boy, was it hot too (Singapore’s experiencing our longest drought since 1869, but again, I digress!). In front of me was a portly older uncle walking pretty briskly and I noticed his white T-shirt had more than a few holes at the back…an Indian gentleman next to him had slippers on that looked like they were three sizes too small. Hmm.

I swung around the corner to meander into the direction I was supposed to go and what I saw hit me in a most visceral way. There, sitting in her wheelchair was a frail old lady (about 80+?) with a bag on her lap and her hands outstretched with tissue paper packets…hoping for someone to buy them. The crowd ahead and behind me was moving fast and not wanting to slow everyone down, I feverishly reached into my bag for some dollar notes so I could buy some from her. As I reached her, my heart felt very heavy and all it took was to look her in the eyes to see her loneliness and fragility. All I could say was “Thank you, auntie” and as I walked away, my tears started rolling. That could be MY mother if her children didn’t look after her…I am sure no one in their 80’s expect to be selling tissue packs in Orchard Road to eke out a living. Someone like that tissue auntie needed to be looked after, cared for and loved as I am sure she had worked her whole life before yesterday.

I was pretty perturbed by the feelings and tears that welled up … but more so by my desire to suppress my emotions immediately then so they wouldn’t hurt me so much as I rushed to get to my destination, just like everyone else around me yesterday.

Who would have thought a simple decision to ‘park and ride’ turned out to be one of ‘see and feel’. I am still feeling… having seen a part of Singapore I had somehow been blind to, all because I am always behind the wheels in the comfort of my car.

What will this open my heart to do next?

Hope you had a good weekend where your soul was touched in some way too.
Sally

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Some things to never let go off…

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I have been accused many times of being a control freak of sorts and it’s been one of the hardest lessons for me to learn to let go of things (and people) I absolutely have no control over. The learning there is that letting go does not mean ‘not caring’ and most times, it’s just about letting things be! Still learning…but I am better at it as time and wisdom sets in.

However, there are some things worth holding on to. They help define our sense of self, individuality and mostly gives up that sense of hope and possibility which differentiates us from other creatures, I suppose.

There was a man I met a few years ago who left me speechless in the most innocent of ways, when he said to me earnestly, “So, tell me, what are the dreams you dream of…”

No one has ever asked me that since like, forever. Probably not since I was a child, and not in that manner. Not even my closest friends.

So today, if you are reading this – let me ask you: “What are your dreams?”

Breathe them in, smile and promise yourself never to let them go.

Never too old to dream.

Never too old to dream.

Subtle Wisdom

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Had to sit through two days of Family Therapy classes last weekend (yes, there are better things to do, I know!). There were some profound lessons and Aha moments which clearly made my choice to specialise in family therapy the right one for me! But this post is not about that…gotcha 🙂

Engaged as I was with what the Prof was discussing, I started to doodle at first. That quickly reminded me that I can’t draw to save my life! Then I flipped through my note book and found this list of – I really don’t know what to call it – concepts and values that I started compiling every time I got bored. These is wisdom distilled into simple concepts I feel we sometimes get ‘wrong’ but which can be so empowering if we know the difference. My all-time favourite which is a lifetime lesson for me is that Vulnerability and Weakness are not the same thing, and actually, the ability to be vulnerable to the right person within the right relationship at the right time is a real strength.

Here’s my list to kick things off and I think you can see where I am going with this…so please write to me and share what you think are issues and concepts we often can’t tell apart but should!

Contrasting

“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time,
and still retain the ability to function.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald

Bearing Witness to Catharsis

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ca·thar·sis  (k-thärss)

n. pl. ca·thar·ses (-sz)
 
1. A purifying or figurative cleansing of the emotions, especially pity and fear, described by Aristotle as an effect of tragic drama on its audience.
2. A release of emotional tension, as after an overwhelming experience, that restores or refreshes the spirit.

I recently had the unique privilege of bearing witness to a friend’s spontaneous release of extreme fear and sadness, bottled up for several years (let’s call this friend, X) after a suicide of a close family member. It happened so innocently during a meal, when the subject came up and someone at the table said to X, “I think you are right all along. You need to acknowledge that there’s evil in this world, and that it was present then, and there’s no way your sister could have fought it”.

Witnessing catharsis as it unravels right before one’s eyes is to me, an astounding human experience. One moment, it was a casual conversation during a meal amongst friends, and the next moment, a bowed head started to shake from side to side, audible sobs, then a scream…”Why?”

When it unfolded without warning, all senses were on high alert – all at once, you feel like you may be in a movie scene – and empathy, once just a well taught & discussed concept in psych class, bursts forth from the deep recesses of my being, bypassing cognition and intellect…mirror emotions of deep deep sadness were hard to hold back. So were the tears which rolled off my cheeks. 

When we witness someone with the somatic presentations of being in trauma, releasing extreme fear and the outpouring of guilt, sadness and disbelief, the mind may not fathom what’s going on then but the heart cannot help but be open and says, “Just be. Reach out. Feel.”

X was trembling, her legs were shaking, her body was rocking, her hands were cold, her face was nearly unrecognisable…stricken with fear. We just held and hugged her, and felt the years of tightly-coiled emotions seeping out from the cells of her body and the depths of her soul. A soul crying desperately to be forgiven and released, as it realises right then, that there really was nothing she could do when someone chooses to end her life.

Why why why…did it have to happen? If only I was there for her…Why didn’t I act on what I suspected? Why must evil exist? She must have been cursed, why did I not protect her? Was her life so sad that she could not live on anymore? Why why why?

 

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I was deeply humbled by what X went through that day…and in awe of her courage. We accompanied her to the exact spot where her sister would have jumped off, the site where her body was found, and then visited her grave for closure. Closure? I think that was the start for X in coming to terms with her loss and releasing herself from the guilt and pain. 

Years ago, during a time of personal crisis coming to terms with what was happening around me, my therapist had this to say when I was stuck at the gates of WHY:  “You may not ever find an answer to the WHY’s, no matter how hard you seek…you will need to accept that you may never know and yet, be able to move on.” 

I hope X can do the same and tread the rest of her days having forgiven herself, and forgiven her sister.

Sally May Tan