Les Petits Contes

About life's little observations, which matter. About hilarious situations, which illuminate. About stories which offer immense possibilities, open endings, different interpretations and perspectives.

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Location: Singapore

A nature lover; sun-worshipper, manic book-collector, dessert-devourer and a magnet for hazards

Friday, July 01, 2011

My Birthday


Today, I officially turn 45. Or 46, if I try to be very Chinese. Today is also the start of the second half of 2011. Half a year has slipped by, whooshed past, gone.

1 July is usually the day a new policy, new pricing, new system takes place. Some of my friends used to hate this date. It’s the day that the MRT fares increases, the day that the new/ higher Goods and Services Tax kicks in. From today, the trains from Singapore to Malaysia will start and end their journeys at Wooodlands instead of Tanjong Pagar Station (which opened since 1932). Some other friends would tend to miss this date, and had to send me belated wishes, because a typical reaction would be, ‘’what, it’s July already – we’re still getting used to June!’’

1 would tell them – it’s easy to remember: it’s the day of Princess Diana’s birthday, it’s the SAF (Singapore Armed Forces) day (local guys can’t forget that!), it’s Hong Kong’s new birthday – the day that the Brits handed it over to China.

For me, this year, I am especially sensitive to it, even more than when I turned 40. I had, in January, promised myself to cherish and savour every day this year, and to make each day count. I had vowed not to let each day whoosh past like an unthinking and impetuous teenager. Now, at the start of the second half of this year, I wonder if I’d lived up to my promise. Professionally, due to the ‘’academic year’’ system, July is considered a ‘’winding down’’ month and the build up to the end of the ‘’year’’, culminating in the infamous European summer in August. But personally, shouldn’t I view it as a brand new year? A time to review my priorities and plans, till next 1 July?

Five years ago my brother sent me a link to an on-line questionnaire to find out how long I was going to live.

It turned out that I would live up to 94 years old, based on my lifestyle, health and eating habits.

Do I want to live that long? From the questionnaire result, I will have more than half of my lifespan to go.

The protagonist in Nobel Prize laureate Garcia Marquez’s novel Memories of my Melancholy Whores said, (when he fell madly in love with a young girl on his ninetieth birthday), “… when I woke alive on the first morning of my nineties in the happy bed of Delgadina, I was transfixed by the agreeable idea that life was not something that passes by like Heraclitus’ ever-changing river but a unique opportunity to turn over on the grill and keep broiling on the other side for another ninety years’’.

I am not sure if I will ever say that I want to live yet another ninety years. And I am not sure about the transforming power of love.

The protagonist had reflected about aging and love. In his fifties he became aware that almost everybody was younger than him. (I am already feeling this now at 45!) In his sixties he felt a kind of intensity because of the suspicion that he no longer had time to make mistakes. His seventies were frightening because of a certain possibility that the decade might be the last for him.

Now, at ninety, when he met someone he truly loves yet unable to consummate his love, he confronted his inner self for the first time in his life:

He discovered that his obsession for having each thing in the right place, each subject at the right time, each word in the right style, was not the well-deserved reward of an ordered mind but just the opposite: a complete system of pretense invented by himself to hide the disorder of his nature. He discovered that he is disciplined not out of virtue but as a reaction to his negligence, that he appears generous in order to conceal his meanness, and that he is punctual only to hide how little he cares about other people’s time. He became aware that the invincible power that has moved the world is unrequited, not happy, love.

I didn’t understand his philosophical musings in this book when I read it last time, and I don’t think I ever will, as I write about it now.

Why philosophize too much when life is out there for you to grasp and cherish? I bumped into an old ex colleague today at the gym. We see each other often there, but hardly make an effort to go for coffee and catch up. She wished me happy birthday, and laughed, ‘’when we first met, you were only a little 24 year old girl!’’. Yes, I remember. She was much older and experienced, and was a dear friend and mentor. I left the gym, but promised to call her to arrange coffee. And I know I will.

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