Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Too Committed To Let Go?

"OK, OK, no problem, call me again if you need help!" Siew Lian answered her handphone again.

I sighed.

Siew Lian at her desk, as busy as a bee.
We were having pizza in eHomemakers' office after Nigel interviewed Siew Lian for this project.  Nigel and I had already finished our share of the pizza while Siew Lian still had two pieces left because she had been answering her handphone non-stop. 

"These calls are not urgent, why can't you just give yourself half an hour to have a nice lunch with us?" I reprimanded her.  Most of my past experiences with her occured in this manner - me waiting for her to finish talking on the handphone in an office!

I wish she would just put the handphone into her handbag for fifteen minutes!

"Every call is urgent. You never know which lupus patient is in need of help. I can't be selfish. I am supposed to help them, not to help myself," she cocked her eyebrows as she defended herself, she looked a bit hurt.

"You are not helping others when you don't have peace of mind! I am sitting here listening to your calls, none of them is urgent. You could call them back after your lunch instead of you eating one bite and answering ten minutes of call!" I barked, feeling frustrated as my concern for her grew over the past few months since we started this project.  Besides, I felt that I was having lunch in a pool of scattered energy when I was striving so hard to stay centered and calm.  "You haven't finished your lunch and now you got to rush off for the next appointment. I know you want to help other lupus patients, but don't you think it is unfair to you even though your lupus condition is in remission? You need to rest too!"

The Chinese character 'Shio' -filial
piety - aptly describes Siew Lian.
How many Asian women in this
busy materialistic times are willing
to take care of the daily needs of an
elderly and also her 'not-so-well'
sister? It is also 'shio' to take the
worry of an elderly parent away by
taking care of one's siblings.
"We are all different, you can't force me to be like you -- eat the way you eat, talk the way you talk and behave the way you do!!  I like to serve the lupus patients because I feel good helping them," she protested. Then she listed a few incidences whereby her answering the handphone in those particular instances had saved lives. There was the midnight call from a depressed lupus patient just when she was about to fall asleep, and the call from a critically ill patient while she was driving and she managed to get the patient to help herself before the ambulance came, and many more.

"Siew Lian, you are taking care of your elderly mother and your sister! You are not supposed to stress yourself over others' welfare!" I wanted to tell her this for the longest time but I didn't dare to do so. Somehow, this project is emboldening me to say things to others which I have kept to myself for years or for as long as I have known the person.

"Who say I am stress?" The ever strong Swee Lian retorted back. Her eyes glared at me, she snarled.  "I am not doing anythng wrong! I am still taking care of them, am I not? I just like doing what I do! When I am able to help others, I feel so good! So you mustn't judge others from your standard."

I felt like a deflated balloon. 

There I was, thinking that I was trying to help her as a friend by pointing things out to her, but there she was, as strong as a big banyan tree even though she can only see with one eye because she never has time to go for cataract operation of the other eye.            

Chinese character for 'sacrifice'. Many Chinese women born before the eighties grew up with the notion that they must give all of themselves to the families. I can only think of these two words whenever I see Siew Lian rushing in and out.


Staying calm, I tried to reason with her, "Years ago, I was like you. Answering calls from single moms any time and at odd hours. I wanted to help them so much that I took on their problems daily.  I couldn't see the forest for the trees and eventually I stressed myself and got sick often.  I am just trying to point out to you that as much as we want to help others, we must take care of ourselves too. Giving some space between ourselves and those we help is necessary. We can't help others 24 hours and every minute of our life !!" I lectured her, giving her examples of what happened to me when I over-committed myself to help single moms.

"That was you! I am different. I haven't gotten sick and cough like you did! We are two different persons. Have you ever thought that I may be healthier than you, that I can multitask more than you?" she challenged again. Her eyeballs dilated, her being pierced me sharply. 
I clasped my hand over my face and took a deep breath.  Inhale, exhale. Elbow perched on the table, I rested my right cheek on my right palm so that I can study her face across the table. She looked at me as she munched her pizza with a blank facial expression. She shook her head playfully. Ha! Her eyes were laughing!
Who said she was stressed?  She enjoyed 'torturing' me !

"I gotta go," she didn't finish her last piece of pizza before rushing off to the next appointment. "Someone is going to see me at 4 o'clock, and then I got to go to PJ for a meeting......." her voice tailed off as she got into her old car.                                                            

I sighed as I watched her driving her 'very reliable' car steadily on the road. It stopped obediently at the junction before turning to the right to enter the busy main road. No one would know that the driver could see with only one eye. She was right, I shouldn't try to change her.  
She is not stress, she enjoys being wanted!


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