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Live Your Life, a poem

Live Your Life

Like you’re really meaning it

Like you’re really living it

Like you’re really loving it

Move it, sing it, dance it

Because, is anything as beautiful as life itself?

As long as you’re still alive

Still breathing

Still going

Then anything,

and everything,

is possible

Every second is a second chance

Every minute : something shifts

Something changes, something clicks.

With every pulse of your heart

With every beat of the drum,

A future.

This poem celebrates everything that is possible in life, as long as you stay alive. It is one of the poems I published in A Season of Poetry. The whole poetry collection, together with illustrations by Inez Wandita, is available at the shop.

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How Music Helped Me Deal with My Eating Disorder

This is a summary of my Instagram Live Interview last Friday 15th of Januray 2021 with Mutiara Nusantara International School in Bandung, Indonesia. It was hosted by Mely Sutrisno, School Director. I would like to thank the school and Ms. Mely for making the talk happen.

What is an eating disorder?

Let me give a disclaimer first that I am not a psychologist. I will be sharing what I experienced with eating disorders, from my point of view. There are three common types of eating disorders: anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder. Details of each type can be found in this great article by Healthline.

What type of eating disorder did you have? Was there a trigger that started the disorder?

My eating disorder was bulimia nervosa. At that time I was 12 years old, studying in a junior high school in Bandung. I was a very unhappy teenager. My relationship with myself was bad, I did not have a mentor to speak openly regarding emotional issues, plus ideals of beauty from images shown in the media were all factors that contributed to the disorder. The trigger however, was when a friend called me “montok” (which translates into curvy). I thought that being curvy was not beautiful, and so I had to do whatever I could to change my body. I had this disorder for 10 years, until I was 22 years old.

At which point did you realize that this was bad for you, and when did you try to stop?

At that time in Bandung, there was no awareness about eating disorders. So I did not realize that it was a destructive or dangerous habit. When I went to college in Michigan, there was more awareness about various types of disorders. Some people openly talked about their disorders. Student counseling services were also available, and that made me understand that this was something I needed to stop. From then, it took me about 4 more years to be able to heal from the disorder.

Did your family know you were dealing with bulimia? Or did you keep it all to yourself?

I kept it to myself because I was ashamed to be doing this. I did not know how they would react if they knew about my habits. My parents were also busy, so they probably did not notice the symptoms and my behavior patterns. At the time, they probably did not even know that such a disorder existed.

What are some symptoms or behavior patterns for parents of teens to look out for?

In our culture, we can easily miss the symptoms because one of them is eating a lot of food without control. We tend to encourage eating a lot, especially in family gatherings. So eating a lot can be (mistakenly) seen as a good thing. After the binging, I would always go to the bathroom to try to throw it out. So be on the lookout for that-going and staying in the bathroom for a longer period of time after one has eaten a lot of food.

Were you affected also by your social life in school?

For me, not so much. It was more the home situation, including the eating habits in the family. Older people tend to dump food on my plate, making it harder to be in control of my eating. So that’s a good tip for families: don’t put food on people’s plates, or force them to eat more food. Just let them serve themselves.

So how did you manage to stop the habit? How did you distract your emotions?

This is where music comes in for me. In college I studied piano performance so I had to practice 6-8 hours everyday. Piano practice required intense focus and high concentration. Since it was my degree program, I wanted to do it well. I needed to do it well, so I threw myself wholeheartedly into piano. One thing about music is that when we succeed to make better sounds, it feels great! It made me happy. I became proud of myself. (Check out this related post about how being happy helps to build a healthier mindset.)

Another factor was a college roommate that also had the same disorder. We trusted each other and made a pact to try to support and help each other change. This is crucial. I would not have been able to do it by myself.

What are activities would you suggest for teenagers who don’t like music?

Anything that is physical, requires concentration, and makes you happy. Drawing, dancing, sports,…lately I got into diving and that is an activity that requires full concentration underwater plus makes me really happy. But diving can be expensive, so just find another option that fits your budget!

Why should we try to stop the habit? What are the dangers if we live with that disorder?

Well, with anorexia you are malnourishing yourself, so you will be losing out essential nutrients your body needs. With bulimia, I was throwing up everyday. On my worst days I would throw up twice to three times. Imagine all that acid coming up through your system several times a day for years. It causes stomach, esophagus, and oral irritation and damage. Not to mention the emotional and mental destruction you are doing to yourself.

It is quite damaging for the long run. So one really should try to get help from a professional, or at the very least find a supportive community with a positive mindset.

Yes! And don’t get discouraged when you start trying to tell other people. Parents might not know how to react, some friends might not understand, but don’t get discouraged until you are able to find the help you need.

So what would your advise be if a child or friend told you that she/he is struggling with eating disorder?

Do not judge if your child or friend shares something with you. Acknowledge that it takes a lot of effort to be able to speak about it, so receive the words with care and love.

We’re at the end of our talk for today, do you have any last words for our teenagers?

Being a teenager is so difficult isn’t it? I hated being a teenager. But life gets better. As you get older you will have more experiences and be more confident in handling others and handling yourself. Hang in there.

Okay! I think that’s a good end for today. Thank you very much for your time, and I wish the best success for your music, work, and writings.

Thank you so much for the invitation and the opportunity. Have a good evening 🙂

*The full interview (in Indonesian) can be accessed on Sekolah Mutiara Nusantara IGTV.

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Movie Review: Radioactive (2020)

“I have suffered much more from a lack of resources and funds, than I ever did from being a woman,” says Marie Curie in the 2020 retelling of her life: Radioactive. Directed by Marjane Satrapi (Persepolis) with Rosamund Pike as the brilliant scientist, this movie aims to be an inspiration to young girls.

How is Radioactive inspiring young girls?

Marie Curie’s life is already an inspiration; 2 Nobel prizes in the field of physics and chemistry. Satrapi adds into this her bold directing vision: cutting and lurching to scenes in the future which are completely unrelated to the plot. Right after Marie Curie announces their discovery of two new elements-radium and polonium-the scene launches to a doctor in Cleveland, Ohio, explaining a new medical treatment for cancer called radiation. At one of the most heart-wrenching moments of Pike’s acting, the scene cuts to the Chernobyl nuclear meltdown of 1986.

Some movie lovers will despise this style of storytelling. I, however, found this reinforcement of dichotomy to be brave and daring, showing how the actions in one person’s life can create such impact (for the better or for the worse) into the future. Marie Curie directly impacted her daughter Irene (played by Anya Taylor-Joy of The Queen’s Gambit), who went on to win a Nobel prize of her own. Indirectly Marie Curie impacted humankind all around the globe forevermore. To me, this gives the extraordinary message that women do have power.

To me, this gives the extraordinary message that women do have power.

Despite all odds, the headstrong Marie was able to find a husband that respected and supported her science. For a moment, at least, it was possible to have both love and a dazzling career. I find this to be another powerful message for a world which tells women that we have to choose. We can have love but we must clip our wings, or we can choose a glorious career but stay a spinster until old age.

“I wasn’t a very good mother, was I?” Marie admits to an adult Irene as they are heading into a World War I battlefield. Mothering is difficult. Put on top of that being a single mother and juggling a world famous career. How does one play all these roles? Is it even possible? Or are these illogical demands we put on girls and women who long to have both kids and a CV? And yet, Irene Curie turned out just fine in her own accord.

Finally, I was most taken aback by the line that Marie Curie suffered more from lack of resources than from being a woman. This is so fresh. Satrapi’s Curie never victimizes herself as a woman dominated by men. She is confident with her mind, her values, and her worth. And this is why I find Radioactive so inspiring.

Have you seen Radioactive? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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Moon Flower Goddess – Podcast Episode 3

Putu Sandra Devindriati Kusuma

The island of Bali in Indonesia is one of the world’s best tourism destinations. I visit Bali regularly, and was always interested to know more about the local beliefs there. So I interviewed Putu Sandra Devindriati Kusuma, whose name means Moon Flower Goddess, to share a bit about her life and philosophies as a Balinese woman. Listen to this episode with an open mind and you will enjoy the beauty of Bali through her voice.

Do you have a story to share with me? Contact me and maybe you will be featured in the next episode! My podcast can also be found on SpotifyApple podcasts, and other podcasting platforms.

Visit Sandra at her instagram account: @putu.sandra.

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How These 2 Fundamentals of Scuba Diving Helped Me Deal with Fear

I began scuba diving in 2016, thanks to a dear friend who is a Dive Master. Like everyone else, I was a bit afraid before going down into the deep ocean. However, after proper training, I was sold for more and wanted to be a better diver. Doing more diving helped me navigate life also. Especially when dealing with fear, the two basic rules of scuba diving taught me important lessons.

1. First rule: keep breathing.

Whatever happens, under the water we must (MUST!) keep breathing. We sometimes don’t realize that when we become afraid, stressed, or panicked, our breathing becomes erratic. In diving, control of breathing is essential to maintaining buoyancy (balance) underwater. And of course its a very minor fact that you do need the air… This training taught me to be extra aware of my breathing when I am feeling threatened.

2. Second rule: stay calm.

It’s easy to become panicked when afraid, but panicking underwater will create more danger for yourself and for your buddy (dive partner). The first rule of breathing helps to keep the second rule of staying calm. When you are calmer, then you can assess the situation including the fear you are feeling, and decide if it’s illogical, overreaction, or if it is indeed a real threat.

Once you have identified that it is a real threat, then what is the plan? What will you do about it?

If your fear is a serious threat, then to do nothing is unwise. If its something you can deal with later without too much risk in the meanwhile, then perhaps it is better to deal with it later. This gives you time to see how the situation unfolds. If you realize that you were overreacting or being hijacked by your amygdala, then see if you can continue and carry on with more care and awareness. Later, you can review the situation and see how to prevent that fear from blowing up and controlling or limiting your actions.

For a deep breathing tutorial to help you stay calm, visit this post.

How do you deal with your fear? Let me know in the comments!

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While We Still Can, a poem

Here we all are

so lucky to be alive and alright

at the end of one long long year

where darkness was absolute

but kindness overcame fear.

Here we all are,

hoping for a kinder year

praying for those we hold dear.

And if tomorrow does not come

if next year proves harsher than this one

if those we love leave us

and everything we work for is lost?

Well, bear it we must

and bear it we shall

a day at a time

while we still can.

A poem for the new year.

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3 Tips to Reach Your Goals

I love to plan and make goals, especially at end-of-year time. The reason is because goals help you to measure how your life went this year, review what could be better (or could be worse), and set new goals for the coming year!

In order to increase the likelihood of reaching your goal, make sure that they are SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound). In addition to these, I’ll share three tips that have helped me in reaching my goals and increasing my performance.

1. Find an accountability partner.

It takes intense amount of self discipline to be able to follow through your intentions daily. If you are an athlete, classical musician, or someone used to being so disciplined, then you won’t have a problem. But if you are not used to the discipline, then daily life can easily distract you. An accountability partner is someone that is committed to hold you accountable to the goals you made yourself. A friend, spouse, or even a paid professional (fitness trainer, teacher, life coach) can help you do this. Simply knowing that someone is watching to see whether you did it or not, will help you to get it done.

2. Divide the goal into something you can do everyday.

For example, in 2021 I would like to be more fluent in Chinese. So my goal is not to be fluent in Chinese, but rather it is to study Chinese language for 10 minutes everyday. I do this on an app called Chinese Skill which has a cute big panda for its cover image.

3. Get the right tools to help you.

In 2019, one of my goals was to exercise more regularly. This goal inspired by a figure I really looked up to. I managed to exercise regularly with an app called Se7en, which creates a sequence of 10-12 exercises that last for exactly 7 minutes. Notice that for my Chinese language goal, I use the Chinese Skill app. Both of them are free, and will show a daily record of the progress. These days just about anything you need will already be available in the appstore, so take a look, try a couple, and settle on whatever works best for you. It might not even be an application, but you will know that best.

The real victory is in the daily habits you form as a result.

Last but not least: remember that the goal is important, but the real victory is in the daily habits you form as a result of trying to achieve that goal. Also known as the process, the know-how, the journey; there are many words for it. all of them points to this: what you learn about yourself through the process of trying.

Ready to set and achieve some goals in 2021? I wish you the best of luck, and a wonderful year ahead.

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Series Review: His Dark Materials (Season 2)

Season 2 of HBO’s His Dark Materials just finished on the 21st of December, with a 7th episode that will not disappoint fans. After a slow build up throughout this season, the last two episodes have been fast paced as everyone intersects in a world inhibited by soul sucking creatures known as specters (think JK Rowling’s dementors).

In this world, a weapon called The Subtle Knife was made which can slice through anything: even the veils between universes. Here Will Parry, destined Bearer of the Knife meets our heroine Lyra Silvertongue. Here also their budding relationship starts, triggering events which will lead to The Fall of Eve. The witches know that Lyra is Eve, so they rally to protect her.

How Does the Show Compare to the Book?

HBO largely preserves author Phillip Pullman’s masterful storytelling, with the exception of how one of the character’s die. HBO also took more liberty to dig deeper into Mrs. Coulter’s psychology, but who wouldn’t with such a bravura performance by Ruth Wilson?

Would I Recommend to Friends?

Not if you are a religious conservative. Unlike The Golden Compass (2007 film with Nicole Kidman as Mrs. Coulter), HBO stays true to Pullman’s main views about freedom of will, the importance of celebrating physical and natural senses, and the unjust tyranny of, well, God himself. If you’re more open to such view, then this is an epic series absolutely worth your time.

What Did I Like Most?

Amir Wilson as Will Parry! He carries the brooding outcast-warrior character well.

What Did I Like Least?

What in the multiple worlds happened to our heroine? Lyra was clever, confident, and relentless throughout Season 1. Here she gets more and more subdued towards the end of Season 2. She questions herself, the aletheometer, makes too big a deal of her mistakes, and lets her fears dictate her decisions. Is it really necessary to put her into such a corner? Perhaps, or perhaps not.

Do you follow this series? What did you think?

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When Worst Fears of the Year Comes True

Several times this year my worst fears came true. In May I had symptoms of a fever, which turned out to be dengue hemorrhagic fever, thanks to some mosquitos in the neighborhood. I was treated in a hospital which would not let me know whether it had Covid patients or not. This was during the early months of the pandemic.

A couple months after that, it was confirmed that a co-op which had 1/3 of my investments failed, and I lost about 8,000 USD. The economic crisis hit home, and hit hard.

Then, here we are in December 2020, and I received new that my father and 2 other members of my family tested positive for the Corona virus.

Honestly, what was my first reaction? Thank goodness my husband and I have been on a different island for the last couple of weeks. Second reaction? What a horrible person I am to be feeling this way. The guilt weighed heavily on me, until I realized that those emotions wouldn’t help anyone anyways.

So I picked up the phone and asked my mom how she was doing. She was understandably very distraught. Her emotions were swirling around, thinking about what if what if what if… she seemed to be handling the external situation fine, but crumbling internally under self judgment. I tried to give her nonjudgmental support and words of love.

Oh what a crazy ride this year has been. I don’t have any tips or suggestions for this post. Just an acknowledgment of my fears and the scariest moments of this year. I wonder what more will the future bring? Am I ready? And if not, what can I do to prepare myself?

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Widowhood in Patriarchal Societies – Podcast Episode 2

“What a great topic for holidays!” Frances comments to me with her touch of dry humor.

“Well, being widowed is the end of a life. But I suppose its also the beginning of another,” I reply slowly.

Frances Bowden Affandy

In the second episode of my podcast, I interview anthropologist Frances Bowden Affandy on the topic of Widowhood in Patriarchal Societies. Quite understandably, very few people talk about their experience surviving the death of a spouse. And yet, so many this year have lost their loved ones. There is the emotional condition, and in addition to that there is the legal, financial, and social dimensions of widowhood that often gets forgotten.

Frances was widowed several years ago when her husband David “Didi” Affandy died of diabetes. From the hysteria of funerals to what traditions dictate, this interview will blow you away. Oh, and if you hang around for the extras, you will not be dissapointed.

Do you have a story to share with me? Contact me and maybe you will be interviewed in the next episode! The airinefferin podcast can also be found on Spotify, Apple podcasts, and other podcasting platforms.