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Love at First Sight

Seriously? We’re going to talk about this topic? Isn’t it just a myth?

Yes. Yes, we are. Because here I am in a loving relationship after having fallen in love at first sight with my second husband Cung. Yup, after everything I’ve been through, I gave love another shot, proposed (!), and here we are. He doesn’t believe in it, though. He had his own set of experiences.

Let’s rewind.

Do you believe in love at first sight? Have you ever fallen in love at first sight? Did it go well for you? I’ll bet the answer is no. The several times that I have fallen in love, at first sight, didn’t go well for me. Looking back here are the reasons why.

Love-at-First-Sight Failures

  1. I didn’t take a realistic assessment of how possible the relationship was. It was long-distance involving oceans and miles and miles of flying and different time zones and altogether too much of a hassle. The stress of the situation piled up to the stress of everything else. The bonds did not manage to solidify, not with half the globe standing in between.
  2. I wasn’t really sure of what I wanted for myself. Did I want to focus on a career? Did I want to build a family – get married quickly and have kids? Or did I want to get rich? I wasn’t quite clear on my own goals and because of that, the roller-coaster of hormones made everything even more mixed up.
  3. I wasn’t aware of my own strengths and weaknesses. Many people have told me that I am charming. This is a great asset, but it can really backfire on me if I don’t know when and where to hold back, or when to press forward. What I’m saying is, I have been as much at fault at making other people fall in love at first sight with me, even though I was not ready to follow through!

I guess what I’m saying is it takes a lot more than one look to make love work. It often takes painful (or sometimes just dumb) experiences, but what’s important is that you learn a little bit more about yourself each time, so the next time the stars align and love hits, you will know how to deal with it.

What are your experiences with love at first sight? For some extra fun reading on physical reactions of love at first sight, check out this article.

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The Girl Proposed, Twice!

This is a blog post for all of you girls, ladies, women out there who have heard over and over again that you have to wait for a guy to take the lead on your relationship. First of all, let me just say that I can’t remember how many thousands of times I’ve been told this.

Girls shouldn’t take the shot first. Girls should wait. Wait for the right guy, he will come.

I am sure that for some people, this is the truth. This is what happened in your lives, and it worked out perfectly well. That’s fine, I’m very happy for you. But then this post is probably not for you.

This post is for other girls who questioned those sayings and advice. Girls who thought why do I have to wait? In fact, what am I waiting for anyway?

I’ll share with you that I’m on my second marriage now (after the tragic death of my first husband), and in both relationships, it was me who took the shot first. As in, I was the one who proposed. BOTH TIMES. Oh, it wasn’t anything romantic like me getting down on one knee in front of the guys.

My Two Marriage Proposals

With Oky, my first husband, it went somewhat like this: “Hey, let’s get married.” If he was surprised, he didn’t show it. He just smiled shyly and nodded. That’s Oky for you, sweet kind soul that he was. I was 29, he was 39.

With Cung, who had heard tales of my craziness and was (should have been) more prepared…it went somewhat like this: “Let’s sign some papers.” Cung is more cunning though, so he managed to stall it off a little bit, which was arguably for the better. We eventually had a little avocado-themed wedding. I was 33, a recently widowed young woman; Cung was 45.

In both relationships, the girl proposed! Indeed I decided to just go with it and forget about “traditional roles” because I knew it was what I wanted, at that time. There have been a couple times before Oky in which I almost got married (twice, in fact), but I called both of them off because it didn’t feel right. As much as I cared about them, I knew I wouldn’t be able to last more than a couple years with the lifestyle that we would have.

So what am I saying? I guess I’m saying that in my experience, there is no “timeline”. Sometimes things can happen quickly, too quick. And sometimes things happen too slowly for your taste. What’s important is to make sure that it feels right, and to be looking out for yourself first and foremost. Look out for your needs, wants, dreams, goals. Once you know that, then you will be able to ascertain which ones you are willing to compromise, and which ones you will not be willing to compromise.

When that is in place, then I would go for it.

For extra reading, here is a fun article on gender roles in relationships.

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Rimsky and I, part two

MCT : Mast Cell Tumor is the most common malignant skin tumors in dogs. They are usually found in individual masses, though in some dogs there can be multiple. Appearances are found in canines aged 6 and older. By this time Rimsky was 7. Luckily, we only found one tumor on Rimsky’s skin, though it was growing daily- a scary thing to witness.

The Operation

Oky brought him to a good vet. Rimsky was drugged for days after, but thankfully there has been no regrowth since the surgery.

At the age of 8, Rimsky experienced the sudden harrowing death of his caretaker. If I thought I was devastated by Oky’s death, it was nothing compared to Rimsky’s emotions. The edge of his ears to the tip of his tail was flushed with absolute loss. He did not bark for a week. The only sound he made was whimpering near the chair Oky usually sat. Each morning he waited by the gates of Gupondoro. With every car and guest that arrived, he never lost hope that Oky might return. When guests petted him sadly, he seemed to absorb their emotions directly into his furry body. He stayed unenergetic for a couple months.

One afternoon, he chewed through an expensive leather wallet of mine. His bad behavior was returning. I looked him in the eye and decided to put him to sleep. It was clear I could not take proper care of Rimsky, so I thought perhaps his spirit could accompany Oky’s wandering soul. I began to ask around for how to accomplish this. As it turned out, nobody would do it. A neighbor even called to say he would gladly adopt Rimsky- no need for me to end his life. People thought I had snapped! And perhaps, I did. I wanted to take out on Rimsky all the anger and injustice I was feeling over the whole situation of Oky’s tragic death.

A couple weeks later, I moved out of Gupondoro into a studio apartment. Gupondoro was to be a high-end mountain villa, available for rent on AirBnB. The income would help me maintain the property I inherited. What happened to Rimsky? After all that drama, the golden went back to my parents house. Now that they were retired, they had time to love and care for the dog.

Now Rimsky is 10. He is healthy and happy again, being spoiled by treats from my dad. He recently proved to us his intelligence and quickness by catching a a rat hiding in one of the bookshelves. He still snacks on tissue though, especially when no body is looking.

I only hope we can give him the love he craves for until his last day.

The human – pet relationship is something so special. Do you have a dog or a pet? How is your relationship?

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Rimsky and I, part 1

I have dried my tears in his hairy neck, warmed my toes with his golden retriever fur, dug my fingers and found a huge tumor between his forelegs.

He has pooped in my bedroom, eaten through my favorite goat skin wallet, and regularly steals tissue from tissue boxes all around the house.

We have been through a lot, Rimsky and I.

He was two months old when I bought him from the petshop. I was a 23 years old who had just moved back to Bandung after 6,5 years of studying in the States. It was a huge transition : I went from living independently to being under my parents’ roof, I had a master’s degree but no friends, and the worst of it all I was dating a white boy who had not finished his graduate program. Long distance relationship? Been there done that. It was a promising relationship which ended catastrophocally a year later.

When we broke up, I was devastated. There was one particular day when I literally couldn’t get up from bed. My neck had spasms due to the intense emotional stress. I drowned my sorrows away by hugging Rimsky often. He faithfully licked my tears dry. Who cares about him? Just play with me, the retriever seemed to be saying.

When he was 3 years old, I started a professional piano trio group called Cascade Trio. We performed concerts and gave workshops all around Indonesia. Needless to say, I was never at home. And when I was, I had to practice piano for long hours. This was traumatizing for Rimsky. He was left alone days at a time, starved of the attention goldens so needed.

Attention Starved

On the rare moments I could play with him, he got out of control because he was too excited. Being a large boisterous golden retriever with tons of energy, he could jump and easily knock me over. Retrievers also love to retrieve, so he would bite my hand asking me to throw something for him to fetch. I became scared to play with him as I was afraid my hands would get hurt. The gulf between us grew further apart, and Rimsky’s behavior became uncontrollable. I realized I was to blame. He was there when I was lonely, but I neglected him when my career started to take off. Out of selfish reasons, I didn’t want to give him away to others who could have taken better care of him. Poor, poor Rimsky.

When he was 5 years old, I met Oky (my first husband) for the first time. The months when we were getting to know each other, Oky would play with Rimsky, taking him out on walks. Walks! OH THE JOY!!! Rimsky was saved from almost going crazy. Having someone routinely give him the care he needed, Rimsky became much calmer in attitude.

I moved into Gupondoro (Oky’s house) after we got married. Rimsky came also. He flourished there. Routine walks and hikes on hills, almost constant attention from the architect. I was still busy travelling with work and concert schedules, so all the credit really went to Oky. Funny though, there was one spot between Rimsky’s forelegs which Oky rarely scratched. This was where I found the tumor, already the size of a tennis ball. My golden retriever needed an operation as soon as possible.

(To be continued)

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Reflections After A Family Member Survived Covid

Cung, my second husband, and I got married last year in August 2020 (see my Covid wedding post). Due to Covid restrictions, we did not go on a honeymoon following the wedding. Instead, we planned a delayed honeymoon slash break (didn’t we all need a break after 2020?) in December 2020. Destination: Bali, Indonesia’s paradise island. Domestic travel had opened up allowing for domestic tourism. Plus we wanted to visit our friends in Bali because the downfall of the tourism industry hit them hard.

We took the necessary health tests and protocols and booked the accommodation in several places. Tanjung Benoa, Nusa Lembongan, Ubud, and Tabanan-off we went. We only bought a one-way ticket because, to be honest, we were hoping to stay in Bali for an extended time. Since all our work is done online nowadays, we just need stable internet to be able to keep working.

The first part of our trip went very well. It was wonderful to see our friends at Bali. At Nusa Lembongan, we were able to do a bit of scuba diving. I am on a Dive Master Training program at Big Fish Diving, and I was able to review many necessary skills (visit my article on what I learned about fear from scuba diving). One fateful afternoon, however, I got a text that my father was not feeling very well. In pandemic times such as this, even minor health problems can become majorly complicated.

Emotional Turmoil

Our fears were validated. Several days after that, he tested positive for the Covid virus. A couple of days after that, his situation worsened and his oxygen saturation dropped to 75%. The target oxygen saturation range for patients is 92-96%. At that point, I had to decide whether to go back to Bandung or to stay and support from Bali. In a normal situation, this would have been an easy decision. In these crazy pandemic years, however, it was not that easy. Covid being as infectious as it is, my father kept insisting to be treated at home. He insisted that being isolated at the hospital stressed him out and made him unable to get better in spirit.

Well whenever in Bandung, Cung and I stay with my parents. So I had to think twice whether I wanted to be caught in the same home as a Covid positive patient. On the other hand, he was my father, of which I only had one. Now to give a bit of a background: our relationship is not the smoothest of relationships. Sometimes we find it very difficult to get along. This all factored in while we were on the island.

Making A Difficult Decision

After some thought, I finally decided that Cung and I should cut our trip short. We changed our plans and headed back to Bandung where we are at least closer to support my mother in a worst-case scenario. That was mid-December. Thankfully, my father got better, and everyone adhered to the protocols so that he was only released after being tested negative. He returned home on 30 December 2020-Covid survivor.

He said that he felt like someone that had just returned from war. Victorious, but weak, exhausted, and depressed. At the time of my writing this article (end of January) he is already much better. I feel though, that it was not only him who fought a battle. Everyone involved fought an internal struggle of emotions and what-ifs.

A Space Inside Myself

Having made the conscious decision to sacrifice our plans to be able to support my mother (and my father), I felt like something changed inside me. Something shifted, something was let go. A space-no matter how small-was created into which something new might grow. I have an inkling of what this new thing might be, but I don’t want to name it yet.

I do, however, want to acknowledge the space.

With special thanks to Devika Brendon, a dear friend who introduced me to the concept of “spaces” inside us.

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Signs of Emotionally Abusive Relationships

Emotional abuse can occur in dating, family, or even work relationships. If you are not aware of the signs, sometimes it is hard to tell when you are being emotionally abused by a lover, parent/sibling, friend, or colleague. It happens more often than you might think, and its very likely that you will come across emotionally abusive people several times in your life.

Emotionally abusive people are usually after dominance and control-of you, of the group, or of the project. Often abusers are active substance addicts or have disorders such as psychopath, pathological narcissist, or borderline personality disorder. First impressions of them can be great, as they are able to be very sweet and accommodative at the beginning. In fact, they can come across as too charming or too good to be true.

I have experienced being in emotionally abusive relationships, so this is a sign I have learned to look out for.

In fact, they can come across as too charming or too good to be true.

What are some other signs?

  1. I was constantly unsure of myself. Did I say the right thing, do the right thing? Would he/she be angry at this text and ignore me, or would he/she forgive me and carry on?
  2. I was always so exhausted. I felt drained emotionally, mentally, and physically. Sleeping held no relief, instead it made me more tired because there were constant nightmares.
  3. I took no joy in my accomplishments. On the contrary, I felt guilty for outshining the partner/colleague/friend.
  4. I felt so powerless. As if there was nothing I could do to change the situation, and I had to either accept it, or leave.
  5. I spent more money than I should have, because I wanted to make the other person happy.
  6. My world got smaller and smaller and smaller. All other relationships were considered a threat to the current one.
  7. The consequences of my mistakes were amplified and used as a tool to punish me. It was my fault things went awry. I was the one who messed things up.
  8. I did not feel comfortable being near them. In fact, I was afraid that at any moment they could blow up and physically hurt me, or someone else around them.

What should I do if I am in an emotionally abusive relationship?

If you think you are in an abusive relationship, I heavily suggest seeing a therapist or talking about it with a trusted adult. Neutral third party observations can help you see things from a different perspective. Create boundaries, build a support network for yourself, make an exit plan, and get the heck out. Don’t hang in there because you think you can fix the person, or because you love the person, or because you owe them your successes. Don’t try to understand or justify their actions.

This is easy to say, and I know from experience these actions can be incredibly difficult to do. Try to be brave for yourself, and take the first step: talk about it. As Fred Rogers said: “Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable.”

“Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable.”

Fred Rogers

Remember that you deserve an amazing relationship, and an amazing life!

Featured image photographed by Chameera Laknath during Southeast Asia Leadership Academy January 2019 in Hanoi, Vietnam.

To read more on emotionally abusive relationships, visit this article from Health Line. If you need a reminder of your worth, visit our core beliefs.