FOCUS: Refuse to let negativity influence or overpower inner joy, contentment
I AM not an engineer and I am not sure how bridges are built these days. When I saw the Firth of Forth bridges in Edinburgh recently, I thought they were simply amazing. One bridge is for vehicles and the other is for trains.
I remember seeing how a bridge was constructed in my hometown many years ago and there was great excitement because it would link Batu Pahat to Muar, its neighbouring town. My father used to take me there just to watch the progress and one thing that remained in my memory was that the engineers built the bridge from both sides of the riverbanks, and finally the bridge "met" in the middle.
The same holds true for the Sydney Harbour bridge. Work began in 1925 at Dawes Point in the south and McMahon's Point to the north, and the construction work moved steadily inwards until it finally met in the middle five years later.
This got me thinking about friendships and relationships.
Over the course of time, we make or lose friends and relations because of many factors such as distance and change. Distance can be geographical, where friends move apart, or psychological, where they grow at a different pace mentally and socially over time and find that they do not have much in common any more. Change can come in the form of a change in ideology or beliefs which separate even the best of friends or relations. Change can happen in family structures through birth, death, remarriage or adoption.
While reconciliation is the best when there are rifts, like the building of bridges, it takes both parties to work hard at it. It takes a saint to continue holding out the olive branch when it is one-way but it takes a wise person to know when you have tried your best and others are still very cold towards you, then it is time to let go.
I like the quote by Socrates that goes, "The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new."
There are people who hurt us through mean words, body language or actions consciously or unconsciously. These are the "old" things that tear two people who love each other apart or create fodder for misunderstandings and disagreements.
But there are people who love us, too, consciously or unconsciously. They encourage us with their words, their actions and their presence. They encourage us when they think about us or they include us in their daily happenings. These are the "new" things that build rather than destroy.
When Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 went missing, good friends in Ireland gave me all their support and never ceased to be concerned. They even followed the news closely and informed me of the latest developments just in case I missed out on any. They showed they cared by enquiring about it or sharing their heartfelt condolences with me. It was my country's grief, which was also my personal grief.
When we had a Malaysian cultural night at the University of Limerick last year, so many of my friends and relatives went. It certainly was not easy to go out in the cold for a night event, totally alien to them and well out of the way for some. But they went and by that action, I could feel the love.
Then, recently, I was really touched when my stepson's girlfriend told me she would show me some pictures of the wedding gowns that she has seen. I see that as a conscious act of sharing. I feel that as a conscious move of love and inclusion. I recognise that as a conscious step of respect, which is so important to Asians especially. She could have chosen not to do so, but she did. It is like my own daughter getting married and sharing her plans with her mother. To me, that speaks volumes.
My basis of "living life as it is" has been my mantra. I cannot expect everyone to love me or to accept me, warts and all. I cannot solve their problems, their grievances, their envy or their hang-ups but I can concentrate on what is good and what I want my life with my husband and children to be. I can choose to absorb their negativity and poison my soul or I can refuse to let that influence or overpower the inner joy and contentment that I have with myself, my husband and my family. To me, life is very short and to live life is my gain.
New Straits Times Columnist June 01 2014 Dr Koh Soo Ling | firstname.lastname@example.org was a lecturer at Universiti Teknologi Mara and now spends her days enjoying life as it is.