Seeing myself

People of faith don’t believe in coincidences. So I see it as God’s perfect timing that yesterday, my father brought back a digitally restored video of my kindergarten performance in 1984. Just when I realize that I don’t know how to accept or love myself – and that I don’t even know how to see myself except through other people’s eyes, I got to see my young self.

Though there were laughs and teasing around when I watched it (first with mom and dad, then later with Zibin), I lay awake last night replaying what I saw in my mind. And I felt overwhelmed with emotion.

The 5 year old Ann I saw who danced and sang did so with such seriousness and earnestness. I had possibly the most expressive and animated face while singing (the husband teased that though I was at the back of a chorus, I looked as if I was singing in a solo performance). My dancing as a productivity bumble-bee was incredibly polished and precise – and dare I say it – graceful. Nary a stumble or any spot of hesitation in my movements. (I was reminded that back then I had wanted to be a dancer, and spent many hours dancing at home and watching videos of ballets and Chinese dances.)

Somehow, my heart was struck by how earnest my 5 year old self was. And it suddenly dawned upon me that God was answering my request – He is showing me how He sees me. Could it be, that even now, He sees me as an animated, earnest child putting in her 120% into a performance? The question is, how do I see myself? How do I feel about myself?

Why have I always felt the need to be perfect? Why do I lose myself in bringing happiness to others? Why do I have a deeply rooted fear of disappointing others and of being abandoned because of failure? Why do I have such a hyper-developed sense of duty and obligation and responsibility?

I need to follow my heart and enter a journey into my past, and keep going wherever it leads me. Revelations of seismic proportions have already been happening in the last few months, and I am awed by how complex I am as a human being, and my loved ones as well. I begin to see them so differently – not just as mother and father – but as people with life histories who shaped them just as they shaped mine. What amazes me most is the way in which they have unconsciously shaped me – and how I have been shaped unconsciously. Many things were explicitly taught and explicitly learned, but much, much more was transmitted without either they or I knowing. I too have unconsciously shaped others, and harmed others, even when I had a completely sincere and earnest heart to do good.

Fr. Goh had pointed out to me that the relationship in my life that had nourished me the most has also been the one to harm me the most. I had started to discover that myself a few months ago, and I did not react very well back then because I didn’t know how to deal with my feelings. I knew I needed to forgive, and I wanted to, but I knew I was not succeeding. Now, I can sense that I’m getting closer to the answer. The key somehow lies in learning to love myself first.

P.S. Isn’t God sweet to give me a visual aid to help me see myself?

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