Why I said ‘yes’

This is not a love letter to my groom-to-be per se (sorry to disappoint), but I write this mainly as a reminder to you—my future, overthinking, ever-anxious self—of why. Of what went on in your head when you made this call. Because it’s one thing to love someone, but a whole other level to commit to a marriage. I know us too well to guarantee that you’re going to have doubts and second-guess your own decision (perhaps because we did it once, and now we’re a lot more risk-averse). So let me tell you this—your expansive brain would again run around to different corners, dark and light, playing and replaying scenarios of the best and the worst things that could happen, but in the end, you’d come to the same conclusion: that it only makes sense to be with him. No matter how many times we do this.

(Unless of course you’re presented with new data points that fundamentally changes the outcome, we’re too Bayesian to ignore that.)

So here are five reasons why—hold on to them whenever that fear comes to visit:

  1. You were both whole before you met each other. He wasn’t looking for someone to fix his life, and neither were you. He and you are only doing this because you both genuinely believe that being together makes it possible for you to go farther than you would on your own (even though that would’ve probably been fine, too). You weren’t under any pressure to get married and therefore could walk away at any time in the relationship, yet you both choose to be together and for the right reasons.
  2. You’re fundamentally compatible. Things that other people find difficult about the two of you are what you enjoy about each other. Your shared ‘logic base’ a.k.a. the ‘container’, makes it not only easy but also rewarding for you to think things through, even when the ‘content’ a.k.a. our interests in life tend to vary. On Day 5, he made an excel sheet to score himself against your random list of 60+ criteria I want from a partner and passed with flying colors. (Not to mention all the scary similarities we share—down to Di Pematang and Anugerah yang Indah.) On Day 6, both of you spent three hours in the most beautiful braindance you’ve ever done with anyone and come up with a whole framework just because you disagreed with how people thought you were moving ‘too fast’. On Day 25, he told your friends your overthinking was actually what he loved about me (although he has yet to understand the full extent of it haha). You have to really make an effort if you want to offend each other. Being with him is easy because you could talk about anything—menial and principal, you never had to translate your soul, not really. You never had to perform, but you allow the space for ‘mutual impact’ and for the other person to grow individually—all the while growing together.
  3. You have the toolbox to overcome anything. Even when things go awry—as they have, and they will again—the two of you have what it takes to deal with them. Your superpower is in how you communicate: you take turns in being grounded when the other person’s triggered, and on rare occasions when you both were, you love each other too much to try your best to be the one staying on the ground. He told you he never had to be a different person even when you’re emotional—he could say what he means and it is precisely his reasoning that fixes the problem (which sometimes ended up making things worse for others). Is this what they mean when they say, being with the wrong person would make small problems big, yet with him, even the biggest problems seem chewable? On Month 1, he kept you calm through something that otherwise would’ve made you panic big time. You don’t always agree on everything, and this is the part that bothers you the most, but as he would always remind you—you could just talk it through. And the two of you have talked through a lot of things, you know you’re pretty good at it. Through every fight, he knows that it’s never the two of you against each other, but it’s the two of you against the problem. You love how you always resolve your fights, and hopefully, the record will stay this way.
  4. You make an effing great team. You’re both terrific problem solvers—when you think about how life gets so messy sometimes, it calms you to know that he’s got your back, and you hope that he knows you got his. No matter what. Professionally—which is not why you’re doing this, but also something important to both of you independently—you have complementary skillsets: he knows many things that are in your blind spots, and you his. He taught you about things you never thought about, and you’d like to think that he learns a thing or two from you. You love how you would strategize together you before going into a battle, how you both provide a safe space (the ‘castle’) for each other before you leave to your respective wars.
  5. He loves you the way you want to be loved. You know how other men have told you they loved you before and you always had a hard time believing them? You haven’t quite figured out why, but when he tells you this, you believe him. Maybe because you feel that he understands you. Maybe because he loves you as a verb, the way you want to be loved. How he protects you, takes care of you (especially when you’re sick), builds you up (though also teases you down, sigh), how the look in his brown eyes makes you feel seen. You hope that he knows that you love him so much too, even on the days that it was difficult to.

More importantly, you’re a much better partner now—more self-aware of your own issues and baggage, more compassionate about your and others’s struggle. You have significantly evolved from the first time you said yes. You’re still not a perfect partner by far, but for now, you’re pretty convinced that this relationship/partnership/soon-to-be-marriage is important enough for the two of you that you will put all the work necessary into it. It will not always be easy and rosy, but as long as we commit to always learning (about and from each other) and growing, things will work out in the end.

TL;DR; because maybe—just maybe—we have what it takes. Bismillah.


A full-course meal that is 2022

I genuinely thought I was done with 2022 when the year abruptly turned itself around.

On November 23, I posted a reel (“And with that, the 2022 season comes to an end…“) concluding the year to be that of family, friendship, community, celebrations, explorations, and self-acceptance—all orbiting a core defined by losing Eyang.

On November 26, little did I know, I met someone who thoroughly reoriented the rest of the year, like a sonata selfishly engulfing the rest of the song.

I knew that 2022 was supposed to teach me about how sorrow and joy could co-exist—almost reinforcing each other even—but man I had no idea that a whole other level of happiness existed before you. There’s no way I could have anticipated finding this much comfort again, not after all the pain and loneliness I’ve familiarized myself with lately.

In Brief Answers to the Big Questions, Hawking talked about how the positive energy yielded out of The Big Bang is inseparable from the negative energy dispersed throughout the universe. The former could not have existed without the latter.

I’d like to think that your existence is the culmination of every bit of misery I’ve ever had to go through before this point, because how else could I deserve this overflowing sense of contentment?

(In my head, you would say that I deserve all this and more.)

Writing this is a conscious effort to remind myself that this year has been that of a full-course meal, no matter how much more convenient it is to focus on how it’s ending. The journey was kicked off by Sorrow, followed immediately by Wonder, and finished with Joy—so, so, so much Joy.

First Course: Sorrow

I thought I have mastered the art of losing in 2021—but it was dwarfed by what I experienced this year. The universe seemed committed to making sure I did not have a half-baked lesson and let me experience an even deeper loss, that of the woman I love the most in the world. A loss that floored my entire being and completely changed the way I looked at the world.

If you’ve never had a significant other passing away, please know that no matter how prepared you think you were, you could never really be ready for it. The first time I entertained a real possibility of not seeing Eyang in her green room at my parents’ again, I cried so hard I had to gasp for air. Then when Mamah called me at 6AM in the morning, saying that Eyang finally took her last breath after four months of intensely fighting against her failing kidneys, all I could do was sit in silence. When I finally saw her again, all wrapped in white kafan, all I wanted to do was hug and kiss her forehead for one last time, knowing how much I will miss doing that forever. As they slowly lowered her into the ground, all that’s left was peace, imagining her smiling face of reuniting with her beloved husband and daughter again.

Today, seven months later, she is still on top of my phone’s ‘favorite call’ shortcut. I badly miss our weekly calls, her voice when she picks up my call saying “Assalamualaikooommm”, asking me about my latest work trip, me wishing I could take her around if she wasn’t bound to her bed. I miss how she would joke that my jodoh would be both handsome and rich, and how she would brag about me to all of our relatives.

It helps to think that she continues to live in all of our memories, remember how she’d led a full life, and try living by her values every day. I am grateful to find the rest of the family (Mom, Papah, Pap, Mamah, Kakak, Dede, Cici) ever more resilient after going through that together.

Alfatihah untuk Eyang—we all love and miss you so dearly.

Second Course: Wonder

After over two years of staying put at home, 2022 is also a year of (re)discoveries: making new friends, delving into new hobbies, bathing in new forests, strolling through new cities, and accomplishing a major dream.

  • Opening myself up to new friendships has been one of the most rewarding things this year; met a few souls whom I will treasure for a really long time (if not life). The kind that inspires you, that will stick around during bad times (including when you fall sick), that made you grateful it happened instead of fearing that it won’t last forever.
  • I let Dinar drag me to new activities—did muay thai a bunch and was pleasantly surprised to find how my body reacted to beat and music. It turns out I enjoy learning dance moves and didn’t mind that I looked silly while doing it. The dopamine rush that followed was pretty great, too. I happened to also unlock a new capacity to fully appreciate good meals (‘living to eat’ from ‘eating to live’), coached by Florida.
  • Reconnecting with nature has fulfilled my soul. Spending time in the forests (or beaches, alternatively) of Sumatra, Java, Bali, and Lombok has given me that singular feeling of being connected with Mother Earth is something I will always yearn for. It’s the year I finally understand that ‘grounding’ myself (in a literal sense) is a necessity for my being, a reminder of why I do what I do.
  • On the flip side, I have marveled over what humanity has been able to achieve—particularly in Madrid and Seoul. Learning the histories of their people, taking pauses to appreciate art—the peace that comes with being a nobody in a whole new city was one of a kind, a privilege that I never want to take for granted. Vaguely in between all of that, I tasted the fleeting feelings of belonging.
  • Finally, after quite the delay, Menjadi got published. Putting on a new onion layer as an author, having all of my good friends at the launch party, and traveling around to discuss the book have brought me some serious wonderful feelings. I’d love to tell my 13 year old self that she’s doing alright—accomplishing her dream(s), one at a time.

I hope to do more of all of the above next year (including a possible second book?).

Third Course: Joy

[Enter: you.]

You should know that we met at a point when I was done with wanting to be with someone. I was perfectly happy alone; you told me that you were, too. Neither of us expected to walk down a road that leads us here. (Read: nggak jelas banget anjir kamu tiba-tiba muncul entah dari mana mendadak bikin kesengsem dan butuh ketemu tiap hari.)

When people asked us how it started, we would tell them about the dog park. We were temen seangkatan di kampus who somehow reconnected. But I think it started all the way back—it might have even started the days we were born. The scarily similar families we ended up with, where we’re both firstborns with two younger siblings from the opposite gender. Where both our parents decided to call us ‘Dit’ at home and gloriously combined their names as our middle names. The separate but parallel journeys we took that led to the way we think today (gimana ceritanya we both decided to give ourselves a new name made out of the acronym of our full names, or started a business as teenagers, or bought properties just five minutes away from each other in the same year).

When people asked us why, we would tell them how it just makes sense. But I think it also doesn’t make sense how you tick practically everything on my kriteria mangga list. I never dared to think that the imaginary person I created in my head existed, and yet here you are. It is pretty crazy to think how many telepathic moments we had, how you help me with what I actually need not just what’s expected, quite unreal that you often just knew what I was thinking before I said anything.

When my friends told you that I’m difficult, you would tell them that being with me has been the easiest, most natural thing to do. For me, falling is easy when you responded “She overcomplicates things.” with, “That’s actually what I love about her.” Falling is easy when you’re a fierce problem solver—from daily mineal things to bigger, more consequential decisions. Falling is easy when you bring focus to my chaos, clarity to my anxiety, and calm to my worries. Falling is easy when you cooked me fried ox brain ‘just because’ or serenaded me on the piano in the morning. Falling is easy when being with each other’s families immediately felt familiar.

When our friends reminded us that this might just be a honeymoon phase, we would tell them that we are perfectly aware of it. But we also couldn’t deny this is no ordinary ‘honeymoon phase’ by far. I never felt this strongly about anyone, not in the first month of getting to know each other. I never gravitated towards another person this much; I typically would have needed to ‘use the restroom’ during dates just to get a break from hanging out with someone. With you, it still feels like I haven’t had enough, even after spending a whole week together. The intensity, passion, and overflowing joy has been unparalleled.

When our parents would (eventually) ask us when, we would tell them that we are taking our time. Because there is no shortcut to test endurance. You haven’t seen me at my worst, and neither have I you. But to the extent that you have sat with me when I was confused, afraid, jealous, and angry, I am already convinced that you have what it takes. I’d like to think that I have been able to provide you that space to be vulnerable, too.

The fact that two careful people who weren’t ready to (re)commit with anyone else before couldn’t help but talking about forever—just weeks after getting to know each other—is rather unusual, to say the least.

It’s weird how the year started with me crying a lot, and ended with me smiling ear to ear almost every day. Never did I anticipate to find myself being able to be ridiculously in love again, after what I’ve been through.

But that’s life, I guess: nothing’s quite permanent, including this state of happiness. The only thing left to do is to cherish it while it lasts.

The thing about loneliness

I see the irony, all right.

This post was written out of a cafe at the heart of bustling South Jakarta. To my left is a case of youth camaraderie—it was someone’s birthday so there was a (white and pink) cake involved. To my right, are two female best friends giggling while taking each other’s picture just because. Oh, buzzing friendships. Sparks of connection.

For a brief moment, from where I sat, it seemed like there was no such thing as loneliness. But of course there is, because how else would you explain this growing, hollowing feeling inside my chest?

What I know for sure is that it has nothing to do with being alone.

I have loved spending time with myself since I was a little kid. I would always prefer to be left alone with my Kumpulan Cerpen/Dongeng Majalah Bobo than playing with my friends. Growing up, I spent a lot of time being inside my head and was never scared of it. It’s when I am alone that I could be free, exploring every single corner of my mind. A healthy dose of being alone fulfills my soul.

So, is it a byproduct of rejection(s)?

Is it possible that, as a child, I was wholly and utterly protected by my parents’ love, that I thought of the world as this ever-accepting place? Then adulting hits: the inevitability of making mistakes that hurt others, who sometimes forgive, but other times leave. It often means wanting to be with someone(s) who may not see you the way you see them. Who chooses—or is forced—to not be with you. It’s discovering that people have expectations that you do not always meet.

Each time that happens, my heart’s corner chips away, bit by bit, perhaps slowly taking into a whole new shape that fits better with solitude.

Don’t get me wrong. I know we will never be able to please everyone—even ice cream can’t do that. But it does not necessarily mean that I don’t feel a pang of pain after each ‘no’; some cut deeper than others. Not to mention the losses that happened beyond our control: the deaths that took our beloved away.

Ultimately these things lead me to the sobering awareness that during those times I went into my cave of solitude, the world is not always there with open arms when I got out of it. At some point, the cave might have stopped being an option and started becoming an unescapable dead end.

Not having a constant—someone or something to go home to, to belong to—kind of puts the nail in the coffin.

As a child, my first constant was of course my parents and brothers, even today, I know that they will always be there, and I am forever grateful for that. When I entered my teenage years, it became my friends at school and university. Then it became work, what I thought was a lifetime of craft that I love. Then it became, of course, my ex-husband. But since last year, I don’t quite have anything. I was suddenly untethered. Afloat, with no anchor to ground me.

Maybe I lost faith that I could ever belong to anything ever again. Or maybe I’ve gotten too acquainted with the hurt that comes with it.

Now I live in an oscillating state of being afraid—both of belonging and of not belonging.

What will come after this? It feels overwhelming just to hypothesize.

[Just to clarify: it’s not like I don’t have friends who are there for me, whom I cherish and appreciate. But the kind of loneliness I’m talking about runs deeper than just lack of (even really great) companionship.]

Here’s a prescription that a wise friend gave me:

  1. Embrace loneliness as an inseparable part of being. Maybe, just maybe, loneliness has always been sitting there in the corner of your heart (we were born alone after all). It’s just that only as adults do we have the courage, or maybe mental space, to observe and acknowledge it.
  2. Do not take connection with someone for granted, celebrate even the most impermanent/short-lived ones. Once we accept the above, we will see the beauty in those rare moments of being understood. We will treasure those relationships—romantic or otherwise—as memories that make life worth living. When they end, do not resent them, but be grateful that you got to experience them.
  3. Find that constant within you. While everyone would come into and out of your life as they please, know that you could always count on yourself. We have been conditioned, through fairy tales, that we were supposed to find that someone-ever-after, who will complete our soul and being. Speaking from experience, you certainly could still feel lonely while being with someone. Heck, you might be sharing a bed with them and still feel unseen. So here’s to appreciating yourself for being there for you.
  4. That said, let others in, still. Give chance for that spark and connection to happen. I know that putting a heart on your sleeve is scary because you will find yourself hurt. But it’s the only way to make life worth living—by giving friendship, or any other kind of relationship, a shot. You will bleed, from time to time, but every once in a blue moon, you will come out victorious, and it will all be worth it.

Thank you for making my lonely world a little less lonely by reading this. I love you guys so much.

Wijaya IX, 16 Oct 2022

Eyang Iib & Kekuatan Doa (1936-2022)

Katanya, seseorang yang tiada akan tetap hidup dalam memori mereka yang terus mengenangnya. Maka sesungguhnya Eyang Iib akan abadi, karena bukan hanya saya dan keluarga kami, tapi begitu banyak orang yang telah disentuh kebaikan hati beliau insya Allah akan senantiasa mengingat.

Dalam mengingat Eyang, saya terkenang sosok yang senantiasa berdoa. Begitu khusyuk, begitu setia, dan begitu konsisten. Saya mengingat Eyang yang mengenakan mukena yang selalu beliau pakai sejak saya kecil, menengadahkan tangannya untuk meminta dari Allah—dulu pada sajadah beludru birunya, lalu setelah sudah tidak bisa berjalan di atas tempat tidurnya yang ditegakkan—bukan dari ego atau rasa berhak, bukan pula dari ketamakan.

Eyang justru meminta agar bisa lebih banyak memberi.

“Ya Allah, berikanlah kami rejeki agar bisa beribadah lebih baik lagi di jalan-Mu, agar bisa membantu orang di sekitar kami…”

Begitulah hidup Eyang, sebisa mungkin agar menjadi manfaat bagi orang lain.

Dari cerita saudara-saudara, saya belakangan tahu bahwa dulu setelah menikah, Eyang diminta Eyang Husein (suaminya) untuk berhenti mengajar. Tapi siapapun yang mengenal Eyang Iib tahu bahwa mustahil membuat beliau diam di rumah. Meski tidak bekerja, Eyang kemudian aktif berorganisasi di desa, memimpin penyuluhan bagi perempuan-perempuan di Cianjur, bahkan sampai menjadi Ketua RW (pun setelah tulang kaki Eyang patah dan harus menghabiskan banyak waktu di tempat tidur, beliau terus berkegiatan ini-itu). Bagaimana tidak, kalau ibunya dulu juga seorang aktivis pejuang kemerdekaan.

Kalau hari ini saya juga aktif memperjuangkan isu lingkungan dan berorganisasi, itu karena darah mereka mengalir pula di nadi saya.

Eyang selalu membanggakan prestasi cucu-cucunya. Eyang banyak bercerita ke para penjenguknya selama beberapa bulan terakhir hidupnya tentang saya yang sempat diundang ke Istana Bogor untuk ikut diskusi bersama Jokowi. Yang Eyang tidak ceritakan, adalah betapa gigihnya doa-doa beliau untuk kami, dan bahwa aliran doa-doa itu pula lah yang membawa saya, anak-anak, serta cucu-cucunya sampai bisa sejauh ini.

Salah satu memori terawal sekaligus terkuat saya adalah Eyang yang bangun jam 4 pagi untuk berdoa bagi kemenangan saya di lomba-lomba sejak SD—baik itu matematika, IPA, cerdas cermat—tidak ada hari kompetisi di mana saya berangkat meninggalkan rumah tanpa meminum ‘air doa’ dari Eyang.

Ketika sudah tidak tinggal bersama pun, setiap ada kesempatan di mana saya membutuhkan keberuntungan—baik itu lomba, wawancara, atau aplikasi beasiswa maupun kesempatan apapun itu—saya pasti akan telepon Eyang untuk meminta doa beliau.

Hari ini, tanpa Eyang dan doa-doanya, saya merasa lemah—seperti prajurit tanpa baju zirah.

Dari banyak doa yang Eyang sering sampaikan, yang paling berarti dan membekas di hati saya adalah doa agar “Nenk Dhita banyak yang sayang.” Saya sering didoakan orang untuk senantiasa bahagia, atau sukses, atau banyak rezeki. Tapi cuma Eyang yang mendoakan agar banyak yang sayang. Mungkin Eyang tahu bahwa hidup pada akhirnya adalah tentang rasa sayang dan cinta kasih di antara sesama manusia.

Maka beruntunglah kita yang hidupnya telah disentuh cinta kasih Eyang.

Semoga kita bisa meneruskannya ke lebih banyak orang, sebagaimana Eyang harapkan.

Amin ya Rabbal Alamiiin.

Selamanya cucu pertama Eyang,
Nenk Dhyta

The two months that felt like a year

Act I.

I was staring blankly at my screen, fixing this report, when a notification popped up. It was Mom—she said that Eyang’s condition had plunged. I packed for three days and drove to Bogor in a heartbeat. It was the evening a day before Bapak’s death anniversary and I remember having a bad feeling about it. Seeing the road with all the tears in my eyes was difficult—on loudspeaker, my best friend told me to let it all out.

Little did I know, it was barely the beginning of a slow and painful journey called ‘having to watch your loved one lose herself to a chronic disease’.

The first two weeks were pure chaos. We found out that Eyang’s level of toxin shot through the roof because her kidney practically stopped working. My brain was kind enough to spare me from recollecting every little upsetting details, but memories of the ambulance rides (where Eyang won’t let go of my hand), the crowded emergency wards (a mother gave birth that night), and the high care unit room (with their aircons on full blast) remain.

I remember having to make a lot of medical decisions that week—small ones at first (like putting a nasogastric tube to feed her), but peaked at whether they should place a central vena cathether required for hemodialysis treatment, with a possible risk of complication.

The hardest part about trying to do right by her, is defining what right means in the first place: keeping her alive longer, making sure she’s comfortable, trying to decipher what she would want when she was literally too weak to speak.

I remember the shock that went through my spine, imagining the possibility of losing Eyang. I definitely wasn’t ready back then—not after losing Bapak a year before, and being left by Wikan just a few months after that. I remember fearing the pain of losing, perhaps more than losing itself.

I also remember not feeling like a granddaughter but a parent, not only to Eyang but to her son and daughter, who probably were just as worried but didn’t share my overthinking brain. I remember crying a lot, feeling like there’s a new weight on my shoulders I never meant to carry.

In between, I remember feeling grateful for having Pap, Kakak, and friends who got my back through it all.

Act II.

The storm subsided a bit when Eyang started regaining consciousness and explicitly asked to go home, leaving no room for her caretakers to second-guess (how thoughtful of her). At home, she asked us to gather around her bed, thanked and apologized, before going on parting some wisdom (“Jadilah orang berguna untuk sesama. Kalau cari pasangan, jangan cari yang ganteng aja tapi yang kaya juga,”—HAHAHA sempet-sempetnya, Eyang).

That maghrib, the whole family prayed together, and I led one thanking God for letting Eyang into our lives, making us into the people we are today, touching our hearts in her own special ways.

In the next few days, a stream of extended family members visited, wishing her well. It was quite special to witness and get reminded of how she lived a full life, how much she was loved by others. By the end of the week, she said something like, “Kayaknya di keluarga lain nggak ada yang sesayang ini deh (sama Eyangnya)…” which warmed all of our hearts.

It felt like (for lack of better words) a new normal for a bit, until one by one, the family members were hit by omicron. The virus got me too, eventually, which sent me home for a few days. But more worryingly, Eyang tested positive as well. I naturally panicked when we first found this out, thinking that this was it. It thankfully wasn’t, but that next few weeks was a mess regardless—she was coughing a lot, could barely sleep, all the while we still had to take her to the hospital twice a week for 4 hours of hemodyalisis. It might not be as intense of a mess, but definitely bigger in size.

I quietly sensed that everyone was slowly losing themselves in taking care of Eyang.

Routines permanently changed, work felt profoundly arbitrary and minute. All the stress, worries, and secondhand pain also brought out the worst in us. There’s at least a couple times when I snapped, yelled at another family member across the hospital hall or the family room, not able to hold it together. I didn’t feel like myself and I hated it.

It also came with a mountain of guilt when I feel like I wasn’t a good enough granddaughter. Every time I had to leave her for work, an offline meeting, or even to take a break and spend some time for myself, it felt like I was doing a crime. It gave me a lot of anxieties and affected my sleep.

(It just so happened that I did a terrible blunder on Twitter which got blown out of proportion during this period, which made things a thousand times worse.)

Act III.

Before I spiraled back into the dark hole where I lived for a good chunk of time last year, I started seeing a therapist again. My goal was to better understand what’s going on in my mind—making peace with the voices in my head definitely wouldn’t hurt—and primarily trying to better understand what it is that I actually need and want.

I had quite a few breakthroughs in those sessions (in case someone needed to hear this as well):

First, I learned that I kept feeling guilty because nobody ever told me that I’ve done enough. Growing up, Mom was the main breadwinner in the family (I now overtook that role), and I might have inadvertently picked up hidden social cues in terms of what ‘enough’ looks like for a woman. Whenever Mom was home in the weekends, she would do the extra miles of taking care of the family, all that after working nonstop during the weekdays.

My therapist wondered if my dad ever told her she’s done enough. Have I perhaps copied her guilt, and general lack of self compassion?

Second, I need to understand that it’s okay for me to take a different role in the family. Think of the family is a soccer team, or maybe a company, my therapist said. Someone has to play offense, others on defense, and one of us definitely has to be the goal keeper. In a company, the CEO, staff, and janitors do different things, but it doesn’t mean that any of them is better than the others. They simply cover for one another. In my family, I might not be able to stay with Eyang 24/7 (what I primarily feel guilty about), but quitting my job to do that wouldn’t be how I could best help her either—in my own ways, providing for my family might just be exactly how I could be the most useful.

On a less relevant note, my therapist told me that I needed to decide the kind of life (and partner when it comes to it) that I want and deserve. I might have been struggling with intimacy, with letting people into my life, and on the flip side, where I mindlessly let anyone in. After the divorce, and now Eyang, there is a huge risk that without properly processing the trauma, I could make stupid decisions that might end up actually hurting me.

Just like in picking mangoes from a fruit stall, she said, I shall set some criteria that will guide me in better understanding the mangoes that are good for me, filtering the ‘bad mangoes’ out, or at least having better awareness when I had to make a compromise across tradeoffs. It was also supposed to be a way to capture the lessons learned from what things didn’t work with Wikan. It is still not very clear how this would help me in helping Eyang—maybe rather indirectly—but took a good hour to sit down and come up with this wishlist and it eased my mind a little.

It has only been two months since that initial text from Mom, but it felt like a long, winding year already.

All in all, I am quite grateful to have the support system without whom I would have easily cracked under all the pressure. Despite the major turbulences, in general I feel quite centered, and finally well-calibrated to take on whatever possible scenarios moving forward.

Today, Eyang’s condition is stable, except that parts of her brain that control memories and motor were recently affected. The family has agreed that for us the priority is to keep Eyang as faraway from pain as possible, to keep her comfortable, and to give her what she wants—and more importantly: to always make her feel loved.

Just a few hours ago I found out that she might have lost her memories of me (didn’t respond to “Ini Nenk Dhyta,”), but to my surprise I felt okay about it. I’d like to think it stems from all the work I’ve put to find my center in accepting the universe’s curve balls—although there’s a slight chance that I’m simply in denial. Whichever one it is, I surely hope that what my dear friend said holds true:

Rest assured that her memories of you and how much pride and love she has derived from your being there for her has already been permanently etched in the aeons.”

Mohon doanya yang terbaik untuk Eyang <3