Aida Zabidi
Watching the Emmys and the beautiful people, it reminded me of a time when you made me feel less of myself, a time when I was young and naive. You would call me ugly, and I would feel the insecurity deep in my core, at a time when I was struggling with teenage hormones and acne, and I wondered how my friends were so pretty when I was not?
 
You made me feel ugly with your relentless teasing, but eventually along the way, it made me realize that beauty truly is only skin deep.
 
It's not about the clothes that you wear; they will never make up for dark hearts and ugly tongues. 
 
It's not about the smoothness of your skin; it will never replace the value of the wrinkles of laugh lines from good times shared.
 
It's not about looking beautiful; when the true value is the strength you carry inside you. 
 
I was lucky to have friends that were both beautiful on the inside and outside, who pooh-poohed at my insecurities and loved me exactly the way I was. I was lucky that I was not interested in dating so early on, and that I did not hold myself to standards to live up to the expectations of others. I was lucky that I learnt to love myself, that when I grew up and learnt to present myself to the world in a fashion that one would call pretty, it was all from self love.
 
I escaped your bullying unscathed, and became stronger for it. 
 
Today, I value those lessons; and I hope it is a lesson that you have learnt too. We are all what we allow ourselves to be; and no one should ever make you feel any less than you are.
Aida Zabidi
"My husband wants me to quit work to care for him, but what can we do Doctor? This economy doesn't quite allow it."

She smiles, stroking her child's head. He has severe cerebral palsy; wheelchair bound with poor head and trunk balance. His spine is already curved to the side, and he barely responds to things around him. He lifts his head every now and then, then drops his chin to his chest again, like the effort of holding it up was too much.

"I want to move closer, so I can be close to him in case of emergencies, but I've been waiting for a transfer opportunity for years. I've written a letter to the head of the company, and the hospital has written me a supporting letter but I don't know if the secretary has passed it on."

She's been working for the same company for 13 years, even before her son was born. She speaks cheerfully, matter of factly, as she calls out to her son.

"He can lift his head now, doctor. One, two, three.. up!"

True enough, the child lifts his head for a few seconds and she pats him on his thigh supportively.

"The other day my boss asked me why I took so many leave days. You know, other workers take leave to enjoy themselves and go on holidays, but my leave days are all taken up to bring him to hospital. It's not like she doesn't know his condition!"

There's a hint of reproach in her voice, and yet, no blame. He has appointments every other month in two different hospitals, and she brings him to therapy twice a month in between the other appointments.

"How do you lift him? Do you get back pain?"

Her son is as tall as her, and already weighs more at the age of 13. I gently bring up the topic to discuss what we would need to plan for in the future.

"I can still lift him by myself but it's getting harder. I can't expect my mother in law to put him on his wheelchair in the mornings so we try to do it before we leave for work. Sometimes if I lift wrongly I do get some pain, but it's not often."

I admire her strength of heart, her unwavering stead. I can only help her plan alternatives, and support her in the choices that she chooses. He is her son, she will do what she can for him.

They are both blessed, mother and child; she who has found the strength inside her to grow into someone beyond herself, and him to have a mother who cares for him so.

May we all have such strength.
Aida Zabidi
Independence can seem like something vague, and as the years go by the idea of Merdeka changes with your experiences. It was an interesting project to walk around the workplace and interview different people on their opinions of Merdeka, and at moments, I felt like I was reminded again and again of the spirit of patriotism that lies behind 31st August 2018. 

To borrow a phrase from Remembrance Day, lest we forget the significance and the sacrifices behind our independence day.


Aida Zabidi
Sometimes you have to make the magic happen. 

It's easy to become disillusioned, or bored without everyday lives. I remember how things used to be so incredibly exciting, how every day brought something new, and something to always look forward to. There would be phase where I would view the world through new lenses, ones that always seemed to find something to marvel by.

As the years went by, that marvel faded away. Fatigue crept in, the the world had moments which would seem like just another day.

But every so often, magic can happen from our own effort, from finding the small pleasures in our everyday lives.

My magic comes from the sunrise and sunset, from the beautiful hues that streak the sky. I never fail to marvel at how the light seems to paint the world in hues of red and gold, and how the world seems to come to life with the sunrise, or embrace the sunset to sleep.

Find your magic.  

It will keep the embers of your passion burning.
Aida Zabidi
“A sex predator is in the house,” screamed the headlines, the latest in a string of scandals about harassment of staff in hospitals, in this particular case, a story about one of the head of departments who sexually harassed his house officers. 

This hit close to home, of the stories I’ve heard and the things I’ve seen, and I can only be thankful that I was in his department at a particular time with particular specialists and colleagues who were protective of each other and helped ease the journey in an otherwise stressful department. 

Yes, sexual innuendoes were rampant, thinly veiled jokes in a ‘boys club’, but jokes were only funny to a certain extent. 

It wasn’t funny when specific individuals were targeted, leaving closed rooms with tears and tight lips. 

It wasn’t funny when individuals quit a future in medicine, unable to tolerate the mental stress that did not need to be part of a department culture. 

It wasn’t funny to be pulled into a room with senior staff on my first day in the department to be quizzed about my sexual habits. 

I left, relatively unscathed, but the stories never stopped – and restarted again earlier this year to my horror. 

Stories have a way of getting around. 

It could have been a friend. Or an acquaintance. There were often tears, and anger and a choice to leave. Some left. Maybe many left, more than I know of. 

And that did not include the ones who were left with psychological scars, the ones who were left hating themselves, feeling less than who they were. Ones who buried their own feelings so deep inside because of the humiliation endured, ones who felt that they could not speak out. 

This is the beginning of a rabbit hole. 

If you know someone who has undergone harassment in the workplace, especially sexual harassment, please seek help. If management is unable to reach a resolution, please make a police report. In our culture, and in many cultures, it is seen as something shameful, and all too often the victims are pointed at and whispered about, and forced to endure the humiliation many times over through reliving the experience. 

It is difficult when police shrug their shoulders and ask what they expect the victim to do about it. The process is difficult and discouraging, and downright disgusting at times, but it is the right thing to do. 

Once again, if you do know someone who has undergone workplace harassment, please encourage them to seek help. So many cases are unreported, and remain silent, swept under the carpet. 

But every so often, someone does something about it, and perhaps, the cogs of justice can start to turn.
Aida Zabidi
If you see and hear an ambulance with its siren on, please get out of the way. 

A siren means that there is an unstable patient that is being transported for emergency care, and it is every person's civic duty to clear the road to their best of ability to ensure that time is not wasted.

Today I had the stressful experience of transferring a pediatric patient who was having seizures, and at a point in the transfer his oxygenation dropped. 

Imagine being the health staff, trying your best to resuscitate a patient in a shaky ambulance as it tries to weave its way through the traffic, trying to keep your balance the same time as a hundred and one things run through your head. Imagine watching in trepidation as the oxygenation worsens and having to prepare to intubate in the ambulance as the patient deteriorates.

Then imagine the feeling of looking out of the ambulance and seeing a traffic jam, in addition to realizing how drivers are taking their own sweet time making a path for the ambulance to go through, to the extent that the driver having to make an announcement so the cars in front of him would actually move.

Imagine being the mother in the ambulance, seeing her child go through a situation like that.

Imagine the feeling of the doctor, or the nurse, or the medical assistant in that ambulance, knowing that every second counts - and that potentially this could have been a case of life and death.

Please have some civic consciousness.

An ambulance siren is a serious situation, one where every second could mean a difference between life or death.

Please get out of the way.
Aida Zabidi
We have a new government.

Initially there was a sense of optimism, of excitement with the heralding of a new era. However slowly it seemed like doubt had started to creep in; the congratulatory mood was slowly replaced by doubts foreshadowing the election of certain individuals to prominent posts who were not Malay and Muslim, and a lingering fear that change would happen that would no longer protect rights of a people who have long enjoyed complacency to the point of entitlement.

When Lim Guan Eng was elected as finance minister, people were more focused on his race than more pertinent issues of perhaps, his corruption case or his track record of managing Penang.

When Tommy Thomas was elected as Attorney General, people brought up the issue of advisory and change to syariah law without understanding that he would be passing that baton to other experts in syariah as well as the role in Parliament as the safeguard to these laws.

When Tun talked about streamlining JAKIM and other religious institutions into one central body - the Islamic Affairs Department, people emphasized on how the rights of Muslims were being whittled away rather than looking at the attempt to strengthen and simplify the administrative processes that would make the body more effective.

A lot of people said "Now it's starting - a more liberal government." Well liberal means willing to respect or accept behaviours or opinions different as one's own - in the narrowest view, at least to respect and be able to have open discourse of these different ideas. It doesn't mean one has to agree to those ideas, but the ability to understand and accept our differences is a big step towards national unity.

We have a new government, but we are unwilling to change our mentality to one that is willing to look at the bigger picture and learn about the technicalities behind the processes involved in these decisions. How many of us understand the legal processes or banking processes in detail?

It's a time where freedom of speech is lauded, for both sides - but it doesn't mean that we throw away our critical thinking with it. It's a time to learn, to analyze and to form constructive opinions.

It will be scary for some, because we have been so entrenched in a culture that is protective of our rights - even when those rights are abused by those in power.

I am optimistic about the new government, but it does not mean that I don't reserve judgement on some decisions that have been made. Miracles don't happen in a hundred days, and changing a mindset of privilege is even more difficult.

In the meantime, I'm enjoying the news and the daily developments - the new efforts towards a more transparent government and an attempt to build up trust for the people.
Aida Zabidi
I read this on my Facebook wall and I had to share:

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"A letter to the heart that is numb.

Standing in taraweeh while everyone is weeping – except you. Your friends talk about how exhilarating fasting is for them – but all you feel is irritation; and that is if you feel anything at all. Your supplications are just words you repeat – without heart.

What is the point of all of it? Your actions are robotic. Monotone. Without soul. You wish you could be like that person praying next to you in taraweeh who sobs during every prostration. You want to be the one passionately pleading with Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala with humility. Your hope is that you can be that person whose heart is broken before God.

You know what? You too are special to Allah.

You who recites the Qur’an because you know it is good.
You who prays because Allah commanded you to.

You who attends lectures on Islam because you want to feel closer to Him.

The Prophet Sallallaahu alayhi wasallam told us that the person who recites the Qur’an and struggles with the recitation, receives twice the reward: for their recitation and for their effort and struggle. 

As long as you are trying, Allah is with you.

The fact that you get up to pray qiyaam even though you feel nothing, is appreciated by Allah. When you mouth the words to your du`a even when your heart is numb, Allah knows how you feel. And you are rewarded for that.

Do not think that this will go to waste. Allah gets it.

Because you are not worshiping a feeling. You do not bow down solely for that ‘high’. You prostrate only to the Lord of the feelings and the One who is the Most High. You submit to Him – through your prayers, fasting and supplication – because you know you have a Merciful, Just, Appreciative, Forgiving God, Who has the power to give life to everything that is dead.

Including your heart.

You know you have a Nurturing, Patient, Generous, Subtle and Kind Lord who can bring back whatever is lost.

He can bring you back.

So to the heart that is numb: Do not give up just yet. Your heart is on a journey. You are first and foremost worshiping your Lord. And He has promised you:

“And those who strive for Us – We will surely guide them to Our ways. And indeed, Allah is with the doers of good.” (Qur’an, 29:69)

As long as you are doing good, Allah will guide you and He is with you.

“Indeed, those who have believed and done righteous deeds – the Most Merciful will appoint for them affection.” (Qur’an, 19:96)

So keep trekking. Your heart will open – He is, after all, al-Fattah. Al-Fattah is He who opens whatever is closed; your heart included. You might wonder when and how, but just know that it will happen. It could be on the last night of Ramadan or it could be a month after Ramadan – your heart will open inshaaAllaah. The daily exercise you do might not look like much, but you will inevitably see the results if you persevere.

Similarly, your good actions slowly chip away at what has been hardening your heart and, eventually, you will feel.

And if it gets too much, just talk to Allah. Tell Him how you feel, and tell Him how you want to feel. Do it every night, and every time you feel empty. He is there; never underestimate your turning to Him.

On the Day of Judgment, you will be grateful for your perseverance and your hope in Him, because it will matter more than you will ever know. So push yourself and exert all the effort you can. The tiniest ray of light can brighten the darkest of places."

Originally found here:
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Aida Zabidi
Malaysian news post-election just seems is absolutely fascinating, almost like watching a country being rebuilt. Every day seems to bring change, but the change also brings to light the skeletons in the closet, especially the country's potentially crippling debt.

Today the Ministry of Finance announced Tabung Harapan - a fund that came as a response to the request of everyday Malaysians who wanted to be able to contribute what little they could to help with the national debt - a measure of trust and hope put into the new government. 

There's a lot of divide - from optimistic Malaysians who are loving the idea to ones who seem scornful, especially in the wake of cuts to a bloated civil service and a broken promise to a promised festive allowance.

There are also going to be questions - how transparent will the transactions be, to what will the money be used for, how will the money be audited? Who has access to these funds, and to what capacity can they be used?

We are walking the path of a new Malaysia. There are new roads being taken that have never been navigated before, and the new government is forging ahead and making those changes. There will be a long road to recovery, a process of healing and there will be mistakes on the way.

To each their own.

The choices are always that, a choice, an option to do or not do. There is no coercion, it is just another option on top of the strategies that the Council will continue to run.

In the meantime, I'm glad to see a government that seems much more open to taking the suggestions and criticism. It will be fascinating to see how the country develops in the long run.