Sensing more; tearing at the seams.

After being forever in an incubated draft mode, I decided to hit ‘enter’ today to let it all loose.

Exactly a year after our world shifted because of a global pandemic, I thought I’d be in a better headspace.
To my surprise, I find myself increasing in sensitivity, acute to small changes in the atmosphere, and constantly finding myself tearing up in moments I didn’t expect. A slight shift in my train of thoughts can send me bawling for a few minutes. This has happened many times – during a long drive, on the prayer rug, trying to sleep and even when drawing for long hours.

I can’t pinpoint a reason for this heightened sensitivity. Where did it come from? What triggered it? Who can I talk to about this? Why me and why now? When will I be able to accept this new version of me?

It could be that I am undergoing an overwhelming amount of introspection, that I don’t know what emotions fits to express myself – so it comes out in tears. It could be that underneath this smiley face, I cannot keep it all together as I process the ongoing heavy feeling of perpetual reflection linked to sadness. It could also be that I am lacking exercise that would regulate my hormones better. It could also be that I am secretly grieving over the loss of who I was striving to be. All the unrealised potential, dreams and hopes that I had to chuck away quickly to adapt to a new norm of working – especially being a mobile art teacher, running physical workshops and interacting face to face just cannot happen as often anymore 😦

In 2019, my self-employment record was at the most exciting yet. Ready to take on more meaningful projects in 2020, it all came crumbling down. I know that I need to process all this self-inflicted guilt, but the problem is I don’t know how. Slowly, I try to tie knots to projects that requires closures. I send formal emails to cancel prior commitments and to communicate that events are “postponed until further notice”. Proposals to art camps that were supposed to happen in nature or remote locations have to be edited without concrete plans, some points are intentionally left blank. Then I am left with an empty word document. Just me staring at the screen, digesting the fact that I have just buried my career as a mobile art teacher. My dream of being a part of a creative community and being surrounded by a crowd of spontaneous chatter as we explore together how to solve design issues or flex our muscles with new art mediums, has to be put on hold. I was at an all time low in March – July 2020. Depression and anxiety took over, leaving me always exhausted and weak, sleeping over the time limit and waking up tired all the time.

I wasn’t aware that I allowed ‘loneliness’ to creep in, and so did ‘self-loathing’, ‘self-doubt’ and ‘isolation’. They take turns to occupy my mind in between the happy days and the days that I could function as a working adult.

New friends are now most internet friends, in the form of text messages and gifs. I am thankful for each and every one of them, but I still find it funny that I can’t see their faces in real time – leaving me to wonder what their small reactions would be like. It’s as if I don’t have enough real-time information in my system to recognise them, who are indeed real people. Old friends disappear in an array of incoming messages, lost beneath hundreds of notification on a daily basis. Then again, I understand that keeping in touch feels exhausting, but we still try to reconnect whenever we can. Scraping away at whatever energy we have left after a long endless day. Sometimes a reply comes in and sometimes a reply is forgotten. We hang out way too long on, being connected to the world wide web. The presence of being online and offline is way off-balance, and it hurts. There are times I can’t feel my legs after sitting too long, or the times it burns to close my eyes for longer than a minute. I think it’s unnatural for a human being to uphold the digital life in such a manner. It should be more seamless, and we should try to utilise all our muscles.

Earlier today, I got the news that my foster mom in the Bario highlands of Sarawak, passed away. I didn’t get a chance to visit her once more, which was previously scheduled for 2020. Could it be that the universe has been tapping into my subconscious before, that bad news was about to come in. I thought I would crack open and cry once more, but my eyes swelled up with tears and I was digesting the news faster this time. There is a time to grieve and cry, same as there is a time to breathe and just be. Today, I decide to sit with my memories of her, Aunty Lucy Bulan, her warm smiles and stories that warmed up my heart once upon a time by the cool valley breeze of Bario. She would tell stories of the history of people in Bario, their determination to gain an education and their sheer survival of the human soul to live in an area almost cut off from modernity. I guess, she is happy and at peace now. May her soul rest in peace. When she retired as a school teacher in Miri, she chose to go home to Bario and to live the rest of her life there. I could hold my tears and I could hold the sweet memories simultaneously this time, a new found balance.

I am thankful for this new ability to cry on demand.
It’s proof that I am human and my heart is very much alive and intact. Alhamdulillah.
It does make each feeling I am able to feel into an extra heartfelt moment that humbles me down to the earth.
I am fast to realise what a beautiful world we live in and move quicker to appreciate how the Creator has crafted this environment to make us see, laugh, wonder and grieve too.

Ramadhan reflections in lockdown.
8 May 2021





There is not a day gone by that I don’t think of you,
dear students and front line colleagues ba menua kitai (in our homeland).

We might be far away from our obvious sight
but closer and connected through our various plight.

Follow the light that is your dream of success.
Achieve what you were made for, even with no access.
Education through life will build you up from nothing,
to a myriad of experiences and stories worth telling…

Of how far you have come or who you have become,
from every cold morning, dirty shoes and tattered schoolbooks.
You run into school before the gate closes,
Your name inscribed on the books as disiplin (disciplined) cases.

The voices of bahasa baku (formal speech) that rings in my ear
keeps replaying like sounds of traffic over here.
Did you ever get sick of taunting at my semenanjung (peninsular) accent?
reminding me of every ‘a’ that is ‘ah’, not ‘er’!

Watching students, year after year, progress
into young adults with healthy conscience
speaking in new dialects of the same notion.
I wonder what will become of you and me.

The moment my heart decides to stay indefinitely
in the nature and nurture of the countryside,
within folds of the plain green fields,
in between valleys and the hills of the natural world

I will always remember the cooling springs
of the air terjun (waterfall) and the warmth
of your nuba’ layak (soft rice) – the soul’s hearth.
Thank you for accepting me in your homes.

Despite the shared space and the endless smiles,
Something within still searches for miles,
A feeling or a place to be from and to be of
– a lost identity that still needs reasoning.

So many questions still left unanswered;
Unannounced are ideas that are lost in translation.
Dreams left uninterpreted and explained in isolation.
The more I explored, I wonder, where did I came from?

Every passing day filled with more apathy
Teachers, teach nothing but tainted clarity
It hurts me to keep quiet and wait
For tomorrow to bring blessings of late.

There are many more points of views
Our perspective, our horizon keeps expanding
– Of classroom activities and mere memories,
finding ways to resurface into new stories.

So, keep running for those moments
Keep reaching for those zones out of comfort.
You will serve your reality, be it not distorted;
As long as you stay grateful and believe !


Cikgu Huda.

I started writing this in 2017.
I decided to complete it today in 2020.

Start something, finish something.
Even if it takes a long time in between.

We forget.

Do you remember?
That first time you held a conch shell up to your ear to hear the sea? And marvel at the fact that it was the reflection of the sound of your blood gushing within you?

Do you remember?
The painful feeling of growing up every single day you wake up to this world, to continue playing your role as the protagonist in your life?

As we try to remember to think of the things we forgot, allow me to give you some clues.
Let me walk you through the things we have forgotten.

We have forgotten how to breathe… To inhale through our nostrils and exhale through our mouth. To allow oxygen to enter our lungs and supply energy to our blood vessels in exchange for air to be released out with a sense of calm to wash through our entire bodily systems. Yet, when panic attacks and anxiety hits us, we forget to breathe.

We have forgotten how to be grateful… To allow us to laugh and allow dopamine to fire up our brain with the aftereffect of happiness. We also forgot how to smile that enables laughter to happen. A moment of sadness will only rob us from our happiness and we are only a product of our choices in this world. Yet, when bad events and fake news bombs us, we forget to be grateful.

We have forgotten how to ask… To seek knowledge, to hunt for insights and solutions. We know that a good question only opens up more questions that seeks an explanation to our curiosities. Asking for assistance should be as easy as resting under the shade of a tree on a sunny day under the scorching sun. So, why is asking for help as a sign of weakness in today’s culture? We tell children to ask for help if they need any assistance. Yet, when we are at times of need, do we practice what we preach? Yet, at moments where we are most desperate, we forget to ask.

We have forgotten how to think… or how to learn; or how to reflect. We have forgone the precious organ that God has bestowed humans with: our brain. Perhaps more accurately, our intellect. Instead of thinking before acting upon a decision, we jump on impulses that are vulnerable to societal pressure, cultural norms and conflicting media coverage. We live out what is written for us (partially chosen by us) without due reflection; without real learning. Yet, at life’s instances of challenge and test, we forget to think.

We have forgotten how to simply be… Instead, we drown our five senses with constant stimulation, making us addicted to constant motion. We cannot sit still and we cannot truly appreciate our being. Well, how can we be still even for a moment? – when we have been shaped all our life to multitask, digest information, occupy ourselves with endless tasks and believe that sleep is for the weak. We burn out our own abilities to ponder upon the marvels around and within us. Yet, in times of crisis (like this), we forget to simply be.

Perhaps it is only in the silence that we can hear the whisper of our hearts desire, to trust in the Almighty wholeheartedly. We have all the chances to be who we are meant to be, in our short time on earth, yet we forget.

“God put you in our life for a reason, and it is for us to understand.” – a quote from the film ‘313’. God put me in the this exact time and place to write this, and it is for you to read. God put you in the position to read this until the very end, and it is for us to reflect.

#Day22 #MCO #countingblessings #alhamdulillah

Word Vomit

What happens when you lay awake at 2.30am? You try and close your eyes with the intention to sleep. But when sleep becomes the last thing on your mind and you don’t want to draw…. you write, right?


You turn your laptop to sleep and try to scribble everything on paper first – like a first draft and try to make sense of it tomorrow morning  jeee…. tido, Huda, tido. Sayang jantung tu…

Missing my Rs and Os

The letters R and O decided to quit and leave my keyboard.

Unlocked and undocked from their places.

Making my typing experience a not very smooth one.

I am made to recheck my spelling and going back a few lines.

Just to recheck my Rs and Os.

To make sure my words are whole and rounded with meaning.

I’m happy and sad for my R and O.

For they have served me well.

And perhaps they long for a better life, away from the keyboard.


How to lie… to yourself.

Who am I kidding?

I feel like I’ve been lying to myself for the past 4 years.

I didn’t think I could survive 2 years in a rural school as a teacher, the same way as I didn’t think I could survive 2 years of freelancing in today’s gig economy. Now that the years have added up and finally overlapped, I feel it is comparable.

I might be motivated to write this based on my current emotions and also the fact that I have just watched a highly relatable film (The Teacher’s Diary, 2014). I feel a sense of yearning once more. I feel like I need to surround myself with children and youth. They possess a kind of kindred spirit that I can resonate with. Their world of wonder can only expand when I am with them, eager to support their imagined realities and help them ask more questions from what they are curious about. That’s what I miss about school, being surrounded by them. It doesn’t matter that I am only with them for 1 or 2 years before they grow up into a new young adult. At least I have done my part by assuring that they are stronger than they think they are and now (before they have reached the peak of their height/growth) is not the time to give up trying. If they can succeed in learning, then they can definitely excel in life – which is made up of a series of learning sprints and marathons. I know in that time that I am with them too, they will keep me alive with their silly jokes, hard questions and also absurd explanations of how the world work.

I miss having a desk or a special room in school where kids can find me at moments they need me or whenever they simply want to ask me something that is bothering them. I remember back in 2016, I have had students ask me questions on topics they dare not ask their parents about – on bullying, drugs or even rape. At that time, I wasn’t sure if I was the right person to answer their questions. I couldn’t wrap my head around the reality of what my students were facing. I think it was selfish of me to try and dodge the question or try to ask them to seek help elsewhere. As a young teacher then, I panicked at the idea. Today, as I mature, looking back from where I am now… I think I am ready more than ever to carry that responsibility back on my shoulders. Kids need us adults to help them comprehend the world around them. As a teacher, I am not their parent, their elder sibling or even their neighbour. I could be more than that. I could be their voice of reason as they grow older. I could be the fire that helps them get through the harder days that are ahead. I keep telling myself, it’s not about me. I would protect myself better, and take this time to build mental resilience. I have to rebuild my strength. I want to return to school. I am not sure how and where. All I know is that I want to be of service to the children who are the guardians of our future. It’s about them. If they are ready to step into the future being bolder and brighter than they were before. It’s about them. It has always been, about them.

I have recently evaluated my current projects that I am working on, alongside art projects and writing project… I do have a few educational related projects too. Most of them, I’d even do for free.  What was I thinking? Did I really think I’d be happy as a rich and famous art entreprenuer? Did I really think I could be truly happy being a visual artist that exhibits in money hungry galleries around the world? To think about it now, I don’t think so. Was I really lying to myself? Or was I trying to prove something to myself, of something I already know?

A choice is a choice. Choices will never end with experimentation.
I have to make a real decision right now.

I need to find my teacher shoes again.

Moving on; moving in

I walked in. I picked up my luggage and placed it next to the open window – a view of a stretch of mountainous range made out of primary forest trees. I’ve reached a new home. A place that would turn into a colorful picture from an unfamiliar, colourless image. I’ve arrived in my humble mind palace, except it’s not a palace at all.

It’s a home, half real, half imagined.
It’s a cabin made out of wood, in the forest. Somewhere high where birds would soar, and the mass of people dare not go together in their flocks of social circles.

I would sit here for the next 10 days.
I would figure out the last 12 months of my life and decide if it is something worth pursuing further or worth taking a new turn. In those 10 days, I will relax. I will draw, try to paint, talk to myself and I will pray that I am aware of what I am moving into.

7 days have passed now. There are days that I could hear the rustling of leaves louder than I can hear my own voice. There are days that I could wander off in my mind and feel like time has stopped, only to realise that I have wasted precious time by day dreaming. I feel like a transparent body. Just being idle in the present of plant and cool breeze. I thought I would have fun by putting off 10 days to purely “relax”, but I didn’t. I was self-reflective but I was also confused and puzzled on my own direction. I realise what I have been doing, the hardwork of arranging for workshop after workshop alone could definitely be done better in a team. If only I had someone to bounce ideas back and forth, I could work faster and more effective.  But there are days that I wouldn’t want that. There are days that I rejoice at the idea of sleeping in and smelling the scent of rain from my window sill. There are days that I would watch the traffic build up from the view of my home and be thankful that I am not caught in it.

My thoughts meander from one positive aspect of living ‘on the road less traveled by’ to another distracting thought of having more income if I follow the masses of young adults like myself. I wonder if I am ever cut out for the real fast-paced working world.

I sip my hot cup of coffee infused Milo and try to contain my boredom from talking to no one else but myself. I really hope there must be more to the everyday than this. It’s either I find a fresh face – a creative partner to jump into a business of creative workshop and educational designs together or I develop a new role to hire as Cikgu Huda’s assistant.

There is another 3 days left to stay in this place and figure things out in a manner that I am by myself, free from the shiny city lights to distract me into taking on another project that does not share the same values as I have.

I feel like it is time. I finally can accept getting into a routine. I think I need a step by step activity to carry out my day in order to be content with my actions. I need to track down my own habits and instill a new schedule for myself. I need to set a time to draw, a time to write, a time to read, a time to sweat, a time to nourish the body, a time to be more social, and a time to sleep. I feel it’s finally time to stick to that routine, dear Huda.


Allure-gene? (Part 2)

My arms had visible reddish patches that were also bumps that looked like an embossed world map on my skin. That would be a cool 3D tattoo actually, but no, this straining itch couldn’t go away. Infact, when I touch it, it makes me feel like scratching, and the temporary relief will definitely grow into another urge to scratch, that would finally make my skin bleed from too much epidermis scrapping behaviour. C’mon, Huda, you’ve been here before, let’s not go there again!

My other arm had the same thing, but it was a different embossed pattern, and so did my legs, stomach, chest, upper back, lower back, neck, and my feet! My feet looked like I was wearing semi invisible pink stockings! It felt weird and interesting at the same time. All the physical changes that I was going through made me want to map out what I felt and where exactly, and I wondered why it was there or like that. Why did the world map had to pop up on my arm and the constellation on my back? Why not the other way around?

After a while, it seemed that the redness was playing tango as the red areas start to be neutral again and back to my ‘sawo matang’ skin colour, while the other areas that weren’t red before was now getting redder. As if the histamines beneath my skin was on patrol and cruising down the blood highway and moving from one place to the other, almost in circles and other organic shapes. But as I touched and pressed the skin in the red areas, like in a massaging way, I realise that it felt better. I prevented me from scratching too far, especially the times when I couldn’t suppress the need to scratch anymore. I decided to go and see a doctor. I walked out of my room, hijab on and all, and told my dad that I was going out to see a doctor.

My dad is a very distracted man, he never seems to take notice of anything around him that changes very slowly, like how his children are all grown ups now. He looked at me and asked me why. I didn’t know why I got a bit emotional here and started to feel ‘sebak’, a cold lump came out through my throat and tears swelled up a bit. I told him, “I am having an allergic reaction. My whole body and face are red.” He opened his eyes bigger now, and looked at me again, and said while chuckling a bit, “Nooo lah. Your face isn’t red.” I was shocked. Can’t he see my face isn’t the same as it was yesterday? I put up my palm next to my face, and asked him, “Babah, can’t you see, my face as changed colour? Look, my hand and face and completely different colours.” Here, he finally goes, “Oh.” I couldn’t take it anymore. I grabbed my car keys and said my salaam as I wanted to walk out faster than my tears can roll down my cheeks. My dad tried again, “You don’t want me to follow you?” His question was like he wanted me to ask him follow me, then he continued, “Which clinic are you going to? You better find a female doctor to attend to you.” As if, it was better if it wasn’t a male doctor examining my skin condition right now. That was the last straw, I simply replied, “No, it’s alright. I can go on my own. I’ll just go to the nearest clinic I find on my way.” And walked out while closing the door behind me. Knowing my dad, he won’t take it as a rejection of help, but as a relief that he doesn’t need to get changed and follow me to the doctors. Something about this scene keeps replaying in my head before I started crying in the car for a bit. I got dad issues, but I’ll learn to deal with that later lah. I needed to focus on finding a doctor, and I was 1 hour away before most clinics close for the day.

After driving out slowly and thinking of how the day would progress, I remember what a friend told me, “If you don’t know what you’re allergic to, doctors would just give you some anti-histamines and/or calamine lotion, that’s it!” She was a practical friend who told me that the doctor kept repeating in a pseudo-know-it-all-professional tone, “Just because you never had allergic reaction before, doesn’t mean you cannot have an allergic reaction now.” – when she sent her mom for a consultation after having reactions from eating seafood, which never happened before in her 44 years of living. I wondered to myself, if I can just try and withstand the next few funky days and buy calamine lotion or powder from the pharmacy if the itchiness gets unbearable. That way, I could save a few ringgits, and I could learn from this first hands on experience about an allergic reaction. Hence, the need to write this all down now. I needed to distract myself from the itchiness and keep my fingers busy doing something else. I also needed to remember every single detail, so that my future self could read this again and be reminded about how all this is normal for an allergic reaction.

As I am writing this, pins and pinches of stinging itch pops up from all around my body. One on the left feet, another on my right shoulder, one more on my left elbow, another near my chest, one more on my cheek, another on my left knee…. and it goes on like how lights change at a traffic light junction between intervals of 30 seconds, but I’m too busy to attend to scratch it once and for all. I call this an achievement for the sake of self-control. I am thankful with the information packed internet that helped me rationalize what I was feeling, like how I understood that my body releases histamine when it rages war on foreign yet harmless substances, called allergens. At the cell level, all that fighting and outbreaks are causing all that ‘alluring’ swollen-ness, the itchy hives, redness, and hypersensitivity. I do not know what I maybe allergic to, but I know it is in my more resilient multi-cultured genes that I can survive and withstand this pathogen.

I just have to withstand one day at a time.
Bertahan, Huda, bertahan.
Just one more day…


Allure-gene? (Part 1)

After tossing and turning from uncomfortable positions that was pressing onto my hypersensitive skin, I finally woke up today. It wasn’t morning anymore, but 2.05 p.m. in the afternoon. It didn’t feel like it. It didn’t feel like I was ready to wake up and take on the world. It didn’t feel like a good morning. Wait… because it wasn’t morning anymore!

I finally picked myself up and dragged my shell (my physical body) and placed it in the bathroom to wash off that feeling of not being in place, or in time. I looked at the sink and took out one hand to reach for the tap. I see fingers about to wrap the tap head to twist it open. It didn’t feel like mine. I could not recognise it beyond the swelling red stubby fingers and the tingling numbness I was feeling when touching everything.

I put out the other hand to touch the water that was gushing out into the white sink bowl, and I was glad water felt the same. Now, my hands were slightly familiar. I tilted up my head to see myself in the mirror. WHAT. To my horror, it took me about 5 seconds to recognise myself! My face was now, as scary as it sounds, not mine. It was bloated and very pink. I could see the reddish pigmentation forming on the surface on my skin, very slowly numbing my facial muscles too. I raised my eyebrows and wiggled my nose, it definitely is me, but it felt heavier, like I was moving a red-like mask that was suddenly attached on my face as part of my skin surface. I touched my face and it felt sensitive, prickly and definitely swollen. Is this what an allergic reaction feels like?

It was no doubt that I was definitely having my first allergic reaction, to an unknown substance that I ate. I felt the itchiness and saw the redness forming around my hands and legs last night, but I dismissed it as my eczema fighting its way to surface onto my skin again. Whenever I get very stressed out, my eczema resurfaces, and I now learnt to take it as an extreme sign of my body telling me to, “Stop all this nonsense stress-inducing work and please take care of yourself!” My eczema too has an unknown trigger, but I choose think it’s stress that is fueling my veins and blood to squirt out eczema fluid to distract me from my overwhelming physical worldly life. It has worked out so far. Ever since my last employment stint in March this year, I haven’t had a crazy dash of non-stop itching eczema. I had more time for myself and self care.

I calmly looked at my face now, that looked like I spent a few hours too long in a tanning machine, and screamed inside my head. All at once, so many voices came into my train of thought if I should go and see a doctor and get the medication I need? Will this redness get worse? Will I turn into a female version or a red hulk monster? Is this allergic reaction contagious? What should I stop eating? What did I take last night? Is this why I couldn’t stop scratching last night? Is this the cause of my delay sleep time last night, despite being too tired and in the dark, but couldn’t switch off? Am I ready to spend about RM100 for a doctor’s consultation? Can I afford to spend it right now as a frugal freelancer? How should I shower, now that everything is hypersensitive? Will my dad think that I have been drunk last night (astaghfirullah!) ? Will I get better tomorrow or the day after? Will I get an anaphylactic shock next? Will I die today?

Shit. Intrusive thoughts are scary. Thus, we should never let it take over our mind.
It was good that I could still think, get back to my senses and restrained myself from scratching any further. I was having various flashbacks of how I survived fiery shingles and sudden eczema outbreaks without having access to calamine lotion or topical creams before. I could definitely live out this allergic reaction, as long as my breathing pipe is still clear for air exchange. Alhamdulillah, I was emotional but calm at the same time. I took a deep breath and jumped out of my pyjamas to force start this funky day.