“Good evening, ladies and gentlemen.
When I got invited to speak to all of you tonight, I actually looked at the photojournalist and said ‘You have got to be kidding me, right? You ask your most single best friend to speak about love and relationships to all these people?!’ Then I was told that I am the youngest in this ballroom and that everyone here is a couple, so the pressure’s real.
First and foremost, Happy Valentine’s Day, from me to you lovers.
My grandparents live with me. This year marks their 57th anniversary. I grew up understanding what love really is. My grandfather was a very poor English teacher and could barely even afford undergarments for himself, let alone take any girl out on a date. My grandmother was the Dame of Sabak Bernam and she’s the daughter of a wealthy businessman. It was one afternoon where my grandfather set his eyes on my grandmother after he finished teaching. He asked his colleague who that young lady was and the first thing his friend told him was ‘Thong, you will never get her. She’s the Dame of Sabak Bernam! Everyone knows who she is and there are so many rich guys who are after her.’
My grandfather was in for the chase and shyly, he asked my grandmother out. He was so poor that the two of them shared a bowl of kuey teow soup on their first date. He was so poor that my great grandfather (my grandmother’s dad) has to give my grandfather money to take my grandmother out. My great grandfather didn’t allow my grandmother to date my grandfather because he was so poor. Sneakily, my grandfather would call the shop behind my great grandfather’s shop and the shopkeeper would call my grandmother over to answer the call from my grandfather. My grandfather obviously won her heart not in ways where money is involved but in actions and always loving my grandmother. I’ll spare you the details but fast forward to me being born. My grandparents currently live with me and even until now, my grandmother still makes sure that I’m dressed properly before I leave the house and my grandfather would still check on my spelling and grammar despite being in his late 80’s. They don’t have the best marriage but they can never live without one another. When my grandmother had her knee surgery, my grandfather patiently waited for me to come home from work to fetch him to the hospital so we could visit her. He even asked me if his collar was neat and with his almost toothless smile, he was an excited husband to visit his wife in the hospital. Were there arguments? All the time. Every single day, even till this very day. My grandfather loves her not for the way she danced with his angels, but for the way the sound of her name could silence his demons ; and vice versa.
Love, to me, is a verb. It is when you give unconditionally. I’m no love guru but I know that if you love someone, you will put in the effort and the hard work. And you do it because you want to, not cause you need to. It is when two people accept each other’s flaws. That’s how my grandparents are still keeping their marriage strong back home. It’s a lot of work and it’s…messy and difficult but it’s all about giving and taking. Love is the home that calms the hurricanes within you and brings joy to your soul. Love gives the body life. I speak Hawaiian and the word ‘Aloha’ means ‘love’ too. It means kindness, unity, agreeable, humility and patience. I really think that’s what love is about. It gives your soul peace as well. Would I say that I’m good with relationships? No, I won’t because I’m not. I don’t think anyone is. No relationship is perfect but that’s the point of it. If you’ve not read A Walk To Remember by Nicholas Sparks, he took a little quote out from the Bible that says
‘Love is always patient and kind. It is never jealous.Love is never boastful or conceited. It is never rude or selfish. It does not take offense and is not resentful. Love takes no pleasure in other people’s sins, but delights in the truth. It is always ready to excuse, to trust, to hope, and to endure whatever comes.’
If you know my grandparents…they endured so much. My grandfather still talks about my grandmother like she’s a queen. My grandmother still talks about my grandfather that he’s the world’s greatest gentleman. They’ve been through so much ; being parents to 5 children and being grandparents to 9 of us grandchildren. All the years of working together and being a team…they are the definition of relationship goals and the ultimate dynamic duo. They still look out for each other when they cross roads, make sure one of them don’t get left behind when we’re in a mall and pray for one another every night. To other people, they make love look so easy but as their grandchild, I know what they’ve been through. To be completely honestly, my grandmother did tell me that it was difficult because they were poor and there were times she wished she did marry a rich man instead because then life would be easier for her. But she never complained and every day she knew why she fell in love with my grandfather despite it all.
Beau Taplin once wrote in The Fiction of People : ‘Often, when we have a crush, when we lust for a person, we see only a small percentage of who they really are. The rest we make up for ourselves. Rather than listen, or learn, we smother them in who we imagine them to be, what we desire for ourselves, we create little fantasies of people and let them grow in our hearts. And this is where the relationship fails. In time, the fiction we scribble onto a person falls away, the lies we tell ourselves unravel and soon the person standing in front of you is almost unrecognizable, you are now complete strangers in your own love. And what a terrible shame it is. My advice: pay attention to the small details of people, you will learn that the universe is far more spectacular an author than we could ever hope to be.‘
No one told you the messy part of love.The arguments and the disagreements and the days where you both will feel like you’re in hell. But it’s the forgiveness, acceptance and strength. You can love someone for the clothes he/she wears or the car he/she drives. But to love someone nakedly…that really is something. Naked here means loving that person instead and out ; flawed nakedness. For better and for worse. It’s really blessing, to be loved and to receive love. It honestly takes a lot to love. Loving someone is a choice and that’s the most courageous thing one could ever do in his/her life. It means you’re willing to give someone your fragile heart and that…that is bravery right there. One thing I’ve learned from my heart is that a heart is more than just an organ that gives the body life. It was made to love and to mend whatever that is broken inside you. Magnificent isn’t it? How the heart can do wonders. On the canvases behind me, you see two anatomical hearts I’ve painted. As you can see, the two hearts are stitched together and it actually becomes one big love shape. This is an abstract of two real hearts that were taken and sewn together in a hospital. I just created an art of it. It actually takes two wholes to be one. You love a person for the soul that lives within him/her. You love the person because despite all the flaws he/she has, you chose to love the person.
I leave you with a quote from by E. E Cummings, “Love is the voice under all silences, the hope which has no opposite in fear; the strength so strong mere force is feebleness: the truth more first than sun, more last than star.” So love with all kindness and gentleness.
– The speech I gave on Valentine’s Day.
All visuals and words belong to Win W.™ unless stated otherwise.