My top 10 books of 2018

My number one book – Educated by Tara Westover. I loved it so much that I dragged the family early on a sunday to Cambridge to the literary festival just to go to the author’s reading. Hence my baggy eyes look.

I also was so inspired by it that I wrote a book review in the paediatric drs newsletter.

I love this book so much, that I would declare it  being my favourite read  in a long while. It’s a memoir of a woman who grew up in a self preserving, isolated home environment and strict Mormon family in Idaho. Due to her father’s strict ideals, she and her siblings were cut off from the rest of the world for a large part of her childhood and they were homeschooled. The reality was that they were not taught much at all.

She decided to educate herself and her journey eventually led her to Cambridge university (in England) and later on to Harvard for her doctorate. I was reminded of the education I have had all my life that I have taken for granted.

That aside, she revealed the different shades of family life, the bad and the ugly and how despite it all, the love and care one has for a blood relative. She struggled with growing herself and her mind as her education grew and yet, felt immense loyalty and familial obligation, which I admit was a heart breaking read.

Her stories are riveting, philosophical at times and with such story telling, I could not put it down. I finished the whole book in two and a half days and wished there were more to read! If you would read only one book this year, I would strongly recommend this one.

**********************************

And then in no particular order of my love for it or chronology of reading, here is the rest of my top 10. Chosen for the reason that it has either taught me plenty, inspired me or made my heart go warm or fuzzy. Or all of the above.

2. Born a crime by Trevor Noah

3. Letters to a young muslim by Omar Saif Ghobash

4. Pengabdian by Hajah Norsiah Haji Abd Gapar

5. The subtle art of not giving a f*ck by Mark Manson

6. Maximize your child’s bilingual ability by Adam Beck

7. Lean in by Sheryl Sandberg

8. A man called Ove by Fredrik Backman

9. It’s all in your head by Suzanne O’Sullivan

10. Becoming by Michelle Obama

******

Now it’s really hard to stop at no 10 because there are also a few books that I love and recommend.

11. Stay with me (this was a nice surprise)

12. Ps I still love you by Jenny Han

13. Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

14 Little Fires everywhere by Celeste Ng

15. Laughing all the way to the mosque

For full list of books I’ve read, see previous post. Happy to say that I achieved my challenge of reading 50 books this year. From someone who love reading but has gotten lazy, reading at most 20 books a year in last few years, this is a major improvement for me.

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Books of 2018

Here is the full list of books I’ve read this year. The genres have certainly ranged and I seem to like crime thrillers more these days. Also, do not judge me on the ‘chick flick’ books – we all need it from time to time I feel for some mind-numbing read. Just like watching Keeping up with Kardashians or I’m a celebrity, get me out of here. No? Just me? There were a handful of let downs and even some more that I couldn’t bring myself to finish it.

1. Hogfather by Terry Pratchett

  • My first Terry Pratchett book. It’s a bit too fantasy for me and hard to keep up with. Love the dark humor though.

2. Born a crime by Trevor Noah

  • Reads like how he talks, its so funny. The end did make me tear up a bit. He wrote about growing up in apartheid and I’ve learnt a lot about it from the book. One of my favourites this year.

3. We are completely beside ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

  • Uneventful. I cant even remember what its about.

4. The Nakano Thrift shop by Hiromi Kawakami

  • Picked it up at heathrow just before our flight to Japan. Dragging, a bit of sad lonely story.

5. Maximize your child’s bilingual ability by Adam Beck

  • I love this book and love his website. My inspiration to push teaching malay to the kids and finding innovative ways to get them to talk and read the language. If you’re raising a kid in a country/environment where your language is a minority language, this is the book for you!

6. Raising a bilingual child

  • More like factual, research book on why being bilingual is great. Not recommended if you were like me, looking for practical tips.

7. Sofa So Good by Scarlett Moffatt

  • She is my guilty pleasure. Hilarious book.

8. It’s all in your head

  • Recommend this to health professionals. I came away having different perspective on those who have abdo pain/headache with no organic causes or those teenagers who have unexplainable pain or paralysis.

9. Pengabdian

  • I actually like this book despite it being written 24 years ago. Still a lot of relevance on the social issues the character faced, though the medical information is outdated. Love it even more because the story was set during Brunei’s independence. I can just inagine myself there at the stadium, shouting out our independence.

10. Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine

  • Enjoyed this one! Recommend it for a heartwarming read.

11.Sarong Party Girls

  • It was an interesting book that has certainly given me a different aspect of the culture in Singapore. Ah Beng, Ang Mohs, SPGs… easy and fun read. Slightly disconnecting in the sense I disagreed with Jazzy (SPG) attitude but that’s it – we all have different takes in how to live and survive in this world. It’s funny that I feel uncomfortable reading the racy moments just because it is set in Asia and involving Asian people. If these were white characters, I don’t think I’ll bat an eyelid. It’s like when Bollywood goes extra sexualized (when its nothing in Hollywood movies) and I get all uncomfortable.

12. Crazy Rich Asians

  • I do like the book for the craziness of what the rich can do and have and partly wishing I have that much wealth. Unable to decide whether I like the book or movie better.

13. Rich People Problems

  • Sequel of above- Enjoyed this. As above.

14. China Rich Girlfriend

  • The last of the trilogy. Cant remember plot but enjoyed first better.

15. Educated by Tara Westover

  • Best book ever – see next post

16. A book of Untruths by Miranda Doyle

  • Found it hard to get into and flicked through it a lot.

17. Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

  • Recommend this!!! I dont want to detract or ignore that there are defects in society and the average work system that can put women at disadvantage. However she has written well on how we as individuals should also step up and take charge of what we want to do, our vision and ambitions. Its a short book and I felt inspired after reading this.

18. The Good Immigrant by Nikesh Shukla

  • Love the short stories and quite relatable.

19. Every Little Fires by Celeste Ng

  • Love this book! Easy read and I love her writing.

20. Everything I never told you by Celeste Ng

  • Her first book is better but still love her writing.

21. A Man called Ove by Fredrik Backman

  • Heart warming – see next post on my newfound love and discovery for Fredrik Backman.

22. My grandmother sends her apologies and regards by Fredrik Backman

  • Difficult to follow but love the sentiments behind it.

23. A boy made of block by Keith Stuart

  •  Fictional book about a dad learning to understand his autistic boy through minecraft. Made me want to play minecraft. One scene at the end was touching but otherwise predictable storyline.

24. Love, hate & other filters by Samira Ahmer

  • Ok book from what I remember.

25. Behind closed doors by B A Paris

  • This was a quick read and a good thriller. Made my heart race for hours after reading the book.

26. How women rise: Break 12 bad habits

  • Alright book.

27. My Greek Summer holiday

  • This is one of the cheap books you’ll find in WHSmith and then find yourself not benefitted much at the end of it. I finished it for the sake of finishing it. Also bought to try to reminisce our Greek holiday.

28. To the boys I’ve loved before by Jenny Han

  • Ok so this is a YA (young adults) book but we just need this from time to time! Brought me back high school memories and smiled like a schoolgirl reading it.

28. PS I still love you by Jenny Han

  • Of course I had to read the sequel.

29. Always & Forever: Lara-Jean by Jenny Han

  • And finish off the trilogy. Sad to have it finished!

30. The 5 love languages of children by Gary Chapman and Ros Campbell

  • Recommend this to all parents! I’ve learnt a lot from this.

31. Better by Atul Gawande

  • Interesting and I always like reading his books. We can learn a few things from his observations.

32. Revive your heart by Nouman Ali Khan

  • I can hear his voice as I read it. So as a big fan, I am biased. Lots of great reminders and I love relating the ayat from quran to our everyday life (as we should).

33. The Rosie project by Graeme Simsion

  • Easy and fun read.

34. The Witches by Roald Dahl

  • Please can I put this in? I know it’s a kids book! This was our night time reading for a few months (we picked it up whenever we feel like it). I love Roald Dahl!

35. The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion

  • Love the first book better. Second one felt a bit same-y.

36. Normal People by Sally Rooney

  • This is supposed to be good but I found the storyline boring.

37. Tin Man

  • I can’t quite figure out how I feel about this book. The good things: there are some emotions and relationships in it that is captured beautifully. There are sensitive topics written well: AIDS, being lonely, death. The things that I don’t like: bit dragging, too sad.

38. The Subtle Art of not giving a f*ck by Mark Manson

  • As someone who has a strong inner critic, this was read at a good time. I was down with myself and the book taught me to ask the hard questions: why am I hard on myself, what am I really upset about. Because I had to confront what I perceived as my weaknesses, I soon learnt that it is just that: a perception. I learnt to not give a f*ck to things that do not matter and for things that do matter, to ask the difficult questions of why it does and how to ‘get over it’.

39. A river in darkness by Masaji Ishikawa

  • One man’s escape from North Korea. Mumtathil and I are somehow interested in North Korea, so I find these kind of books interesting. I really felt for this man though. For what he has been through and what he has to deal with even after escaping North Korea.

40. Histories

  • Read this on and off for awhile. Interesting take on having different takes of the different bodies milling through hospital at one time. I found it difficult to follow though, with too many different characters. Bit depressing as well.

41. A little life by Hanya Yanagihara

  • This book is way too long. I did enjoy reading the first half of the book and love the different perspectives. But then I couldn’t take the never-ending pain of one of the main characters. In the end, I felt like it’s better off maybe if he just ends his pain. Mixed reviews on this one.

42. Gantung

  • My second malay book for the year. Bought because I felt I had to read more malay books. But the storyline was not so plausible, though I enjoyed reading the Manglish (malay-english) language featuring in it, more so because it captures how today’s generations talks nowadays.

43. The Halfling King by Katrina Daud

  • Yes to a bruneian book! I love the illustrations and found myself thinking about it after. I read it in the literal sense first time and then realise (I’m so slow) what it was trying to talk about. And then after that, I wonder whether I’m interpreting it differently.

44. From Kianggeh to Weston by Rozan Yunos

  • Short articles on Brunei history and culture. Some interesting articles but some just consisted if boring facts. I am a fan of his blog though, not discrediting him and love on what he does in reviving Brunei’s history.

45. Stay with me by Ayobami Adebayo

  • I actually love this book. I read it in less than 2 days. Easy read and I like the different perspectives it was written in. A book about the societal and familial expectations of becoming a mother, and the impact it has when you cannot bear a child. It also explores the couple’s relationship. I thought it was gonna be heavy but it was a good read. Ayobami is definitely a good story teller, made me feel like it’s based on true story. That said, parts of the storyline can certainly resonate in our culture. Recommend this!

46. Gurkhas

  • If you’re into gurkhas, military or modern warfare, this is the book for you. I’ve always been intrigued with Gurkhas, so mysterious and inpenetrable. My childhood consisted of going to Gurkha shop from time to time because thats where Mama finds the really good kitchenware and food serving stuff. So random, I know. We’ll enter the heavily guarded Gurkha military compound and go to the small shop and I’m just intrigued with them and their presence in Brunei. This book was honest and heartfelt and describes the Gurkhas well. It also has detailed description of this Gurkha’s stint in Afghanistan. I feel like I’m there in their , shooting the enemy.

47. Laughing all the way to the mosque

  • Too funny and definitely recommendable. So many things were relatable and I highlighted a few things and laughed it again as I read it back.

48. Letters to a young muslim

  • Recommend this for both muslims and non muslims. Gently points to what we as the muslim youth should be asking ourselves and others. I wish my nephews, nieces and kids will read this one day because Omar has written things so eloquently and explained our religion beautifully. He also talks about difficult topics and venture into it when many of us just brushes over it.

49. Becoming by Michelle Obama

  • This is fun more because I get to learn how Michelle became an Obama. I realise as the book went on, that I wanted to read more on Barack. I felt like I did not need to know the details of the first chapters of her life but then as she wrote about being the first lady, I appreciated the reason why she wrote about her background. It made it more profound on the difference of her beginnings and her life now. Towards the end, I love her vision and reading on her life as First lady.

50. Dreams from a father by Barack Obama

  • What a book to end the year! I love it largely for the fact that I can read the thoughts of President Obama, well before he became president. It is not like a usual biography and I dont think it intends to but instead follows a man’s journey of identifying what makes him, his race, his identity. It tries to identify how the black society navigates its way in America and his identification as a black man, being mixed race and brought up in Hawaii and Indonesia. He has a gift of writing, though his lack of full stops makes me lose track of what he’s trying to say in the first place.

So that’s it people. If you made it to the end, you must be bored. Do comment if you’ve read any of the above. Tell me your fave reads as well! I love discovering a good book!

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Zayan turned 7

Zayan turned 7 whilst we were up in the air, flying from the homeland to grey cold England.

Seven just seems like a ‘big boy’ age. He is now quite independent, making his own breakfast most of the time (usually kaya, nutella or honey sandwich – dont shoot me on the sugar!) and helps a lot in looking after his little brother. He tidies up after himself a lot (because someone ahem nags him). Yet at other times, he can resort to sulking and crying on the littlest things.

What I love the most about him, and I hope it will always be in him, is how sensitive and empathetic he is to others. I mean he can ignore his little brother’s cry (biasa banar kali dah sampai he just doesnt hear it) but he’s pretty sensitive to others.

A few years ago, he was probably 5 yrs old then and I came back home feeling low. There was a heart breaking resuscitation overnight of a baby that was born at home and sadly the baby did not survive. After discussing with the consultant and doing all we could, I did what I haven’t done before: announced to stop the resuscitation. I tried not to cry then, not let my voice waver as I asked if anyone had any objections. I still remember looking at the NNU sister, paramedics,the other midwives and my SHO. Tears were running down plenty of faces not least the parents. Her mum has just begged us not to stop and I had to explain why we’re stopping, how long we’ve tried. I looked at the ward sister, she had decades of experience and I remember looking away quickly – if I see her cry, I’ll cry then too. But thankfully I, who cries easily at anything and everything, managed to steady my voice, do some last checks (second check that the ET tube was in place, looking for any abnormalities elsewhere), wrapped baby up and handed baby over to parents.

It was pretty busy in NNU with other sick babies and so we plodded on, only catching our breath for a few minutes after that event. So I was numb for the rest of the shift. It only hit me when I was at home…24 hours later.

The next day, I pottered around, still exhausted mentally and physically. I went to the kitchen, stopped as I couldnt remember why I went in there and then I just broke down. I sat on our kitchen stool and the flood gates opened and I couldnt stop sobbing. It’s difficult to explain the grief felt for a little being who I dont even know, whose family I dont know, someone who only just entered the world but still a life lost is a life lost.

So there I sobbed, big ugly fat tears, forgetting that my son was in the house. He crept beside me and stood next to me, patting on my shoulder. He continued standing there for a few minutes, just patting and probably thinking why his mama has lost it. I couldnt stop crying after holding on for the last 24 hours. He asked why I was crying and I said a baby was not well in the hospital yesterday. He asked if the baby is better now and I said no. And so he hugged me some more.

So Zayan, wise beyond your years, thank you for being the sweetest boy ever. Thank you for being the coolness in my eyes.

Love,

your mama

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Take my hand

I’ve been mulling on this for awhile whether I should write about this. Since it is National Suicide Awareness month (in the US but whatevs), I thought it’s time I talk about this.

Ok I’ve never been in a state where I want to take my life away but I can understand how doctors can come to that point in their lives. More and more nowadays we hear of doctors disappearing and those taking their lives away. At least three of them occured during or just after their shift. Many of them occured after having complaints being made on them.

Earlier part of this year, I had a situation where I misjudged a patient’s condition. He looked well enough and didnt have any signs of serious illness. I did decide to have the patient be observed as he wasnt completely right yet and his condition improved within hours. Another colleague saw him, agreed with my diagnosis and discharged him. He came back within 8 hours… delirious, confused, quickly becoming ill in front of my colleagues’ eyes. He was intubated and ventilated. He had meningitis. I was told about it the next day. I went to see him in ITU and bumped into Dad – His dad said he was fine when he was discharged. Even hopping out of the unit. He deteriorated a few hours after at home.

The whole situation shook me. I spoke to many consultants, trying to gauge if I did anything wrong, thinking how I could prevent something like this next time. All of them agreed that they wouldnt have done anything else. These things happen they say. Yes, I know it happens.. I just dont want it to happen to me.

I couldnt shake off the incident. I began doubting my judgement. I would make a decision and then mull over it a few hours later. Over time, my confidence was affected. As a person who can be fairly anxious, I became even more anxious. Going home from oncalls or a busy shift, I would worry about patients, constantly thinking I might have missed something, worried that one of those I discharged will deteriorate or worse, come back dead. I couldnt sleep properly. I was crying more (more than my usual). I can get to a point where I would overthink things and panic.

This was a gradual process by the way. The anxiety went to higher levels bit by bit, it snuck on me that I thought this was somewhat normal. It dawned on me eventually how not normal it is. I couldnt bring myself to be too happy. I thought whenever I ‘lose’ myself to a good laugh or be happy… watch it, dont be too happy now, something bad might happen. By bad I mean a patient of mine would deteriorate or die because of me, I would lose my license and go to jail. It sounds ridiculous right… even writing this now sounds ridiculous to me.

I confided in the counsellor who I spoke to years ago when I was failing my exams. I reconnected with her and she made me realise how my feelings were affecting my thought processes (or is it the other way round?). She gave me practical tips on how to overcome my anxiety. I also spoke to an extent with my supervisor and another consultant who was supportive and reassuring.

The thing is… I never really spoke about it much with my family, friends and colleagues. I didnt know how to say it. I really didnt know how to tell them the magnitude of my anxiety. “Uhh I dont want to laugh too much now because you know, something bad might happen…” It was also easier to not think about it. As my mood spikes and wanes, it was easier to forget about it when I was having a good day.

I also didnt want to be seen as weak or be the failing doctor. It was if that by being anxious, I thought people will think my ability to doctor (can I make it into a verb?) is reduced. I didnt want people to judge me (and trust me, often medics are the worst judges of their own colleagues). Let me judge me. And this, I think, is why doctors get driven to that point. We bottle it up, paint a picture of absolute normality, get on our lives… not only do we not want to be seen as being impaired to work but we are also in denial ourselves. You just plod on.

Take my hand

and hold it tight.

Please remember

that it will be alright.

Reach out for someone

when you feel alone,

the panic, the heaves,

you’re not made out of stone.

Just remember

it will get better,

somehow someway

(and it might be a long way)

but

the sun will shine

and you will find

that you’ll be just fine.

The clouds will part,

it will no longer rain,

and you realise

that you deserve to be happy once again.

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Finding joy

Lately I’ve been stuck in a rut. Unmotivated. Lethargic. Uninspired. I admit to feeling like this from time to time and my usual go-to pick up is to find a project to fulfill this void.

On the other hand, I have so many things that I have to do. Work stuff to complete – audit, case report, e-portfolio (big groan). Start preparing for my START assessment – kinda like an assessment to see how well prepped one is to be a consultant (even though I’m two years away but have been advised to start doing it now, so I can work on any weaknesses/recommendations). Extra curricular stuff that I wish I can just stop doing. Need to get more fit. Teach kids more malay. Be more active in islamic teaching. Sort my stuff in the back room. Finally finish up the Japan scrapbook. Oh and go to work and do a good job out of it (once many moons ago as a house officer, my registrar told me a good day is when you don’t kill anyone. I love and agree with her standards).

And then it gets overwhelming and I just don’t want to do anything anymore.

Do you ever get the feeling that your life is becoming out of control? Instead of taking charge of it though, it feels easier to just let things be and just do things when they are absolutely necessary or when I feel up for it, whichever comes first.

What I have realised is that when Marie Kondo said we should only have things that brings us joy, she doesn’t just mean things in a materialistic way and actually mean every aspect of our life.

All these things that I’m doing – is it bringing joy to me?

Of course, not everything in life can be joyful to us. Paying bills and finding the best car insurance deals does not exactly flutter happiness in one’s heart – unless you love the satisfaction of finding good deals? Those are essentials. But accepting they are essentials and getting on with it is crucial to finding that joy.

There are plenty of things in my life that is not essential and does not bring me joy. So I think it’s time for some decluttering of activities and ‘hobbies’ (does facebook stalking count as a hobby?). And insert more things that brings me joy.

On that same note, there are things that I feel I have to do, like teach my kids malay. It feels like hard work at times and no wonder the kids feel like its hard work if their teacher feel the same way. There are times though when it’s easier, like when I’m reading Malay books to them at bedtime – somehow they’re more receptive then. I get their attention and we can have conversations in malay (by that I mean, I speak in malay and the answer is in english. If I’m lucky, I might have the odd malay words repeated back. Small steps….).

Perhaps not everything will be joyful – some things will be hard but it’s finding the more joyful parts of it to keep one going.

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Just gotta push through

Today a teenage patient went through a bad day. She has done some steps forward in her progress. But today, today she was in a rut. Today she didnt feel like she was improving. I told her that she has to push through today. That when she is at her lowest, she has to push even harder through it.

Sometimes you just want to put everything down and wish life will pause itself. No, the stars still shines, all lights flicker out and when you open your eyes, the sun will come out again. And you, you still need to push through it.

And now, I have to echo my own words to her, back to myself. Just gotta push through it. Sleep tight and tomorrow will be another day again.

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Being inspired to learn

Have you ever met people who makes you inspired to learn more? I like teaching and whenever I think of passing knowledge, I think of several people who have made me motivated to learn.

The first is a house officer who took my clinical partner and overall BFF under his wing during our care of elderly stint. He taught us during and after ward rounds. He gave us practical tips on the clinical exam (Just bullshit your way through but with confidence) and as a house officer (as above). The thing is he was not arrogant at all, he was hardworking and so clever. He did get hit by a patient with a stick once – he dealt with that patiently.

The second one is a consultant who probably does not even realise how much impact he had on me. He was not my supervisor and we didnt work that many times. However, he encouraged me to do case presentations and present in the regional meeting. He was just enthusiastic in his specialised interest and all round cool guy. He made me interested in neurology.

The third one was the beloved Dr Hoskyns. I did my clinical exam three times and each time I would go to his bedside teaching. It happens on a weekly basis and even if you’re the only one who turned up, he would still do it – fully prepared, on time and with patients ready to be examined. We would trek between wards (4 wards) and swiftly see a patient, examined, grilled and roasted. With his poker face and old school grilling, it sure did prepare me for the exams. It also tested my nerves – all that time when I answer stupidly (so obviously stupid that I want to facepalm myself) and he would just give me the correct answer afterwards, thankfully without a ‘Dont be so stupid’ look. Not just that though, even observing him talking to parents and doing the ward round, I learnt so much. I miss him, I’m sure I’m not the only one and I hope his family realises how much impact he had on the trainees.

Nowadays work feels more like service provision, and less training and learning from seniors. I quite miss the group ward round and being asked qs along the way.

I think all those who I mentioned above probably never realised how much it meant to me, their encouragement, time and teaching. Which brings me to the point that we never know how our words and actions affect people we pass by. It might just have a big impact in shaping them.

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