My mother, the heartbreaking mystery

I have a difficult relationship with my mother. Yes, I love her but it is a love fraught with tension and the baggage of years.

Being her eldest daughter meant being the embodiment of all she hoped and feared.

She made sure I was never burdened with chores and that I had all the time I needed to study or revise. But when I was out too late and didn’t call home, she would tell my sisters that I was likely getting myself knocked up.

Her Jekyll and Hyde nature made it difficult growing up.

A beautiful woman who could charm government officials and cabbies with her wit and humour, but I heard every Malay swearword I know from her mouth.

She was damaged, I realise now, and more than likely bipolar. Most of it came from her father abandoning her and her mother, leaving mother in the care of her grandmother. My own grandmother from what I hear paid more attention to her other daughters with her new husband, leaving my mother the sole child of her separated parents.

When my father left her after nearly 20 years, she was a crying mess. But I wasn’t there to see my mother falling apart as I was away in university. A university I didn’t even want to attend but I did because my mother insisted it was the best place for me.

Ten years later, and my mother is a noted poet back home. A short story just won a major prize in a local literature competition. She’s published with the DBP and has established quite a name for herself in the Sabah literature scene. The chief minister even presented her with an Outstanding Woman award years back, which I only found out about through Google.

What makes me sad is that it is obvious now how talented she is but why didn’t she make the most of her talent when she was with my father?The truth is my father was everything to her. She gave up her ambitions to be a stay-at-home mom because my father demanded it of her. She had so much resentment over that and it poisoned their marriage but when you were made for something, and denied it too long, it hurts you.

I guess that’s why I’m afraid of marriage. Weary of commitment. Too prone to just running away screaming from being tied down or on the flipside always running right into the arms of men who will treat me badly/leave/offer me nothing lasting.

Though I often call myself my father’s daughter, I am also my mother’s. I have her sentimentality, her depth of emotion, her chattiness and intuitiveness. But like her, I am plagued with bouts of paranoia, self-doubt and yes, on occasion I swear like a sailor.

I used to be afraid of becoming my mother. But now I realise she has weathered so much. Loved so much and lost so much. But she has never given any less than everything when it came to her heart.

She is both the good and bad parts of me.


  1. Jade

    I can relate to your paranoia because my parents divorced when I was much younger, I felt he same way as you did. My mom was wronged in many ways, but she stuck through it all, and that’s why I respect her so much.

  2. Warga Malaysia

    At the risk of antagonizing Sabahans and Sarawakians further, which I hope wouldn’t happen, I feel compelled to respond to your opinion piece in the Malaysian Insider: You know nothing West Malaysians

    I think it is a very unfair opinion piece and while a small section of West Malaysians had been responsible for the mess your state is, you somehow pushed their evil deeds on all West Malaysians then write very negatively of those who strive for positive change. The copious comments over there, although there were some comments obviously from East Malaysians who thinks all West Malaysians are bad, I hope is sufficient to show you the flaw in your logic. Anyway, reproducing my comments here so you don’t miss it:

    Erna Mahyuni,

    All the ills that you spoke of, forest being plundered to enrich the cronies, growing income disparities, inadequate infrastructures, etc., all these, when did it happened? Wasn’t those all committed under the UMNO/BN watch? So now you come pointing your fingers at the Federal opposition?

    So what do you want to do next election? Elect UMNO/BN into power again? If you don’t give this chance to the opposition to right the wrongs, who would you blame if Sabah and Sarawak continues to go down the drain?

    Frankly, I don’t envy Pakatan even if they managed to wrest Federal power next election. They will inherit a rotten ship, messed up institutions, serious financial problems then the next thing that people like you will start pointing fingers again, there see you are just as bad as UMNO/BN. Let me tell you, it will take a long time and huge efforts at righting all the wrongs committed by UMNO/BN

    “So put down your latte and take a little time to understand why it is so hard for me not to hate you for speaking of what you do not know.”

    So what do we not know? We know that some Peninsular Malaysia’s politicians have collaborated/allowed Sabah/Sarawak to plunder its resources at the expense of its inhabitants but why oh why do you point your fingers at Pakatan Rakyat? Did they partake of that plunder? I think this is one of the most unfair opinion piece I have read.

  3. Warga Malaysia

    And rather than blogging about things that will not improve matters both for us as well as for Sabah and Sarawak, why don’t you try to write more that will create awareness and help bring about positive changes and reforms and tell your compatriots all that the evil UMNO/BN had done to your state and get them to vote for change.

  4. albert lim

    For if you reject love for fear of rejection,
    It will be like a seasonless world;
    Where you shall cry but not all your tears
    Where you shall laugh but not all your laughter.

    For when love beckons you, you shall follow him/her (to be politically correct!)
    For when love’s wings enfold, you shall yield to him/her
    For love is like a sword whose pinions may hurt you
    For so shall love will crown you, it will also crucify you.

    All these things love shall do unto you,
    so that you may know the secrets of your heart
    and in that knowledge, become a fragment of life’s very beating heart

    From: The Prophet (by Khalil Gibran)

    (not an exact quote but the jist of it)


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