Broken Compass

Kampung road in Permatang Pasir, Balik Pulau.

Every morning, I have to drag myself out of bed. Excuses, reasons, goals – whatever it was needed that would persuade myself that it was going to be a beautiful day. Everyday is a Monday, except Sundays. Every morning is a test of my commitment to go on living fruitfully. Like everyone else, I have to toil through each day, maybe even more than most, looking for a purpose to justify my existence. I look at my clawed hands and atrophied legs and wondered how much I could possibly accomplish for that particular day with such inadequacies. My mind is always playing tricks on me. I feel pain where I should not and do not feel where I really should.

Twice a day, I have to remember to take my medication one hour before meals which I often forget. Very frequently, I allow only one half hour to pass before eating because my blood glucose level had dropped significantly and I was in frantic need to replenish it. Five times a day, I stick a rubber tube up where it should be most receptive to pain to make sure my damaged kidneys do not become any worse. And I stick other stuff up other places to ensure that my body is able to function as normally as it should. Life should not be like this.

Little devils relentlessly swirl around my head, whispering sweet temptations and delicious transgressions that would make me an anathema to my faith and offend the accepted sense of decency. Perhaps that was a weakness born purely out of my own unbridled desires. Everyday I struggle to be a good Christian but somehow I never fail to falter several times before the day is over. Sometimes it was not of my own doing. Sometimes I had allowed myself to be led into it. Other times, I had wilfully and knowingly violated the code. That clearly illustrates the depth of my spirituality and how easily I can be led astray despite the vows I had so resoundingly affirmed during my baptism.

Despite what I have written previously, I am not as strong as I had consciously or unconsciously portrayed myself to be. I struggle to keep my faith unsullied. I get depressed more often than I should. I still do feel sorry for myself for not being able to do the things that I used to love to do. I am still looking for a purpose in life. I am prone to bouts of melancholy and indolence. If anyone should think I am an inspiration, I call on them to think again. I am definitely no role model for those who seek to find hints of noteworthy traits in my character that had been tempered by the hard times that I had traversed. I constantly fail in my endeavours. I still have not triumphed over this adversity that has befallen on me. My life is dotted with too many question marks for me to make meaningful forward plans. I live one day at a time in order not to let the drudgeries of tomorrow weigh me down. That is all I can do. And if I did inspire, it surely must have been the invisible hands of God at work, inspiring me to write what I wrote.

Author: Peter Tan

Peter Gabriel Tan. Penangite residing in the Klang Valley. Blissfully married to Wuan. A LaSallian through and through. Slave to three cats. Wheelchair user since 1984. End-stage renal disease since 2017. Principal Facilitator at Peter Tan Training specialising in Disability Equality Training. Former columnist of Breaking Barriers with The Borneo Post. This blog chronicles my life, thoughts and opinions. Connect with me on Twitter and Facebook.

19 thoughts on “Broken Compass”

  1. Dear Peter,
    I may not be able to understand how you feel because I am fortunate enough by God’s grace to be born without any disabilities. But I want you to know that you are one of the strongest person I know. Although you have so many phyisical disabilities, they don’t stop you from doing what you want to do. Everytime I read your writings, I feel very encouraged.

    Being a Christian itself is a very long and ardous journey, what more being a good Christian. I myself am not baptised and I’m already finding it hard not to be tempted by the devil and other factors surrounding me. But I know for sure that the Lord is watching over us all the time. Every obstacle that he gives us is a test of our endurance. We may think that we fail, but we are never a failure in His eyes.
    Don’t feel discouraged Peter…you have gone very far…take care 🙂

  2. Cherry,
    I am not discouraged but embarrassed by all the accolades about my strength and gusto and spirit. I began this blog neither expecting nor desiring all those. I wish all will share in my journey without the backslapping and kudos lest I become bigheaded.

    A Christian journey is not only a lifelong journey but a way of life. We may stumble and we may fall but never ever forget to ask for strength, forgiveness and direction. Only He knows what we truly need and dispenses appropriately. May your life as a Christian be filled with His grace and blessings.

  3. Hi Pete,

    You know what I’m going to say. So I won’t repeat myself.

    If nothing else, you perk me up each time I see you online.

    To tell you the truth, many people live all their lives without really living it. I think you’re someone who lives his life. And that’s a very encouraging thing.

  4. Marita,
    I am able to live life because of Mum and Wuan. They made it easy for me to enjoy and appreciate the finer things in life.

  5. Dear Peter,
    The time is 0329(wee small hours of the morning)
    I am so sorry but am replying to a follow up email.
    I was about to close your web site and gave it a read. Boy I did not know you were disabled cos my eyes can B E A R L Y open and was trying in vain to contact Fr. Cheah.and first thing I did was write in your comments column…..
    Do you know who you remind me off – Joni Eareckson Tada.Do read any of her books. She once had and have had feelings like you Peter time and again.
    Once again I shall email you tomorrow and glad I met you today and have a surprise for you.You cannot fathom how happiness(hopefully) may drop by at your doorstep even in the wee small hours of the morning.

  6. Hi Peter
    I want to say ,we are all human no matter what our disabilities are,and yes it is hard to follow faith 100% all the time.As for perfection is beyond humans, we can only do our best.

    The other day while chatting with you, i feel
    god knew a needed to talk about what we talked
    about and he also let me put trust in you.
    I have trouble trusting ppl because of incidents in the past,so it was a huge step for me.
    Although ur days are hard and nights too i imagine but could never know, how hard they are.
    But i am so glad i found a friend in you 🙂
    please take care n god bless you

  7. hey peter..

    sounds like you’re singing the blues..well, life has its ups and downs.

    quoting this line:
    “If anyone should think I am an inspiration, I call on them to think again.”

    i thought about your line,… and i still think you’re a beacon of inspiration. (i bet your readers would think alike as well);) and my thoughts resonate with cherry’s, (“Don’t feel discouraged Peter…you have gone very far”). trust me, no one i’ve known had gone as far as you have.

    let your experiences and personal endeavors be a testimony for those who are going through the same hardship. it’s hard, but i always believed that good things never come easy. you have friends from all over, who are there for you. have faith, and courage… so, walk on, peter. walk on.:)

  8. Thank you all for the kind words. I guess I did not get the meaning of this entry across clear enough. As I had told Cherry in my reply, I am not discouraged. However I am embarassed by all these comments about my strength and spirit. I am a regular guy who happens to be disabled. I am like everyone of you who is struggling from day to day trying to make a living and trying to find meaning to life. I have my up days and I have my down days just like everyone else. So, lets be dispensed with the pats on the shoulder, backslapping and compliments. I am one of you and if you look hard and deep enough, you surely will find inspiration within yourself, one that will spur you on to achieve greater things. May God bless all of you kind people with happiness and contentment.

  9. oops. then did i further embarass you with a virtual hug? actually i was scared of embarassing you with praise and kind words so did a hug instead!

    anyway i understand how you feel, peter, all the comments about your spirit and strength, pats, compliements, etc. (but i haven’t given you that, eh?). indeed too much of it is rather embarassing. so i guess yes we should all stop that and just ‘talk’ to peter as normal/ordinary talk… no praise on his strength and spirit but praise him on his writing skill and techie skill (though he had given up in helping me with my blog template… i understand as he said he has not reach expert level yet!)

  10. Lucia,
    No, you did not embarass me with that virtual hug. Thanks for the thought. You are really funny. There is no need to praise my writing skills also as there are many bloggers out there who write better than me. Same goes for my techie skills. Just be my friend and walk beside me. Compliments not necessary.

  11. but peter, sometimes being a friend, it’s good to compliment each other. once in a while a compliment, when it is done sincerely, it’s ok… don’t have to be embarrass.

    you remind me of what someone once said, we are so used to criticisms but not to compliments. when we get complemented, our face turn red like a lobster and we whine “no lah! i not like that one lah!”. or “you don’t have to do that”.

    at our recent 2 nights 3 days seminar where i was one of the main organiser, doing a lot of things, i was taken aback when after the whole thing, my president send me a thank you card with a thank you letter, complimenting me. when i told him “you don’t have to thank me. i like doing what i do”, he said “i’m not surprise you feel that way. it had become our culture that we tend to be uneasy with compliments/appreciation”.

    see? so do accept my praise on your writing skills. (of course there are others better than you, just like there are others worst than you). if anyone praise me, i will accept it too and say thank you to her/him! being too humble is not so good too, ya’ know.

    anyway, having said that, i feel it’s best we just let things flow naturally, eh.

  12. Don’t be embarass, be proud. You are a beacon, when all there is is darkness. Normal people look at you, like a flicker of light, when all is not.
    Thoughts of you make me think of life differently. It makes me want to live life to the fullest. To appreciate things around me that I have taken for granted. Your so-called substandard translates to achievement in my mind.
    Live not for life itself, live for those around us. Purpose in life, you have yours, I have mine. No? Think again.
    Those little devils that lead us astray, even they have a purpose of existence.
    You losing direction? good, now the only way to go is FORWARD! Ala NFS, you bump, you crash but you still go. It is darn interesting, that is life.

  13. Hey Peter.

    It’s me again. I seldom log on to ICQ nowadays due to workloads getting heavier, but I still come in here frequently to see how you are getting on.

    I felt a bit sad to see you writing about those stuff. I can truly understand the reason why you are feeling this way for I myself feel this way too sometimes. I have no intention of giving a lecture here. What I want to share is best conveyed in the following line : Take criticsm like a man, and take praises like a gentleman.

    You have been a nice and true friend to many who know you and have shared your point of views generously, which happened to have given us a new perspective in many ways. Naturally, we regard you as a source of inspiration. That is normal, isn’t it, Peter?

    Don’t feel embarassed, just thank God that you have been blessed with the ability to inspire other lives. Not many people can, or have, the opportunity or ability. At times, we often feel a bit disillusioned, like you (or so you have written). But such a feeling will soon pass, and things will be better again. Trust us for once, Peter. Otherwise, I would not be alive today writing this here.

  14. I think ‘living’ itself is an achievement. Being a Christian, we are told that we exist in this world to suffer. We are so caught up with our daily demons and hell that we are oblivious to everything else around us. It is important to movitate and love ourselves. Afterall, if we don’t, then no one will. Until the time we stand in His kingdom, we will have to make do with what we have.

    Read all the testimonies in this blog of yours and tell me you are not an inspiration to others. Let others do the same for you. There’s no need for embarassment. Be proud and be free.

  15. Dear Peter,
    I understand you completely why are you feeling now… because i’m facing the same dilemma now. As you know, my story in my college, everyday, i feel people are regarding me as a tougher student. Just because i speak good english and i’m from STPM background but the other end, i actually strugglling very hard not because i want to score to be the best student in the college… but because i want learn to be physiotherapist… that’s all…. but as time goes by, i forgot my aim… i tend to out myself more competitive but at the end, i feel pressure in myself…. and then, i tend to react negatively…. so, i meditate everyday, bringing myself back to myself….
    So, Peter… i ask you another question, did you bring yourself back??? for me, i bring myself back everyday…..
    If not mistaken, there is one time, you told me is ok to feel down because you are just God’s child….

  16. hey peter,

    it’s been a while since you last posted something. you know, currently i’m working in a day-care centre for the elderly (somewhere in petaling jaya) as a volunteer and researcher (for i’m doing my dissertation on language and age), and i think the residents there go through a lot: in terms how they are treated, and how some have to cope with their lost ability in communication and motor-functions control. there is this 90 year old man with parkinson’s, i’m assigned to take care of, who has a lot of difficulty in movements and he has a slurred speech, which is difficult to comprehend, and i cringe whenever i have to repeat, “i’m sorry?”,”what was that again?”..because i feel like i’m reminding him how helpless he is. but i do see signs of intelligence, and acknowledge his awareness of his environment.

    you know, i can’t help but sometimes wonder why he wants to continue struggling to live on, and hang on to might want to say that god gives him the strength to go on living…but i don’t know. maybe i would find the answers one fine day..

    whatever it is peter, i hope you would find the answers to the questions you have of life. and i remember my professor once saying, “enlighment begins with confusion”…

    take care, my man. and keep us updated with your thoughts and life.:)

  17. I did not expect the kind of responses that you all had left here. Perhaps I should have just accepted the compliments humbly and left it at that. Anyway, thank you for all the words of encouragement and compliments. I appreciate it that you all had taken the time to expound your views regarding this entry. All of you surely have a heart of gold. May you all be blessed with happiness always.

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