Quotes from The Book of Joy

Sometimes I can get incredibly shy at DG/cell group. I don’t know why, I think I am still uncomfortable with the fact that I am the youngest there and my age is the awkward age where everyone else has a job and has been employed at least 3-4 years, and I am the inexperienced person who has never held a full-time job. Plus, everyone has known each other for about two years and the new cell members who joined, they either know others in cell already, or they only came maybe once or twice and never really continued. It is not that I feel like an interloper, because I am one, but the fact that I somehow get very nervous when I have to read the bible passage aloud. We all take turns reading and I normally don’t have an issue, it’s just sometimes I get so apprehensive that my pronunciation will suck etc, and it does end up sucking- only because I am nervous and stumble over my words. Bleurgh.

Plus, I am pretty sure I am the only one there who is trying to believe in God, and if I were to say out loud that I might not be fully heterosexual (but am not attracted to females yet), or that I am only here for four years, pending a detailed review at the end, I think I would just…cringe and then be really awkward. Even though cell is supposed to be an all-inclusive thing, for all age groups and vocations, it’s difficult to feel genuine when this particular cell is made up of people from a few categories.

Sometimes I wish I got allocated a different cell. One that is further one, but one that is really heterogenous. But hey this is ten minutes away from my house. Sigh. I just have to deal with the shyness. A while back there was a cell mate who was asking if anyone wanted to buy plane tix up to KL for church camp, and I realised earlier today that the dude who was asking already listed everyone who was going to church camp as buying tix but me. Which means that the question posted on the group chat is just meant for me, but he didn’t want to DM me. Anyway I can’t afford it because it’s about 250+ on top of the usual camp fees that I’ve already paid, and I don’t have extra cash for flight tix. Also, I indicated that I would be taking coach on the online application a while ago, and am too lazy to change. I would like the bus ride up though, it will be bumpy and I will see the scenery. It must be good to be a working adult (doctor) and not worry about expenses ): The same dude who wanted to buy a sports car, and all I can afford is like roast pork rice. No there’s no connection between the two.

There will always be people who have more than we do, or who are more successful, or who are more talented or smarter or better-looking. 

Usually, we don’t actually compare ourselves to the hedge fund billionaire or to the genius scientist or to the supermodel. We tend to compare ourselves to those who are in our social circle. As the old saying goes, “If you want to be poor, find some rich friends. If you want to be rich, find some poor friends.” Keeping up with the Joneses happens within a peer group. 

Sigh. Maybe I just want time to pass by and I will grow out of my insecurities about how I am not independent enough and have to live with my parents, and maybe my job will assure me that I have an identity. But I don’t think a job can do that for me, I have a feeling that the next few years will be me doing things for myself. Can you imagine if I got skipped over for promotions when in the big 4 everyone gets promoted? The horror. Can I imagine staying single for my whole life? That’s even scarier. But true. Everything I fear might come to pass.

Envy toward the above, competitiveness toward the equal, and contempt toward the lower.

The thing about modern life now is that it doesn’t allow for a lot of slow movement or thinking. There is a lot of celebrating of the moments of joy on Instagram, or sharing it with your friends, but there’s one sentence that rings true. That humans have gotten more active, but not wiser or happier as the centuries pass.

“Stress and anxiety often come from too much expectation and too much ambition”, the Dalai Lama said. “Then when we don’t fulfil that expectation or achieve that ambition, we experience frustration. Right from the beginning, it is a self-centred attitude. I want this, I want that. Often we are not being realistic about our own ability or about objective reality.

I was reading another book, I can’t remember which it was. But there was a quote about how glass sometimes glitters more than diamond because it has more to prove. Because I am not born to a particularly wealthy family, neither am I particularly anything- it is this lack of outstanding qualities that makes me want to improve. The book (I think it’s a fiction novel) didn’t extrapolate further but a word of caution to myself- glass shatters on impact, diamond doesn’t. What is shiny and superficial might not stand up to further inspection. And glass can be beautiful and useful too.

Thinking about April and progress, reading ‘The Book of Joy’.

The next four days of April will look exactly like today- reading, watching interesting and outdated shows (that mostly premiered in the early 2000s), eating and wondering how to structure my bullet journal. Hence, I decided to do the April review a little earlier, and to combine it with my thoughts on reading the first one-third of The Book of Joy.

April was uneventful actually. I finished school, finished final exams, fell sick for more than a week. Trimmed my hair, sold my old textbooks. And I studied the book of Daniel, went to church, signed up for children’s church. Drank a lot of coffee, booked flight tickets, read books and watched shows. Started a no-snacking program, lost 2kg in 4 days. But I still look the same. 56, 58 kg, does it make a difference?

On my mental health: on good days, I’m motivated. On normal days like this, I get this 20-minute increased-heart-rate-painful-chest just before dinner. On bad days, I stay underneath the covers on my bed. I don’t feel very centred, but anyway life does not come with a guarantee that it will be comfortable. I am more comfortable than most already.

It could be any other month, but this is life. Not all months are exciting, and even if I were an events planner and had weddings every other week, it would also feel mundane after a while. Don’t all weddings feel the same after a while? And then you wonder if your clients from a few years back are still together. There is nothing I want but peace and understanding but the thing about good feelings like ‘understanding’ is that I have to first seek to understand, then be understood. “I learned to be a human being from other human beings.” In the next week, I just want to stay at home and do nothing. I only want to understand the writers of Suits and Grey’s Anatomy.

3 lessons to build up my mental health, from the book.

  1. Reframe my situation more positively
  2. Experience gratitude
  3. Choose to be kind and generous

Maybe this is why the elderly are calm. It might be easier to see the totality of your life and accept it as it is, when you are nearing the end. Those I see sitting at void decks and hawker centres, sometimes with their grandchildren and a maid. Most of them have lived their lives fully, or wasted it, but they have lived through it. 80 or 90 years on earth, exposing them to new political regimes and new buildings and fads that come and go. It is a calmness that comes with living and understanding, I hope. Their experiences are all unique and only they will remember the people they have met and loved and spoken to, all the old neighbours who are no longer around. I wonder if they think of the kampung days, if they can remember them well.

From The Book of Joy, there is a religious way to get up and start on the day. This applies to everyone, especially those are starting out on adulthood- I would imagine them to be particularly lost and in need of guidance.  The method is to give thanks to God when you wake up in the morning, and set about doing His will. For the non-religious, the Dalai Lama recommends that we only have one intention for the whole day. That this day should be meaningful. “What is it that is truly worth pursuing?”

It’s nice to think about all these progression happening in daily life. That nurses will learn new skills and care for patients, that mothers will mother their children, that students will play and study. But for those who are past their prime or are neglected by society, anyone who is living in a hospice or asking for coins by the bridge, what never disappears is the feet. I wonder how the uncles selling tissue paper feel. The sound of footsteps and of people passing by and ignoring them, year after year. The older they are the less people notice them, there are other things to worry about.

And God weeps until there are those who say I do want to try to do something.

I wish I could do something, but I don’t have the energy to do anything. I just want to sit at home and sort of cleanse my mind of things. To spend May and June just silently sitting and trying to build up my exercise routine again. For a large part of May I’ll be overseas, not sure if my skin can tolerate a trip to Australia because I am awake for most of the night. But regardless of where I am, I wish to be present. And to not snack so much. ):

Oh and

Things I enjoyed this month

  1. Crispy char siew bun! The flaky pastry version
  2. Head massages
  3. Earl grey milk tea
  4. Caramel macchiato
  5. The SMU SOL function hall chairs, the ones for the accounting exam- super comfy. NTU has rock-hard chairs, it’s like a granite competition. SMU knows that comfort is correlated to grades.

Wasted chances

You know what the greatest tragedy is in the whole world?… It’s all the people who never find out what it is they really want to do or what it is they’re really good at. It’s all the sons who become blacksmiths because their fathers were blacksmiths. It’s all the people who could be really fantastic flute players who grow old and die without ever seeing a musical instrument, so they become bad plowmen instead. It’s all the people with talents who never even find out. Maybe they are never even born in a time when it’s even possible to find out. It’s all the people who never get to know what it is that they can really be. It’s all the wasted chances.
― Terry Pratchett, Moving Pictures

I spent the past 3 hours looking at videos of how to decorate planners, file papers, and do bullet journals. I ended on a high note of ordering new moleskines off bookdepository.

Note to myself:

Anchor journal, for all my lists. My habits list, my meals list, my ‘people I want to attack’ list.

Weekly journal, for my daily to-dos, of which 90% will never get done because I procrastinate. I am a wonderful procrastinator.

Journal journal, otherwise known as “the reason why I can be sane in real life is because I write all the crap in my head on paper, paper sticks to words, and weighs them down so they don’t float around.”

“I have been one acquainted with the night.”

My headache is either caused by too little coffee or too much coffee. I drink more coffee now than during the revision period, because now I have a lot of free time to myself. I imposed a no-snacks rule two days ago because I really need to fit into my jeans ): No snacks meaning no chocolates, potato chips, or biscuits. I still drink milo and eat things like beancurd and sweets. But the amount of chocolate consumed went from two packs of kinderbueno (not two sticks) and a lot of lindt balls every day, to nothing at all. Hopefully I will lose that extra layer of blubber soon.

In January when I first started slotherious, I wanted it to be a record of my thoughts, something like what I did on blogger and tumblr. I thought my life was settled- okay, writing, and lots of work, and I will spend all my free time just walking around finding food. I want to eat bak kuh teh again.

What I didn’t expect was to return to church, and now commit to another four years of children’s church (toddlers, aged 18 months to 3 years old). I approached the leader after service and she did a very short explanation of the commitment required and the work that I would be doing. I was intending to join the nursery section where they have kids aged 3-4, because at least they will be able to understand what I say, but hey, why stress myself out. I am just going to toddle around helping with arts and crafts and dish out froot loops when they are restless.

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Okay I miss froot loops. I used to eat them as a kid!! Sugary breakfasts.

Yesterday, the pastor was talking about how we can forget that gifts are all from God, and we can become complacent in using them. The priority is to not focus on the gift, but focus on the God behind it, and not let our gifts take us away from God. Like being talented at singing, or lawyer-ing, or teaching. We are all treated in a different way by the world, and we come with a mix of skillsets that might not seem very useful to us. Like I am extraordinarily good at sitting still for long hours. But I guess that only comes in useful if I am trying to avoid rampaging zombies.

There was a sharing session from the BASK outreach program where people go to share the gospel in prisons, and the lady said a sentence at the very end that made me understand why do people continue volunteering. “We thought that we would be the ones to deliver blessings but instead it is ourselves who have been blessed.” 

When I was being briefed in the room by one of the teachers, I noticed that there was a girl sitting by herself drinking a packet of milo. Slightly dark-skinned, she didn’t seem particularly happy or talkative. And then there was this fair-skinned and happy chinese boy who kept coming to poke the teacher and getting poked in return. I guess after my experience with my foster brothers, the ones who need more love and attention are really not the good-looking and loud ones, it is the quiet ones who need more adult-time. But I wonder if they will take to me.

There are many other ways to live and to learn obedience. Perhaps church is the wrong thing to choose, to use it as a testing ground for how much I can learn and how much I can contribute to a community. But I don’t know of any other option that allows me to learn for free, connect to other people (older than me, and also much younger than me), contribute to people around me, and also decide on whether or not I want to live my life according to a set of rules given thousands of years ago.

Church, and religion, and God (and all three are different things to me), answers important questions such as “should I be doing this” or “which should I pick?” I don’t mean my mother’s method of flipping open the bible and reading whatever page she lands on as an answer to her question. Because that completely removes her independence of decision and anyway she doesn’t use very biblical interpretations, she kind of picks and chooses which paragraphs are relevant based on her emotions and the question that she was asking. The only answer is usually- is what you want to do, Christ-like, or which choice will bring more holiness to you? Not as in proving your worth but which choice will be more difficult to do and hence test your faith more. Church is an institution, it is a place I go to every week. Religion is what other people see me as belonging to or believing in. God is the pinnacle which everyone revolves around, trying to get to but always failing and being uncomfortable because we are still on earth.

I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain—and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.

-Robert Frost, Acquainted with the Night

Anyway, that’s probably for July. Today I am just going to try and reserve seats on the Taipei-Hualien express train. And I am going to try and finish reading all the commentaries that Daniel sent because well…I am a bit slow when it comes to theological literature. Life is slow now. I don’t need to do anything, except deal with the weight of my own self-expectations. I expect my hair to grow faster. And things like disappointing bean curd from the hawker centre this morning, and dealing with my over-inflated ego.

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The choices we make define who we are. Not our abilities, but our choices. Every morning I choose to snooze and not go for a morning run, and I choose to practically eat my weight in chocolate every week. I choose to not go for driving classes, I choose to buy new books every month. I just received my fulton sheen ones! It’s autobiograpical. I choose to sleep in, and then uber to my destination. I choose to not work for SB after I graduate. I choose to ignore people, and to remember others.

I could give up everything now and start over again, being a complete bitch about things and complain every day. So could everyone else. But I would like to think that while other people are naturally kind, I am naturally spiteful and antagonistic and I have to work harder at things because there really are days where I want to set fire to everything. I am who I am today, because of the choices I made yesterday. Of what I did, and how I responded.

‘Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,’ said the Cat.
‘- so long as I get SOMEWHERE,’ Alice added as an explanation.
‘Oh, you’re sure to do that,’ said the Cat, ‘if you only walk long enough.”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland