On my feelings.

I have been having cramps the whole day due to my blood buddy, and my mood is real low now. I was reading The Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan, it’s about virgin courtesans and this half American girl whose mother used to run one of the best courtesan houses in ancient China. A turn of fortunes happened and she was left to fend for herself in a lower house, one with cheaper services. I do enjoy reading fiction but as I turned the pages there was a nagging feeling in my head that I should probably be reading HBR or books on agile teams. Sigh.

Adulting starts next week. I am half excited and half anxious about how work will turn out. Not just the nature of work, but all the new social networks that I will have to form. The new hierarchy, the office politics, and the fact that I can’t drink but there’s apparently a drinking culture in the company. As D says, “maybe you will discover a new you” HAHAH I will try to. One good thing about being an adult is that some of my friends are getting married, and I get to go for wedding dinners and see their lives play out. I hope everything turns out well and no one is too stressed about floral arrangements and tuxedos.

I wanted to write about some of the feelings the past two days, partly inspired by all the pelvic region pains that I am experiencing right now. Not sure if I said it here, but if I could choose my gender at birth, I would be male. Not just because of period cramps, but the whole ‘body image’ struggle before childbirth, all the pressures of juggling work and family and also being a nurturing but also corporate-profits leader. There is a quote that says that joy comes from the mastery of pain, and why not write about emotional struggles too? I am very keen on recording my struggles.

On self-esteem: I am not entirely sure why I have low self-esteem, or even if what I have is low self-esteem. I think a part of it comes from my childhood, but another part of it comes from the natural tendency for me to achieve things- I need success after success to feel satisfied with myself. I can’t sit around and feel like someone worthy of breathing the somewhat polluted air in Singapore. I agree that all jobs are important, like police officers and paramedics and painters and cirque de soleil contortionists. But I can’t do such jobs, not just because I have no talent or interest, but because I need to have a visible, monetary impact for my work to feel like I matter. I am scared that I am not good enough for consulting and have to work in a job that I don’t like, a job which doesn’t have constantly changing project teams and clients. Like being a receptionist. It is a good and honest job, but I never liked doing recept duties. Transferring calls and receiving parcels etc. I am not sure if I can excel in this industry, neither am I sure if any of my life lessons learned so far can prepare me for the adult world of bills and politics.

Nothing too long imagined can be perfect in a worldly way.

-Anais Nin

On introspection: When I spend too much time with my journal and not doing anything else- not reading, not listening to podcasts, not watching The School of Life videos, not working out, not going out with friends, not learning about HR, just being quiet with my zig 0.3 pens and my moleskines- I can feel my mind turning inwards and chewing on itself. All the undiscussed thoughts start to float up and I write about them, I reason out why things might have happened, and how can I make it better. But it gets tiring after a while because without new experiences, the thoughts start to sound old and bored, and the mind is stifled. It is partly about money- money can’t buy you clarity of thought, but it can buy you new experiences. And better tasting chicken wings.

Introspection is a devouring monster. You have to feed it with much material, much experience, many people, many places, many loves, many creations, and then it ceases feeding on you.

-Anais Nin

Some of my fears

  • The fear that nothing I do will matter in the end. Isn’t this life’s eternal question? That we are called as humans to create, to find our own set of rules and meaning for our lives.
  • The fear of public failure- rejection by a group, put on probation for work, getting fired, losing a corporate identity, a messy divorce. We can’t foresee what the future might bring but when it is a public failure it is a double whammy, because in the past your mind could say “people don’t see you in that way”, but now “ok they definitely know that you are lousy balls”.
  • The fear of trying and then not being good enough. (Hello, blog.)
  • The fear of speaking but no one is listening. This could literally, be that no one is listening to you. But it could also be in a relationship- words are just bouncing off the walls.
  • The fear of being socially awkward.
  • The fear of being single/poor/ugly/without social support/disabled.
  • The fear of bringing up a child improperly
  • The fear of my character stagnating- that I will not be kinder, more caring, more authentic in future (being brutally honest is not the same as being authentic. I am learning to hold back more, because sometimes illusions are for the sake of peace.)
  • The fear of remaining negative and tied to my past- a mindset shift takes a long time. I am working on it!
  • The final fear, above all- that I am not strong enough to cope with things to come in the future. It is a very latent fear because I can see all my appointments for the next week, and already I am not sure if I want to attend the one on Friday.

Anxiety is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do but it doesn’t get you very far.

-Jodi Picoult

I know that I am responsible for all my actions and attitudes. I also know that I have the courage to dissect the parts of my life and work on each individual part, and I won’t feel like being bad at A also means that I am terrible at B. This is why I am not sure if it is a self-esteem issue, because self-esteem issues seem to manifest as “I am a bad person”, and not “sometimes I suck at this.” Do I consider myself a valuable person? Valuable, in comparison to what? I can imagine some people living without benchmarks at all, that they can just be, without caring about what possibly is a good or bad result. It is freeing but also so unanchored. How will one know if she has improved, other than a vague feel? Or perhaps I grew up in Singapore where the education system always has a grade tied to it. There are even grades for art and physical education, as well as moral education. Initiating and maintaining relationships is something that I am working on, which makes me feel better about being a human being, but each relationship differs in its intensity and length and needs- there is no one good rubric for what passes as friendship. But I am quite encouraged by the comments that my new friends have made so far. Not many can tell that I am socially awkward haha.

When this day is over and you look at how little you have accomplished- do not be too bothered.

It just means you get to do it again.

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There is a word in the English language that I am encouraged by, but also slightly scared of. It is “starting.” It can mean just starting, or adding two more words behind it, “starting over again.” Because I don’t like to lose control over things, but I know that I need new experiences in my life to not stagnate. New friends, new places, beginning again, another lap in the pool, giving a parent a form to fill up because there’s a new kid at toddler’s church, and the kid is just staring at me with huge eyes and slightly lopsided ears. It sounds interesting but before every major change I’m usually moody and silent, because I prefer to be alone and starting again means that I have to push myself to talk to people and to say hi and smile without looking like I am baring my teeth at my prey. *Grrr.* Most of the time things turn out well, sometimes the end result leaves a lot to be desired but at least I can say that I was there, I tried.

A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days.

-Annie Dillard

I don’t want to be pure reaction. My physical body and emotions just reacting to whatever stimulus there is at the moment- food, external scoldings, kids yelling in my ear “LOOK AT MY FINGERNAILS”, my internal fears triggered by too much coffee or a thunderstorm. I don’t want to alienate other people (especially newcomers to groups) just because I am having a bad day, or because I am uncomfortable with their different personalities. I am still trying to learn to control myself and contribute in a positive manner, and not just maintain a stoic and neutral expression (because RBF too strong).

Also- love this video.

She can get a bit rambly at times but this is the most honest video on youtube that I have seen in this year, about discovering oneself. I love the fact that she doesn’t define herself as this or that, neither does she feel the need to put out videos of her passion (music) and instead just dabbles in things like photography and being a barista. She doesn’t explain a lot of what she does and she doesn’t hide her feelings.

Some of my feelings:

  • Calm
  • In my air-conditioned room but restless
  • Absorbed in a book (The Wind Up Bird Chronicle by Murakami has this zen feel.)
  • Irritated, usually by my parents gossiping about church. It happens on a daily basis and right now it is about how A took B out of a church group because B did not turn up for his duties and my mom is absolutely involved in it, even though it does not concern her and she is not offering to help in any way. She resigned from the group already, someone should remove her from the chat.
  • Hoping to blend in at work
  • Anxious
  • Hot and bothered, usually when running. If I could I would run naked, sometimes the shorts chafe against my skin.
  • Church, safe place
  • Church, unsafe place
  • Anxious, usually in crowds.
  • Eating peacefully with no one bothering me at the dinner table
  • Impatient, usually with queues.
  • Chicken wings (yes it is a feeling haha. Of contentment?)

 

Reviewing: May and June

Hi I think I forgot to do a review of May lol. But fear not, I have a calendar with a lot of coloured boxes so I know that my life was not a blackhole in May. I shall separate what I did into categories so I will not feel like a complete mess.

Work

  • I am scared.
  • However, I got new makeup.

School

  • Settled degree related things. I returned all my business knowledge to the profs already.

Family

  • Mom theoretically let go of some of her commitments, but somehow, I still don’t see her at home.
  • I put in more effort to see my grandma during these two months because I finally have time. Bought her egg tarts from some HK bakery.

Friends

  • Travelled overseas twice with different people. Wish I could have gone to Australia to see Panda-king, but I need a break. I only have five days left to myself, including today.
  • Made lots of friends aged 18 months to 3 years old HAHAHAHA. *pat pat*. Sometimes they really ignore you and start playing with the toys at the back of the room when they are supposed to be listening to the teacher, that’s when I go and tell them “Okay just take one ball with you…no, one ball only! You have to participaaaaaate!” *carries them over*
  • Caught up with old friends from school and internships. I prefer Burmese food over Western food 😊 Korean is good, if there is cheese involved. I don’t really appreciate movies unless there is popcorn involved, but then I’ll get scolded for eating it all before the movie starts.
  • Got to know more DG people. I agree with what A said though- she wants to find a DG that is transitioning into adulthood, just like us. Maybe at the most with 2 or 3 years of working experience. With my current DG, they are all seasoned working adults who have been in the industry for at least 6-7 years, some with multiple degrees. They can be a little more jaded and less…bushy-tailed and bright-eyed?

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Creative endeavours

  • Journaling, some water-colouring involved. I prefer markers and black pen drawings because those are easier to control. For watercolours, I haven’t gotten used to controlling the amount of water yet. Plus because I’m practicing on moleskine paper (although I did get a pad of mixed media paper), everything just buckles and turns out uneven.
  • Discovered Amy Tan, love her writing.
  • Returned to reading Jack Kerouac but I don’t like his style anymore.
  • Started on David Wallace but hmm.
  • Uploaded less posts? I feel like I ramble less now because I don’t have time to sit down and ramble.
  • Decorated my room- dad repainted the walls. I wanted light grey with a hint of pinkish undertones. For some reason, even though my dad used a priming base, it turned out to be light blue. I’m going to use fabric paint for the curtain over my door. Also, getting some flowers etc when the walls are completely done.

Health

  • Survived a meditation retreat for 12 days.
  • The chicken wings at ECP are nice, but not as good as the tze char ones in KL. Both were 45-minute waits lol. I didn’t update much on what I did during church camp but there was a lot of food involved (not hotel food), and not a lot of side effects from all the hokkien mee and prawn noodles 🙂 I didn’t mind eating because my DG has a lot of doctors so the odds of me dying are lower.

Speaking of doctors, I was in a car with three doctors yesterday because we arranged to cycle at ECP. I mentioned that I wanted to get a motorcycle license because I don’t like being in a confined space (car or cupboards etc) alone, and they immediately said “no that’s a bad idea!! We see a lot of RTAs!!” “What’s RTA?”Road traffic accidents.” “Ohhh.” “Do your parents know about this?” “I wasn’t going to tell them?” “When it rains the roads will be slippery!” “All the bikers I know have been in accidents.” They said it with such conviction I was like “ok, ok not getting.” But I still think it’s interesting to bike. Maybe dirt bike LOL.

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  • TCM tapered down again- new medication, my skin hasn’t broken out in rashes for about 1.5 months now. But with regards to my monthly buddy it is still very unstable, the days in between periods for most girls are about 28 days, I can range from 38 to 50 days ): Which means that my hormones are basically all over the place, and it is difficult to track my moods cause it might just be PMS.
  • Eating a lot of kimchi maggi mee without the usual stomaches!!
  • There is a super dark scar on my leg from cupping- the cup is heated and sucks out blood from the small needle holes she makes, which means that if the rim of the cup is placed on a needle mark that too big (not a hole, sometimes it is more of a small scratch because she pokes really fast), it will cause the skin to open, leaving a scar. I covered it with a plaster during church camp but it’s still purplish. I would say that my pain tolerance is quite good, I actually enjoy blood donations and ear piercings. But TCM is a different ball game, especially when the pressure points are around my knees and hip bones. During acupuncture and cupping I’m usually covered in cold sweat.

Words can’t express how grateful I am that I can eat all sorts of good food now with my friends. Hawker centres!!! In the past I used to fear outside food because of all the sauces and spices used. And contamination from the tze char woks, even if I only order vegetables and rice etc. Mentally I feel like I have been freed from a prison, I can share food with people now. And I can eat a lot of popiah without checking for rashes (subtly) on my wrists.

  • Started swimming a lot more. Got rewarded with a tan line and the feeling that I have aged because I am not as flexible anymore.

Side note: In the past year, I got to know two friends who got married at 23, and this morning I discovered a friend of a friend who also got married…this year. At 23. Still mind-blown haha. Maybe because I believe that marriage is for life and I can’t make life decisions at 23 LOL. I can only eat satay and watch people fish at ECP.

I also bought copic markers and random things at Art Friend. I love copic markers, but they are so expensive ): I really like the shades of pink and grey.

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Untethered. 


This is how I feel in church most of the time. Like I am a whole fruit but I am missing something- a stem, a leaf, or maybe I am just half a fruit. I am still a fruit but I don’t really fit in. I’m trying to be patient and not just escape. 

By the way the two toys are from children’s church haha, the toddlers are really cute sometimes. In a frustrating way 🙂 There was a new kid today, and she didn’t want to come into the room, so Aunty P (I’m an Aunty too) brought the furry hippo out to say hi to her, she didn’t want Mr Green Hippo, so Aunty got the kids to wave hi to her. After a while she calmed down, but refused to let her mom go for service. 

I was semi-caring for a boy named Daryl, he gave up listening halfway and just laid on the floor beside his toy excavator. Semi because D is the sort of kid who is independent and won’t cry for his mom, but also doesn’t care whether or not you are in front of him. Except when he gets to do things like paste orange suns and smiley face stickers onto cardboard. He’s pretty friendly, he brought me toy trucks and small balls etc, which was great! Until I realised that he was actually monopolising all the larger toys lol and the other kids only had fruits and animals haha. I think I’ll do better with P1 kids who can talk to me, sigh. But anyway a promise is a promise- I will stay. 

Some days are good, some are bad. Trying to get through them all. Going to get grey and black markers from Art Friend now. Dual-ended brush ones hehehe. 

Mastery by Robert Greene/ “The problem is that we humans are deep conformists.”

Think of it this way: There are two kinds of failure. The first comes from never trying out your ideas because you are afraid, or because you are waiting for the perfect time. This kind of failure you can never learn from, and such timidity will destroy you. The second kind comes from a bold and venturesome spirit. If you fail in this way, the hit that you take to your reputation is greatly outweighed by what you learn. Repeated failure will toughen your spirit and show you with absolute clarity how things must be done.

 

In our culture we tend to equate thinking and intellectual powers with success and achievement. In many ways, however, it is an emotional quality that separates those who master a field from the many who simply work at a job. Our levels of desire, patience, persistence, and confidence end up playing a much larger role in success than sheer reasoning powers. Feeling motivated and energized, we can overcome almost anything. Feeling bored and restless, our minds shut off and we become increasingly passive.

 

The human mind is naturally creative, constantly looking to make associations and connections between things and ideas. It wants to explore, to discover new aspects of the world, and to invent. To express this creative force is our greatest desire, and the stifling of it the source of our misery. What kills the creative force is not age or a lack of talent, but our own spirit, our own attitude. We become too comfortable with the knowledge we have gained in our apprenticeships. We grow afraid of entertaining new ideas and the effort that this requires. to think more flexibly entails a risk-we could fail and be ridiculed. We prefer to live with familiar ideas and habits of thinking, but we pay a steep price for this: our minds go dead from the lack of challenge and novelty; we reach a limit in our field and lose control over our fate because we become replaceable.

On mental illness; anxiety and depression. The good and the not-so-good.

I am not on anti-depressants now, but I think my anxiety has been back since November last year. I track my moods on a large calendar and the frequency of darkened boxes has been increasing. It used to be just one or two lines of ‘ribcage felt constricted today’, ‘heartbeat randomly increasing after dinner’, ‘not wanting to be in crowds’, but there are weeks with two or three days covered in washi tape. It’s kind of ironic, washi tape can be used to hold things together, to stick memorabilia onto the walls, but it can also be used to mark the loss of my mind.

There is this quote, “pay attention to what you pay attention to”. Right now I am just trying to not overstretch myself and concentrate on all the good things I have, like-

  • Being in groups and not cliques (Thai food, Burmese food, cycling tomorrow, trampoline on Monday, children’s church tomorrow too, my grandmother’s birthday lunch is this week)
  • Hand written letters, and post cards overseas.
  • Journaling, both art and random long essays
  • Mixing colours and using black ink to draw simple things, like the outline of mountains.
  • Spending time alone
  • Good food, I like bak chor mee and chendol and satay and chicken wings and pig organ soup.
  • Talking to strangers
  • Being present with friends
  • Emotional honesty
  • When people care for me.
  • Creating art, planning for tapestries and realising that I don’t have enough money to buy what I want ): FABRIC MARKERS. Fabric mediums!!
  • Nature
  • Swimming, but I now have an obvious swimsuit tan
  • Jam biscuits
  • Listening to live acoustics by the river
  • Long walks by the beach
  • Near dogs
  • Night cycles

Through my experiences in life, I narrate my life over and over again, sometimes to people who do not care, but sometimes, to people who love me, and are loved in return. We will not all play equal roles in the autobiographies of other people but we can all appreciate a warm gesture or a kind word, like being invited to a dinner even though I am not part of that clique, just so that I can get to know more people.

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Austin Kleon

During supper, it came up that a DG mate named D had depression since he was in secondary school. He only sought help recently (in his late twenties now) and he uses it as a testimony of how he came to know God. I am amazed that he is alive because if I had to go through black moods for more than a year, I would definitely not be alive right now. What more for a decade. How did he manage to cling on?

My mind went back to all the things I’ve experienced since J1. How have I changed, why is there still a stigma against mental illness, why is there little compassion even if you are deeply rooted in your own pain and everyone else can see the side effects of your life’s potential wasting away. Things and people were lost to me. They weren’t taken away, because it was my own body reacting. They were just lost.

I felt loss at every hand. The loss of self-esteem is a celebrated symptom, and my own sense of self had all but disappeared, along with any self-reliance. This loss can quickly degenerate into dependence, and from dependence into infantile dread. One dreads the loss of all things, all people close and dear. There is an acute fear of abandonment.
― William Styron, Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness

Too many depressive episodes have been recounted publicly and yet, not enough. With mental illness no one is sure of what they have become, and who they are, anymore, and how many people actually record their moods during their first episode? There is still a stigma against mental illness, even in this church community where a pastor has publicly spoken about his moods. Pastor John wrote a book titled ‘A Gentle Mind’. It is a very short read, but it reminds me that there are other people out there who have experienced what I did.

I remember telling my doctor that I didn’t know how to react when the medication finally started working and it took months, before I realised what was going on. The world wasn’t changing, even though it felt like there was more. More emotion, more experiences. More of life. Dr G told me that it is normal to feel that way, just be careful with how I am going about my daily life so that I will not overwhelm myself and shut down. It felt like- you know how you think the window is clean, until you wipe it down with a micro fibre cloth and then you realise that actually it was all dusty and grey? With medication, if it works, you start to see the sunlight clearly again. It is no longer being submerged in a mentally painful fog, constantly swinging between memories of what you used to experience, wanting it to be normal again, and not knowing if your fragile psyche can deal with anything more right now. All humans speak of life as if it is precious, if only we could see.

If there’s a medication that you have to be reliant on, or if there is a source of help- take it. Take whatever you can get, to where you need to be, even if where you need to be is what other ‘normal’ people take for granted on a daily basis and you feel almost childish for needing it. Take the medication to feel the sunshine and to connect to other humans, to feel happiness, however fleeting. To see the world in more than one shade of grey. Even when your natural faculties like your mind is not cooperating with you, when conversations just pass over your head and you can’t think deeply into anything, the words you read seem to be lost from your mind the moment you move on to the next sentence- take the medication. And then wait.

After three years with Dr G she told me it was a pleasure to see me going back to my old life, the happy and ambitious one, even though she did not know me before mental illness. She said I was growing up to be a young woman. I didn’t want to die anymore. And in a less melodramatic fashion, I didn’t want to cut myself anymore and go around with little coloured dinosaur plasters on my arm. I really like dinosaurs hahaha. Because it helped me feel, even for a little while. When there is physical pain the mind turns alert and you feel definitely alive. Not a cry for help, just to feel like your physical body exists.

It is stupid and irrational to a normal person, but going to that point made me understand that I had to throw away all ideas of who I used to be and all my mom’s scoldings about how I wouldn’t get a scholarship yada yada, because I had to save myself above all. Disregarding her nagging about how I just need to work harder, I went to see my first psychiatric doctor on my own. She only came around to the idea of mental illness after I was on medication from a public hospital for a while, and then she took me to private doctors.

Mental illness might leave you, at least temporarily, but the familiarity with it all- the old moods, old habits to cope- it is like an old glove. You stop trusting yourself. And lowered self-esteem. How could I be worth much, after all that I have seen and done, especially to my friends at that time. I wish I could trust my mind again. But I don’t know how to. It is a long journey- even till now when I hear about other people’s depressive episodes, I get this old fear. The fear that I will relapse. And there will be all this wasted potential again.

I didn’t recover in time to perform at my usual levels for the A levels, neither did I apply for any scholarships. My mind didn’t break, but it felt like any additional pressure could cause a relapse. I went to a local university on my parents’ dime and nothing happened, the world didn’t end, despite my mother telling me that it would. I did well in university, and she no longer cared, because it’s a local university anyway, who cares? It’s not Cambridge or Oxford. Comparison truly is the thief of joy, especially when I am comparing myself to people with much better socioeconomic backgrounds, better health, different talents, healthier parenting styles.

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Austin Kleon

I wanted to call this post ‘the lost years’ but looking back I think I gained more than I lost. In this past year, I think I have made my peace, especially having completed my bachelors and realising that there’s indeed a whole new world ahead. Of ugly watercolour dinosaurs and lots of books and friends who will feel the same way as I do. Yes I still have three ugly scars on my arm that won’t go away (the rest did) but they are small, and anyway I have a lot of scars so never mind. At least they aren’t purple like the ones on my knees ):

I am no longer in the rat race, I have found my identity, separate from others (I like groups but not cliques), I have many hobbies that I never had in JC/start of uni because these are things I could do alone and be engrossed in. I know that I am aware of my self. And because I am aware, I am able to relate to other people who have been through similar things. You know what’s rare and valuable? Going through periods of loneliness that teaches you to empathise with other people’s pain. Being able to say ‘I’ll be there for you’, because I know that I am not a judgey ass, and I can truly be there. Regardless of what it is. Even if my friends go to prison or have to go through chemotherapy, or transgender surgery, or gay marriages, I can be there.

If anything, I learned to grow into an adult human being in the past few years. Knowing that my pain and discomfort is universal, and that life is short, it helps me to curate my experiences- not huddling into a ball whenever I feel uncomfortable, because sensations are impermanent and therefore enjoyable. And spending more time on the things I enjoy. Not following the crowd.

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Austin Kleon

On temporary tattoos and art journals

I admit that I am borderline obsessed with art journals. I just love the way she layers things over one another and it turns out so…complex and beautiful. Okay my english sucks.

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She does amazing journals!!

Also- I will be using temporary tattoos for the next year before I commit to an actual tattoo. Trying out different flowers etc. Don’t ask me why I like flowers, I just do!

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I really like watercolour tattoos, although they won’t age well.

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She’s a watercolour tattoo artist!

Black and white is nice too, but I don’t like the look of black tattoos over time- it can be furry? Not sure what the exact expression is. And I will regret it after a few years.

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Going to spotlight to get fake flowers and fabric for my door curtain, plus fabric paint. Okay no it looks like it’s going to rain. I am thinking of doing a sleeve but I don’t know how temporary tattoos stack up on each other. Shall try 🙂