October: A month of reading and rest.

At least, that’s the current plan. I have a very long to-do list but I am going to make time for myself. It’s called my new personal convenant- no socialising this month. Putting myself first because I don’t think feeling this frazzled is good for me, I literally feel like my nerves are jumping around and disconnecting themselves.

Add some more ingredients — inadequate sleep, poor dietary habits, caffeine addiction, the urge to project our preferred identity, a sedentary lifestyle — and we have the perfect recipe for unremitting anxiety and restlessness.

http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/better-than-busy

 

Review of September, can you tell that I’m losing track of things.

  • Kelong trip- I get nolstagic whenever I hear the ‘pass it on’ song.
  • Toddlers church + Happy Teacher’s Day!
  • Pro bono consulting started. I hope it changes lives HAHAHA am I putting too much hope on one non chargeable project.
  • Go live at a client site started. Will be busy these two weeks. I hope cupcakes taste good!
  • Planning for Phuket trip is over, trip went well 🙂 Thank god for atrociously good and sunny weather on the second day, I would have been really sad if all our plans went down the drain just because it flooded.
  • Took over some admin duties- I share a bit of what I read/watch every week with my colleagues in my team, kind of like tagging it on that that admin update weekly. So far I’ve covered failure and the growth mindset 🙂 next week will be a learned optimism update.
  • Planning for the upcoming BBGB camp is starting this week. Hope everything goes well, I’m managing the budget (I think, have been MIA recently).
  • YX booked hotel for HK trip.

I am still not sure about solo travel. I can recognise directions, but I have a tendency to get lost in my own thoughts and then end up somewhere I don’t know. It’s like when I am talking to people, I only think about the moment and I don’t have a plan for things beyond the moment. Which often ends a bit miserably when I realise that people think that I have other intentions.

Upcoming things

  • CC Leaders retreat
  • CC Church camp
  • Get a tattoo?

Bought a kindle paperwhite just now. When I was feeling reaallllly frazzled. My mind just went “fuck it I’m going to buy it now.” I’ll pack food to work for the next year if I have to.

Sigh. Ok no more posts until I get my mind back on track. I think I’m either going to drink later or I’m going to go for a run. Probably drink, haven’t been running in a while.

Frazzled and irritable

I am unable to do any work right now because my mood is just so bad. Am on my period, a million small things to remember for work and other things, I need to get my life back on track but now I am not sure if it is the correct track.

Perhaps I am doing too many things at the same time.

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Here’s a very short recap of Phuket. I enjoyed the trip mainly because of three things

1.      Managed to bond with colleagues (fellow associates) who are always on other client projects, so I never get to see them during the work week. We played pool games and I spent most of my time doggy paddling in the water. And swallowing water because KX is vicious and will not let others win. 
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2.      Managed to get some time alone by the pool (skipped the team dinner, K. joined me after a while and we went to the beach) and when I arrived a day earlier- ate breakfast at the fresh food market, walked around a bit. I wish I could have visited more places but it was raining very heavily and there were reports of streets nearby getting flooded. Didn’t want to risk my life or my dignity so I just got a cab and went straight to the hotel where the new joiners were.

3.      Contributed to the events because I was in RC, and I got to see how everything played out and where all the nonsensical hiccups were. Like our food delivery drivers delivering to the wrong address and having their food accepted by the people there. Thankfully we were able to claw back the food.

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Ate at cafes and roadside stalls for the most part, so I am quite thankful that I only got food poisoning on the last day when we were departing for the airport. Some of the staff got food poisoning on the first and second day, so they couldn’t participate in any of the activities, which kind of defeated the whole purpose of being in Phuket.

Went for massages, went to the night club street, night markets were good too- the small ones and big ones alike. Renewed my love for tom yum curry and pad thai, and also mango ice cream! I love the rolled ice cream. Especially if the aunty is nice and gives you a huge slice of mango.

I didn’t have to deal with crowds because I was in the comms team, I spent most of my time during CSR facilitating. And then at the beach I just mingled with the seawater and my own team mates.

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During free and easy time my roomie and I went out to walk around the area, chit-chatted about people in the office, work being a small part of your life etc. I get tipsy very easily but she was so pleased to find good beer. My best find for the whole trip is a whole chicken thigh, barbequed, for only 50 baht. The skin was really good!! And the one litre cup of milk tea shared with KX- he had to wait till the ice melted cause it was really sweet. I practically live on sugar haha. 

I joined the rec club 6 weeks before the actual trip to Phuket. When I first joined I was a blur sotong who knew nobody apart from K., A. and HL, so I only helped out with small things like drafting the CSR proposal, buying of logistics, giving out of shirts etc. Then I became more familiar with the names and the itinerary, so I moved on to create the guidebook and the slides, demonstrating the games during CSR, and then writing the article. I appreciate the synergy of the RC- these are cool and fun people even without enforced team bonding activities, because planning for events together and doing saikang together makes the team a team.

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❤️

“Oh, yes.” I’ve known kisses so narcotic they made my eyes roll back in my head. For a few weeks one winter I walked around feeling like I had a miniature sun in my heart.

-Tim Kreider, We Learn Nothing: Essays and Cartoons

Musings on: Flow, New Morning Mercies. Fueled by matcha espresso.

Typing this at Coffee Bean at Expo. It is raining and there is no shelter to CBP, so I’m grabbing this opportunity to have some quiet time and also to be late for work.

Reading an article sent by Austin Kleon- he has a newsletter in which he compiles all the read-worthy things that we are missing out on. There was an article titled ‘The Busy Trap. The crazy busy existence that so many of us complain about is almost entirely self-imposed’. And it is so true, but I have come to realise something more than self-regulations. It can sound very trivial and rat-race mentality to say that we are the only ones imposing (negative connotation already) our standards on us. I would say that it is part of nature’s call, that we are humans who innately want to do better, do more, and to stretch our abilities. Get out of our comfort zones. We want to know what we can achieve, because that is interesting, and we want to know how far we can go before we burn out. What happens if we die the next day, is this all we are leaving behind? Wanting to improve is a part of our DNA.

Some of us are busy, and we love it, because we know that we are doing the things that we want to do. The things that add value to our lives. Some of us are busy because we have an expectation placed on us by other people. Some are busy because even though no one cares, we still want to have what other people have. A title, money, good looks. The people who are suffering under the weight of being ‘busy’ are the people who are not choosing the right things to be busy about. You can choose to take a whole day off and go to a secluded beach to just relax, and that is it- a fulfilling, busy day. After all, the definition of busy is ‘to keep oneself occupied’ and ‘having a great deal to do’. Is it really absence of busyness if we choose to dedicate ourselves to a whole day of sitting at the beach? I am facing my inner thoughts. Standing next to them, talking to them, not letting myself gloss over them like I usually would. I am looking at myself clearly in the mirror.

I watched a tedtalk last night- it was about a book which I’ve read a few years back, it is called Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

He was recapping the feelings we experience when we are doing things that give us joy- the feeling that time has stopped, hours go by like minutes, our minds and body are working to produce something bigger than the current moment. Like we have lost consciousness of our troubles and temporary to-dos, and gone into a state called flow. When I read that book in the past I was engaging with the reality of what I was experiencing then- that I had just started doing my diary entries, and flow was still an uncommon feeling. I was interested in that idea but did not have the requisite number of hours to trust that flow would come to me more consistently in the future.

When I write, flow is the feeling that I am communicating something that is really important and nothing else matters, as long as I capture the mood of the moment. It is not flowery language that helps, usually I just need a clear mind and a calm room and this need to tell someone about my day. That I have something important to say, although I don’t know what, and I will keep writing until I get to that point. Which is about 40 minutes into the diary entry.

But anyone who has experienced flow knows that the deep enjoyment it provides requires an equal degree of disciplined concentration.

Now, a year on (I think I first started writing in October 2016, although this domain was purchased in Jan 2017), my understanding of flow is not just an experience that can be worked at, but something to buffer me against the unhappiness of some projects and some blips and arguments in my life. It is not just a state of disciplined concentration, but something that I can make a part of me as a human being. It is not dependent on the activity- I can find flow in many things. Personally, I try to do something every week that would contribute to my feeling of ‘flow’.

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To overcome the anxieties and depressions of contemporary life, individuals must become independent of the social environment to the degree that they no longer exclusively respond in terms of its rewards and punishments. To achieve such autonomy, a person has to learn to provide rewards to herself. She has to develop the ability to find enjoyment and purpose regardless of external circumstance.

Thinking about a question- ‘what makes my heart leap for joy’. It is the feeling when I am really excited to do something, I want to do it, my brain is generating new ideas for it etc. Like create articles for publication on the company intranet. Sing ‘king of the jungle’ with toddlers (off-key, but they are allllll off-key so it doesn’t matter. Really. Not one of the toddlers I know have musical talent, unless making muffled dinosaur noises is a foreshadowing of their potential Carnegie hall performance). Interview people at work, understand their needs and aspirations. I would be lying if I said that I like to analyse client data. But I like the impact, the feeling that we turfed out something that no one wanted to say explicitly, but we are able to verify that data and make some changes to the org structure because of it.

The essence of socialisation is to make people dependent on social controls, to have them respond predictably to rewards and punishments.

I am also reading ‘New Morning Mercies’ by Paul Tripp. I started reading it during the kelong trip, but also on public transport now. I guess CBP’s greatest and worst point is that it is so far from my house. I have an additional two hours of quiet time (read: less sleep) daily because I am stuck on the bus/train.

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I don’t think it is meant to be a book for new believers, but rather, a book for people who have been in the faith for some time already and have forgotten the main tenets of living by faith in Christ. If I were a new believer, all the concepts that he is talking about would be new to me. Older believers sometimes stray into the path of sticking to intellectual theological arguments- what does this line mean etc- and the laws that they keep, rather than the premises of everlasting grace and steadfast love. The diary entries would remind them, over and over again, of the amazing things that God has done and which he has given us. Not laws, but love.

 In some way, every person who has ever lived is on a hunt for love and scared to death that he won’t find it.

In some way, everyone fears judgement. She fears the hammer will come down on her because she has failed to measure up and she will spend her life paying for her crimes.

In some way, everyone is afraid of being poor. We’re all afraid of not having the provisions we need to live. We’re afraid that success will escape our grasp and we’ll end up as beggars on the street.

There is a difference between the doctors, lawyers, hedge fund people, and the rest of the people in the cell group. The people who fall into the first three category are always busy. They have 10,000 things to do in their work and personal lives. The rest of us- the government people, budding consultants, music teachers and primary school teachers- we are still tired, but less busy. We can find time more easily. But for all our busyness and experiences, how comfortable one feels with people is not based on how much work or busyness we have in common. God made all of us with our own idiosyncrasies and struggles, even when one seems to have disadvantages or advantages in every way.

And what I personally thought was a good reminder to me.

You could read your bible every day and the entire bible each year and still live for yourself. You could be faithful in your attendance at all your church’s scheduled gatherings and still live for your little kingdom. You could regularly place your hard-earned money in the plate and still not live with God’s kingdom in view. You could be expert in the theology of the word of God and still shrink your life down to what you want and what you tell yourself that you need.

Grace, prayer and genuine human connections.

(Written on the bus to Changi, might have a few mistakes)

We reflected on a few questions when we were at BMK.

  • What is the function of a discipleship group (DG)
  • Why do each of us turn up for DG every Friday
  • What do we like most about DG/appreciate about DG
  • What does it mean to grow in love with Christ
  • What does it mean to love his people (how do we accommodate individuals with their quirks)

And a question to myself which I would say, is the most important to me right now, because I am a newcomer to the church. “Why do you choose this love?” I define anyone who has been in a committed relationship with God for less than a year as a newcomer, because everything is new and it is a learning curve without tangible milestones. Easy to slip and fall away.

There are many other loves to choose from. Look around and you can see people who devote their lives to the love of fellow human beings. Not just people in relationships but people who are just around them. The community members. There are people who devote their lives to work, to climbing the corporate ladder or just to dabble in various jobs. There are people who devote their lives to themselves- beauty, youth, material wants, their aspirations which might not match that of anyone else around them. Love, as a commitment of effort or just as a daily routine. There are many versions of love.

I did not understand what it meant to love when I was younger, simply because the love that I received from people around seemed to come with a lot of conditions. I had to be this or this or my parents wouldn’t be in a good mood. And my default personality is rather uncaring, or at least, caring for others who will not give me any practical benefits superficially because it is the norm to do so. As I got older, got sicker, and then better, and now sicker again, through internships and university experiences, I discovered a side of life that was about love and vulnerability. Learning that all human beings have their own struggles and working through some things in my life without taking the default route, thinking for myself what did I want, and then trying those things out. I guess the concept of love- true, unconditional love, became less foreign to me.

I appreciate people who take the time to volunteer, and I value the misfits in society. Perhaps I am just a very slow learner but truly, there is no one path in life that will bring everyone happiness. At least not in the secular world. Reason being that we will never fully get what we want. Things will change, even people can change overnight. Our emotions and situations can change in a split second. And because of the impermanence, there is no stability to be found in our wants and past achievements. So then what do we devote ourselves to? What is one thing or being in the world that is gracious, loving, compassionate to all, yet also a tough lover with high standards, not letting us do whatever we want at any moment in time, but someone or something with a plan for us, and if we are to follow that plan, will find rest and comfort regardless of how bad things are? That is the love that I’m looking for- knowing that I am cared for. The belonging to a cause, the understanding that it is not looks or money or which country I belong to that defines my worth in society. Or even my species- I am a homo sapien, and we are known to be fickle-minded creatures.

It is true that one can be an excellent and good person without God, and without practicing any form of religion or sticking to any one belief. But it is also true that there is no reason or cause to draw people together to be good people. There is no common understanding, and there is no overarching plan. Which is possible too- perhaps we indeed came to being without any reason for it. People often say that it is because we are unable to deal with loose ends and unanswered questions that’s why we turn to religion. But I look at the world, and then I look at everything that is wrong with the world (‘wrong’ which is defined by myself, before I knew anything about the church), and then I look at the bible and how others act (mature Christians, not the Sunday ones who act differently on other days) and I think to myself- maybe I should explore more. And so explore I did, and then serving, and finding so many people with successful day jobs- region heads, partners, presidents of this and that function in MNCs, and finding them doing ‘small’ things. Giving out pamphlets, passing out water bottles at the carnival, cutting crafts for children’s class.

There are no quick answers in church- in DG we often have talking points, where people have different interpretations of the same bible passage. We were not given a FAQ guide, and I actually like that careful deliberation. There are laws, and then there are parables which can be interpreted in many different ways. I see humans has living in the ‘now but not yet’, the period of time where we have salvation assured, and the experience of worship, but a lot of things have not come to pass.

But it is precisely because there are no quick answers in church that is why we are often turned away. There are many misconceptions- that people in church act like they are holier than thou, that God is vengeful and likes to mete out punishment just because he can. That sinners and homosexuals do not belong in church etc. That the love that God offers is not needed and that we have to fix ourselves, on our own, before he will love us. Such things cannot be explained in just one hour- the ‘how to read the bible’ session will take a few days at least, and that is just the start. But complexity deters, and human behaviours deter newcomers from coming to church. Which I honestly find to be a pity.

The function of a DG is not just to meet once a week, to have dinner and chitchat about our lives. DG for me at least, serves as a form of accountability, which is why I hate being late for DG. My meetings at work don’t always end on time and I have to uber over ($$), but my presence is a commitment to others as well. That I am in the same fight as them, if they are here, I will be here too. Physical accountability aside, there is also that mental and emotional commitment.

We were asked to make one commitment to the DG for the next few months of our lives. I know that I am already trying my best with humans 6 days of the week (sat is my alone day), and I did not want to commit to making more connections within the DG, although we are a big group of about 30 regulars. I promised that I would be more involved in bible study sessions. Not just take my food and sit on the floor (love sitting on floors) and listen to the person explaining, but to make more in-depth preparations beforehand and look up the various references. This requires a commitment of time that I have not been able to make because I’m still struggling to adapt to things (am typing this on the bus to work LOL, annoying the aunty with my furious tapping). A lot of the time it is the same few people who ask questions, I think I can too. Because we all come with different bases of knowledge and sometimes newcomers can be scared to ask questions.

After the bible passage study, there’s always a small group prayer. We are in the same small group for one year, segregated from the males (because there used to be males who only came because of the females) and we share about our struggles in the past week and encourage one another for the coming week. At first it was a bit odd because I didn’t know any of them and it felt like I could only share superficial, church related stuff. And then after a while I got to them know better and realised that they all have some form of struggle in their lives, even though they seem to be outwardly, upper middle-class Singaporeans with great jobs and happy marriages. Some of the struggles are, admittedly, not too complicated. But vulnerability and trying to stay with the faith are common themes. Everyone can identify with sin and how we are striving to be better Christians. And in that subset, better humans.

It is not easy to open up to people- the ‘small’ group is about 7-8 on a weekly basis. And we do have middle-aged people, not just young adults, and also 1-2 elderly. We all come with our own personalities. Some are passive-aggressive and also humble, some are unapologetic about their tough love, some are peacemakers. Then you have me, unwilling to talk to anyone who looks fierce. It is a good reminder of our differences and how we care for each other despite the fact that we will probably not consider each other as friends if we never met in church. But that is the nature of church- we love as God loves. It is not easy, especially with my anxiety issues. Sometimes talking to some people feels like eating small rocks. But it does get easier over time, as long as I don’t change my self to fit other people. My core self. Focusing on my heart and my own actions, and not criticising other people.

It is true that on the surface, we are just born with a certain amount of wealth, and that wealth makes some people casual about what they buy/say during DG sometimes. But that is them, and that fact won’t change. That is for me to point out, but it should not affect the way I treat them, which is with love and respect. Love is a choice.

Conversations do get deeper as time passes, when we build up that trust. Through the experiences of other people, I learn what to say and not say even at work. Because I can double-check with my leaders if I’m doing the wrong things. (Got over not being able to date non-Christians already. So be it lololol. Being on client site really helps, the only constant I see is the shuttle bus uncle.) I can clarify the things I’m blind to- my little faults and petty things that I do- pride etc. Although I really want to write an article for the weekly prayer book, but I don’t want my name to appear anywhere. So kind of undecided about whether or not I should contribute.

One thing- because the past few days was spent experiencing fellowship, I think I don’t have the experience yet to write about something that is important to DG. Which is that when we are not with the church- overseas for long periods of time etc or when we decide not to attend church for a few months- the members in the DG are able to encourage you and help you remember God’s presence. It is the ‘missing him when he is not there’, just that because we can’t physically see God, seeing his disciples helps. Belonging, encouraging, and appreciating one another.

A gentle note to self:

  • Temptation but not sin
  • Contribution without self-exaltation
  • Repentance without hard-heartedness
  • Defenseless but not weak
  • Acceptance and not anger

And understanding that the world’s plans and standards are not God’s plans and standards. For we are in this world but not of it. It is always difficult to balance the two because there is so much pressure at work to perform well, and to over-perform actually.

A world of one’s own.

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The kelong was a break- I wasn’t feeling particularly tired at CBP, but when I got onto the ferry, and then to the kelong, sitting quietly by the sea, watching the little fishes swim by, feeling the sea breeze on my skin and the warmth of the sunshine (built up a rather reddish tan over the three days) toasting my hair. I realised how fast I was going for life and how content I felt to just sit there and laze around. To do nothing at all.

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The whole structure was made of wood, with some PVC pipes in the bathroom. Which means that when R dropped her pills on the floor, it went through the cracks in the floorboard and into the water.

Of course, we had to work for some things- bible study requires brain cells, praise and prayer requires singing (didn’t want to stand, I sat on the hammock), little group prayers requires a lot of heart. The feeling that we are all here to support one another through tough times- my anxiety, her cultural disconnectedness, her postgrad exams, her medical conditions, her company going through insolvency, her life changes.

We had activities to do that were not planned- lots of free and alone time. The kelong isn’t very big but there are definitely open spaces where you can just sit and be alone. My group was about 20-25 people, and there was another Christian group (university kids) there, plus a family of four. Overall, it was less than 40 people at the kelong.

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Going to the secluded beach was nice- some were swimming, some were just sleeping on the sand thinking that they would not get wet. I wanted to sit by myself because the waves were quite clear and so I found a good rock- it was slightly lower than waist level, and there was a ledge that could fit my butt so I sat there and let the waves wash over me, under the sun.

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The ride back was quite terrible because we took a larger boat that did not have the plastic coverings down (unlike the smaller boat in the picture), so with every splash the waves got on the people at the sides (i.e me and R), and then R got so fed up that she fashioned a sort of towel to cover herself but she was soaked through anyway. And she was one of the sleeping people.

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Waking up for the sunrise every day was a really good experience. The sun sets at about 6.30pm, and it gets completely dark and cold, sunrise starts at 5.30am. There are no tall buildings in the area, the nearest patch of civilisation would be a boat ride some 20 minutes away. The wood planks are all well-sanded and there are no nails sticking out of the planks, the water is clean and the food was really good. We had a variety of seafood and curries, although the intensity of anchovies and prawns might have made my skin itch last night but considering everything it isn’t too bad. The stars and moon would come out at about 7pm and I could just sit there cross-legged and pat the dogs, they have such nice and soft ears. Dog-ear-pouch!

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Perhaps I haven’t had the time to really be alone in the past few months- there are always people and their wants, even when I am alone my phone and mind are usually connected to things that have to be done. At the kelong, though I bought a data plan, the roaming wasn’t good and basically I was without a connection for most of the time. Which was fine, I just need to clear my pile of emails when I go back to CBP later. The lack of a connection made me calm down, I was able to just walk around (sort of a really slow amble) because there was nothing to do and nowhere that I had to go.

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The pockets of time alone taught me one thing. Which is that I am a whole human being on my own, I have a faith, and this year I am dealing with a lot of changes in my life- leaving two schools, starting work, redefining some of my relationships, picking up meditation, going to church, making a lot of friends, redefining what I want to do with my life- contribute to the community and write etc. It doesn’t matter that I don’t like everyone around me, and it doesn’t matter that they might not like me too. Or at least, I don’t think I will sacrifice my need to be quiet and alone in a corner, for someone else ever again. There are limits and I have been going over these limits a few times in the past year because I didn’t want other people to be upset or to feel that I don’t care about them. But the truth is that I can care about them, and not want to be around them. As R puts it, ‘I will die for you, but I will not live with you.’

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There was a bonfire, but JT got bitten by centipede so we left after a while because centipedes there might be poisonous. Thankfully the group has quite a few doctors and then they were discussing how to treat it. “I have thisthisthis cream” “should give him thisthisthis” haha I was very amused.

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And squid fishing at night.

Grateful for:

The people-

M, for her bubbliness and making sure that everyone got a huge dose of social interaction

J and R for conducting the little group sessions, asking us to reflect on how the retreat was good for us, how we have been coping in the past eight months, how we plan to move forward in the next four months with our lives. And for planning the whole retreat- the schedule, the transportation, the various little bits that had to be organized

Z and E, for leading the bible study sessions, reminding us that we are able to study God’s words even while disconnected to everyone else in Singapore

FY, for putting me in a smaller room- it was the room for people-who-don’t-like-crowds. It had no hot water but then there’s always people like-

R, for standing outside the bathroom and whistling opera songs because it was a dark bathroom (we snuck to the other girls’ room to bathe which has hot water) and I was scared of the dark

SY, for being a good roomie, getting up with me to watch the sunrise, sharing her insect repellent with everyone. And forgiving me when I forgot that she was sitting at the balcony studying and I accidentally locked her in the room when I went out (she was rescued by Deb). The door can be locked from both the inside and the outside, which is quite funny because at night when she wanted to get in, FY didn’t realise that SY wasn’t in the room and she locked the door from the inside.

And J, for leading everyone else along with his extroverted personality. I think he is another coconut who can talk to himself all day.

D, A, and CG for talking to me consistently over three days- this is my first time talking to them on a non-superficial level. Usually it’s just “hi!!” and “bye!!” And also D, for teaching me card games.

And finally, PY, for her super extroverted but caring self on the way there, and also on the way back. I think I found one person who can understand how uncertain consulting work is already- she works in advertising, her projects are structured similarly to mine.

There are no mosquitoes at the kelong, but one of the workers there brought me to the plantation to see the mangoes and papayas. The dog also brought me there haha.

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The moment I entered, I got attacked by a swarm of mosquitoes. All 15-20 bites on my body are from the two minutes I spent on that little piece of farming land. And I woke up last night scratching ferociously ): Reminds me of my food allergy episodes.

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Good bye 🙂