Taxi ramblings. 

Typing this on the taxi while I deliver stuff to a client for my boss. 
I was thinking of all my earlier unhappiness this week- not being able to do this, or do that. But last night I sat on the bed, spending two hours trying to get to sleep. I realised that I’m staying with this church community because God is love and compassion. Despite struggling with all the rules and fixed beliefs about how he came to help us and what he wants us to be like, I still believe. Because I can’t find anyone or anything else like him in this world. Perhaps it is true that I am drawn to only what is unique and kind and therefore valuable. 

I really admire the fact that Christ came to call sinners and the unwanted and not the righteous and those who, on the surface, live a blameless life. That almost every bible chapter calls us to look at our hearts and find what is wrong with us. The greediness that pushes us to do wrong to others or the pride and arrogance that causes us to divide ourselves and split into factions. The pride and defenses that we put up around ourselves. I admire his love and generosity for humans who can’t do as much as him. I love the fact that he will always have time for us, even though he is so much more than us. That he is, and has unlimited love for us. 

I admire the fact that he dares to uncategorically state that only repentance will bring salvation. That you have to first feel remorse and turn away from sin, and not deny him from your life. I enjoy talking to him, although I do not always hear him. He will always have time for us even when we are feeling down and ugly and stupid. He won’t laugh at us or judge us according to the things we were born with. And he will always love us. He will always be a source of strength. 
With God I never ever have to ask why won’t you love me. I know that God will always be there for me, when I chose to return. It is not conditional love where if you say rude things to your partner he’ll stop loving you, it is unconditional love, but also with standards as to how a human being should be like. 

Sometimes I feel that we live such half lives today. Not daring to make a strong stand, not really living or dying for anything. 

K the taxi reached. 

“maybe that’s what life’s all about: there’s a lot of despair, but also the odd moments of beauty, where time is no longer the same”

Children help us to defer the painful task of confronting ourselves, and grandchildren take over from them. Television distracts us from the onerous necessity of finding projects to construct in the vacuity of our frivolous lives; by beguiling our eyes, television releases our mind from the great work of making meaning. Finally, God appeases our animal fears and the unbearable prospect that someday all our pleasures will cease.

I was in bed last night, at about 1am, reading this part from The Elegance of the Hedgehog.

I remember all that rain… The sound of it drumming on the roof, the paths running with water, the sea of mud at the gate to the farm, the black sky, the wind, the horrible feeling of endless damp weighing upon us as our life weighed upon us: neither consciousness nor revolt. We were sitting huddled together by the fire when suddenly my mother got to her feet, throwing the rest of us off balance; we watched in surprise as, driven by some obscure impulse, she headed to the door and flung it open.

All that rain, oh, all the rain… Framed in the door, motionless, her hair clinging to her face, her dress soaked through, her shoes caked with mud, staring lifelessly, stood Lisette. How did my mother know? How did this woman who, while never mistreating us, never showed us that she loved us, either by deed or word- how did this coarse women who brought her children into the world in the same way she turned over the soil or fed the hens, this illiterate woman, so exhausted by life that she never even called us by the names she had given us- to the point where I at times wondered if she even remembered them- how had she known that her daughter, half-dead, neither moving nor speaking, but merely staring at the door without even thinking of knocking, was just waiting in a relentless downpour for someone to open and bring her into the warm room?

Is this a mother’s love, this intuition of disaster in one’s heart, this spark of empathy that resists even when human beings have been reduced to living like animals? This is what Lucien said: a mother who loves her children always knows when they are in trouble. Personally, I do not care much for this interpretation. Nor do I feel any resentment toward that mother who was not a mother. Poverty is a reaper; it harvests everything inside us that might have made us capable of social intercourse with others, and leaves us empty, purged of feeling, so that we may endure all the darkness of the present day. Nor do I nurture any sturdy illusions, there was nothing of a mother’s love in my mother’s intuition, merely the translation into gesture of her certainty of misfortune. A sort of native consciousness rooted deep in the heart, which serves to remind poor wretches like us that, on a rainy night, there will always be a daughter who has lost her honour and who will come home to die.

Lisette lived just long enough to give birth to her child. The infant did what was expected of it: it died within three hours.

Reading the part about Lisette standing outside the door and then dying made me tear up. How alone she must have felt. There are many single mothers in the world, how many of them just function on survival mode hoping to give their kids a better future. Nationality, ethnicity, religion, such boundaries don’t matter when it is a bond between a mother and a child. How many people are alone in this world? Choosing to leave your family and identity behind is a difficult decision, until you have done it you will not be able to imagine what ‘never again’ means. Because you can’t return to the past. Other people will be affected.

I don’t like emotions because I always feel terrible when I have them. Shame, anger, guilt, loneliness. Sometimes, occasionally, true joy and comfort, but most a bland neutral outlook. But I have lived without the ability to feel for a long time, and I don’t want to go back to that situation when everything was the same, nothing mattered because there were no feelings involved. The same with dating- I am only comfortable going out with people I feel nothing for, because then whatever happens wouldn’t matter to me. Perhaps it is not a fear of commitment, having to stick to just one person and the feeling of novelty, but the fear of intense feelings and not knowing what to do about those feelings. How would I react, how would he feel, what can happen next, am I changing my life in a way that would matter?

“I’ll say it again to make myself perfectly clear,” says Kakuro, with the sort of infinite patience one exercises with children or, rather, the simple-minded. “Renee, you are not your sister.”

And as I go on sitting there like a moron, staring at him:

“I’ll repeat it one last time, in the hopes that this time you won’t choke on a piece of sushi that -I might mention- cost thirty euros apiece and normally require a bit more care in their consumption: you are not your sister, we can be friends. We can be anything we want to be.”

—–

Got an allergic reaction to the medication I’m on, and then intense sleepiness so I took a long nap again. I still have overdue work so I need to drink coffee and then get my shit together for a long night. I am just upset that nothing in life seems to be going right now all because of health reasons, that my panicky moments affect how I see my day. Did it go well, did it go badly, how many times did I feel like I was in a cage and couldn’t breathe? I know that I am in a good place compared to many other people, I also feel that I am in another low point in my life. No longer able to look at events retrospectively and think, “all these were my becoming”, now it’s like “fuck what the fucking fuck again??!” Sorry for vulgarities- they are necessary because that’s my mind right now.

That said, I’m pretty normal most of the day, my mood is only much lower when I am alone or when I have to take a long nap to stop the yawning and it’s really late when I wake up. There are client proposals to be done this week hence I can’t afford to continue this medication, I don’t know when the side effects will end but I would rather not risk more allergic reactions. Other parts of my life are good- children’s church went fine, it got kind of zoo-like during the story time when kids suddenly decided to stop listening, some were walking around, which is unusual because they are all quite quiet during story-telling. Then Andrew, the youngest, he always gets overshadowed by the older and louder ones, he just gave up and laid on the mat fully outstretched and I was like “what are you doing LOL”. Esther is quite sticky, I had to carry her a few times today because she wasn’t crying but she just doesn’t like to be with the other kids on her own. And Ethan and Calvin, they fight for the same things whenever they are together- will remember to separate them in the future. It’s like it doesn’t matter what toy Calvin has, Ethan wants it. Until Calvin gives up and walks away. Then depending on his mood, Ethan might follow Calvin.

Sermon was by Pastor C. Which reminded me of how I have to be careful to not make stupid choices. It’s really easy to go from friends to friends with benefits. Or maybe I am just really open to experiences, I really like to try new things. And cute guys are exciting, it can be quite fun. Like a spark of light during the rather boring day where work is impactful but not exciting all the time. Pastor C. reminded us that if we don’t call on Christ (not his surname, it means the ‘Messiah’) when we are facing temptation or while sinning, we are likely to be ‘finished’- did not clarify what finished meant, because our sins were taken away by Christ when he died for us, and also when we continually repent. I was seriously considering sinning in a rather obvious way and then repenting, and be like a life-stage Christian where I am sometimes a Christian and sometimes not, and continually tick-tocking between the two. The response is that, if that is so, salvation isn’t ensured because your repentance at the end of your life might not be genuine. And what kind of heart are you carrying to church on Sundays then. But I’m also really tired and I would like constant company.

Bible study was back to basics, we are covering Mark for the next 13 weeks. Likely to miss a few because of overseas trips but we learned basic tenets of faith today. Who is Christ, why did he come, and what are we supposed to do in response to him. It is not just to turn away from sin, but also to do good works, and learn the experience of faith- how to trust God and let God lead.

Prayer requests:

Please, that at least let one of the problems in my life become less burdensome- health, work, finances (due to health) or relationships (or the lack of feelings). I don’t think I can last the whole month if my issues don’t pick themselves up.

That people in the world will not be so lonely or troubled. That even if they don’t find meaning or God, at least let their troubles be alleviated temporarily. Suffering is useful for long-term growth, but too much of it over the years can force a person to do odd things that a rational person wouldn’t normally do.

And pray that I will learn to pray more, and worry less. Be less anxious about work, about how people see me at work, about whether or not I am liked, be less anxious about the impact I’m creating and trust that a combination of prayer and sufficient sleep will work. Prayer is not just about communicating with God, for me it is trusting God.

For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.

-Hebrews 6, ESV

A mess of feelings

I wanted to write about anxiety and going back on to medication for the second time. It feels the same, I don’t remember any of the old side effects, and I only know that it is a different part of the anxiety family tree. Which means that I might not recover as quickly as before, or that my symptoms might not be as bad, they will not last as long, I will not lose as much as before. Then I started on work, took me five hours and now I am not in the mood to talk about my troubles. I’m still making mistakes with basic formatting. 103 slides for one proposal and going. I just hope that I won’t get fired within the first two months, even though they say that the company is really kind to juniors because the turnover rate is so high.

I was thinking about my worries. You know the feeling when you are with a bunch of friends or colleagues but everyone doesn’t really know one another, and you start to feel out of place, or even wondering, “do they actually like me as a person”, or “would they talk to me if I weren’t in this company?” I would be hurt if they didn’t, although I do know that if I asked myself the same question, I can’t say that there are many people in the office I would claim as a close friend. They are all nice and good people, but I am not sure about the interest level. Like I said before, humans are still a preference. There are weeks when I’m really interested in getting to know people, and sometimes, just after getting scolded by a director, (inserts hangdog look), I just don’t want to see anyone. Not even the bus driver stopping right in front of me.

My emotions change very quickly- I was getting scolded because my buddy didn’t do the slides properly and because she was on annual leave and I had no idea what she did for that portion, so I couldn’t reply the director. I was just in a bit of shock. And then sadness, and then a little bit of anger- I wanted to say “hey, the work was done!” But that moment had passed. But my brain was in a fuddle the whole evening, I felt like I was inadequate and I also felt that I should have put in more effort, and then I started worrying about if they would fire me because we left out some slides. Now that I have bills to pay, things are looking a lot bleaker. I can understand why medical bills are a burden now, you literally cannot stop work because you have to pay your dues.

I am learning to handle my emotions by rationalizing them out, I don’t know how other people handle their emotions. The director was a bit loud (burdens of sitting at the open-space pantry, you will get judged by everyone) and quite angry, but then she switched to being nice again like five minutes afterwards, so I really don’t know how to deal with her personality. Other feelings in the past week include: meeting someone and realizing that Person A might have spoken to Person B, whom I’m not on speaking terms with, and hence Person A doesn’t like me as much anymore. Which made me feel sad, even though I only see A once every few months. It’s more of wanting to maintain that original relationship and not feel the shame of being unwanted, kind of like rejection- a hot flush, a cold chest. “Why do I bother with such pain, why can’t I just sell all my feelings away.” Sometimes I wonder if people think that I am too old for this- at the age of 23 I should have gotten all my emotions sorted out and all my reactive mechanisms sorted out, but nope. Still fumbling around in the dark.

Other feelings- that the person I like doesn’t like me anymore, conversations turning cold, no longer as enthusiastic in the mornings. I know that I’m doing the same to other people whenever I am tired but it was such a good game while it lasted. It is another odd feeling, not knowing if he cares for you, have things changed? If so, why? And feeling fulfilled when someone praises your work, but then getting scolded by someone else (my mind keeps returning to this, even though I am over it emotionally- just that I have to redo that work). Feeling slightly guilty when I am texting my colleague while she’s on her holiday and I know that she doesn’t quite like this place anymore, and she doesn’t want to answer work related enquiries, and yet I am texting her because I need the answers. Or the one that I have been struggling with, feeling lost in life and doing things that makes me …I don’t know, content? Peaceful? But not sure if I am on the right track. And feeling terrible when I make grammatical and vocabulary errors on a company-wide publication. And having to apologize when I am not really sure what I am apologizing for. It is part of growing up I guess- taking on people’s anger.

During DG last night I was wondering if it is possible for me to remain a Christian forever. The road is honestly so long I don’t know how to deal with it. During prayer session my DG leader was sharing the five ‘cannots’- you can’t smoke, pre-marital sex, alcoholism, marry a non-christian etc. Those are things that just can’t be done because they will bring you away from God. And I thought to myself, I am going to end up with the most boring person on earth, he’s going to grow a beard and we will live on fishes by the river. One step at a time I guess. I am trying to be kinder to myself because I have been really tired but unable to sleep recently.

Pats on the head for six weeks of work:

  • Being more comfortable with relationships and people at work.
  • Continuing kiddy class while having a full-time job (I honestly thought I would give up.)
  • Client deliverables and dealing with confusion, not running away and asking others to do it for me.

The slides that I got scolded on were meant to be done by my buddy, but since she’s going to Jakarta for six months I guess I’ll be handling those in the future.

I am still making mistakes, I am still tired, I am still trying. Don’t think I can say anything else that is valuable. I just need to deal with the first six weeks of medication, it’s day 3 today and I have really bad leg cramps.

 

“Actually that’s my secret — I can’t even talk about you to anybody because I don’t want any more people to know how wonderful you are.”

Hello I’m really tired. I just packed my room and cleared out all the debris that accumulated on the floor after a week of chionging work. This is a kind of collection of personal thoughts that I had over the past few days, because my brain is so scattered now it feels like I am holding on to a few strands of thoughts and a few pieces of chicken chop, and I am not sure how much longer I can hold on for. I can’t let go, if I just intentionally ‘forget’ things I know I will feel like that I have lost something. Which is why slotherious is a great platform, it is an eternal brain dump as long as I can afford the yearly domain fees. Somehow a non-personal domain just doesn’t feel right.

On DG and the church carnival:

I wrote this bit about DG two months ago. I think it was when they first announced the dates for the carnival, and I thought to myself- what did I learn about fellowship so far? Why are people so happy to stay on in the same cell group for years, and always contribute time and money to a cause that others do not understand?

We assemble every Friday at 8.20pm at Pine Grove, each of us with our individual burdens from work and our heavy hearts, minds that get progressively more solemn as the week passes. Different backgrounds, different hobbies, different habits. Some of us like to sit on the floor, some sit cross-legged on the chair, some like to stand throughout the bible study session. But we have the same belief- that regardless of how broken we are, God will find a way to mend us. No weakness or failure of character is too big for him, no flaw is too small to be overlooked. We know that to everything, the answer is Christ, and if only we can lean wholeheartedly on him, he will make our burdens lighter. If only we truly believed, steadfastly holding on to our understanding of him. Then at our last exhale, we need not be worried that we have come to the end and our lives were all for nothing. It will not just be a final goodbye.”

The carnival yesterday was held at Bishan, and after four hours of being in a crowd I was half-dead and ready to uber home. There was very good prata with chicken curry (made on the spot), curry puffs, ice cream, didn’t try my own DG’s bak kuh teh but I had chicken rice! There was a DG who sponsored $7000 worth of chicken rice, that works out to an average of 400-500 per person, assuming they had less people than us. Had to get work clothes so I hurriedly did my shopping at vivo. Only managed to find two outfits because I have this aversion towards colours and prints so it’s always pretty much black on black.

http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/carnival-celebrates-the-spirit-of-giving

I am quite amazed at the carnival planning. The entry passes only cost $2, and it entitles you to all the games, two mains, three sides and three drinks if I’m not wrong. In other words, we did not sell tickets to raise funds, we sold tickets so that people could enjoy the carnival. The donations were done before the carnival even started.

I also went for something called Project Timothy, which made me realise that I’m not actually…I don’t know, constantly joyful in church? I feel like I should be. But I am not at the stage where I feel this joy and deep reassurance every day, it’s more like okay on most days I have this relaxed and neutral kungfu stance that borders on joy during quiet time, on other days I’m quite at peace about how things are going. Not being able to date a non-christian however, REALLY SUCKS. “Real change is possible,” said the pastor. I wrote down, “real change is possible painful.” It’s not that I am actively looking for someone, it’s just that I haven’t been so interested in a guy since bobcat circa 2013. That’s four years of “am I a lesbian?” that I dealt with. I still feel that I’m bisexual though. Or “are you going to be single forever”, said people who were my project mates. I am not intentionally going against what is being taught in the bible, which is that marriage should be a reflection of the covenant between God and his church. It’s just that I want to date casually, without people telling me that “it’s better to not date than date a non-christian or take dating lightly”.

On work:

Met old friends in the past three days, partly because it was my birthday and I didn’t want to spend my 23rd doing work. Aloha poke is nice!! Shall go there again. There’s a cheaper $9.90 salmon version somewhere too, asked a colleague out next week so I can try that. My favourite dishes in the CBD area are- beef pepper bowl from Amoy, chai tea latte from Dimbulah (I can drink enough in one day to make it a meal), fish soup from Amoy, chicken chop from Shenton House, Daily cut @RP, poke bowls in general, astons @ asia square, and this jap food place that has really good egg plant and salads but I forgot the name, it’s along Boon Tat. I budgeted 250 a month for food but with friends and all, it’s more like 400. I still miss the chendol from brickworks! It’s really good chendol.

Work has been good- things are picking up fast. It felt like we had no substantial training for one month other than basic skills (which might not be used, depending on your project team’s style), and you are left to make connections on your own. I volunteered to write for the upcoming trip and got pulled into my unit’s rec club, we are going to plan more events that won’t involve an army of tuktuks. Now the second month is here and lots of things are in the pipeline. Which is fine, but I don’t really know how to manage my bandwidth yet, so I am expecting myself to do work for the next three weeks using my weekend time. I think I am quite happy because I like my company and I really enjoy my work. I like knowing that whatever I do, it contributes towards an impact, no matter how small, on the client’s end. Which affects the lives of people in other developing countries. And I like knowing that I am a good support system to my colleagues. The only thing I dislike about working at home is that I don’t have a large desktop monitor at home, I shall get one soon to deal with calibri font 5.5 on slide decks.

On others:

I was asked this week by a well-meaning friend (not describing him as anything else, it’s difficult to pigeon-hole this person) “why are you so reserved”. To which I thought, yes I am, but how would I know why? That is like asking “why do you like being a straightforward and crazy coconut?” Hmm actually, do coconuts have genders?

I just am. I process a lot of things on the inside and I don’t reveal much unless I am asked, or if I’m in a hyper mood. Like when I had HK food with L. and then too much awfully chocolate cake, the salted caramel caused a sugar rush and I love salted caramel. Being an introvert is a different way of interacting with the world. I like books and furry animals, I like small kids who like to eat cheerios, I like to write about my feelings (so female of me HAHA), I like to hear the stories about people and their experiences. I like to touch people and I like hugs, unless the sun is really hot and I am turning into a roasted potato. I don’t care for crowds, the carnival really killed a bit of me. I didn’t realise how tired I was until I got home and I slept at 9pm, probably the first time in months. “Uncle black sauce and chilli, or plain?” “More soup?” “Consolidate ok ok.

If I had a choice I might not choose to be more extroverted, simply because I don’t know how to imagine what an extrovert’s life might feel like. I don’t know how to create value in noisy places, I don’t like to hang out with people all the time- hence I schedule lunches one to one because I don’t want my post-lunch work efficiency to go down to 20%. Perhaps to others it is a sort of half-life that I live, like how with makeup on I’m an enhanced goblin. Not experiencing what they see as fun? But to me I’m coping very well, especially with being on TCM and in a few weeks, anxiety medication again. I am just not a randomly-coughing ball of fireworks singing despacito on the highway.

What do I do for fun? I don’t know. I think I am still finding out. I don’t think my brain processes ‘fun’ in the same way as others do. It is more of fulfilment and a sense that what I am doing, it is meaningful, and that if I die the next day, it would not have been in vain. I would not have lived a half-life just for myself. And if it was entirely for myself, I would have enjoyed it and not changed myself to fit others.

I don’t have much time left to write. Or read, now I find myself just zoning out on the train in the mornings. I do want to return to meditation/yoga, which I started for only a few days. The easiest thing to do now is just to swim after work. I was wondering about heart break, I think I felt emotions most intensely a few days ago when I was reminded to keep my distance from K, and my heart was like “I DON’T WANT TO KEEP MY DISTANCE.” I don’t feel a lot on most days, but when I do I usually don’t understand why I feel that way. I am able to rationalize anger out really well, but other softer emotions like affection or sadness, it’s difficult for me to say anything other that “ok I am feeling weird. Weird feels, soft cats.”

To find a small moment of joy in a blue sky,

A long walk an early morning in December

Or a handwritten letter to an old friend simply saying, “I thought of you, I hope you are well.”

I am trying, as I always will.

I read a helpful tip to deal with my emotions. “Take short little cries every time you feel overwhelmed”. I think I feel overwhelmed most on Friday nights, when I am done with DG and I just feel unhappy because I don’t want all that responsibility and commitment that comes with being a Christian. I can’t be unorthodox, I can’t go around having sex with everyone, I can’t turn up for DG drunk or smoke (not allowed to smoke because your body has to be an acceptable living sacrifice) or date a non-Christian, I have to tithe a portion of my salary every month which I would rather spend buying books, and I have to do bible study daily. I can’t be a stumbling block to other Christians and I basically cannot do a lot of things. Lie, steal, cheat, shout- yes I am a difficult person. I wouldn’t do those things even if church wasn’t in my life- okay maybe lies, I think white lies to clients are quite common in business- but it is more of a feeling that I only know the laws, I do not yet know joy. Can I say that I love God? I think I do, but it is a feeling borne out of admiration for his grace and his temperament and how loving he can be. But on a daily basis I feel like I will feel less cooped up if he did not exist. Because it means that I can do whatever I want.

There are flowers growing outside my window.

The coffee is warm, the air is pure.

Spending time with friends I am comfortable with, hoping for someone kind. I feel that so much of me is tied to being independent- travelling to Phuket a day earlier than others, doing whatever I want even if no one else wants to do it, serving in a meditation centre in September even though my DG leader told me to again, be careful of non-Christian teachings. I just don’t know if I will feel differently about what I do a few years from now? Maybe I will never find myself, maybe I will always be open to new experiences and I will never be settled as a Christian or even, as a human being. Maybe it will be a lifelong journey of searching and wanting more. Wanting someone gentle and kind.

If there was no chance of gaining any temporal reward for our piety, would we bother?

poetry and words

Never, never underestimate the power of desire. If you want to live badly enough, you can live. The great question, at least for me, was: How do I decide I want to live?

-Marya Hornbacher

I was perpetually grief-stricken when I finished a book, and would slide down from my sitting position on the bed, put my cheek on the pillow and sigh for a long time. It seemed there would never be another book. It was all over, the book was dead. It lay in its bent cover by my hand. What was the use? Why bother dragging the weight of my small body down to dinner? Why move? Why breathe? The book had left me, and there was no reason to go on.

-Marya Hornbacher

 

Each life unfulfilled, you see;

It hangs still, patchy and scrappy:

We have not sighed deep, laughed free,

Starved, feasted, despaired,—been happy.

-Robert Browning