ups and downs

I gingerly but boldly stepped into 2020, as I recalled how on the very first day of the new year of the new decade, I told myself I wanted to be rid of certain thought patterns and behaviours, and proceeded to order brunch that included creamy scrambled eggs and smashed avocado on toast. Despite that it appeared in a rather disappointing fashion, I think taste-wise, it was still rather delicious. In the not so distant past, scrambled eggs, connoting cream and lots of eggs, maybe even sugar, were something I would have never allowed myself to eat. It was a sad sight, thinking back, even if I have yet to fully let go and not even coming anywhere close to that, of how I really scrape at the food that I eat. Thinly-spread peanut butter on a single slice of multigrain/wholemeal/whole wheat/whatever-grain bread, never any of those fancy (and yes pricey) bakery buns that contain anything remotely described as custard/cheese/cream… you get the drift.

Eating wise, it definitely is a long and arduous journey, not unlike that of a roller-coaster ride, which I have never been fond of and do not imagine that I ever will be. It is just like any other forms of recovery that involve the psychological state isn’t it?

Myself aside, the year in itself, almost 3 months and a quarter that has just sped past, we have witnessed so many occurrences in the world in such a short span of time it seemed like history has been compressed in this period. Curve balls have been thrown left, right and centre, impacting on practically every single part of our lives and every nook and cranny of the world.

The week that passed has also thrown me into a state of disarray and heightened anxiety and stress levels. I thought I had settled into a fairly comfortable routine, ever since mid-February when there were some adjustments in the work schedule due to the virus situation. But what transpired in the week definitely was not within expectation (yet again demonstrating how unpredictable and sudden things can happen and change) and once more everything was tossed up into the air like a pile of dried leaves being ruffled by a strong gust of wind.

It was extremely challenging and stressful trying to navigate the changes, and try to once again put some order into creating a routine for myself to draw comfort from and restore a bit of sanity that I so badly need. I need control, which explains the situation(s) that I have gotten into, and this is definitely not good where control is concerned.

It is easy for someone to tell me to let go, let God, because He is in control. I know that too, but head knowledge vs heart knowledge – we know which usually emerges triumphant. It shows that my heart is not fully immersed and in belief of His provision, and it is hard. It would take a massive amount of trust and faith to really commit one’s whole life into His hands. My mind is crowded with a million darting thoughts and progressively it is getting noisier; this week was exceptionally bad, which probably also explained why I had been quiet here, because I didn’t have the headspace to put into words what had been darting through and around my mind, even though journalling is meant to help. I just did not have the energy to sit down quietly and write.

It is a Saturday morning. I am allowing myself to breathe a little as I try to think about how to readjust my weekly schedule, both weekdays and weekends. We may not need to control our lives so much, but some form of routine is always helpful to keep us sane and grounded. Particularly in times when we really are being forced to live day-to-day and planning has almost become irrelevant.

Instagram has always been lauded as being toxic but it probably also takes conscious curation to maintain that hygiene over who we follow and what content we allow ourselves to feed on. I’ve spent hours mindlessly scrolling through it and I wouldn’t say it’s the best but sometimes we do find gems.

pause for a bit

Just read something sad. And again it makes me wonder why we all seem to take life for granted. There would always be times when we, or at least I can speak for myself, have wished that God will just bring us back home to be with Him with immediacy, yet there are people who have their lives cut short, while they were supposedly in the prime of their lives. When such things happen, we begin to question the indolence we exhibit towards life and fate, the extravagance with which we throw away our lives, not cherishing each and every living moment or be grateful for that extra breath that we get to have.

When we have something that seems like it is in abundance or that we do not have a view of its impending end, we tend to get complacent and think we have it all. But that’s not the case because life is unpredictable like that.

Anyway, this post was meant to be lighthearted and as a record of what I had recently.

It isn’t the first time I ordered this breakfast item at Starbucks, and in fact it is one of my favourites from what they currently serve – the Rosemary Chicken with Emmental Cheese croissant. The flavourful mashed chicken mayo-style filling with a peppery taste gives it an added dimension, that pairs so well with the buttery croissant. While it isn’t the best in terms of croissant, because it is not freshly-baked after all, in fact this particular one I had that day looked a tad sad and limp, but overall it still made for an enjoyable breakfast.

associated emotions

It is funny how emotions of humans beings (talking about me in particular, yes me again who else right) can be stirred and affected by a myriad of random things.

Just the other day, arising from the announcement by our neighbouring country up north about the lock-down that included us, a second wave of panic-buying albeit to a lesser extent maybe ensued. Despite that it was not as bad as when the DORSCON was raised to Orange when I was shocked by how people reacted and emptied all the shelves in supermarkets and minimarts, it was evident that people are stocking up on the usual necessities such as toilet paper (apparently this is a global phenomenon), but this time even things like bread, rice, biscuits, etc., were being snapped up.

In the first round, people were mainly stocking up on dried foods and things like instant noodles and canned food disappeared from the shelves. With Malaysia being a major source of food supplies to us, I guess people were concerned about the staples running out so more different things flew off the racks. As much as I did not join in with the buying because I think I shouldn’t be stock-piling or hoarding things that would ultimately expire (and result in me eating even more expired stuff), seeing those shelves that laid bare and empty somehow left a feeling of emptiness (too) in me. A wave of sadness arose in me, and it is weird because I described it as ‘sadness’ but why do empty shelves stir up such feelings of dejection and sadness?

It is similar to the kinds of feelings I experience these days when I see the setting sun at dusk. Although sunset is often lauded and admired by many for the beauty of nature when the brilliance of the setting sun casts magnificent masterpieces that many have captured and posted on social media, the setting sun that gradually leads to a darkening sky seems to invoke that same sense of sadness. I inferred that this could be linked to the feeling that something is coming to an end, just like the bare shelves signify a similar sense of forlorn, the heaviness that weighs on my heart is undeniable.

In my ‘past life’, I went through a hedonistic phase where night fall on weekends, sometimes even on weeknights, meant a renewed lease of life as I spent hours in clubs/pubs, imbibing copious volumes of alcohol of all varieties, lost in the pulsating loud music and alcohol-induced high. These days, I think I have become the exact opposite. I may be able to appreciate the beauty of the night sky, but I much prefer the break of dawn, when the rising sun creeping up slowly from beyond the horizon lights up the world as life starts to stir and awake.

 

On to happier things on a Friday. Happy food, happy belly, happy mind maybe.

I don’t think the number of call-meetings I had this week was more than last, but I don’t know why I feel more tired this week as compared to last, and have not been more glad that it’s finally Friday.

wanderlust busted

The last time I went overseas for a vacation was in November 2019. It isn’t that long ago, since it is March now so it has been about 4 months since. But in the foreseeable months ahead, it does not appear likely that there will be any travel plans because of the unpredictability of the situation that has resulted from the virus outbreak.

I don’t think I can profess to have worked so hard that I am badly in need of a break and vacation because to be very honest, my work isn’t that… tough? As much as I struggle with it a lot, compared to the kind of tough jobs and long hours that some others put in, I don’t think I am in any position to complain that I NEED A BREAK! But, when we are creatures who crave for the novelty of a change in scenery, vacations are a good way of doing so. I once told my friend that my vacations are considered wastes of money because I pretty much do what I do when I am in Singapore, other than the fact that I do not need to do any housekeeping and I do not need to work.

I go for yoga (as much as I possibly and practically can) and then have breakfasts/brunch/whatever, at cafes. I do not really indulge much in local foods, but am happy sticking to cafe food, local-style. Mostly however, since I usually only go to Tokyo or Hong Kong, it isn’t hard to find cafes that serve coffees and sandwiches/pastries. Hong Kong fares better in this aspect, because I can find so many cafes that serve my favourite – Avocado Toast. Tokyo is a little behind on this, but then their pastries and cakes are amaze balls; which of course isn’t that great for me if I am looking to quit my sweet tooth.

That said, it is still a good change. Despite that the routine is almost the same, the differences in the surrounding environment, the bed that I sleep in, the people I see and interact with, the differences in climate, etc., all make for a break of sorts.

Yet…. it all seems quite bleak now because of all the current and potential travel restrictions, border closes imposed by more and more countries globally in a bid to stop the spread and importation of the virus. It almost seems like we are on a regression curve, anti-globalisation if you would call it?

Some people have suggested that I could do a stay-cation, which many are planning to do since we can’t travel abroad – not even to Malaysia now – and the idea of staying in a hotel is kind of like taking a holiday. But to me, it makes no difference. The fact that I will be in Singapore, means that I will do exactly as I do on weekends. The same routine. The only difference is that at the end of the day, the place I return to would be to a hotel, and not my own home. Perhaps I can get a better night’s sleep away from the cacophony created by all the surrounding neighbouring units of my flat, and then I can wake up to a hearty hotel buffet breakfast (which I absolutely ADORE) but I don’t really think that is something I would pay, not yet anyway.

Plus, I am not sure if it’s safer in the hotels, even if they are cleaning the premises thoroughly. Since we have so many imported cases, who knows if someone who has checked in may have the virus but is not displaying any symptoms yet, then the virus would be circulating courtesy of the central air-conditioning system and we would all be none the wiser, breathing in the same air for a good 1 or 2 nights. It’s an exaggeration I know, but it is a possibility anyhow.

So… I don’t know. Let’s see how things pan out.

overwhelming uncertainty

Since before Chinese New Year began, something insidious had crept up on this unsuspecting world. From the moment it started though, it had gathered pace and taken on a fast and furious trajectory that has caught the entire world unaware and unprepared.

Over the last one month, our lives have been thrown vastly off course. Lives have been lost, and this is becoming even more serious than what consumed us 17 years ago. I am thankful that in Singapore, despite that the number of infections is increasing rapidly and we do not know when it will peak or bottom out, we continue to hold fast to the hope that there will be no fatalities.

As a news article put it succinctly, this is or has become the greatest work-from-home exercises Singapore has ever experienced, and we do not know when it will stop. At times when we feel that perhaps the situation is stablising and we may soon be able to go back to our normal lives, some unexpected turn presents itself and once more we are thrown into disarray. Maybe, we are told, this will become the new norm; we will have to learn to live with this being part of our lives and that the corporate world will have to get used to more telecommuting or remote working arrangements.

Working from home is viewed by some as an entitlement. Before the coronavirus situation hit us, it probably is. Employers who belong to the ‘more enlightened’ group include this as a staff benefit to encourage employee retention, for those who can then balance their work and family commitments. But when the need arose recently for business continuity reasons that forced almost all employers to allow some of their employees to work remotely, it may or not be an entitlement after all as it is now a necessity. Regardless, there will still be those who aren’t given that option, who see it as an entitlement for those who are being asked to work-from-home.

The grass is always greener on the other side. Although I must say that it is something I feel is beneficial to me in terms of being able to plan my day around work and personal life, I do understand the need to maintain the trust that has been extended, and keep up or even exceed the expectations to deliver work that has been assigned. No longer do I keep the regular office hours and ‘switch on’ and ‘switch off’ from 9am to 6pm; I work almost round the clock, interspersed with my own personal activities. I explained my rationale to my employer, who has accepted the way I work the schedule around it and I take it at face value that if the approval to continue has been given, I will just proceed but of course strive and work even harder to keep things going.

That is how trust is built and perpetuated I suppose?

Letter to myself

When you go to sleep with a heart that’s heavy and a head filled with feelings that are unresolved, you end up waking up a short few hours later, at an unearthly time of 3am, unable to fall back into sleep as the mind jolts to consciousnesses and refuses to be lulled back to sleep despite that there is an absolute silence and stillness all around without much ambient sounds and noises to distract one’s sleep.

Uncontrollable large drops of tears start pooling at the corners of my eyes as my soul continues to feel aggrieved over the unfair treatment that had been accorded.

When I do things that are beyond and over, somehow it seems like it’s expected and nobody offers a word of thanks despite that it’s not what I needed to do yet I’m doing it for their benefit. When others do the same, they’re praised for it, for being proactive, for being helpful and ‘looking out for others’.

When I try to get someone to do something and I’m accused of drawing lines, but when someone pushes back something to me and takes time to craft a lengthy email detailing why said person can’t and shouldn’t do it instead of using half that time to do the task, it’s only right that they don’t need to do it because they are “required to focus” on their current work. And don’t I have to? And they aren’t called out to be drawing lines?

When everyone only has a single thing to work on, but every other thing that appears on the horizon gets onto my plate and to-do/to-think/to-plan/etc list, even though I’m not part of marketing/business development/whatever else, it’s only expected because “they are not technical”. Then why is there ONE technical person if there is so much technical stuff, while there are several others who aren’t technical and can get away with claiming that they don’t have the technical knowledge.

I can’t bring this up because these were the exact things that cost me a promotion, that obliterated my two years of work. And all the others above received good appraisals, got promoted and were always praised and thanked.

I get that this world is unfair. But it’s eating into me. And it’s making me wake up at 3am in tears. The stress is overwhelming me. The grief is consuming me. Even a protracted work-away-from-office arrangement hasn’t helped but has resulted in additional stress because I’m constantly trying to make sure I don’t abuse the trust and constantly trying to “deliver” so that I don’t come across as skiving as I try to work “work” around my own personal daily schedule and maintain my sanity in this period where I’ve felt utter isolation socially.

I have superficial social interaction with random people like cafe service crew. Other than that, it’s just me and me alone. It’s hard when we are supposed to be community creatures.

I know it doesn’t matter at all. None of the above really matters. Because God knows and that’s all that matters. But God, please know that I’m so tired. My soul is sad. I wish my time is up. I wish someone could understand. I wish someone could bail me from this situation, I wish You can deliver me from this deep valley I’ve found myself in.

Maybe it’s really time for me to leave.

No man is ever an island.

In the sense that we are community creatures and in this world today in which we are highly interconnected and especially in a city state like Singapore where we live densely and within close proximity with family and friends, we can’t really be hermits and not communicate with people on a regular basis.

This is particularly true for people who tend to be more verbose, like me. As much as I can and do spend a lot of time by myself, and need to in fact, I cannot thrive and survive when I go for long periods without social interaction that involve people beyond acquaintances. Sure, I can make small talk with random people such as food stall vendors or cafe service staff, but these are just not enough. Not for a protracted period of time anyway.

I always hold the belief that a person has a quota of words each day or week to use up in conversation that goes past the superficial “Hi”, “How are you?”, “The weather is crazy these days, isn’t it?” and the likes. I enjoy heartfelt, deep conversations with some friends that although can get quite uncomfortable and push all the wrong buttons in me, they provoke a certain level of further rumination on my part thereafter that sometimes can help me in my personal growth and development.

A friend of mine is progressing in her certification as a coach and I have always appreciated her perspectives that help me to get a more balanced view of areas that I may have been blinded to. Of course, some other friends have also offered up fresh insights for me to mull over, ALTHOUGH I must qualify that my initial reaction is always to turn up my defences and resist whatever new ideas they are throwing my way.

Sometimes, we just want the other party to commiserate and sooth our egos and emotions, but these pity parties aren’t helpful eventually even if there are times when they are sorely needed.

So… I do crave interaction with human beings who are my friends or family. Being unable to get sufficient amount of such interaction can get a little trying on my mental health, so I really need to think of how I can ‘schedule in’ such interactions on a regular-enough basis.

Also, even though I kept reminding myself I have also been ill-disciplined in staying on track in my original conclusion, preferring to give them the benefit of doubt. However, over the last few weeks, I have decided that my current colleagues are simply such – colleagues. I do not find any friend in any of them and do not think I ever will. Becoming friends with colleagues is not an impossibility. I have found close friends for certain seasons who were my colleagues, but in the office I work in now, I just feel that interaction is superficial at best and most people are either self-centred or selfish. I am also one of them, I figure.