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.

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.

Timing.

That is what most people have offered up, mostly of course fellow believers in Christ, when I lament about the state that I seem to be stuck in.

It isn’t breaking news, in fact it is extremely stale, that I have almost always been looking out for a new job. Maybe not all the time like 100 percent, constantly kind of always, but somehow it appears like I do not seem to be able to break out of that cycle of, I don’t know, momentum? which gets to me after a couple of years into a job.

It explained why I had decided to seek professional advice in the form of a coach, although with life/career coaches, they work pretty much like therapists in psychology or psychiatry, where a lot depends on the individual, to face up honestly to what the other party tries to get you to acknowledge, despite that it often gets very, very uncomfortable. It isn’t just with psychologists and psychiatrists that we are made to confront our inner demons, even with life/career coaches, there is quite a fair amount of uncomfortable feelings that need to be dealt with in the sessions, as much as we always tell ourselves to go into it ‘with an open mind’.

So anyway, that aside, it has been frustrating when said person, yours truly, is frequently prospecting for that elusive job that would perhaps provide me with a greater sense of satisfaction or even just an inkling of not constantly considering the prospect of leaving. Maybe the crux of it lies with me not knowing exactly what I want or seek – do most of us do anyway? Ok, actually some people do know quite clearly what they want in a job, but for me, it’s just a giant mess inside my mind. Probably that is why my professional trajectory has been so ‘choppy’ or tumultuous.

Back to timing. I get unduly and unnecessarily annoyed when I share my thoughts and someone patronising tells me that ‘Oh, maybe everyone is waiting for their bonus’, which in retort I would tell them that I have gone through MANY rounds of bonus payments but somehow the job is still not forthcoming?

One of the things that I look for in most job searches is the feature of ‘travel’. It is something that is both a pro and con. There were times I enjoyed it in my past jobs but there were also times where that has resulted in me wanting to leave because of the circumstances of the travelling and as well the fatigue that it caused me to experience.

So I didn’t know if it is God’s will not for me to travel, because somehow things are not moving along, and with what happened recently on a global scale, is that His hand protecting me? I would wish to think of it that way, but then again, it wasn’t just travelling jobs that I applied for. Sigh.

Then there are those who would tell me ‘Your work/job (there) is not done yet’, so what is it that needs to be done? ‘Ask God.’ Duh.

Ok, this post is just getting very ranty and laced with disgruntled feelings.

Back to timing. Being the indecisive person that I am, I had been vacillating on booking vacations. It had in the past caused me to pay much higher prices for airfares and hotels, not in the spirit of spontaneity but more so due to inability to decide and resolutely make the plunge to book when prices are low and attractive. But this time, I guess it has turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because the 2 places that I would have most likely booked my holidays to are under the areas where we are advised not to carry out non-essential travel to. Nobody knows how it would develop and if it would be, if and when I was there, the situation takes a turn for the worse and I would be served with a SHN when I return, or perhaps not be able to cancel my trip and get a refund if I had booked fares and accommodation that are saver rates.

So again, is this His timing at work?

Sometimes, there are people who would say that we do not need to fear and we can just go ahead because God’s favour and protection is on us. But thing is, there are also times when we are being led by the peace (or lack thereof) and wisdom from the Holy Spirit to not go ahead – because we don’t need to intentionally throw ourselves into harm’s way if the Holy Spirit is leading us away from it.

An unusual order and it felt artery-choking because of how much oilier it is than my usual crispy toast. But French toast with the rich eggy taste and a swop for PB instead of kaya… divine!

一个人的精彩

I’m not sure if I have used it correctly but in any case, it doesn’t really matter.

I am not entirely incapable of positive rumination, I surmised. Does rumination always connote a negative meaning anyway?

It was a good weekend I had. There wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. In fact, it was just a simple and normal weekend like most other weekends, but yet I think I sort of enjoyed it.

I was supposed to meet someone on Saturday, a day that the other person proposed after a suggestion to meet sometime back wasn’t available for the other party. On Saturday itself, said person dropped me a text and asked if I could meet on Sunday instead. It wasn’t that I was trying to be difficult or inflexible, but I had sort of made plans for Sunday, which included yoga, followed by church and then visiting my parents. Eventually, the Saturday and Sunday didn’t exactly pan out as I had planned (I visited my parents on Saturday instead of Sunday) but I told the person I wasn’t free on Sunday, which was true as at the point when I responded.

I pondered and thought, did I want to go ahead to meet the person and what was it that I wanted from the meet-up? I know that friends don’t really need any express/explicit reasons to meet for a catch-up but sometimes I get reluctant to go through with such meet-ups. There are friends I love to meet regularly because conversation just flows naturally and deeply. But with some, it feels superficial and contrived, and end up mired in frustration because the other person doesn’t or can’t empathise or comprehend. It’s like when I share about certain things and the responses that come from the person generally fall into certain categories that make me feel: (1) I am not trying hard enough (to change the situation/achieve something); (2) I am thinking too much; (3) I am just being idealistic/unrealistic. The way such conversations go tend to invalidate and trivialise how I think and feel, even though, yes I know everything isn’t all about me. But it is not fair to imply that I have not tried hard enough and it is frustrating to be told that ‘maybe if it isn’t happening, it’s just not meant to be / the timing is not right – you should just stay where you are’.

What is it that I want to hear from them anyway? Maybe it is better then that I tell myself that instead of hoping to hear certain words from another’s lips.

So there are things to be thankful for despite that things didn’t go as planned. I had a quick and simple brunch by myself on Saturday, then in the afternoon I went for a second yoga class. I don’t know if I wasn’t feeling that great/well then or it was simply too warm, both outside and inside the studio but physically my state was bad. I struggled in class, and after that stumbled out and slumped onto the floor unable to get up without compromising my balance/consciousness. Some kind lady saw me outside the studio and offered to help me refill my bottle because I was parched for sure, and I had no ounce of energy in me to stand up and fill my bottle. I was so thankful for that helping hand.

Then my mum called after I showered and informed me that my brother and his family were heading home for dinner and asked me if I was going (and why not, she asked lol). So it turned out eventually I headed back for dinner with them and it was almost like a feast my mum cooked. It wasn’t anything extravagant like lobsters or abalone (I am not a fan anyway) but the amount of food she cooked had all of us filled to the brim.

Sunday came and went, again with classes (and some twist that also eventually turned out alright) and church service – where I sort of couldn’t concentrate at all and kept wanting to doze off.

Although I did spend a bit of the weekend on work, it was generally done voluntarily. Maybe I will talk a little more on that in the next post because this is getting a tad lengthy. Overall, it was a good weekend anyway.

the vagaries of simplicity

We all want to have a simple life. But what does a simple life connote? What does it mean to lead a simple life, or live simply? Is it a life of minimalism, is it a life of detachment, is it a life of mindfulness and peace…?

As much as we say we want to live simply, it is an oxymoron because the mechanics of a simple life is just not simple at all.

I love cakes. I kind of developed a sweet tooth somewhere in my adult years, if I remember correctly, it was something that only happened in recent years, oddly. Maybe it was a result of hormonal imbalances that was fundamentally self-inflicted. I don’t recall having such a strong love for sweet things when I was younger. But much as I enjoy cakes, I don’t fancy cream so baked goods like tea cakes, sponge cakes and the likes, the “simple” stuff, are what appeal to me more than those fondant cakes that are all the rage these days, costing up to 3-digit prices for a single cake. They look pretty for sure, but the kinds of cream used on those cakes are just not for me.

A simple life, can be sitting at a cafe enjoying a cup of sugarless black coffee and a fragrant slice of banana bread. But such a life does not come ‘simple’ or ‘cheap’. It is working at job that earns us the dough to be able to indulge in such experiences occasionally. This was the week where I was scheduled to work-from-home in view of the recent virus outbreak. For me, it wasn’t so much of ‘working from home’ per se but just ‘working away from office’. I cannot bear to stay home for a long period. Maybe I am just not a homebody, or maybe my home just is not conducive because it is often replete with noise disturbances from people who are just inconsiderate for others living in the same community. Ironically, this WFH week probably saw my expenses rising because of these ‘working from cafe’ jaunts. There are pros and cons of being away from the office; while I get to work and do my stuff around my own schedule, it is hard to manage expectations when during this week, I give-and-take and work or reply emails well into the night or in the wee hours of the morning. It is not something that I will want to continue doing when I am back to the office but people sometimes may just expect the same behaviour and do not readjust their expectations accordingly.

I had considered that perhaps this could open the door for me to negotiate for a flexible working arrangement when the virus dies down and life starts to go back to normal. However, I think it isn’t just the flexibility in working hours or arrangements that is the deal maker or breaker. Despite that I was away from the office and the colleagues for a whole week and this week really saw me talking minimally (probably retreating further and further back into my cave), the core issue I have with this job is really the people and next, the nature of work. Even though I know that wherever I go, I will be bound to run into such people, the combination of a toxic environment and the overall unstructured nature of this role spells disaster with a capital D. In this week alone, every single day, I would receive sporadic emails or text messages from my boss asking me to think of or plan for this and that, usually arising from some external catalyst that elicited the reactivity in her. It is tiring to have to keep on reacting and responding, and from that point on, gaze into an imaginary crystal ball to try to predict and guess what lies ahead, what is needed, or what people want.

Then, the problem of people taking advantage of my attempt to be helpful and proactive, because in my recent appraisal, it was the apparent factor that cost me a promotion. I was further accused of drawing lines, yet somehow when others push their work to me in view of their heavy workloads or when they draw lines and progressively push the lines in their favour, they don’t suffer the same consequences but on the contrary they were the ones who got promoted!

Is there any more reason to stay? Is there anything else that I need to do to be able to get out of here? It’s said that if a door is not opening, it just means that this isn’t a door that’s meant to be closed yet. But really, in a span of two years I have felt so drained and exhausted and the rest and recovery I thought I had made in the 10-month break I took prior to this seemed to have been completely wiped out and pushed me further and deeper into an abyss that I have not imagined I could land into.

It all seems so dark and bleak. Uncertain. Hopeless.

In trying to cope with all these, I can only turn to things that I can wield a weak grip and grasp over, which have somehow translated into compulsive and unhealthy habits that seem to wreak more harm on me than help me cope.

Sigh. This isn’t what life is supposed to be is it? 

Are you there, God? It’s me. Please don’t forget about me.