All play and no work makes Jack a useless boy

I’ve been feeling really down lately. And that old saying comes to mind as my thoughts start to wander off into murkier, swampier territory that I know better to stay out off: “An idle mind is the devil’s workshop“.

Well, I guess it was that dastardly flu cum fever cum hacking that made me want to cough up all my insides. That sickness which resulted in two glorious days of medical leave i.e bumming around at home, catching Friends reruns on the Warner channel, and cooking my own tomyum macaroni lunches. That, coupled with 5 days of doing nothing but sleep, eat and bum – CNY break.

Doing nothing is a little bittersweet. After some crazy time at work, I figured I needed the time off to do, well, absolutely nada. I enjoyed doing nothing, but there was a limit. Little did I expect my mind to be so starved of stimulation that I sent myself into a quiet whirlpool of bad thoughts and unfulfilled days.

Which got me thinking. How on earth did I get to a point where my job actually became my purpose? How did I fall into that trap?

Without going to my job, have I really nothing more fulfilling to do with my life?

When I was crazily working, I kept saying I had no time nor mental capacity to do anything else – and that was a problem I wanted to fix. Now that I have all the time in the world, I can’t figure out what to do with it, except while it away.

Sigh. My life needs a serious overhaul and redirection, fast.

This Impossible Year

Well my second husband Brendon Urie just pushed out his new album ‘Death of A Bachelor’. And like what a good imaginary wife would do, I’ve added it immediately to my Spotify offline listening.

And out of all the awesome tracks on that album, there is one that’s easily been my most played song in the last 17 days of 2016: the slowed down, not so sexy crooner known as ‘This Impossible Year’. Judging by my melancholic choice of music, I guess you can tell 2016 hasn’t been much enjoyable.

But hey, I’m not here to spew a tirade of self-pity, negativity nor doom and gloom. I thought I’d just be honest and well, just talk it through with myself. My brain has been a blurred mess lately.

2016 came quietly for me. I didn’t even feel its presence creeping in either because there were deadlines and demands and the end of year rush with a share of unreasonable, unpleasant customers. And as the year slowly unfolded I found myself caught in an onslaught of sleepless nights, disturbing dreams and a juggling act to keep it all together. A bone-weary tiredness crept in and oh well, me being me I retreated into a pit of isolation, trying my best to recharge, and restart life as per normal every day. Call it self sustenance, if you will.

I’m still trying to get out of it, this pit I’ve fallen into. And I know it’s going to take some self reflection and a bit of time away from things. But as you grow older it’s less of you and more of everything else. More family responsibilities. More juggling time between the other half, friends and work. More draining workloads. More of so many little things crying out for your attention you wonder if you have any time left for yourself.

And the worst part is separating the meaningful things from the meaningless ones.

So… it’ll take some time for me to figure this out. And in the meantime I’ll just be waiting for my job situation to stabilise. There is so much more to life than just work – I know. Time to find that balance again.

End of Bum Week

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Noooo, it’s Sunday already, where do the days go?! It’s officially the end of my Bum Week AKA The Week I Didn’t Have To Work.

I told you guys I was serving a notice period, right? Yup, so that was it. My unemployment days are now behind me and I will be back to Worker Bee status come Monday. Actually I’m quite glad for that – I don’t really fancy being a bum for too long. My brain feels like mush, and so does my body.

Some insight into my unproductive life. The day after I was released from my job, I hopped on a KTM train (yes, I didn’t know they still existed either!) from Woodlands heading for Kuala Lumpur. Fun fact for first timers: not every seat in the carriage faces front. Yup, the seat we picked was backward facing. This didn’t bode well for my boyfriend, who had motion sickness. Thankfully, he dealt with it for the 7-hour journey, and we even managed to grab a front facing seat towards the last 1 or 2 hours!

Another piece of friendly advice that affects us in the most primal way: food. There are food and drinks on-board, and I went with the Maggi Goreng for about RM5. Verdict, it wasn’t too bad. C chose the Nasi Lemak for RM4.50 and… Well he got a packet of rice, half an egg, and a handful of ikan bilis. Haha! No meat whatsoever, but thankfully the sambal chilli added some much needed flavour. We bought a Ramly burger too for RM4.50 (we love the ones available at the local pasar malams) and sorely regretted it. The Ramly on board was a cold patty, sandwiched in between a badly cut bread bun. No sauces or eggs, so… Not a good choice for the hungry. Avoid!

After about 12 stops, we finally got off at a darkened and quiet KL Sentral, from which we found our hotel right beside! Thanks to my mom’s SPG points, we got two complimentary nights at Aloft KL Sentral, and paid for a third night. Extremely tired and hungry, we trooped down to the 24 hour self serve food kiosk downstairs and picked up a sandwich and juice. The prices aren’t cheap, but anybody coming to Aloft or a W Hotel probably already know what they’re in for.

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Can you tell I was exhausted?

Let me also say that I’m terrible with sleeping in new places. The worst on record was the one night I spent at Siloso Beach Resort in February, where I laid awake from 12 midnight to 6am! Surprisingly, Aloft made me feel extremely comfortable, and I dozed off almost immediately into deep sleep.

Well, apart from a gorgeous hotel, I don’t really have much to say about KL. Mostly, we ate (the exchange rate was too good so we indulged on food that normally cost more in SG), and traveled around. C finally saw the Twin Towers, and also sat on the monorail and train – his happy things. We also encountered a unique combination of Zinger/Cheese fries/mashed potatoes on their KFC menu. Oh, and another thing: KL is not a good city to walk around in. It is in no way pedestrian-friendly. It made me appreciate Singapore so much more then.

Of course, the monumental thing that happened this week was Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s death, which gave me a lump in my throat the day we were heading back home, but I won’t go into that. But all in all, it was a good break, and was just what I needed. I won’t be heading into KL again anytime soon, but two thumbs up to Aloft for such an awesome stay!

P.S: This entry was only published about 3 weeks after it was written. Teehee

Sick Again

Last day of P3! Apparently this move is called the Scorpio.

Recently, as I was reading Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s obituary for his wife, it hit me as to how fleeting life is. And for the longest time I told myself I need to blog more, chronicle more about my life and how I feel at different instances, to have something to look back on in my old age.

Funnily enough, because I write for a living, I never felt inspired to blog. When you come home it’s just … oh come on I spent 8-10 hours in the office doing this, I’m not doing it anymore for today! Honestly, that sucks, because my job made writing feel more like a chore, more than something I would do for fun, for self expression.

So… I quit.

Currently, I’m serving my notice period and there’s two weeks more to go. What happens after? Well, I guess you’ve got to stay tuned (and hope that I really do blog properly) to find out.

On a side note, the only reason why I’m blogging now is because.. I’m on MC tomorrow! And I don’t feel suffocated by my job and other commitments. Tomorrow I get to sleep in, rest as long as I want and do whatever I want with my free time. Bliss!

But here’s a funny (to me at least) story about how I ended up sick. Just before Valentine’s Day, I caught a mild flu with chills, lethargy, and basically feeling under the weather. BUT. I never got a fever so I thought little of the whole thing. Well, these flu-like symptoms dragged for another week, and then another. But I never ate medicine and thought it would go away by itself. After all, if I didn’t have a full blown fever, I probably didn’t really need the drugs anyway!

Around mid of last week, I began coughing a lot and expelling a lot of well, colourful phlegm samples. I ignored it for awhile, thinking it would go away by itself. But it didn’t. Today, I spit out more phlegm than usual (in more vivid colours and in clumps too), and the feverish feeling was back. That’s when I surrendered and said… OK throat, lungs and concerned friends who have been in close enough proximity to hear me hacking away, I’ll see a doctor!

It was a clinic near my workplace that I had never been before, so the doctor had to key in a whole bunch of new data for me. As he was typing, he asked what he could help me with. When I said my flu had been going on since Valentine’s Day, he stopped typing and literally stared at me.

“That’s a really long time, you know.”

“Yes sir, I do know.”

Well, long story short he diagnosed me with bronchitis, and a whopping $73 in consultation fees and medication. He even added a word of caution: “If you had delayed it further, you would have gotten pneumonia.” Even the nurse added on, as I was collecting my pills, that I needed strong antibiotics because I was “quite sick”. Well, apparently they are pretty confident of its strength since they only dished out six tablets.

Moral of the story: see the doctor when your flu has dragged on for longer than usual! It might not be as harmless as you think it is.

Okay, drowsy meds kicking in. Buhbye now.

If I Ever Needed Grace, It’s Now

It still feels like yesterday
A lifetime of empty days
A hungry heart was desperate for a meal
I feasted on the bread of life
Forgiveness pierced me like a knife
Your breath filled up my lungs and I could feel
I was broke and all I could say was

If I ever needed grace, it’s now
You are strong when I am weak, somehow
I am weak enough to see
I need You to cover me
If I ever needed grace, it’s now

Books I Read in 2014

One of the things I wanted to do in 2014 was to read a book every month, and I did! This December, I’m finishing up my final, twelth book, and it’s a big read – more on that soon.

This list only comprises books that I’ve managed to stick through to the end. If you need some inspiration for your reading list in 2015, here are some titles to consider:

1) The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared / Jonas Jonasson

SYNOPSIS: Allan Karlsson is about to celebrate his hundredth birthday, and a birthday party is planned at his retirement home. Allan is alert despite his age, but not so interested in the party. Instead he steps out the window and disappears. He gets hold of a suitcase of drug money and becomes chased by both drug dealers and the police.

Filled with lots of adventures, Allan’s life story is told in parallel to this. He eats dinner with the future President Harry S. Truman, hitchhikes with Winston Churchill, travels on a riverboat with the wife of Mao Zedong and walks across the Himalayas on foot.

THOUGHTS: I got this book at a sale because it had an attractive cover. Story-wise, well, it was entertaining and sort of funny at the start, but got ridiculous and draggy towards the end.

2) The Scarlet Letter / Nathaniel Hawthorne

SYNOPSIS: In the 17th century Massachusetts, a married women, whose husband is missing, has a child with the local pastor. The puritanical residents of her town condemn her to carry the Scarlet Letter of shame. Then the husband shows up.

THOUGHTS: Got to know of this story after watching Emma Stone in Easy A! It had an interesting concept that primarily revolved around morals and the public face, but the language made this book a bumpy read for me.

3) Memoirs of a Geisha / Arthur Golden

SYNOPSIS: In Memoirs of a Geisha, we enter a world where appearances are paramount; where a girl’s virginity is auctioned to the highest bidder; where women are trained to beguile the most powerful men; and where love is scorned as illusion. It is a unique and triumphant work of fiction—at once romantic, erotic, suspenseful—and completely unforgettable.

THOUGHTS: This Instagram photo brought back some good memories of a whole morning by a beautiful Bali beach – peace, stillness, great friends, and the perfect book. Memoirs of a Geisha was a smooth read, taking me through the narration like the currents of a stream, and keeping me hooked until the very last page. The ending was quite a downer for me though, but I suppose it was something very real – sometimes life doesn’t pan out with happy, heroic and feel-good endings like stories do.

4) Last Night at the Lobster / Stewart O’Nan

SYNOPSIS: Perched in the far corner of a run-down New England mall, the Red Lobster has’t been making its number and headquarters has pulled the plug. But manager Manny DeLeon still needs to navigate a tricky last shift. With only four shopping days left until Christmas, Manny must convince his near-mutinous staff to hunker down and serve the final onslaught of hungry retirees, lunatics, and holiday office parties. All the while, he’s wondering how to handle the waitress he’s still in love with, his pregnant girlfriend at home, and where to find the present that will make everything better.

Last Night at the Lobster is a poignant yet redemptive look at a what a man does when he discovers that his best might not be good enough.

THOUGHTS: I. LOVED. THIS. Like I mentioned in an earlier post, nothing eventful happens in this book. Heck, it literally is as the title suggests: it’s the Last Night at the Lobster. Taking you from day to night until the final moments of the restaurant, O’Nan builds into the main character a lot of soul and a lot of heart. If you’re looking for something easy to read with nothing too fast paced or heart-wrenching, this is a great read for you.

5) The Restaurant of Love Regained / Ito Ogawa

SYNOPSIS: Returning home from work, Rinko is shocked to find that her flat is totally empty. Gone are her TV set, fridge and furniture, gone are all her kitchen tools. Gone, above all, is her Indian boyfriend, and she has no choice but to go back to her native village and her mother, on which she turned her back ten years ago as a fifteen-year-old girl.

There she decides to open a very special restaurant, one that serves food for only one couple every day, according to their personal tastes and wishes. A concubine rediscovers her love for life, a girl is able to conquer the heart of her lover, a surly man is transformed into a lovable gentleman – all this happens at the The Snail, the magic restaurant whose delicate food can heal any heartache and help its customers find love again.

THOUGHTS: This is a magical book, with the same feel-good factor as the Last Night at the Lobster and became the perfect companion for a few rainy bus rides. Written with great care, the story did well in highlighting all the wonderful smells, sights and sounds of the main character’s world as she strives to prepare (literally) life-changing meals.

6) The Joy Luck Club / Amy Tan

SYNOPSIS: Four mothers, four daughters, four families whose histories shift with the four winds depending on who’s “saying” the stories. In 1949 four Chinese women, recent immigrants to San Francisco, begin meeting to eat dim sum, play mahjong, and talk. United in shared unspeakable loss and hope, they call themselves the Joy Luck Club. Rather than sink into tragedy, they choose to gather to raise their spirits and money. “To despair was to wish back for something already lost. Or to prolong what was already unbearable.” Forty years later the stories and history continue.

THOUGHTS: As always, reading some Amy Tan makes me uncomfortable. It’s not the content, but the way she writes it – with a kind of blatant honesty. But despite this, Amy Tan’s writing style leaves me spellbound everytime, and I can’t stop flipping the pages. Perhaps a part of me is like the characters in this book – searching for their roots and identity in a mass produced modern world.

7) The Daydreamer / Ian McEwan

SYNOPSIS: Peter Fortune is a daydreamer. He’s a quiet ten year old who can’t help himself from dropping out of reality and into the amazing world of his vivid imagination. His daydreams are fantastic and fascinating – only in the bizarre and disturbing world of dreams can he swap bodies with the family cat and his baby cousin, Kenneth, or wipe out his entire family with vanishing cream.

THOUGHTS: Okay, I’m sorry to say but I don’t recall much of this book. All that comes to mind is that it had the characteristics of a children’s bedtime story book, and is otherwise rather forgettable. Not to say the writing is bad, it’s just not my kind of book.

8) Hector and the Search for Happiness / François Lelord

SYNOPSIS: Hector is very good at treating patients in need of his help. But he can’t do much for those who are simply dissatisfied with life, and that is beginning to depress him. When a patient tells him he looks in need of a vacation, Hector takes a trip around the world to learn what makes people happy—and sad. As he travels from Paris to China to Africa to the United States, he lists his observations about the people he meets. Is there a secret to happiness, and will Hector find it?

THOUGHTS: I had high hopes for this after reading Hector and the Secrets of Love, but unfortunately it didn’t measure up as well as I would have liked it to. That aside, Hector and the Search for Happiness is still a lovely and relatively easy read for those who are looking for their own little piece of happiness.

9) Songs for the Missing / Stewart O’Nan

SYNOPSIS: It was the summer of her Chevette, of J.P. and letting her hair grow. It was also the summer when, without warning, popular high school student Kim Larsen disappeared from her small midwestern town. Her loving parents, her introverted sister, her friends and boyfriend must now do everything they can to find her. As desperate search parties give way to pleading television appearances, and private investigations yield to personal revelations, we see one town’s intimate struggle to maintain hope and, finally, to live with the unknown.

THOUGHTS: When I saw O’Nan’s name on the book, I just HAD to read it. Unfortunately, Songs for the Missing offered me none of the feel good vibes from Last Night at the Lobster. As mentioned in the synopsis, girl mysteriously vanishes, and the spotlight shines on those involved, dealing with their grief in different ways. Though it initially got me hooked, the book dragged on a little too long for me towards the end, and in a rather unnecessary way.

On a side note, this book accompanied me through my Melbourne trip – ahh the memories.

10) The Devotion of Suspect X / Keigo Higashino

SYNOPSIS: Yasuko Hanaoka is a divorced, single mother who thought she had finally escaped her abusive ex-husband Togashi. When he shows up one day to extort money from her, the situation quickly escalates into violence and Togashi ends up dead on her apartment floor. Overhearing the commotion, Yasuko’s next door neighbor, middle-aged high school mathematics teacher Ishigami, offers his help.When the body turns up and is identified, Detective Kusanagi draws the case and Yasuko comes under suspicion. Kusanagi brings in Dr. Manabu Yukawa, a physicist and college friend who frequently consults with the police. What ensues is a high level battle of wits, as Ishigami tries to protect Yasuko by outmaneuvering and outthinking Yukawa, who faces his most clever and determined opponent yet.

THOUGHTS: All through this, the character Yukawa was a niggling little annoyance. How is it that his theories are on the money everytime – that’s unrealistic and just plain cocky. Well, this was the only blemish for me in an otherwise heartening read, with an ending that literally made me forget to breathe for a moment. In summary, The Devotion of Suspect X is a carefully woven web with an unforeseeable twist.

11) A Moveable Feast / Ernest Hemingway

SYNOPSIS: Published posthumously in 1964, A Moveable Feast remains one of Ernest Hemingway’s most beloved works. It is his classic memoir of Paris in the 1920s, filled with irreverent portraits of other expatriate luminaries such as F. Scott Fitzgerald and Gertrude Stein; tender memories of his first wife, Hadley; and insightful recollections of his own early experiments with his craft. It is a literary feast, brilliantly evoking the exuberant mood of Paris after World War I and the youthful spirit, unbridled creativity, and unquenchable enthusiasm that Hemingway himself epitomised.

THOUGHTS: One of my favourite movies, Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris really made this book come alive for me. Although I’m not a fan of Hemingway’s writing style, A Moveable Feast certainly gave more insight into the lifestyle of those who lived in Paris in the Golden Age – particularly so in the lives of the charismatic Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald.

2014

The Only Name (Yours Will Be)

Yours will be the only Name that matters to me
The only One Whose favour I seek
The only Name that matters to meYours will be
The friendship and affection I need
To feel my Father smiling on me
The only Name that matters to meYours is the Name, the Name that saved me
Mercy and grace the power that forgave me
And Your love is all I’ve ever needed

When I wake up in the Land of Glory
And with the saints I will tell my story
There will be one Name that I proclaim

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, just that Name

It has been a crazy December indeed… I’m looking forward to rounding off the month of meet-ups, Christmas shopping and ad-hoc events with a retreat to my grandfather’s home in Ipoh! Other things I’m also looking forward to: ample sleep (!!), a peaceful countryside and more time for books!! I need to dust off my Murakami and Steig Larson soon.
The other day, a friend asked me how my 2014 was like. As I briefly scanned through my brainwaves, this was my abstract conclusion:
“When I asked myself this question in 2013 and 2012, the answer was really simple: it’s been stagnant. This year… somehow I don’t feel so. I feel that I have made some progress in 2014.”
But, nothing major happened this year! Sure, I hopped jobs to a brand new industry, but that doesn’t affect my state of mind. So what changed that made me feel 2014 was better than the previous two? Somehow, the answer lies deeper in the recesses of my soul… as I shut out the noises of the world crying out to me to live in a certain way and think in a certain pattern, I got more in touch with the still small voice deep within.
This year, I’ve been searching for my own truth… not a pre-set “good” way to live, not a pre-dictated phase of life chronology of getting married at this age, of having children by that age, not a “you-need-to-do-this-because-this-is-the-way-it-has-always-been-done” mentality. Most importantly, this year I have been seeking to experience God in an individual, truthful way. Not a religious ritual, not a crutch that I need to lean on because I’m too weak. I was looking to experience God as a Creator, with no strings attached. I believe that I was made this way for a reason and I shouldn’t fight it, things should come naturally… and this, I believe, made 2014 all that more memorable.
Bring it on, 2015!

Friendships: Growing Apart

As we come to December where the social calendar fills up with dinners and meet-ups, I’ve been reflecting a bit more about the changing phases of life – and how they affect our friendships.

I’ve been blessed to have many lovely people in my life, but as the phases of life change, so do the conversations and the priorities. Feeling the distance, I slip away from various groups… and if the friendships were deep enough, guilt sets in and there’s always the thought of “Why didn’t you try harder?”

But some part just feels fruitless: it’s draining trying to bridge the gap again and again.

This is not referring to anybody in particular, just reflecting on this “casualty of growing up”. Have you ever felt that some friendships feel different, but aren’t too sure who or what has changed? The answer: both of you have – and it’s not anybody’s fault. It’s just the waves of life receding and washing back up the shore, with both of you caught up in different currents.

As with every relationship, it’s probably best to talk it out, but if not, you can join me on the shore. I’m waiting for the tides of life to carry me out to sea again, waiting for the day when I’m washed up beside them and we can fall headfirst into the current together, laughing like how we used to do back then.

Can’t seem to sleep tonight

It’s 11:47PM, and I can’t fall asleep.

At the end of day, when it gets the quietest, do any of you feel a hollowness, a sense of emptiness before you drift off into slumber?

Or are you mostly too tired to even think.

Well, considering I slept for about 15 hours over Tuesday (thanks to a bout of food poisoning), perhaps that could explain why I’m still wide awake.

Tonight, the hollowness reminds me of the eternal curse of the human condition: loneliness. Even with the closest people around you, there is always a semblance of something missing. I read a quote that wisely says one should never expect to outgrow loneliness, but one should learn to cultivate it instead. Now, how do I go about doing that?