BEGINNING AGAIN

 Monday, 9 September, 2019 @ 17:53 

do you feel stuck? lonely? deprived of something unnameable? of love perhaps? of affection? or attention? do you feel mean or unkind sometimes? are you critical of the unkindness in yourself? or critique when finding it in others? do you like to compare your life? do you sometimes feel unloveable? or do you think you’re “difficult” to be with? …is anyone in your family “difficult” to deal with? if you answered yes to any of these questions then read on.

this isn’t for everyone, but i’m putting it here in case it is for you. here’s an attempt to trace my first conscious beginning. maybe, it will help you find yours.

A still of Jitish Kallat’s Breath, 2012.
7- channel video. Variable dimensions. Taken on my cell phone.

the noise of everything

this blog was born at a time when i was so immersed in my work that it was all i knew and read about. the phrase “the noise of everything” was taken from an interview with feminist artist, eleanor antin. it was a link i’d stumbled upon in my eager attempts to learn about contemporary art trends and news:

“Maybe that’s what it means to be contemporary—the noise of everything bumping up against itself…Is it possible that in the 21st century there are no selves, at all, anymore? … That there’s so much noise we have an emptiness, a void at the heart of the world, so everybody is desperately looking for their missing selves all over social media?” — Eleanor Antin on identity and the contemporary


the quote still rings true, but everything feels much simpler now than that chunk of text. the calm i have these days knowing that i’m all here, with no missing parts and that everything will be okay — is what echoes as i type this. i’m turning thirty-two in February, re-configuring my career, and grateful that i can sit still. i can’t recall feeling this way when i began writing here.

what work meant then

it was 2015 and i worked in the contemporary art industry. though i learned so much about art and design, because of the nature of the industry in singapore (or maybe it was just different from what i was used to), i felt very disconnected from reality. my office was a white box: four white walls with a tiny window. i didn’t have colleagues, but i had one managing director and two other directors that also supervised my work remotely. i barely read the news and would wait for my partner to share whatever was trending on the internet (mostly on gaming forums and or via youtube vloggers). 

my work was so all-consuming. i love work so it’s kind of always been that way. i was the person of all trades — juggling all the hats you can think of: daily operations, marketing, communications, exhibitions management etc.. concurrently, i also dealt with so much abstraction (the art!) that two years in, i began to yearn for something to ground me and to gain a sense of my self back. i felt like a ghost. i lived my life as if by clockwork and it required so much out of me that i learned to meditate and practice my own personal brand of yoga — youtube yoga1, to clear my mind. the other most immediate and available solutions to feel human again, was to return to writing and coding. why? because they were my first loves and coding was problem-solving that had clear results. everything else was noise. everything else was a haze.

the words “lost years” still pop-up when i try to recall and wonder about the way things were that year. the life i was living was so far from what i had ever imagined for myself. i worked for a non-profit (but not in my field of expertise); i was paid well and was able to rent a two-bedroom apartment near the city with my partner who loved me. yet, i was unsettled and floating.

awareness and attention

at the time, i blamed a lot of what i was going through to “others”, mostly my partner and my cookie-cutter circumstances. without the tools to communicate the pain and restlessness i kept inside, i felt like i was “broken” but also, disappearing. it doesn’t matter how self-aware you think are and want to be (even to the point of being aggressively so, which i’d always thought i was). it’s hard to figure this all out on your own. your friends and the people you consider family — your tribe— can help you put the pieces together if you ask; if you’re open.

one of my dear friends recommended a book (see recommended readings) and it got me curious about buddhist teachings. i learned that the first of the four noble truths in buddhism is that we are all suffering. the second noble truth is that the root of our suffering is attachment. to rid ourselves of suffering, we must understand what causes our suffering (i.e. what we like —our desires—and what we don’t like: our aversions). these teachings led me to realise that the biggest desire i had at the time, was to be loved. cheesy, but true.

i held on to the idea of love so much that it was a stubborn and fixed thing in my mind. it wasn’t big. it wasn’t compassionate. it had a protective and defensive shell — even the love i gave myself. especially to myself. as a result, i wasn’t able to fully love my partner(s), or recognise that they loved me too, in the best way they knew how to. i wasn’t willing to see that they too suffered.

irrespective of your religious beliefs, when we are not self-aware or aware of our own egos, we attach ourselves to our desires, our feelings, our narratives (the stories we tell ourselves) that we have no space for change or growth. and if you add trauma and generations of trauma that run in our families… all that attachment and pain, amounts to great suffering. we become a gaping wound, festering and messy.

the most important work

but, we shouldn’t let wounds fester. physical wounds are meant to heal. and so we must also create the conditions necessary for the healing of our emotional and spiritual wounds. for these invisible under the surface things, the healing requires conscious attention and awareness. there is no one antidote or prescription to accepting and understanding your own suffering. every life is specific and unique. but, a lot of work is required — if work as we know it in our capitalist worldview, is that which puts food on the table, healing to me, is the most important work. when done with compassion and mindfulness, healing gifts you with newness.

i quite like this2 definition of work: “the exertion of force overcoming resistance or producing molecular change”. that’s how work is defined in the context of physics. as violent as it sounds, that “force” can be replaced with other words like “effort”, “strength” or “influence”. healing work is meant to overcome trauma and shame, to produce molecular change. contrary to what most of us have been taught, the brain is elastic3. we can change. this type of “work” can actually change your life. work in the context of healing is the application of effort, accepting suffering, overcoming shame, and producing change.

i’m not the only one who uses the word “work” for this stuff4. it’s not exactly revolutionary, and while i’m not one to hard-sell it like that person in the link, i like using the word “work” because i don’t take it for granted. three years on from when i started to heal and be more aware of my thoughts, feelings and the way i live my life, i still find it is a privilege to understand the “why’s” of how we are the way we are and why we act the way we do.

in a time where we’ve learned to check our privilege, this is another thing we need to keep in mind. it is a privilege to know that we need to heal and also a privilege to know where and how we can begin with this. the usual resources required to survive living on the one hand (i.e. food, shelter, security, money), many of us have never been presented with the choice or opportunity to heal from our traumas. we’re all stuck. the whole world is stuck. the lack of understanding or awareness of trauma is evident in our politics, our justice systems, the way we communicate, and most especially in the way we love.

the beginning of many beginnings

so here you are, ready to heal and to put in the work. welcome to the beginning of many beginnings! buckle up, fellow child of the universe. it’s a long road ahead and it will keep on going. take a deep breath in and then on the exhale, notice yourself beginning.

if you’re already healing and putting in the work, big love to you fellow beginner.

Recommended Reading:

Where the Heart Beats: John Cage, Zen Buddhism, and the Inner Life of Artists by Kay Larson
The Body Keeps the Score : Mind, Brain and Body in the Transformation of Trauma by Dr Bessel van der Kolk


  1. my sincerest apologies to the true yogis 

  2. via Lexico powered by Oxford 

  3. Read about: Neuroplasticity

  4. work as healing 

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NOT CLEANING, BUT WRITING

 Sunday, 25 August, 2019 @ 23:07 

pat barker, whose work i wasn’t familiar with until this interview, shared timely writerly advice: “to be a writer you must resist the urge to clean”.

i have not been able to resist this urge in the last eight months. and no joke, before sitting down to attempt this — i was tidying my room. and when i tried to, i couldn’t even count on my fingers the number of times i’ve chosen to tidy my space over writing a blog entry. i’ve cleaned so much in the last few months that i have even ventured beyond my room and de-cluttered the rest of my mother’s apartment1.

it’s been almost a year since my last entry. i was meant to write a follow-up post about my eczema, but then my last long-term relationship ended and my skin condition worsened in its aftermath. the flare-up wasn’t caused by a small thing either, it was caused by (in the simplest terms) extreme anxiety regarding my personal safety, which was then prolonged and further aggravated when i chose to cat-sit for friends. public note to self and to friends: i will always love animals, but cat dander and eczema really don’t mix.

hong kong graffiti, january 2019

there had been times in the last few months when it had cleared up and had even felt smooth and healed. but, while i run a finger over the patch (the same one as i’ve written about before), the bumps and its dryness remind me how healing not only requires time —as with writing— requires a conscious daily commitment.

nic and i in bali with some neighborhood kiddos. february, 2019.

if i’d started to write this entry in february, i would have written about my first ever trip to bali and the circumstances surrounding the trip, but also about how upsetting it is that people still find the wrong sorts of behaviour, romantic2.

mark, gael (on my right), my eczema patch and i painting kl in neutral colours! march 2019.

if i had written this in march, i would have written about the road trip to kuala lumpur that i went on with friends and how i had discovered how underrated that city is.

goodbye twitter-celeb, nic shields — you can @ him even though he’s on a social media detox.

if i had written an entry in april, i would have written a very emotional piece about the pains of living in “limbo land” singapore (because everyone leaves) and how one of my closest friends, nic shields, had left a hole in the shape and size of his wonderful ethnically ambiguous self (see his ethnically ambiguous form above and in the first picture).

after a trek in la union, san juan with some very inspiring friends. may 2019.

if i had written in may, i would have written about meeting my half-siblings for the first time, my friend’s beautiful wedding and how despite it being three years since i last visited manila, how it continues to be full of surprises. i would have also gone on to write about how lucky i am to have friends and family there and how grateful and proud i am of my filipino heritage3.

see sub-titles: i love travelling and in this one, i get to be the token “diversity” talent!

if it had been in june, i would have shared about ending my contract at the embassy i worked for, returning to bali, and the fun projects my friend(s) cast me in. one of them was a bank commercial i appeared in that came as a surprise to friends, family, colleagues, and acquaintances when it popped up on facebook and movie theatres (i had not intended to talk about it).

in late july, or earlier this month, i would have exclaimed from all rooftops, both real and imaginary that i have recently been honoured with the responsibility of being the godmother to a beautiful human baby4. i would have also written about my new life as a freelancer and that my first official client is the socially-conscious and inclusive bookstore called, the moon.

between my trip to manila in may and navigating the gig economy these past two (almost three) months now,  i would have also written about how amidst all of life happening, i’d lost my year-long meditation streak, which took a while to let go of. but, if zen and meditation continue to teach me anything, it is that we are always beginning again, at every moment and we can always write and re-write who we are. a meditation streak does not define me — nor should an eczema patch.

my happy vein, my eczema patch and i earlier this month enjoying some sunshine outside the moon on mosque street. august 2019.

at this moment, as i let the words come to the page, i acknowledge while this entry isn’t an opus, it has been written and i’m here to celebrate it exactly as it is.

this post is dedicated to long, start-up founder and coder, who texted me yesterday just to remind me about the promise i made him on our friend george’s birthday, of having a new entry published by this month. thank you for holding me to my word.


  1. she hasn’t noticed — but that’s another story for another time. 

  2. i.e. grand gestures are things of the past. boundaries and knowing your friends’ or partners’ boundaries is what relationships are all about. respect them. 

  3. those are a lot of feelings for the philippines. to be explored and continued next time. 

  4. i’m stoked!!! 

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AN ‘ECZEMANATION’ OF BODY-BEING & HEALING

 Monday, 26 November, 2018 @ 18:32 

disclaimer: i am not a doctor, dermatologist, or skin-care specialist. the contents and information within this post should neither be construed as medical advice, nor be substituted for medical care or treatment. what has worked for me, will not necessarily work for you. this is also, not a sponsored post. many of the remedies i mention cost between S$15-$50 (which i find very expensive).

i tried itemising key events that happened in the last eight months to write about, but the task proved cumbersome. in my previous entry, i wrote about how i had grown up with eczema1 and how it has recently come back in full force (at least since my worst experience with it, which was in 2009 or 2010). i might have still been in university. i don’t remember the specific trigger2, but my eczema became so unmanageable that i found myself at a dermatologist’s office and getting steroid injections jabbed onto each patch of inflamed skin. i shudder from the recollection, because i’m not a big fan of injections. i can still remember clutching onto my mom and my then-boyfriend’s hands as the needle poked through the ten or twenty welts on my neck.

london-cat

happy and healing. august, 2018.

i vowed to avoid another bad flare up (and by extension, injections), so in spite of some difficulty, i acquired the habit of having lotions or creams within reach to slather onto the irritated parts of my skin, instead of intensely digging at them. i also steered clear from steroid creams (i’ve always been wary of synthetic medicine). my skin was radiant and healthy again for such a long time that i almost forgot that eczema, and the one i suffer from in particular, is a lifetime disease with no known cure.

however, sometime in january this year, that nagging irritation bubbled from my bones and made a comeback. it’s very easy for outsiders to dismiss the futility of someone with eczema to refrain from touching our skin, but you cannot begin to imagine how the compulsion hijacks your brain: the animal takes over. this recent bout was so bad, my nails dug so deeply into my flesh, that at some point it looked like i could have been attacked by a small, but vicious, feline.

i’m currently reading, lionel shriver’s ‘we need to talk about kevin’ and coincidentally, there’s a part where the protagonist, eva khatchadourian writes to her husband about their son’s classmate, a girl, who suffers from eczema:

as far as i could tell, she had clawed herself open without any help. it itched and she’d given in, and i dare say that finally scraping her fingernails into that hideous red crust must have felt delicious. i even sensed a trace of vengefulness in the extent in the damage, or perhaps a misguided medical conviction that with sufficiently surgical application she might exfoliate the scaly bane of her existence once and for all.

it’s true. it feels ‘delicious’ to scrape your fingernails on the patches, but having made meditation a part of my life since 2014 has contributed so much to my sellf-awareness and overall wellness. it taught me to be mindful of every tiny discomfort i feel within my body, including itchiness. i’ve learned to locate it and let it pass. i’ve also encountered many useful tips over the years that have helped.

the thing is, you also need to make time and space for healing. i had been really close to “immaculate” skin again in may, but because i’d been traveling and had started to feel increasing amounts of stress at work, it hadn’t felt like i was in the physical or mental space for recovery. something had to give and i decided what that was. i finally left my job that i enjoyed (with no plan), because i realised that i had allowed it to wear me down to the point of mental and physical exhaustion.

at this moment, the worst of the rash, is a patch on the left side of my neck, right beneath my ear:

if i were still my teenage self, i’d be hiding myself in scarves or oversized hoodies (yes — even in this weather), but i’m a thirty-year old who could care less: i wear garments that expose my neck so that anything i’ve slathered on it can ‘breathe’. it is what it is. to moisturise the patch, i alternate between argan oil, natural baby lotions and this life-saving balm made out of kombucha that i recently discovered. here are some of the creams in my collection (i feel like the little mermaid’s ariel, writing that):

2018-11-26 02.10.13

from left to right and top to bottom: Suu Balm Kids Moisturiser, Physiogel‘s Relief Cream, DermAid, Rosken’s Sensitive Skin Cream, SkinPure‘s Organic Wonder Cream, E45 Cream, Craft & Culture’s Kombucha Balm, Sudocrem, Cherub Rubs’ Skin Soothe, Cherub Rubs‘ Skin Balm, Human + Kind‘s Family Remedy Cream and Ania‘s Pure Argan Oil.

i have one week left till my new job, and aside from meditating, sleeping and resting, the bulk of energy and time i have, i have chosen to spend it devouring as many books, television shows and films that i can. it’s been a lovely staycation, spent mostly in yishun.

the lessons i’ve learned from all this is:

i.   nothing, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING is worth more than your physical or mental health.
ii.   an unshakeable faith or trust in the universe goes hand in hand with trust in yourself.
iii.   if all the creams in the world aren’t helping your skin anymore, it’s probably time to try something new that you’d been reluctant to do: that plant-based / eczema diet, perhaps?3
iv.   sometimes, it may seem impossible to make difficult life choices, but ultimately, when you find yourself exhausted or in a negative feedback loop, take a moment to acknowledge it, accept it and move forward — you will thank yourself soon enough.


  1. atopic dermatitis to be exact, and also keratosis pilaris

  2. read Top 10 Eczema Triggers 

  3. although, i’m aware that there has been little research done on elimination diets in adults. 

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THE RHYTHM IS A HAPPY PLACE

 Saturday, 17 March, 2018 @ 19:47 

yo

i live with skin allergies and eczema so it was always inaccurate to describe my skin as smooth or “like butter”. this picture was probably one of the last times when it was close to being those things. right now, it’s at its worst due to a combination of singapore’s temperamental weather, stray cat hair and stress from work. as i run my fingers across the patches of skin that are slowly healing, i remember when my grandmother (she’s a lovely woman who means well), once stroked my arms and while caressing it, she had chided and lamented: how could any man love you with your skin like this?

it was funny then, and still funny now. why is it that love is oft associated with the superficial, and not that which is unseen and beneath the surface of things? and as a child, when you’re surrounded by this attitude, it tends to stick to you. words used to cut me so deeply. i let them carry so much weight and power over me. i have many memories of people not seeing what i had wholeheartedly believed was what was the most important to possess: a heart that hoped to fit everything inside it. there’s an entry in my garfield diary where someone told my twelve-year-old self that my glasses made me look ugly.

but beauty is, in the eye of the beholder1. we each, are, the beholder of beauty. but the measure of beauty that tends to perpetuate and is taught to us, prefers perfection over essence. this is why i believe in the love, compassion and generosity of music and sound. the rhythm never judges you or your body. whatever the genre, or style, the beat means no harm. you’re either with it and in it, or tuned out and without it. and all it wants is for you to be moved to move.

i had bgirl2 dreams in university — i have classmates that can tell you more about this. truth is, i never really went out of my way to share my love for dance until last year. then last week, i received some news that made me feel like i’ve won some sort of lifetime achievement award related to dance. it makes me so happy and shy, like someone in love — so all i’m going to say is, it’s an honour kilo lounge. i love you!

the rhythm is beyond your skin and your body, it is a happy place that can be found by every one of us, so we can dance and be absurd together.


  1. the earlier citation of this saying is attributed to a woman, and i’m not surprised. 

  2. https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=bgirl 

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“FURREAL” FRIENDS

 Sunday, 4 February, 2018 @ 18:32 

To desire friendship is a great fault. Friendship should be a gratuitous joy like those afforded by art or life. We must refuse it so that we may be worthy to receive it; it is of the order of grace. It is one of those things which are added unto us. Every dream of friendship deserves to be shattered… Friendship is not to be sought, not to be dreamed, not to be desired; it is to be exercised (it is a virtue) — Simone Weil

most third culture kids don’t understand forever. we prepare ourselves for change and understand the inevitable end of things. we’re never in one place long enough to know about commitment, and it’s even more difficult to understand if you have a non-traditional family like i had. my early friendships in grade school were my first encounters with heartbreak. i quickly learned that attention is a currency of friendship and forever is a commitment you have to choose to make. sometimes, it isn’t reciprocated, and you’ll just have to deal with that.

such is the reality for children of unorthodox upbringing and family backgrounds: we grow up with lofty ideals and make our own way in the world, mostly by trial and error. with very little guidance, we grow up with a tough exterior, but inside, we’re fluffy and full of air. we need to be shown what love looks and feels like, because we’re not as sure as others are about it.

after moving to manila in my mid-teens, i thought i’d end up a loner, always flitting from one group to the next. but i found myself thrust into the company of a very mixed group in my all-girls high school — and we found comfort in each other’s weirdness.

through the years, it has been these friends and the friends i’ve made and kept since, who have taught me most about commitment. about love. about forever. through weight loss and weight gain, from petty misunderstandings and bad teeth, to being dolled up and sweating it out in stretched a hummer or being broke in hong kong…i’m grateful for every single one of my friends who have stuck around. with the challenge of distance and the millions of distractions we face daily, the bonds we’ve kept, unmade and strengthened through the years, is without a doubt my super power.

this is why when i first tried my luck on dating apps, i included the photograph featured a few posts prior, where i’m doing a kind of power pose and am surrounded by my beautiful friends in a random alleyway in hong kong. and though a freak-geek can be strong on her own, amidst a pack of freaks and geeks — she’s unstoppable. i’m not on any of the dating apps anymore.

while it definitely works for some, it really isn’t for everyone; it wasn’t for me. i’ve learned that the least and easiest one can be is a lover, while the most difficult, is a friend.

here’s to friends1 and friendships! this playlist is a bit different from the mixtape (click on the gif!).


  1. now streaming on netflix! 

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THINKING SMALL WILL KILL US ALL

 Monday, 15 January, 2018 @ 8:39 

i’m bedridden today and using this rare pocket of time with my thoughts to reflect on current affairs, especially the ones in the news: about racism, the gender pay gap and sexual misconduct/assault cases in hollywood, because — as some friends know, i’ve concerned myself with these issues based on personal experiences. but i have learned to grow with these. to live and let go, instead of letting it break and reduce me to something small. i was very lucky to be mentored and guided by someone who was so open and loving to people that she led a kind and compassionate example to my then budding feminist/human rights activist-undergraduate-being. she asked my male classmates questions, without condemning them or judging them for their thoughts and opinions. she listened, paid attention and gave them space.

so that openness has always been where i come from in these matters. it’s not like i have never been triggered or hurt by some of these conversations —friends have used my passion to push my buttons when we play table top games—and i still get riled up in some situations. but i have been very lucky that these same friends and many friends both old and new, of all genders, are willing to have compassionate conversations about these issues.

i’m of the camp that feels that, it’s all semantics. i can label myself (one of the ‘ists’) to give you an idea of who i am, but this is reductive and easy to get attached to. these labels, are very small things which we tend to use as a crutch. because life is scary. the universe is so vast (and most of it remains unknown). but so am i and so are you. we can conquer our fears by taking baby steps in the vastness. one of my fears was being part of this conversation so publicly. i conquer this fear by finding my voice and saying: i am1. and that i love and i care. i care about humanity. i’m not ashamed to say that.

in this big space, we must continue to show compassion to every side of any given situation. it’s so easy to point fingers and go OMG he’s bad / she’s bad because of x and therefore we should y, when it’s this very behaviour and oversimplification of issues — how we reduce them to matters of the mind, instead of addressing them as matters of the heart too— is part of the reason why humanity continues to be in this mess. we’re not listening. we’re not reaching out to people. we ruthlessly tear things apart and take situations and words out of context. we go in for the kill2 without asking ourselves, do i need to kill? must i? what does this particular situation require of me or us, morally? all reactions are appropriate, but what is the most appropriate action?

i’ve mentioned semantics so words are words, but history and knowledge play an important part in all this. we cannot deny that things happened. sometime along the road of humanity’s story, there were groups of people who thought they could wield power and privilege and keep it all amongst themselves forever, when each and every one of us living should be and could’ve been sharing it all this time3. before we started to hurt each other, we were surviving together. that’s what we used to do — in small pockets, in little groups, in tiny tribes. then tribes melded and grew, mindsets changed, communities became unmanageable, while quietly, our individual egos grew. selfishness ate into our greater consciousness and conscientiousness. our mirror neurons4 grew rusty. groups of people were oppressed by other groups of people and here we are in 2018: angry and in varying degrees of “woke-ness”, on the internet, where we are further dehumanised.

these aforementioned people in history— those who changed things for humanity—are to be remembered. everyone and everything, from the oppressors to the oppressed. we must acknowledge they existed. that they, all, each and every one, felt pain. but whether the current issues are related to nationality, race, religion or gender—we should be learning and growing, in our hearts as well as our minds — just as we have been. we must forget our selfishness. we must abandon hatred and bigotry (funny that that word contains “big”, but connotes and denotes smallness). we must leave behind this smallness, and move forward with the mindset of surviving together once more. let’s think and feel outwardly. we must think and feel big. we must choose to. there is more than enough space.

now that we are having these conversations about institutionalised ills and evils, now that #timesup — we must not forget compassion. i understand the feeling of just having woken up to these realities and it’s like a flood. a tsunami. it’s easy to drown in all of it instead of trying to swim, to stay afloat, to build and then sail the boat (wow i rhymed!). we’re all allowed to feel whatever it is we feel, to be overwhelmed and to be angry, but to wallow in these feelings, to be divided even more than we are, filled with hatred and anger in our hearts… that, is unsustainable. thinking small will kill us all.

(i guess i love my rhymes— like i love my humans— in the billions and diverse af. ok ok, enough.)


  1. check out tom shadyac’s documentary of the same title 

  2. an idiom 

  3. i didn’t want to get into the specifics, you get the idea. 

  4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mirror_neuron 

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FEEL IT ALL

 Sunday, 7 January, 2018 @ 13:15 

Cat version 2018

Every New Year’s Eve you ask the same question: Why aren’t you doing more of what you love? And every year it’s the same answer.

It’s because you’re scared.

Some time in the last week, I greeted someone I cared about with the line, “Happy New Fears”, but I look at it now and think: “Eh”. That’s not necessarily accurate or anywhere near what’s true. Your fears may take a different shape, but their essence is the same. No matter their form, they are simply what stop you from experiencing the fullness of life, and choosing what’s practical instead of what’s possible. They are what hold you back from love —all its terrors and indescribable joys.

Recalling a powerful imperative from the seemingly ancient blogging platform Livejournal, and I think it was Kathy Gener’s personal mantra for a while… I choose life. And to add to that, I choose to feel it all and to write as much of it down as I can. Because otherwise, ‘what a waste’!

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LET THE RIGHT ONES IN

 Saturday, 14 October, 2017 @ 17:21 

What was once a painful experience, is now something I can face and look at with love.

I’ve learned that by sitting with the pain, by going through all the emotions that I felt in relation to it, from resentment to anger to sadness, and then to calm when I had finally let it go… It’s allowed me some space and to detach from drama.

Whomever we were together, isn’t me or isn’t my former partner anymore. Whatever happened, happened. It’s not here in the present moment.

Whereas I used to feel so much negativity, I breathe and am at ease with where I am right now. There is a fierce hope that he is happy and loving kindly, but there is awareness that I had and still have no control or influence over him, so I can only send my love and kindness his way.

If the pain and the difficulties that arose towards the end of our relationship come to mind, I shift my attention to the present, on the impermanence of things and the spaciousness of the heart.

There is always love to give. Here’s to love, to letting go, and to letting the right ones in.

The following playlist I dedicate to you, wherever you are.

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WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOUR HEART’S BEEN HACKED

 Saturday, 1 October, 2016 @ 8:06 

Singapore rocks

Keeping quiet is either a skill or a virtue. In some contexts it is neither. In our world of noise, Quiet is an endangered thing and often, exalted. There are particular instances however when quiet simply means an injustice has passed unchecked. As someone who works in awareness-raising and advocacy, I have come to accept that I have always been in the right place to speak up about this issue and not at all because of my profession. It is simply that I don’t want anyone else to feel as I have and that, is a valid enough reason.

I had not written much else about my last relationship partly because I didn’t feel secure enough to do so. If I wasn’t sure about where I stood, why bother sharing my story? Why bother making myself even more vulnerable with many fingers pointing back at me? Who wants more scrutiny? If you asked me to talk about this same issue early last year, I would have stared at you bewildered, shaking my head profusely. What issue? I wouldn’t have known what you were talking about. And if you knew me before this happened that would have been the first sign that something was amiss.

baby

Baby Zen

My life’s mission is to be very self-aware — as a geek and bookworm, self-awareness was one of those things I realised helped you move past your own baggage so you can tune in and connect with other people. My self-awareness could also have been a response to my younger self’s sensitivity to the harsh criticisms of family members: I had become so used to hearing relatives talk about me as if I wasn’t in the room that I learned to listen to what they had to say objectively. I learned to remove myself from the emotional pain their talks could have inflicted. Let’s call this “Baby Zen”.

What is the opposite of narcissism? A dictionary suggests the word I am looking for is ‘self-annihilation’, but the word I am looking for is not a loss of self as much as it is an enjoyment of scrutinising one’s flaws.  It is something more akin to self-deprecation — but with dignity. I even liked reading any criticisms my teachers had to say in my report cards. One that stuck to memory was how a teacher had described me as a ‘domineering child’.

Domineering. This word used to make me giggle. The word I would use to describe myself now is strong, or even self-possessed. For most of my last relationship, both of those words were removed from my vocabulary. I didn’t feel strong and rarely felt self-possessed. I was dispossessed. Who was I? Who was I becoming? A part of me stopped to care. That’s when you know something has to change, when someone who is normally so energised by the magic of life, they are no longer shaken awake by its throes, but is instead removed from any feeling whatsoever, dulled into a state of apathy.

I describe emotional abuse as insidious because there is no other word that accurately describes it. Merriam-Webster’s definition is, “causing harm in a way that is gradual or not easily noticed.” Other definitions include:

a) awaiting a chance to entrap
b) harmful but enticing : seductive
c) having a gradual and cumulative effect : subtle d) of a disease : developing so gradually as to be well established before becoming apparent

All the above is true.

You won’t know the power of a person’s emotions and words over another unless you feel it for yourself: How your chest tightens at the sight or sound of their name. How your stomach knots and sloshes; your mouth almost always feels like a desert. There are parts of you that flinch in situations related to the other person. Often, there is a lump in your throat the size of an island and you feel like you are on the verge of a panic attack. Occasionally, there is fear alongside uncertainty. All of it is gradual. All of it accumulates to a harmful, but enticing state of being. A romantic martyrdom.

I don’t want any praise for speaking up about this. I don’t want revenge either. I don’t want any of my friends to defame or demean my former partner. For those of you who know him: Don’t stop being there for him. He needs you most right now. He probably doesn’t understand why I needed to cut him off. I can imagine that he still doesn’t understand how much he has hurt me in the past, and with his recent messages and actions — how he can continue to do so in a text message the size of a candy wrapper.

You may be of the “Love Language” that believes it is enough to shower a person with all the gifts in the world, but how you treat them, how you respect them, and how you speak to them, these are the less conscious ways of showing how you love or care. Those are also the things that stick; the psychological imprint of these are what you take to your grave.

I hope that others become more aware of how difficult emotionally abusive relationships are. Unlike physical abuse, the damage happens under the skin and straight into the heart of a person. Their spirit and their soul is made vulnerable. I like to call it “heart hacking”, because just like a computer, before any malicious attack, the person was a fully-functioning and beautifully complex system. Then they are changed into a dysfunctional, diminished version of themselves.

I’ll stop the analogy here because one website writes that “once a computer has been compromised, it can never be fully trusted again”. And in spite of being hacked, I believe that human beings are much more resilient than that. I am more resilient than that.

This is what happens when your heart is hacked: A person burrows themselves inside you, so deep into your psyche that you don’t even recognise the malice or harm that they can and will cause. It takes more than self-awareness to undo this heart-hacking. It takes the support of friends, family and people who care about you enough to make you see what you don’t see. Can’t see. Don’t want to see. Refuse to see.

Just some of the beautiful people who brought me back to life

Just some of the beautiful people who brought me back to life

This was meant as a counter-measure for possible heart-hacking in the future. This is data so you can make better decisions next time, or at the very least, help someone else make better decisions.

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A RAINBOW ZEBRA BEGINS THE YEAR

 Thursday, 1 January, 2015 @ 19:26 

I am writing this in the last hours before the second day of the new year. I feel as though I am being chased by a deadline, despite officially being on holiday. This is likely because I have had to take some time in the past week to check my work e-mail. I also purchased this domain a few months ago and haven’t had (or hadn’t tried to make) time to write anything for it (let alone my private blog/journal). Too unfocused. Too “busy”. I have been meaning to maintain this website alongside my day job, something to keep my creative fire alive.

A thought kept scraping my insides at the end of December: if I do not do something for it today, then when will I ever?

I wrote all of this on the way to a new place. The white glow diffused by the mobile device I used to write on, was almost blinding against the darkness, as the van sped northward from Bangkok towards our destination: Chiang Mai. Apart from the intermittent presence of the street lamps and car lights, everything else was cloaked in an opaque grey-blue. The eyes could barely see anything, but the mind (lazily) wanted to describe it as beautiful anyway. Some of our travel companions had fallen asleep, and anyone awake was glued to their own virtual trap. Thankfully, despite the driver’s silence, you could feel an alertness in the way he maneuvered the van on the bumpy road. This seemed to pacify us into two different states—either in silent contemplation, or deep slumber.

Earlier in the evening we made a brief stop at a city called Diamond Wall and had a light supper, which for me, was Thai-style wanton noodles and corn milk (yes, corn milk—there’s a first time for everything.) Then my partner and I decided to walk toward the 7-11 to find some chewing gum. Immediately distracted by the newness of the variety available, I overlooked a stray dog curled up on the floor near the magazine stand. It would have taken my visually-impaired self much longer to spot him there, but my perfect-sighted and equally dog-obsessed partner called my attention to it.

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The stray was, sadly, shooed out of the store before we reached the cash register. I followed him outside and observed that despite being expelled from the premises, it was vigilant and rooted itself just outside the entrance, waiting for a chance to sneak back in.

This road trip officially began in Bangkok, where I felt the truth behind the oft-remarked kindness of Thai people come to life, and tattooed itself to my memory. My partner, Nikolas and I traveled here to spend New Year’s Eve with our friends, Picha and Thom and for a reprieve from the stresses of life in a city like Singapore. We spent our New Year’s Eve with our friends at a quaintly-themed restaurant ‘town’ called Chocolate Ville. Kitschy, yet charming, after our festivities, we agreed it was a perfect close to the year. We enjoyed a feast of Thai and ‘western’ cuisine, toasted to each others health and happiness for 2015 and even caught a fireworks display (Picha didn’t think they would organise anything special at Chocolate Ville, so despite the expected feature to most NYE celebrations—it was a surprise to us).

After all that fun I could not help but add to the festivities by purchasing a helium-filled balloon. I had originally requested for a cartoony white pegasus, which I had seen floating about in the venue, but as you know things get lost in translation and I ended up with a stoned-looking smiling rainbow zebra instead. It was with us throughout our meal and I brought it along on our cab ride back to our hotel. It spent the night hovering above our heads as the booze sloshed in our system and knocked us out for the last time in 2014.

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This afternoon (on New Year’s day) after some breakfast, we packed for a late check out and I tied the zebra to a loop on my backpack. We made our way to the hotel lobby and when I realized I had not tied it securely to my bag, I held on to it as we stepped off the elevator. I had a difficult time wheeling my suitcase and holding to the balloon. Then, my grip suddenly loosened, and within seconds, the zebra found itself pressed against the high ceilings of the hotel lobby with me gaping after it in horror. A doorman had seen what happened and having witnessed my ashen face, assured me, in broken English, that he would try to help.

Zebra got stuck

The business of checking out was a quick one, so we had time to order a latte as we waited for my zebra to be rescued and also for Picha to pick us up for our road trip. Nikolas and I continued to stare at the ceiling, in awe of my carelessness and grabbed at the photographic opportunity (as did some of the guests hanging around the lobby). Many minutes passed and I was ready to abandon Rainbow Zeb and leave him till he deflated. I could not imagine how anyone could help bring him down. I assumed the staff would forget or simply choose to ignore my distress. Note: anyone who is short will know this but being small allows me to stay in an incubated state of “cute”, but at twenty-six, I was certain I had finally run out of luck. After what felt like thirty minutes, though it could not have been more than five or ten, four men emerged from a hidden door in the wall with PVC pipes and some tape. They stuck the two very long pipes together and wrapped sticky tape at its very end.

Part 1 of The Rescue

One man then climbed on the luggage trolly as two held it steady on either side. The other two supervised and provided instructions. It was both comical and inexplicably heartwarming how this relatively large group of men (a total of seven, towards the end three more men came out with a tall ladder) had taken the task of retrieving my balloon so seriously. And yet, they did.

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I am still in awe that this actually happened, and it reminded me that all it takes is one person with a moral compass and steady conviction to gather a group to work together to do this kind albeit small thing for a stranger and her weird-looking balloon. Or maybe, reality is, it was a fancy hotel with high standards and they wanted my ugly balloon out of there.

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