defragment.me

Depressed, for happiness

I think there is a huge misconception of depressed people. People think depressives are quiet, teary, incapable of humour, mopey all the time. Not many people believe I am clinically depressed, because if you were to meet me, I am as jovial and positive as a person can get. Do you know Robin Williams has/had depression too? Do you know Catherine Zeta Jones is bipolar? Do you know Abraham Lincoln was chronically depressed, even when he was the President of the United States of America?

I was a bit hesitant coming out publicly about my depression, because I was fearful it would make people think I was incapable of functioning. I just don't function the typical way people do. I get tired all the time, I find it hard to concentrate, I do slip into uncontrollable crying episodes, but when I am remotely well, I would like to think I am actually more productive than the average person.

Some days I feel fine, some days I can't even lift a finger. Recently it has gotten to a point whereby I was worried if I didn't do anything about it, it would eventually come to a point when I am truly incapable of functioning. It hasn't gotten there yet, but close. The days of feeling fine became far and few in between.

After a month of being on anti-depressants, I am glad to tell you that I am feeling a lot better, though still far from being well. I am also seeing my family sinseh to boost my general health, because altering your brain chemistry can only do so much. If your body is sluggish, it is just a matter of time that chronic health problems will surface no matter what western medication you can take. Recovering takes a lot of effort, patience and money. I read a depression memoir of this writer who had to run tens of kilometres everyday, practice yoga, take dozens of supplements PLUS her cocktail of anti-depressants, *just* not to feel like killing herself. She faces judgement everyday, even from a spa therapist, who thinks taking medicine is wrong and a few massages will do the trick.

I have learnt the hard way that in order to get better, it is a holistic effort. Just doing one thing alone is not going to help.

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I have been thinking and reflecting. I have been coping with ups and downs of my moods all my life, I simply thought it was my personality for being emotional and melancholic. Until my shrink told me a medical term for it. I have been through dark periods of my life when I was literally suicidal, but I naively thought that was a thing of the past.

For the past four years ever since I turned self-employed, I have been living the life I have always wanted to lead. I was still coping with my mood swings, but I assumed that was just part of me. Until the past year, for some reason, I started getting physically sick a lot. By a lot, I mean like every month, which became a weekly thing, and then it became alternate days. How sick? I get migraines which makes me want to bang my head against the wall, I get nausea as part of the migraine, I get chest pains and of course horrible 2-week flus at some intervals.

It was affecting my work, my life and I didn't like it a single bit.

For some reason. For what reason?

Honestly till now, I have no idea. Is it because of overwork? Poor diet? No exercise? Pursuing the wrong kind of work? Wrong motivation for work? Because I wasn't living out my purpose? But what is my purpose? Am I living in the wrong country? Is Singapore energetically wrong for me? Because I have dozens of bills to pay? Perhaps the stress of having to break even every month as an independent worker? Society getting too materialistic? War for senseless reasons? The rental market in Singapore getting crazy?

I don't feel alive anymore and I hate it. I am actually getting sick and depressed because I want so desperately to be happy.

How can I truly be happy? It is about being contented? But does being contented mean I shouldn't push myself to be the change that I want?

What truly makes me happy?

Initially, I thought I was over-working myself. So I stopped, took on less work. Then, I thought, maybe I wasn't working enough on projects that I care about. I am interested in social change, so I started to meet more like-minded people, started to churn out ideas with them, how can we actually have sustainable online initiatives for social change? I wanted to use my skills to facilitate change. I built connections.sg, which in its current incarnation is not even close to 10% of my original ideal, there were a few more sites in the pipeline that I hooked up with a few precious like-minded people to work with – all for the sake of building the community and sharing knowledge.

I was very tired, but each time I meet someone who shares the same ideals, I feel inspired and alive. I thought I was on the right path. Do more of this and my sanity/health would slowly return back to me.

One day, I imploded.

Nothing exactly happened, but something in me just clicked and I was like having a blue screen of death in my brain and I was no longer able to reboot myself.

I was confused. Frustrated. Angry. Upset. Annoyed. Heart-broken. I felt cheated. I looked up above (yup despite all my feelings I still believe in a religion-less God), I asked, why? All I did was to follow my heart and do what I thought was right. Instead of getting better, I got worse.

I am sick and tired of fighting a battle all the time. What is it I have to do exactly to be happy? If happiness was too much to ask for, or if I didn't recognise happiness in its purest form, then how about letting me have some proper health instead? Praying every morning I didn't wake up with a migraine is not exactly my version of health.

I lost all my drive. I looked at books that I bought, on topics I used to love so much and I felt dead. I tried watching some movies and I felt dead. I used to love watching hongkong cantonese dramas and I didn't feel like it. I turned to watching sitcoms and they didn't make me laugh like they used to.

Crying when you're depressed is a good sign. At least it shows you still have emotions and you care about how you feel. When you reach the point whereby you cannot even cry, that is the time to be worried. Or at least I was. I am a crybaby and I don't even feel remotely sad. I just felt dead.

I wondered how I was going to pay my bills if I continued waking up with a migraine everyday. Then I decided that I couldn't care less, because if I continued my migraine pattern, I was as good as dead. Bills really don't matter when you would rather die. I thought about all the projects I was going to work on, the ones I was so excited about, and I felt guilty abandoning them. Then I realised what's the point when at this rate I was not going to be alive anymore? Obviously a dead person cannot effect change no matter how much guilt I feel. I forced myself to work an hour or so on my client's projects, because I'll rather be dead than to let my clients down, but I was going through the motions. I could technically still work for my work depends on a lot of logic and reasoning which I still possessed, but I couldn't do it for more than a hour at one go without feeling my brain was going to burst into flames any second.

I felt a lot of guilt for feeling dead even though I had tons of reasons to feel alive for. There are people starving to death for god's sake. But no matter how much I tried to reason with myself, I still felt dead.

That's what depression is about I guess. When your brain decides to stop transporting chemicals correctly, whether you have reasons to live or if you're rich or famous, you're incapable of feeling happiness.

What exactly did I do for my brain to break down in such spectacular fashion? I felt cheated because to me, I have tried my darnest to live a good life. I didn't know what else I could do. It is not as if I just lived like a slob or I didn't try hard enough. I felt like I have given my all and that was not good enough. And if that is not good enough, what else can I give? I might as well be dead.

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Today, I feel much better with the anti-depressants, the sinseh medicine, plus some supplements I take. I exercise more and I try not to work too much. It has only been weeks since I felt like I was going to die. I still think a lot. I still wonder what exactly went wrong.

I realised that it could possibly be I was trying too hard to fix things. To be better. Happier. Feel more alive. My brain shutting down was not because of the events that transpired for the past few months. It was accumulative for years. Perhaps there wasn't an exact reason what was wrong. It was a cumulation of choices I have made. Do I regret making those choices? No. I believe I made those for a reason. I still retain faith that we all learn from mistakes and failures.

I tried too hard to change myself. So that I can be the change that I want. But sometimes everyone of us has our own time and space to grow. Perhaps you may think I am making excuses for myself. That's fine. I think it is okay to be judged by others because everyone has their own beliefs and opinions. But it is not okay to be your own worst enemy.

It is okay to fail. I don't know why we're all racing against some invisible timeline. It is as though if by 30 we don't achieve 'reasonable success', we're condemned for life. But why? How many successful people now have picked themselves through multiple failures? Me trying too hard not to fail, was ironically the reason why I failed. If I have gone more with the flow, trusted my own feelings and intuition, instead of always trying to do 'the right thing', perhaps things could be better. Perhaps. I wouldn't know unless I lived through it. And even if I lived through it, it may not be the right way for everybody. Because all of us are unique. We have our own stories to tell. Your way to success does not make mine.

Life should be enjoyable no matter the circumstances. I mean, I have read a memoir of someone who was imprisoned at a Nazi camp during world war II, lost all his family, saw plenty of people being tortured and dying, and yet he found the strength and meaning to be happy.

Not everybody has to be an activist or a change-maker. If you're into past-life regression like me, you may learn that not everyone is incarnated to lead purposeful lives. Some of us take uneventful lives in between for a break. There should not be judgement.

I comfort myself that authors like J.K. Rowling and Paulo Coelho went through tons of hardship before they became famous at 40. I remain hopeful, not to be famous, but to find something that I truly care about and do. Is it social change? I don't know. I am not sure if I am strong enough. Maybe it is not time yet. Maybe it could be in the next few months. Who would know? Maybe I would only find my calling when I am 60. So be it. What's with the obsession with age anyway?

I look at the people around me and I feel useless. Why can people around me work 20 hour days, do 20 things at the same time and still remain sane? I know of people who work two jobs and still find time to do social work. But I have to understand I am not them.

I believe I have the right intentions and heart, but perhaps I need more time to find the right balance between staying sane and trying to push myself to my limits. I have experienced burnout so many times that I think there is something wrong with me. But maybe not. Maybe this is my life I was meant to lead. Maybe I will never be well, and I could experience burnouts frequently for the rest of my life. So what?

Maybe this is me living my purpose. Being so sick that I have to write and share about it. I don't know. It doesn't matter I guess. As long as I learn to enjoy the process.

We cannot change the hand we're dealt with, but we can choose how we can play the cards. All the best.

Why I need to find myself

I remember this time around last year, I fell into a drain.

I remember laughing at myself, and I gave myself a promise that I will, finally commence on my journey.

A journey I’ve always felt compelled to make – a journey to find myself.

Somehow, the practicalities of life took over. I had to move residences, rush deadlines because of the interruptions faced while moving, and then cope with all the repercussions. The unsettled environment, the fatigue, the financial drain.

I should have gone anyway, and simply trust that everything will work out the way it is meant to be.

I didn’t. I couldn’t find the strength.

On the other hand, my work was slowly getting recognised, and I was worried if I didn’t build on it I would lose all the momentum I worked so hard to gain.

Somehow, I fell back into the usual pattern – trying to be happy living life like how others do – working all the time, trying to build some financial security that would make me feel safe enough to venture forward, some day.

I spent the entire second half of last year trying to re-settle, pad my finances again, thinking that this year, would be the year I would finally commence on my journey.

Crisis

Life almost never works according to plan (at least for mine), so it didn’t really surprise me when something happened at the turn of this year. I have to move again, out of a place I thought I would occupy for the next four years.

Faced with the prospect of moving in this property climate (read unaffordable rental), I was contemplating all sorts of ideas that I would never consider in the right frame of mind, stuff like going back into employment for a stable income.

At the same time, I was going through an emotional crisis (which I didn’t realise until a month passed by) because whatever that happened involved close family members and it brought back painful childhood memories that I thought I had gotten over for a long time.

Who would have thought that an adult almost reaching her thirties will still be so haunted by the past?

Denial

My career was going well and I was trying really hard to keep everything going. The truth was that I was so affected emotionally and stressed out with my financial situation that I felt like I was struggling to match the high expectations I have put in myself. It was like a vicious cycle, I needed my work to ease my financial worries, but I wasn’t producing the quality I wanted, that in turn gave me tremendous frustration and stress and I was just slowly drowning.

My soul was slowly dying. And I could feel it.

It took me a while to get out of denial. I kept telling myself that I will be okay, it was just temporary, I was going to get out of it. I had this opportunity to work with people I really respected and I was getting paid significantly well. With so much uncertainty financially, I did whatever I could to hang on.

You know how I got out of this self-denial?

I literally crumbled. Until I thought I was losing my self.

And it all led me to think. If I was going to lose myself, what would financial security mean to me? All the good work that I was doing would mean nothing, even if one day I could afford my own house to stay in would mean nothing. I was just in tears all the time, I could no longer pull myself up and I can no longer smile. I was a mess and my partner bore the brunt of it. I was getting very sick, physically. I could not get out of bed and I could not breathe.

Only then, I knew what was important to me.

My Self.

Why

Many people don’t understand why am I always seem to be in some form of self-torture, but that’s because they don’t understand what is going on in my mind or in my heart. I just don’t pursue the same things most people seem to enjoy pursuing. The money, the ambitions, the assets. Sometimes I wish that I was mercenary, at least life would be simpler in some ways, wouldn’t it?

I am constantly in search of answers. Why am I here? Who am I? I’ve been asking myself these questions ever since I was a toddler. Sometimes I wake up and I feel bemused to be here. I never felt like I belonged here. I never found the meaning in growing through childhood, scoring straight As, getting a good job, getting married, having children, growing old and dying. It was like, all these doesn’t interest me so I may as well skip everything and just go straight to my death.

Over the past few years I’ve been evolving spiritually, in my own ways, and that made me feel a lot better. It is a trial and error process but to me, at least I was trying.

I somehow stopped trying or remembering to try getting so caught up in the worries and practicalities of life. I was just working all the time, trying to rebuild my sense of security. I've lost sight if what I truly wanted to do.

On hindsight, whatever that happened at the turn of the year was needed to give me a huge shove out of my comfort zone and my delusion. I was caught up in the whole ‘wanting to build a comfortable life for myself and my partner’ thing.

Falling apart was the best thing that could ever have happened to me.

I was falling out of love with my work, I started to be resentful, I was falling sick. I couldn't even love my partner anymore. How could I when I couldn't even love myself?

I need to do what I had to do one year ago. Find myself. Follow my heart. Expose myself to different things. Learn. Be touched by people's lives. Find the opportunities to touch people's lives. Feel excitement again.

In short. Live.

I don’t know what I am going to do next, all I know is I need to tie up some loose ends in terms of work, and go on my journey. I don’t know what is going to happen, or if I am going to end up penniless, but I just know that this is what I have to do. I don’t have much of a choice because my soul would wither otherwise.

Travel

Travel, travel, travel, were all the words that were popping up in my mind. Go somewhere, find yourself, I hear my heart speaking.

So, when I visited a channeler (yes, go on, roll your eyes ;p) this morning, when I was barely into my first question and was just about to ask her about my intention to travel, she was already mid-way through her sentence about me needing to travel and rebuild my energy. I have grown out of this place she says. I will find what I am going to do next on my travels. (I may elaborate about my visit in another post, it was definitely interesting and positive.)

How come I’m not surprised. :)

And how come it took me so long.

I already knew, didn't I?

I am not going to let myself fall back into the same old pattern again. I am just going to go. I look back at my twenties and I'm thinking why did I not do much more when I had no financial commitments and less health problems?

In roughly a decade's time, when I am 40, I am going to look back at my thirties and be really proud of myself.

Living life without limits

"Now is the time to integrate with kindred spirits while continuing to leave internal and external limiting factors behind."

Quoted from The Aquarius-Leo Full Moon of January 2010 - Creativity Crystallizing in Forms of Power by Robert Wilkinson.

Astrology works in funny ways (No it is really not the monthly column you read in newspapers). I was just having this whole thought process about the limiting beliefs I have in my life for the past few days, and this article cropped up in my feed. Regardless of whether the astrological transits influenced me or not, I thought the above quote aptly summed up what I feel now, and will probably be the theme for my 2010.

Moving forward

I wanted to write my customary New Year's resolutions post quite a while ago, but I did not really have any specific resolutions. Not because there wasn't anything to improve on, quite the opposite actually. I think I am on the brink of a crucial transition phase in my life, and mere words will not be enough to express how I feel.

The great fear of moving backwards always seem to stop me from moving forward. I cannot help but feeling that the best solution is not to move, stay in limbo, until I know the best way to move forward. But there's no "best way to move forward".  How do we determine what is the "best"? By basing on experiences of others?

I've always believed, from a young tender age, that the best way to live life is to live it spontaneously. Yet how many of us can truly be spontaneous? Not worry about bills? Even if we don't care about our own survival, what about our loved ones and whether we would be able to afford medical care for them if necessary?

Bad news can be catalysts for growth

A while ago I had some news which threatened my financial stability. All the plans that I've made for this coming year either has to be shelved, or I have to find some miraculous way of pulling it all together. Perhaps if it was in the past, I would have been crippled by the news. Devastated, and think that nothing in my life goes according to plan. The reality is, even the best laid plans can be thwarted. A dip in the economy, a war in some country, a natural disaster, tons of things can happen. We can only try our best.

I could have continued moping about my situation, which I did, for a short while – I think sometimes we have to reach the bottom in order to rise up. Problems can be solved by money are not problems. I sound frivolous by saying this, but look at little Charmaine, whose banner I put up on the right sidebar of this blog. We can garner all the donations for her expensive treatments, but her life is still in the hands of fate. We can only hope and pray for the best. Money cannot solve her problem, neither can money really solve Haiti's problems. Can money bring peace and stability to a nation? But that doesn't mean we stop giving or trying, because trying our best is better than not trying at all, isn't it?

We all have choices

Some of us are trying their best to deny this, but we all have choices. I used to hold a deterministic view of life, I believed that everything was pre-destined and we don't have a choice if we're destined to suffer. Somehow I was blessed because a series of events changed my views. I can choose to mope, or I can choose to be hopeful. If someone without limbs can lead such an inspiring life, why the rest of us who can walk, talk and eat, feel so aggrieved?

I have realised it is all about being able to exert control over your mind. Most of us allow the mind to rule us, to tell us we have to be richer, to do better, to be slimmer, whatever. I am blessed to know a few people who are not bounded by the restrictions of the mind or society, and these people are truly exceptional. They take risks, live life to the max, and are truly happy. You don't even need to know them to know they are happy. They exude happiness from their very core.

Wiring & beliefs

Being raised in a materialistic society in Singapore, (and it didn't help having a very critical mother), add my natural melancholic self to the equation, I seem to be wired to believe that I was destined to fail. I worry about anything and everything, and I worry what will happen in 50 years time. I worry about the future and problems that doesn't even exist. I think of the worst case scenario in every situation. It can be a good trait. It is always good to be prepared for the worst consequences, but not when you actually believe that the worst consequences are likely to happen all the time. Sometimes I think I actually will my problems into existence. Isn't this what they call a self-fulfilling prophecy?

So when I received the news that could threaten my financial stability, I went through the entire process of 'shit, I am never going to make it'.

This time, a switched flipped in my mind. If there's a 50/50 chance of failure and success, why do I seem to think that failure is the higher possibility? Why do I subscribe to the notion that I was not capable of rising up to the new occasion, that my situation will improve instead?

As I allowed myself to conjure hundreds of solutions to my problem, I realised that a solution was not impossible. It was just how much I was willing to do it. A difficult solution does not mean impossible.

Removing limits

Now, I am in the process of removing all my limiting beliefs. Whatever that held me back in the past. It is not easy, and some mornings I still wake up with slight panic attacks over what I am going to do about my problem, some nights I still get dreams of being late for exams. I seem to dream a lot of the past and it gives an accurate picture of my whole psyche. I am still wired to the past, still haunted by it. In reality my life is getting better every day but there is still this part of me that thinks that this is all too good to be true, and that it will end soon. I am like ending my own happiness even before even any sign of trouble. I am already planning for doomsday.

Nobody is threatening my happiness except myself. I cannot change external circumstances but I can learn how to cope with it positively. I wouldn't be in my 3rd year of my solo career now if I didn't choose to let go my fears. I would never have imagined having the life I have now when I was still working long hours under employment. Back then, I only wanted my life to improve slightly, to stop working nightmarish hours and I was even prepared to suffer and earn less money in exchange for having a life back. Now, I am almost living the life I have always dreamed of, I still have to work long hours and suffer the stress every now and then, but I have the freedom (to travel, to sleep in, to choose clients, etc), and that is most important to me.

Instead of fretting over the possible problems in the future, I rather spend my energy being the architect of my ideals. I want to dream of an improved life, not plan for the worse. Because even if unfortunate incidents do happen, there's usually nothing much you can do. Probably the very most, is to be properly insured and have some emergency funds. Even the deepest emergency fund you have in the world will not help much if life really decides to throw you a curveball.

Grateful for the unexpected

Now, looking back at the news I'd received, I am amazingly grateful for it. Like truly. I was in some form of a comfort zone and I needed it to push me out of it. If this did not happen, I would not have been spurred on to be creative about the ways I can change my lifestyle. Something that I thought that required a financial miracle is turning out to be seemingly possible – all because the situation called for extreme solutions, and one of the solutions do not seem so extreme after all...In fact, based on the current situation it is quite do-able within my means, and who is to say my means will not improve? At the very least, it is worth trying and hoping for.

If this did not happen, I would not even contemplate this particular solution (sorry for being ambiguous but it is too early to write about it), because my own limiting beliefs thought it was impossible.

Just trust

Some time last year, I was in a very bad shape and I let go. I let go of my worries, my fears, and any attachment to any outcomes. I told myself to trust the Universe and see what happens. It was very scary, but looking back now, whatever followed up actually turned out much, much, better than I could ever have imagined or expected.

This time, and for the rest of my life, I want to do the same. Just trust. Implicitly. As long as I can eat, talk and walk, whatever that comes along is a bonus and a blessing.

It will not be easy, but I really do want to stop being so affected by my past, whether is it memories, phobias, conditionings.

I want to re-wire myself.

I want to live my life without my self-imposed or society's limits.

"Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they would get. But if you work really hard and are kind, amazing things will happen." – Conan O'Brien

Therein lies the best career advice I could possibly dispense: just DO things. Chase after the things that interest you and make you happy. Stop acting like you have a set path, because you don't. No one does. You shouldn't be trying to check off the boxes of life; they aren't real and they were created by other people, not you. There is no explicit path I'm following, and I'm not walking in anyone else's footsteps. I'm making it up as I go.

Charlie Hoehn, via kottke.org

Quantum Touched

It is funny how life turns out sometimes. It is just not easy to see the humour in it when you're going through the process yourself.

A lot of stuff has been going on since I've last written over here. Most of it has been internal – within me. My intention when I first started this blog was to share how I had gotten over the darkest periods of my life. I have honestly believed that I have left those days behind me.
On the front, it seems like I have almost all I've ever wanted. I have a fairly stable solo business that enables me the freedom to work from anywhere I want (technically), I have a partner who loves me to bits and shares the same life goals, family issues that have plagued me during my youth were no longer existent.

I was not earning big bucks or that I can afford to relax and be stress free, but come on, it is not as if I have some life-threatening situation or like I am working to cover a mountain of debt.

But I just was not happy.

And I simply grew increasingly unhappy. So unhappy that I kept having mental and emotional meltdowns on a frequent basis. The scary part was that I do not even know why exactly am I so unhappy.

I still feel blessed and grateful for all that I have, but somehow, something is just wrong somewhere. Perhaps I knew what was wrong, but I was just in denial. I had written about what could be wrong on this blog before, but somehow I thought that I may just fix it with sheer bull will.

Burning out for a reason

I wrote a post a while ago after falling into a drain, that I had felt strongly about pursuing 'the other path'. I remember back then that I decided that I should let my current work take a backseat and go all out to pursue what they call 'lightwork'.

That decision somehow fizzled out because I had to relocate my residence plus I went to Tokyo and all the expenses did not allow me to feel like I can simply stop working and just be a student.

Apart from financial reasons, I thought I may be burnt out due to other reasons: overworking myself, undercharging, taking the wrong mix of work, etc.

I just did not think I can simply say goodbye to a career and passion that my life has revolved around for the past decade.

Design was something that could make or break me.

I was slowly growing in realisation that it may not be simply due to fatigue. I was not working during the ten days I spent in Tokyo and it did not help a single bit. I no longer feel excited about my projects and I have been feeling this way for the past six months to a year? Our emotions are a good indicator of whether we are fulfilling our purposes or if we are on the paths intended for us. My increasing bouts of depression started from gentle reminders to rude alarm bells – I am not doing what I should be doing. Whatever that I am doing now is obviously not making me happy. And I may have exhausted my best effort.

I feel like I am wasting precious time on earth. Getting eaten up slowly everyday.

Maybe my thought process has been too extreme. I did not need to think that one has to go in order for one to come in. I just need to acknowledge the other is growing in strength and I no longer loved the original one as much as I did. If we should spend time on things in order of how much we feel towards them, then it is simply put out to me that I have to spend more time on my 'other path' and let design work take a backseat.

No matter how financially difficult it could be. No matter how difficult it is for me to admit that I no longer want to revolve my life around a passion that I have built my life around.

Remembering how passion feels like

I remember how it all used to be for me. The excitement of opening a design program, drawing pixels and letting everything fall into space intuitively. Now, in order to be the true professional I want to be, every design decision is thought through really hard – will this confuse users? Will something else work better? Am I breaking new ground here? I don't want this website to end up looking like the last one, or like other typical gradient-laden websites. Or the worst case scenario – will this look like crap in IE?

Sometimes I feel, the field of web design takes out the joy of creating. At least for me. It can be upsetting to realise that being good at something doesn't equate to liking that something.

I miss designing for the fun of it. Not for the client, not for the users, not for the money. Just for fun. It had been something difficult to do because I so much wanted to excel at it that the process has been over-rationalised. The beauty of the web is ironically what kills it for me – the transience, the dynamism, the technology.

I miss laying out words and pictures meant for paper. It is altogether a different set of problems for print. Is this legible? Will this look good in black and white? Can I use special inks or varnishes for this? How about different paper or cuts? They are problems that I miss. I miss seeing my work printed, I miss feeling my work in my hands.

Earlier today, or rather, yesterday evening, I caught a whiff of how it feels like to be passionate about something. I have long forgotten how it feels like until just now.

Serendipity

I enrolled in a course shortly after I moved residence in June. Despite feeling tired after the move, despite having tons of work to do, despite many other factors, I somehow signed up for it anyway. It was not something I looked for. Serendipity works in the most amazing ways. Do you know how it came about?

It came about because I was (along with some other volunteers) searching for a missing rescued dog some when in May. To be really honest, I did not even feel like it when the call came in on a lazy Sunday afternoon. I was looking forward to resting during the weekend and searching aimlessly under the hot sun was not my idea of rest. However, the rescued dog was deeply insecure and afraid of humans, it would require every effort to be found again for the sake of its own safety. The thought of it getting knocked down by cars during possible confusion, getting caught by the authorities, or getting cooked for a good meal by foreign workers, overcame any hesitation.

It turned out that the fosterer who was taking care of the dog is a dog trainer. We had a chance to converse when we were waiting to lure the dog out from some forest foliage. She, was one of the very few humans in Singapore, who did not stare at me with *that* look when I mentioned that I have taken a animal communication course before. In fact, her eyes lighted up and was very interested to find out more. Don't you think it is amazing how you somehow 'stumble' into people with similar 'out of this world' interests when you start pursuing them?

With the knowledge that my partner and I were both interested in animals and alternative modalities, she asked if we were interested to form a small group to learn Quantum Touch.

Keeping the faith

I have already went through an Angels Miracles workshop and also an animal communication workshop last year with very limited results on my side because despite my deep beliefs regarding the magic of the Universe, I have a rather rational side to me as well as a mind that doesn't really like to quieten down (a focused mind with good visualization powers is essential for most spiritual work).

Somehow, I just kept the faith. If I feel it in my heart that I want to do it, I may not get it for now but it will eventually come to me.

I thought it would be nice for our animal volunteer work if I could learn some healing modalities (and eventually learn how to talk to them). Our animal communication teacher told us that we may want to consider learning Reiki but which I did do some research into but it just did not fall into place or feel right. When the dog trainer brought up Quantum Touch, I was like, why not? The method or technique does not matter as long as allows the subject to feel better.

Energy works

And just now, I felt it with my own hands – Energy.

It was our first workshop and within a couple of hours, we were trying out on one another. I took it with a pinch of salt since the previous other workshops were not too successful for me. Yet, it was there for me to feel. Light pulses at my fingertips. My partner's backache went away after I tried it on her. I felt the accumulated pain due to sitting for long hours in my back seemingly lighten. I saw bones aligning in the training video, stuff that professional chiropractors deemed impossible.

I just knew it in my heart there and then. This is the work I truly want to do. Not just Quantum Touch, but I want to keep on learning, marry all the modalities and experiences I have accumulated and be able to touch people and animals in my own unique way.

I may not be successful at getting my dog to talk to me right now, but I believe once I get over the stage of taking control over my mind, it will come to me. I have to take care of a fearful, aggressive dog right now, and can you imagine what difference it will make to its life and its people if I am able to rehabilitate it?

Finding my way (repeatedly but consistently)

Just the thought of it makes me happy. And I hope I will be able to do it not only for mine, but for those poor rescued animals who had been traumatized in one way or another.

The added bonus is – my partner is on the same path as me (you have no idea how rare this can be). Apart from the mutual support (imagine a partner that goes, ya...right.), it is that synergy, the common beliefs and shared vision; and in future, the partnership. I feel that she is clairvoyant and clairaudient wheras I am more clairsentient and claircognizant, so we should make a good partnership.

At this point if you're not yet rolling your eyes, thank you. To my business associates and clients, no I am not giving up on my design work, I just need to recalibrate it a bit. I would like to be able to think of work as fun.

I just finished reading "Eat, Pray, Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert (will post a review soon) and she gave me a ray of hope in trying to get my mind to quieten. I never thought my mind would ever shut up, but after reading her experience (her mind sounds like mine), I have renewed hope for mine.

I plan to really cut down on design work (time to be really selective), pack up my new place (it has been 2 months and it still looks horrible because I am just either working or moping and my poor partner is doing it on her own), continue my Soul Realignment course (it has been put on hold because my place is in a mess and I can't be in a state of mind to do such work), try out Quantum Touch on myself and my immediate family (dogs and partner first), and see where it all brings me.

Getting the little aggressive dog in my household to calm down will be a good testimonial and start.

Let me have the strength to continue my journey with not too many detours. I know some are inevitable, so I am just asking for less. That is not too much to ask for, right? :)

I have been self-sabotaging my own decisions for quite a while now and I would like the courage to be able to stick to them.

The Power of Now

I want to share my immediate after-thoughts of speed-reading "The Power of Now" by Eckhart Tolle, because I know if I do a proper full review, it will probably never be published. By 'speed-reading' I mean letting my eyes naturally scan through the book, picking up the bits of information that jumped out at me and scanning through the rest of the book that I felt wasn't important to what I wanted to know at that moment. I finished the book in an hour and I will probably pick it up to read it again in-depth.

My history with the book

If my memory did not fail me, I was first introduced to Eckhart Tolle by Julia , probably a couple of years back when she implored me to listen to the podcasts recorded by him and Oprah Winfrey. I am not the sort of person who have the patience to listen to podcasts or watch videos, but somehow I managed to finish listening to a couple of episodes. I remember feeling struck by certain concepts he shared and I made a mental note to buy the book, but somehow, even though I have come across the book countless times in the bookstore, I have never wanted to buy it. I have always believed that books are meant to be read when they are ready to be read.

The other reason why I did not feel the need to buy the book was because I thought I have already understood the power of Now. In theory. I know Transience. I know that everything is impermanent. I know our experiences in the current life are no more than mere illusions (okay I know people are going to disagree with me on this but truth is not absolute).

However, knowing and really being able to live it are two different matters. It takes a lot to tell myself not to worry about the future when I know there are bills to pay. Ideally, I would love to go sit beside a rock and meditate my whole life, living like the Peace Pilgrim without a cent to my name. Somehow perhaps I really will one day, but right now I have my loved ones to consider. I am already grateful that they are giving me their support with the life I am leading now, asking them to give full blessings for wanting to be a penniless nomad is a little too much to ask for.

How I came to finally read the book

I have been feeling down (yes, again) recently. I do not even know when it really started. I just feel that something is missing, something is wrong somewhere. Until a couple of days back, I realised in the middle of conversation with my partner, that I have no enthusiasm for anything anymore. Even the thought of travelling somehow did not excite me anymore. Was it because subconsciously I know that – even if I had the means to do all that I've always wanted to do, I still wouldn't find true happiness. What comes next after reaching the ultimate goal?

I imagined myself having a lot of money, jetting anywhere I wanted, opening the animal shelter that was my life-long wish and I asked myself if I would be happy if I were to live the life that I thought was my dream.

The answer was no.

Then I asked myself, what is it that I really want? I had no answers. And having no answers scared the hell out of me. I have always prided myself for attempting to do what I love to do, or trying to head towards my dreams, but what if I no longer loved what I loved to do and worse, what if I no longer had a dream?

The thought of living a life emptily really disturbed me. It made me feel worse than before.

So I was browsing the iTunes app store last night, under the "Staff Favorites" section I noticed "The Power of Now". I had finished some of my work and I had no mood to continue. The ebook was $13.99 USD and I thought that I would probably be better off buying the physical book. However, I really felt like I wanted to read it there and then. Like NOW. I closed iTunes and tried to distract myself from buying the ebook. The thought just kept popping back (okay thank you, guides) and I gave myself proper reasons to buy it. Since I have nothing better to do, I may find something uplifting from the book and it is an ebook I can carry it everywhere, plus save the environment! ;p

Concepts of the book that jumped out at me

(These are in my context and I consider myself weird, so you don't have to agree)

1. I am not my mind. The mind is conditioned to make us worry, fearful and insecure. I should control my mind, not vice versa. This is exceptionally true for me. My mind is ALWAYS worrying. And it seems to have a knack for reminding me how imperfect I am. If I can recognise the mind as a separate entity, I can get it to shut up and not give a shit to what it is constantly making me think and feel. Laugh at it. Why should I even think that I am less than any other being?

2. That it is a fact that we're the only species that killed hundreds of millions of our own in this century alone. Tolle says that the human mind is insane and I agree.

3. That we are always looking to the future or the past but never the present. The attachment to the past and the future is what that makes us unhappy. This concept I have already understood a while ago, but it never rang so true for me until now as demonstrated in the next point.

4. We're always waiting for the future to happen for some kind of salvation. We should stop waiting. I should stop. Because I am always waiting for this and that to happen, trying to find this and that so I can be fulfilled. But what comes next?

5. On up and down cycles:

"It is not true that the up cycle is good and the down cycle bad, except in the mind's judgement. Growth is usually considered positive, but nothing can grow forever. If growth, of whatever kind, were to go on and on, it would eventually become monstrous and destructive. Dissolution is needed for new growth to happen. One cannot exist without the other."

This completely changed my perception of 'being down'.

6. On true compassion:

" True compassion goes beyond empathy or sympathy. It does not happen until sadness merges with joy, the joy of Being beyond form, the joy of eternal life."

I need a little more time to comprehend the essence of this, though I think I am very close. It is a paradox, because if pain is an illusion, then compassion should cease to exist isn't it? Why should I be compassionate to another being in pain when it is simply an illusion?

7. On evil:

"The ultimate effect of all the evil and suffering in the world is that it will force humans into realizing who they are beyond name and form. Thus, what we perceive as evil from our limited perspective is actually part of the higher good that has no opposite. This, however, does not become true for you except through forgiveness. Until that happens, evil has not been redeemed and therefore remains evil".

I particularly like this quote, because it aligns with my belief that evil does not truly exist. Evil exists so that Good can exist. This is the law of duality. We need Evil to realise the Good.

8. Happiness comes externally and is temporary, but joy comes from within and is permanent.

The aftermath of all these

I know I am on the way of a process that does not have a name. There are a lot more processing to go, a lot more to be reconciled. I am not sure where will this bring me, or will it just be a temporary lapse before I go back to my perpetual moping. What is truly important? What do I truly want to do with my time here?

So what if one day I am actually able to put all these in practice. What comes next?

Okay, I realised I am obsessed with the 'next'.

Perhaps I will truly know the answer when I eventually learn to find joy from within. And live in the Now.

Other resources

Steve Pavlina on The Power of Now

Resetting my priorities and perspectives due to shame

The past few days, if not weeks, have been hugely reflective for me. It seems like a major conspiracy from the universe to wake me up from my deep slumber. I have been feeling quite disturbed for a long while now, it has been such a while that I do not even remember when did it all start.

The issue on the surface

I have always prided myself for loving what I do and being able to do what I love. This has not been entirely accurate lately and it has been bugging me from my deepest consciousness. It eats me up slowly.

Is it because:

  • I have overworked myself
  • I have taken up web projects because of the freedom it entails me and perhaps being a print designer at heart I am actually trying to condition myself into settling for less because it gives me more
  • The projects themselves are not interesting enough
  • It is not about the work but the issue is me

The deeper, actual issues

The above questions to myself may be the cause of my dissatisfaction partially, but my gut (or my higher self) tells me there is more to it.

I have been neglecting the bigger picture.

The bigger picture has never been the work itself. Would I be satisfied and truly happy if I am doing the best work or the most interesting projects? If I imagine myself as one of the best-recognised designers right now, will that take away all my dissatisfaction? If I had less work now and have the chance to rest, will that make me feel significantly better?

A couple of years ago I have realised that even if I was doing the best work, earning the best keep, I would not really be satisfied, I would not lie on my deathbed and smile, telling myself that I have lived a good life. What is the point of even if I were to be recognised as one of the best? It does nothing except to feed my ego and probably I can tell myself I have been one of the best designers – but what comes after that? This is not meant to be any disrespect to the best designers out there now, honestly, just that different factors make different people happy, and I would not say that being one of the best makes me truly happy. I love my work but it is just not what my life should revolve around.

The picture changes significantly when one is able to contribute to the greater good with the work. I have always been a fan of Stefan Sagmeister, not because of his creative, provocative work, but rather that the messages he carries by just being himself. The work he does encourages people to be themselves, not get sold into the whole materialistic lifestyle and most importantly, to pursue your dream. Or one of those industrial designers who designs something that enables handicapped people to move more freely, for example. Or the copywriter who conceptualises the ad that carries a life-changing message to the mass public.

Yet I asked myself honestly if I thought I would ever touch people in this manner and the answer was no. It is not because I am pouring cold water on myself, but a very honest assessment of my own self. I have been doing consistently good work, but it has never been in that league. I will not say never ever, but the possibility is really remote.

What truly makes me happy on my deathbed

One of my facebook contacts had linked an article that profiled a woman with the highest recorded IQ, and the article questioned if one was obligated to use his/her natural high intelligence to 'change the world'. I remember responding to it on facebook, commenting that not everybody has to be Obamas to contribute positively to the world. I really do believe in all of us having the ability to contribute in our own unique ways, however small or supposedly insignificant it may be. The point of it is to have the intention or desire. One small gesture may change someone else's life. I have had other people's small gestures that significantly changed mine.

I slowly came to the conclusion that I will be happy on my deathbed if I had the chance to contribute to the world in my own ways, and if I had the courage to do what my heart tells me to. I actually came to this conclusion quite a few years ago, but in the middle of all the work and worries about the practicalities of life, I have gotten lost. My work has taken up so much of my time that I no longer had time to do things that I deeply cared about or that I originally set out to accomplish.

Success in the typical sense will not feed the soul, because we will always want more. Creativity declines when the soul is not being fed. I guess this makes up a lot of the reason why I have been feeling like something is withering inside me.

I slowly came to the conclusion that I will be happy on my deathbed if I had the chance to contribute to the world in my own ways, and if I had the courage to do what my heart tells me to. I actually came to this conclusion quite a few years ago, but in the middle of all the work and worries about the practicalities of life, I have gotten lost.

The conspiracy that woke me up

As I mentioned earlier, I have been feeling disturbed but I only started an in-depth interrogation within myself only when I was clearing my Google Reader's feeds and discovered that quite a few  high-profile personalities in the web industry have written about their stress-levels, work-related depression and significant decisions to do something about it. One has called it quits to his freelance career and returned to employment, one has decided to halt his thriving small business, another has gone on to another level by revolutionizing his life.

I asked myself what was I going to do about mine. In order to know what I needed to do, I have to find out the root of the issue first. That started my whole self-analysis. That was not all.

Feeling ashamed

I was extremely ashamed, yes ashamed of my own lack of guts when I saw Susan Boyle's courage to take the stage despite the expected public ridicule of her age and looks, while I would not even go anywhere anything that resembles a stage. I was totally envious and ashamed again when fellow local blogger Adrianna, at the tender age of 24, escaped a suicide bomb blast in Yemen by a twist of fate, not because she was there for work, but she was touring the Middle East by herself because she wanted to. Like seriously? I have reservations touring just South-east Asia by myself and someone else is enjoying her life and death tour to the Middle East?

I can continue to cite many more examples that made me look at myself and shake my head. That I am sitting here, being troubled about my work and not having enough guts or determination to change the situation. That I am moping while someone almost lost his life when he offered himself to the pirates as a hostage in exchange for the release of his crew, women in South Africa are getting raped to 'correct' them of their homosexuality. I feel very ashamed to have allowed mundane issues to depress me, when there is actually much greater pain and suffering out there – not to mention that there are people who are doing actual meaningful work with their lives at risk, some without a penny to their name.

Rectifying the situation

I do not want too much more of my life to tick by and lessen the time to do whatever I need to do to make myself proud at my own deathbed. This has been an on-going merry-go-round for me because I have been aware and yet getting lost repeatedly. I want to share and set my intentions openly with all of you. I may not succeed at first try, but at the very least I want to try.

The list of intentions consists of things I would like to do that I feel will bring back my passion for my work, as well as actions I can initiate in order to aid my quest to lessen my stress levels and increase the quality of my life, plus some perspectives of life in general I should constantly remind myself of in order to be grateful and not wasteful (the rhyming is not intentional ;p). Lastly, I want to consciously increase the opportunities that will allow me to contribute positively in my own ways, within my own capacity, as much as possible.

  • I want to learn hand-lettering. Looking at type, especially hand-drawn type, makes my heart skip a beat. I did not think I would be good at it so I never really tried because I suck at drawing anything by hand, but I do believe that anyone can learn almost anything if they set their heart to it. If I start drawing circles now perhaps by the time I'm 40 I may be remotely good at it. I should stop having the mentality that I am too old to start learning how to draw. (stifles laughter at myself)
  • I should not give up on doing things I truly love because it seems difficult to.
  • I must try to find more me-time and time for non-commercial creative projects to feed myself creatively.
  • I really need to look into how I can gauge myself more accurately and stop overloading myself with work because it is my number one stress factor. I will consciously finish whatever I have to do on hand and re-look into the type of work I should be working on in order to create a better creative and time balance.
  • I will also need to look into diversifying my income streams, especially the passive ones, which I do not even have one yet.
  • I want to explore other avenues of interest apart from design. I have always been interested in spirituality topics - perhaps more workshops?
  • Travel plans are still in place and will take place soon. This is important because I feel called to do so. I have a feeling this will open up the doors to more avenues for contributions.
  • Find ways and time to contribute more to the causes I support. I have been neglecting to give to my causes because I have been so caught up in my own work.
  • Should really start meditating regularly and having proper exercise soon. The health needs to be taken care of in order to have the ability to accomplish more.
  • Constantly remind myself to be grateful and to be aware of the suffering of other beings. That I should focus my energy on meaningful matters than to get myself down over minuscule matters compared to people starving in third world countries and people dying in wars. This is extreme yes, but it is real. There are people and animals who are really suffering out there and I feel upset with myself for feeling like it is the end of the world when I encounter small setbacks.
  • To not let fear affect my life and my desire to be true.
  • Spend more time writing to share my experiences so that some souls may benefit from it.
  • Write more openly and honestly on this blog about myself, my fears and failures, not worry about what the negative reactions to my honesty, and instead focus on those who appreciates me for me.
  • Give my best in trying to do what I want to do, but try not to let myself get attached to the outcomes, and not let my desire for self-improvement become unrealistic self-expectations. It is the journey that counts, not the destination.
  • Understand that while it is nice to be doing great and interesting work, ultimately whatever work I do should enable me to live out my purpose and live my life the way I want. I should never give up on finding the best compromise though – between the quality of life and the quality of work.

I hope I have not bored all of you to tears with my list and it will also be nice if any of you can share some of yours with me. :)

Getting out of my comfort zone

Hugs exchanged and tears shed at the airport yesterday when we sent off my cousin to Brisbane as she embarked on a whole new journey in her life. This is the same cousin who grew up with me during my formative years as we both shared the same interests and were labelled the rebellious ones in our families in our youths. She is eight years my senior, but that never seemed to be an issue when we exchanged heart to heart talks that were so important during those times when there seemed like no one could or would understand.

It was a strange relationship, because she was the anti-social one in the family while I was the young, pesky, attention-seeking eight year old when we first shared one of those lengthy conversations about life in general. Nobody would have expected our special bond, because she seemed intent on getting rid of me and gave me poisonous, evil stares during my early childhood while being under her mother's foster care.

I shed tears when she was going through the departure gates yesterday, not because I would miss her or that I could not bear to see her leave, but the sight of seeing my aunt having to part with her beloved daughter broke my heart. Five years. My aunt would no longer be able to dish out long nagging sessions of concern or cook special dishes for her daughter for five long years. Five years are like five eons to a mother.

It must have been hard. To make this decison to do her part for her love of animals, and having to leave her close-knitted family behind, having to bear witness to all the tears and the knowledge of her parents are both getting on in years.

But she did it.

The same cousin who loves routines, enjoys stability, needs security, and dislikes change – made this decision despite the difficulties. The same person who still keeps her childhood toys in pristine condition.

The irony of myself

I woke up today feeling upset, and I suspect it is not so much out of the sadness of seeing her leave. It was more of being upset with myself, because I know I can no longer hide behind my excuses and so-called worries when someone who has been so resistant to change in her life has gone ahead of me to create this change in her life. Not for more money, not for a better life nor ambition – but for her deep love of animals.

And me, who has been telling everyone who would listen that I want to be a nomad and explore new avenues, is the one who seems to be unwilling to leave the comfort zone and uproot my feet from the stable ground. Me, the person who goes around telling people that change is constant and everything is transient, that life is short and we should all live life to the fullest, is now the one fearful and apprehensive about taking big steps out.

My cousin, the person I least expected – served as a loud reminder for me to stop the procrastination over my travel plans.

I am not sure why. Is it because I am afraid to lose whatever that I have so painstakingly built over these recent years? Is it because I had nothing to my name all my life so I was never afraid of change, and now that I am slowly building my life up, I am no longer willing be a risk-taker anymore? Isn't it ironic that I am in the fortunate position I am in now because I was not afraid of risks and change, and now that I am starting to see the fruits of my labour, I have started to develop a paranoid, insecure complex?

The intricate balance

Where is that intricate balance between wanting to experience life to the fullest and yet able to ensure that I do not have to rely on government aid when I am old?

This is a huge learning process for me, to find that intricate balance. To not be afraid of owning possessions and committing myself to long-term plans and yet not be fearful when I lose these possessions or my plans do not work out the way I want them to be. I used to be money-wary, thinking that having too much of it will cripple my life or that it will have a negative influence on me, but I realised that I should welcome the presence of it to my life, because it will enable me to help those who are not able to generate income on their own (like animals). I was also commitment phobic, but I also learnt through the hard way that a certain amount of commitment is needed for the fulfillment of goals.

I really do not want to be hoarding on to any material possessions to get a sense of security because I know that that sense of security is nothing but an illusion. The aries (sun sign) in me is like shouting in my head to just do what my heart requires but the insecure taurus (my moon sign) is telling me that I have to hoard for a rainy day.

The amusing part comes in when I actually know the answers to my issues. Even if I hoard everything for a rainy day, some external event (like the economy collapsing – no longer so far-fetched) can happen to take that all away, so the reality is I have no control over my possessions; I may as well follow my heart. I actually know these at the back of my head, but somehow I find myself slipping into that insecure state of mind every now and then.

Faith is all I need

Undiluted faith is all that I need, the faith that by following my heart, and by trying to fulfill my purpose in life, that everything will turn out the way it is meant to be. At least if the day comes when I have to struggle to death without a penny to my name, at least I am comforted with the knowledge that I have not lived my life in vain.

The meaning of life is to find your gift, the purpose of life is to give it away.

Joy J. Golliver via Empowered Quotes