defragment.me

How the Universe worked its magic on me

I have been buried in work, which in turn makes me feel like crap because I can't seem to output anything that is of my own standards when there are deadlines everyday. I can point fingers at client-side delays inducing clashed schedules, unexpected events in my personal life (passing away of an uncle), bad luck (falling into a drain), but I won't.

Deep down in my heart, I know I can blame nobody but myself for the situation I was in.

Positive intentions, bad execution

The intention started out positively. All I wanted was to kick-start my travel plans, so I took in more work to steady myself financially, believing that I will have the strength to overcome tight schedules and an increase of workload with the bigger picture in sight. There were also a couple of local startups in need of design help, I have always been a supporter of local talents and I felt that it was something I could do to give back.

I ignored that little voice.

That little voice that tells me that I was risking over-extending myself, taking my energy for granted and that I should think carefully whether I was capable of survival myself before offering my help to anyone else.

On hindsight, perhaps I was meant to go through this period. It was the much needed splash of cold water on my face, telling me that I need to respect myself and my time more. That it is not to be taken for granted that I can work any piece of canvas into well-crafted websites. My own carelessness taught me a harsh lesson as I started to produce work that nauseated me.

Falling into that pit again, quite literally

I am not sure why, but I seem to be overly harsh to myself. Each stumble I made, I cruelly chastised myself for being inefficient, unproductive, incapable, ill-disciplined, whatever negative word I can think of to describe myself. The high expectations upon myself is a double-edged sword. I could feel the shadows of my depression overcoming me once again. I felt my life-force slowing draining away from me.

It is just work, right? I know. I just cannot tolerate myself for stepping into this vicious cycle, or ignoring my gut feel. I reminded myself repeatedly that my issues are non-issues compared to warring countries and starving children; I just can not help feeling as though I was sinking deeper and deeper into a bottomless pit.

When I fell into a drain amidst really tight deadlines for my work, I started laughing at myself. No, I was not going mental because of the unfortunate events, but rather I was getting amused. I looked up at the sky above and asked, "What else?". Amazingly, despite the really bad cuts on my leg and bruised ribs, I knew I was blessed. I knew I have been riding on my luck because I did not have any serious physical injuries since I was a kid. I knew the fall could have been worse, I could have ended up really badly injured rather than just cuts and bruises.

The magic begins

I had ordered a few books from Amazon.com a few days before and for unknown reasons, they shipped half of my order by UPS even though I did not pay for it. In this particular shipment there was a book by Michael Newton – "Destiny of Souls". I have read Newton's first book on past life regression and hypnotherapy many months back and was totally fascinated with it. I put his second book on my shopping list for a long while and have only decided to buy it after I needed to buy a few other design-related books as well.

Michael Newton holds a PhD. in Counseling Psychology and has been a professional hypnotherapist for years before accidentally regressing one of his cases to his past life. Since then he has handled thousands of cases, regressing them into their past lives and also in between lives. He was an atheist with a logical, scientifically trained mind and it took him quite a while to reconcile what he was experiencing.

This was mind-opening for me personally, because though I have always believed in higher powers, it is altogether different when a doctor writes a book detailing thousands of recorded cases. Thousands of people from different walks of life, many non-religious, but providing very similar information pointing to dimensions beyond us.

The Universe conspires

Due to my fall I was not able to work for a day as I was in considerable pain, forced to be bedridden. This is why I always say, we can all have the best laid plans but the Universe usually have other ideas for us. Co-incidentally (no, actually I don't believe in co-incidences anymore) the books arrived by UPS within a few days after the order! I have ordered books from Amazon many times before and this is the first time they despatched my order into two within the same day, to two different postal carriers. The usual wait is two weeks at least but this time I ordered on a Friday and received them on Monday morning. I had time to read the book because I cannot do much except to be in bed.

I finished the book while nursing my wounds, throughout the read I was constantly getting reminded what life is all about. The book was gradually pulling me out of my self-built pit and was somehow gently telling me that I have better things to do than mope (which I have already known but was too caught up with perceived practicalities of life).

Remembering

I was still contemplating about the contents of the book when I had to reply to an email by my spiritual mother (long story) and was halfway lamenting about my sorry situation before it dawned upon me that this is not the way I want to spend my life. Moping. I want to remember my life as a life I am proud of, not a life full of wallowing in self-pity.

I can be plagued by a series of unfortunate events but so what? There is no point in feeling 'unlucky'. It does not do anything to help the situation. When one stops fearing misfortune and the unknown, one achieves a sense of liberation. I have been blessed enough to be aware enough not to be tied down too much by the supposed practicalities of life and the reality set down upon me by others, but being human I kept losing my way. I accept this because this is part of the human experience. No matter how spiritually aware one can be, there is always bound to be ups and downs, greater challenges than the previous one. This is the point of life. To keep learning. I am grateful because somehow I am being guided back to the path intended for me. Silently and steadily.

When one stops fearing misfortune and the unknown, one achieves a sense of liberation.

I understand that I will need to learn how to cope with my overwhelming emotions and underwhelming self-image. It cannot be expected to be eradicated so soon after a lifetime of deep-routed programming and god knows how many past life-times.

My obsession with past-lives

My spiritual mother (yes this sounds funny but I cannot think of a better term), Julia, once commented I am the only person she knows that is so obsessed about past-lives. While signing up for the Soul Realignment course, Andrea Hess told me that I would not want to sign up if I am not able to do it. Thinking about this along the same line, perhaps there is a reason why I am obsessed and intrigued about past lives. There is a reason for every soul's desire, right?

So halfway typing the email to Julia (yes I have an issue with digression) I realised that this is what I really want to do and why not? What is stopping me? To be honest, I am afraid to cope financially. This a rational fear and I am sure many others while seeking their way to their goals feel the same as well. However, this time I am determined not to let it stop me. Pursuing my spiritual interests has been part of me for a long while now and why should I not? I can only get too impatient and eager to learn.

In denial

Perhaps I have been in denial about my work for a long time. Each time I think it is a passing phase caused by stress, but it has been a long time since I genuinely feel excited about a design project. The catch-22 situation here is, perhaps if I can find ways to diversify my income streams, I would not face so much pressure from my design work and that will enable me to produce work of a higher quality, and that will in turn allow me to work with better clients and budgets, which will also allow me to rediscover my love for design again. It is very much a part of me, so much a part of me that I am afraid to let go.

Yet I know I have to let it go first in order to find it back again. This applies to a lot in life isn't it?

Why spiritual therapy

I have had irrational fears, behaviors, reactions, inexplicable happenings. I had felt I do not belong to this world. There are just too many things in this world that cannot be explained by logic. When I was a child I never understood why I had to live, the thing is, people are so afraid of death right, most of them want to live. For me, everyday I wished for death. I did not know why. To be honest I never had a particularly harsh childhood, there was a lot of rejection and emotional pain but it was not as though I was made to beg on the streets.

Awakening spiritually was a life-turning point for me.I still don't quite get it why we have to progress spiritually in order to rejoin the Source one day, like why even start this process in the first place, or why was there even a Source in the beginning. However, it meant a lot to me that there are reasons why I have certain feelings.

I realise (thank god for the internet!) that there are many others like me. They are still in the minority, and there are many who did not have the luck or blessing to experience spiritual support (like I have Julia with me) or an awakening process. I know how it feels like to feel alienated and weird and I feel that I can learn to provide some form of support to these people.

I went through a Soul Realignment reading for myself and introduced Julia to it. We both found it really beneficial in different ways individually, it brought a lot of clarity to what we have been experiencing in the past.

Imagine being able to remember why you came into this life, why you have seemingly unresolvable issues with a parent, why you are afraid of heights or water, why you have an unexplainable pain in a certain part of your body. There is always the conflict of – perhaps we're not supposed to know that much, but I am slowly believing in 'when the student is ready, the teacher appears'. We're supposed to gain the information we are already meant to know.

I feel my empathy is gifted to me for a reason. This will not be my only stop. I have a deep-rooted interest to learn spiritual regression, animal communication, alternative healing, the list goes on. I am not sure when I will be equipped to actually provide any help, but I will know it when the time comes. I hope to blend whatever knowledge I will eventually acquire into some form of personalised support to people drawn to seek my help. I hope to be a conduit in some form because I had felt helpless before and I know how much difference it makes to have means of support and empathy.

This is what I desire, I do not know if I will eventually succeed or if I will lack the patience to persevere but at this very moment I will give it my best shot.

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. :)

Renewing a promise made to myself on my birthday

I have been somewhat neglecting this blog, not without proper reasons. Few months ago I have decided that I want to realise my travel plans by this year, so I set my heart to it, taking on work so that I would be in a good state financially to embark on my travels later this year.

Just that I probably took on much more than I should.

I had spent the last couple of weeks before my birthday frantically trying to tie up loose ends, meet not-very-realistic deadlines, all because I wanted to go for a week's trip to spend my birthday in peace. I have never been a huge fan of my own birthdays, but have learnt to respect the special day that marks the time of my birth. This time I planned a month or two in advance, not knowing of the destination yet, but notifying all my clients that I will be away for a week.

To be really honest I do not think it is a matter of life and death if a project was delayed for five working days (four actually, with good friday), but somehow I let the guilt that should not have existed eat into me and I agreed to deadlines that were never possible in the first place. Deadlines that were supposed to take place before my birthday so that the world can continue to function during my absence.

The result was a lot of unnecessary stress, till the day before my departure, I was effectively burnt out. I could not do a single thing except wait for time to pass. I was simply drained. I still did not manage to meet a couple of deadlines despite my best effort but I was aided by the client-decided delays of a couple of projects. For the one deadline I genuinely thought I would meet but did not, I wrote a very honest email to the client describing my not very creative-state-of-mind. It would be ideal if he understood, if he did not, I can only say that I have tried my best.

The promise I made to myself last year that I broke this year

I knew there was nobody else but me to blame. I let this happen to myself. One year ago around this time of the year, my parents almost perished in the Sichuan quake, surviving only by a twist of fate that delayed their road trip by a few minutes and not less, because they found themselves in the middle of two huge landslides. If they have been earlier, they would have been gone, same goes for few minutes later.

I was in the same situation at that time last year, burning myself out with work, postponing family dinners because I was 'too busy with work'. I almost never got to see them again. I made a promise to myself, to never let work take priority in my life, never should I burn myself out again.

One year on, after seemingly having learnt from my previous lesson, I forgot about the promise I have made to myself. Ironically, because all I wanted was to be financially ready for my dream.

This has been a recurring theme of my life. It has been such a vicious cycle that I am appalled at myself for not getting it after so many attempts. It just has to recur until I get it. And a new theme starts.

I cannot promise that it will not recur again. However, I will try. My trip was almost ruined because of the guilt and baggage from work I had to carry, not to mention I almost fell sick again due to the lack of sleep and increased stress levels. Where is the line I should draw in working harder, setting boundaries, and yet maintaining the quality of my life?

I was in the same situation, burning myself out with work, postponing family dinners because I was 'too busy with work'. I almost never got to see them again. I made a promise to myself, to never let work take priority in my life, never should I burn myself out again.

Renewing my promise with the Universe

Looking at the beautiful beaches and seas of Phuket (no, Patong beach is not the only beach that Phuket has), basking myself under the solar rays blessed by the sun returning to the same astrological position on my day of birth, I made a renewed promise to myself. I will continue to put in my best for my work, but I will listen to my gut feel more. If it says no more new projects, I will need to listen to it. I have lost count of the times my gut tells me no, but I still carry on thinking that I am capable of exceeding my own expectations. How much would I have to give up to earn that extra bit? At the expense of my own well-being, mentally, emotionally, and physically.

Taking in the sights, sounds and smells, pausing in the moment to appreciate Mother Earth's natural beauty – that is how life should be, isn't it?

Cape Sienna room view, Kamala Beach

Still grateful & blessed

Nevertheless, looking at the neverending horizons, I felt blessed that I was able to make it to the trip in one piece. That somehow the Universe consipired to ease my workload prior to my departure, because I know it could have been worse if not for the unforeseen client-side delays. That the clients I have understood. That I have my health intact, my parents well, my partner by my side, and that I was able to afford that bit of luxury to even be at Phuket. That I do not have a huge circle of friends, yet a handful of true ones who know me for me. I am loved by the Universe, and I know it in my heart.

I may not get the hang of finding the intricate balance between work and the rest of my life yet, but am slowly getting the hang of placing my undiluted trust and faith in the Universe.

That alone makes me feel truly blessed, because despite being trapped in my own maze of confusion I have managed to rediscover the magic of the Universe.

Happy birthday to me, and may I be blessed enough to spend the rest of my birthdays basking in the magical energy of Light – that gives life to all.