On positivity 

I had the urge to write a quick update after I went back and reread this Solitary blog post at the very beginning of 2017. Gosh, that IS way too bleak! I feel embarrassed now that I did write all that. But it’s almost an unwritten rule that you will always feel embarrassed by what you wrote in the past. 

2017, so far my outlook has changed for the better! 

Of course, there are ups and downs in life, as expected. In fact, the first 2 months of 2017 was a bit of emotional whirlwind. Fortunately, it was resolved quite quickly and I did not dwell on it at all. Then again got thrown into another type of emotional whirlwind in March. But once again I managed to get through it. 

What has changed is: at the moment I tend (and from time to time, try) to take things as they are with no expectation (Or as less as I can possibly manage. Still struggling from time to time, but hey, I’m only human, aren’t I?). Welcoming a neutral, realistic, and perhaps a bit more relaxing approach in life. 

I no longer feel like I lost faith in love anymore. SO happy for that! Safe to say that time heals and I have finally fully recovered, which is a great feeling. At the same time, it doesn’t mean I look at love with bright and hopeful eyes like 10 years ago either. Love comes in different shapes and forms, and people are flawed and so different from one another. You really have to stay open-minded and get to know a person as who/what they are. There is no one-size-fit-all definition of love and relationship. I am definitely more positive than last year, but also have my feet firm on the (realistic) ground as ever. 

Also don’t think too much about HOW the future will be if I end up being alone. It is always a good idea to plan things in advance, especially financially. But there is no point to fret over it as I’ve chosen to be extremely picky of who I let in my life. If being alone makes me happier than letting the wrong person in, then it is what it is! This is my decision. 

Somehow I’ve become even surer of what I want and look for in a relationship, and I won’t settle for anything less. Failed enough to finally know what I want, perhaps! You learn from your past experiences. In the meantime, it is great to be exposed to new people and just see how it goes. You could learn and pick up something from them, and to me it’s interesting that way. 

Learning to enjoy the journey and trust the process more. As always, the future is uncertain! 🙂 

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Existential dread: One day at a time 


It will never, ever completely go away, I’m almost certain by that. But I’ve just found some ways to alleviate this dread! (Ten exclamation marks wouldn’t cut it!!!!!!!!!!!!)

For a couple of months now, I suspect sticking to exercise is a part of the ritual. If anyone asks me why I exercise, I give them the reasons they expect to hear (And partially true!) “Oh, it helps cure my office syndrome almost completely. I feel amazing with no shoulder pain after I started weight training.” “It gives me strength.” “I feel more energized” Or anything along those lines.

If we are close enough and I presume that you will not look at me like I’m a mad woman, if the conversation flows allowed it, I might admit that there’s some other underlying motive, that I can stick to this exercise routine because, in one way or another, it helps dealing with existential crisis.

“I exercise to escape the existential dread.”

Oh yeah.

Think I’m crazy yet? Maybe, just maybe, I might write another blog post on this, some day.

(Or maybe never).

Exercise helps with the body. But I want to write about something else that I found working for the mind.

Simple enough, I don’t need to look any further. It’s what I already enjoy doing anyway.

Reading good books really helps. Like this one. 

The book speaks to me, as if it can clarify something I have been questioning for so long. There is nothing like it; the feeling of words and sentences of paragraphs after paragraphs smacks you in the face, like it can search deep down in your soul and read your mind (Spooky). Friends are great for support, in a way that they also have struggles of their own, comforting me that “We are all in this together.” It is perfectly normal to feel messed up, to feel like a failure sometimes, even though your life is great and there is nothing wrong with it.

But no one can give me the answers. What makes me feel this way. What causes it. Why I feel the way I do. What is the purpose? What is the point of this, all of this? *Motioning hand in circle*

Psychology and philosophy help. All of this psychoanalysis seems to be exactly what I need. One example that felt poignant to me was when I read the line “One of the most basic human needs is to connect to someone” And then it elaborates on why; the history of humankind, since we were cavemen, the influence of motherly and fatherly love, tribal community and more.

OH, so THAT is the human need? THAT is our nature? Then accept it. Stop feeling like you are some weak creature, or worst guilty, when deep down there are moments you want to connect and be understood and reach out to another human being. You can’t change nature, can you?

If anything, it does help make peace with yourself. Because I see some sort of evidence, some sort of history and theory and explanation unfolding in front of my eyes. Crystallization process. It makes me understand. It gives me knowledge and gets rid of confusion. Knowledge is the power, they say?

Eye-opening. That’s how I’d call it.

I wish to find more good, “life-changing” (Ugh, I always cringe when I hear this word. But this will do for now.) books. It’s truly great for the mind. AND for the soul.

(On another note, I do want to write or summarize some key takeaways from The Art of Loving. Extraordinary book, indeed. Hopefully I’ll get around to it. It’s the kind of book that you should go back and read every year anyway.)

Will have to excuse myself for a more light-hearted book I’m currently reading now, on How to be a person in the world – modern existential advice column that is promised to be really good by a friend who lent me. Because, you know, sometimes you just want to read something real and messed up about other people’s life, not only heavily filtered “amazing” life on your Facebook feed.

On solitary

It was on New Year’s Eve night. A friend, out of a sudden, threw this question up in the air. 

“Is it really that scary to be alone?” 

The whole table went silent. (That was quite unexpected, too). 

Solitary – I think of it a lot these days. In fact, I’m living in it. 

2016 was the year that, for the very first time in life, I can honestly say I lost faith in love. Whatever happened in the past kept piling up until the final string, something inside me, was broken, and I could not go back to the way I once was. I had never been too eager about chasing after love myself, but at least I never eyed it with suspicion, skepticism, and this much negativity, or even recoiled from it, as much as I do now. Too much disappointment could numb you to the bones, and eventually paralyze you. 

It is sad. I’m even sad, seeing myself turning to this kind of person. I very much wish to go back to the old me, being able to face love in a neutral, open-minded way and embrace what’s coming in life. However, at the same time, more and more I start to think this “love thing” is something that happens to other people, in which I’m really happy for them when this miracle happens, but it’s just not for me. 

I am giving up. 

This kind of feeling – losing faith in love – in turns keep fueling the thought of being alone. And, once again, for the first time in life, I start pondering; what it means to really be alone 20 years from now, or for the rest of my life. Logically thinking, what are the things that I need to prepare? 

Funny enough, I don’t think much about the current state of life, when I’m still fairly young and have enough energy. But I think way beyond that, when I turn 60, life after retirement, what would it be to be alone? 

Mainly I think about it from two main angles; health-wise and finance-wise. When I get sick, when I get so old that I no longer can walk or take care of myself, how will I manage my life then? How much savings do I need to be able to take care of myself when I get old, living by myself? 

It was enough. This fear was enough to drive me think about and even search for advice on health insurance and investment plans. 

For the record, never once I thought about life after retirement, until 2016. I swear, that thought of getting old somehow never crossed my mind. Again, another first in life. Is it because of the age, or the current state of mind? I am unsure. 

Current dramas in life and dramas from other people around me did give me another thought: you pick the kind of suffering you want to suffer for. 

Nothing ensures everlasting happiness. People who are married can get a divorce, their spouse die, their children may have serious issues. They have their own sets of problems, different from single people’s. But I’ve come to term that, everyone has their own problems. Everyone suffers, in one way or another, at some point in life. 

Recently I’ve spoken to a 45 year old single woman, and she told me that, you can’t overthink about being single and alone (Well, I overthink about everything).  You need to know how to enjoy your life journey while planning it accordingly. For the rest, for those things that you can’t control, don’t sweat. You can’t do anything about it anyway. Leave it at that, for your own peace of mind. 

I will make sure to remember that. And breathe. Cheers to solitary. 

[Edit: May 2017, Came back to reread and thought this post is too bleak! So I wrote a new post partially in response to this one; on how 5 months later I’ve changed and embraced a more positive outlook on this matter]

Transition

In my late 20s, especially in my recent years, I’ve always felt fortunate that I can be “carefree” in life, for the most parts. True that I didn’t really have anything much, but I also don’t have any burden or responsibility, except for myself. 

I cherish that. I really do.  

I know one day there will be changes and I can’t stay carefree forever. But I did think I can take time, going my own pace, preparing myself to be ready for that future “burden” 

But that’s not life, is it? You can never predict this thing called life. 

Out of a sudden, an unseen external force changed things. It knocked me down, and I am totally thrown out of balance, unprepared.  

I’ve never felt “grown-up” as much as I do now. This is what it must feel like being a “real” grown-up; making big decisions about life, making financial plans, being responsible for other people, carrying this “burden” 

I’m also aware I’m such a baby, even though my age is old enough to have a family of my own and even have 2 children or something. It is embarrassing when you think about it. But now I know, and am still grateful I don’t have those kinds of responsibility. Clearly, I can’t. Mentally, at least. 

The positive thing in this, though, is, maybe it’s a fresh start of something new. It’s just a bit sooner than I expected. But perhaps this is a beautiful disaster, an opportunity in a crisis. 

And I will find a way in this, somehow. There will always be a way. And eventually everything will be ok. 

2017, big 30, it’s going to be quite a year. I already sensed it. Another year of life transition. 

“It’s just your imagination”

That fierce look on her face

I don’t watch sports. In fact I never cared anything about exercise (hated it, to be exact) in general until this year. Sports had been, and probably still is, an unknown mysterious world to me. 

Yesterday though, for the first time, I saw some short clips from @tapitta and some people at @p60bootcamp I follow on Instagram about the Crossfit competition. Crossfit competition!? I didn’t know such thing existed. 

I also didn’t know those 1 min clips could trigger this much emotion. Pitta’s face when she was lifting barbell overhead said it all. Her pain and struggle shown on her facial expression was so…vivid, so…graphic. It was as if she was dying but pushing herself to finish it, while people were cheering her “ONLY ONE MORE. COME ON. YOU CAN DO IT.” 

I wouldn’t get so emotional about it had I never exercised myself (Yes, I just admitted watching a Crossfit competition got me emotional. Oops). But I get it, I get those feelings so well. My regular workout is nowhere near as intense as Crossfit, but it’s that feeling I get every so often when I’m about to finish a set, muscles shaking, my PT counting “13, 14, 1 more, a bit more, only 1 more,” in my head I often start fighting with myself “I can do this. Gosh, these dumbbells are heavy, I want to drop these now. No, hang in there, I GOT THIS. Oh gosh my thighs are burning. Wait. Just a bit more. ARE WE DONE YET!?!? Just 2 more times. Get it DONE!!!”

And you know what the funny thing is? The more you push yourself on the edge, when you feel like you can do it but not 100% sure, the better that workout session feels. It’s that tiny edge that you need to keep pushing, in order to be a stronger you. 

Only in your imagination

There’s one quote my friend shared with me when he was running a full marathon for the first time. After 21 km, he started to lose it, then a Japanese runner ran past him with a sign behind his shirt,

  “It’s just your imagination” 

He said he felt like he got smacked in the face and that sign indeed woke him up, and he kept running until he completed 42 km. 

I borrowed that quote from him now. Quite often I start telling myself “It’s just my imagination” when I want to give up too. 

The joy of self-battle 

There’s nothing more beautiful than winning your yesterday self. Nothing feels more rewarding than beating yesterday you. The possibility is endless, you can keep going, pushing yourself to be even better. I particularly love this one hashtag on Instagram #tryingtosucklessthanyesterday That’s pretty much it. 

Your body can do those amazing things you want them to, when you put your mind and effort to it. 

More and more I started to understand what made me like exercise now. The feeling of pride when I can do something I couldn’t only a couple months ago can be addictive. I’m making progress! I’m getting better at this! I can’t believe I can lift that 16 kg. kettlebell now when 8 months ago a 4 kg. kettlebell felt too heavy for me!!!!! This kind of one-on-one workout session fits me too, when I’m prone to internalize so much and constantly seek for self-improvement. 

Exercise can give me that “high” feeling nothing ever could before. The results are also clear; how I get stronger compared with the pre-exercise period me, and how my chronic shoulder ache has gone away after I had been suffering for 3-4 years. You have no idea how happy I AM when my shoulder blades are no longer stiff and I don’t have to go for a massage weekly like I used to. I’m no longer in pain! Weight and functional training did cure it, little by little. Amazingly and wonderfully. 

My goal has never been about having a perfect body. What IS a perfect body, anyway!? By societal standard and pressure or what? And why should you care!? I’m only trying to be the best version of me, and no one else’s. It’s more about fueling yourself with daily motivation and self-discipline; fighting with yourself when you want to give up and achieving something you couldn’t before. 

I’m enjoying the journey now. I exercise because it makes me happy, and most importantly, fulfilled, both physically and mentally.

All of this may sound like some gym cheesy taglines, spoken and written repeatedly with meaningless marketing purposes. Somehow, the meanings behind those words speak to me now. It’s a new, beautiful world to indulge myself in. On my way to become a better me, indeed 🙂 

Content or Passive?

Recently I’ve been listening to quite a few people’s problems; be it their study, career, or most of all, relationships. 

Then I realized I have none. 

I have nothing to complain in return. 

The ironic thing is, as soon as I realized that, I started panicking about the fact that I do not have problems, at least not major ones I can think of right away.  Deep down I’m gripped with fear that this means I’m being too passive. 

Isn’t that screwed up? People in my generation aren’t programmed to feel content, are they?

I just wanted to write this because, I’ve never recalled myself catching a glimpse of content, until now. There’s this…stillness and peace within me, where it has never been presented before.  Until now it was full of chaos and confusion, almost all the time. 

Now, though, it’s the feeling of not knowing what’s going to happen in the future, but you make do with it and feel ok about it. At the same time, you try to stay active, learn new things, challenge yourself, and keep an eye on opportunities presented down the road. 

I feel like I’m in control of my life, and it’s such a great feeling. It also feels liberating that at the present I’ve got no one and nothing to weigh me down. 

Trying to keep positive vibes while finding more meanings in life. Let’s see how this life thing goes! 

The Murakami Effect

“Wow,” I thought to myself, after reading the last word of Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and his years of pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami, and stared fixedly at the page. It took me only 2 days to finish (with work in between), simply because I was unable to stop reading. 

The clock on the wall shows it’s almost midnight. 

It’s beyond me to describe this deep…sorrow and unnamed unsettling feelings rising up in my chest. As a result, I was pacing around the room, earphones plugged in my ears playing one song on repeat. In my head, trains of thoughts of nothing in particular kept swirling one after another. I couldn’t quite catch any of them. 

What a weird sensation. 

I vaguely remembered reading Norwegian Wood and how bleak and suffocating the novel made me feel, many years ago. It was too much sorrow, the kind I did not understand at all, back in college years. 

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki, once again, is full of melancholy and sorrow. As well as nostalgia, loneliness, self-discovery journey, forgiveness, and so much more. 

But this time, this kind of sorrow, I…get it. The feelings go straight to the heart. While I was reading it, many waves of emotions kept hitting me relentlessly. Even made me stunned in the end. 

One thing for certain, I’ve never felt this deeply touched by any novel before. 

“This must be Murakami Effect,” I closed my eyes, trying to yank myself back to reality, silent all chaotic thoughts, and sleep. No more feels, please. 

The plot is fairly simple. One day in college, a guy named Tsukuru Tazaki was “expelled” from his closest group of 4 high school friends. They decided to cut him off and did not want to speak to him ever again, with no explanation. For about 7 months, Tsukuru contemplated about nothing but commit suicide. It affected his life so much that he felt scared to be emotionally close with anyone else ever since. 

Sixteen years later, now 36, he is determined to find the truth from all his friends, in the hope to be free from his haunting past and pain. And the journey of discovery begins. 

Murakami uses colors as a symbol of alienation in this book and I personally love that. All Tsukuru’s friends and characters in this story have different “colors” attached as a part of their names, except Tsukuru whose name is “colorless” Therefore, he constantly thinks his life is as empty and colorless as the name implies. 

Perhaps I know the reason why this novel touched me this much. 

It somewhat resonates what I’m going through, my current state of mind. The book stirred those deep feelings I wasn’t even aware I have left, as well as memories from the past I tried my best to bury underneath, to resurface. It comes out as a mild shock, having to feel it all again because of just one book.  

To put it simply, the story is about a person’s self-discovery journey. It’s about growing up, struggling with pain, trying to overcome the past, and finally accepting, making peace with it. 

You can miss something in the past terribly, like how Tsukuru and his friends admitted that the times that 5 of them spent together was once in a lifetime and nothing could resemble that kind of precious friendship ever since. At the same time, though, you realize how everything has changed so much since then. Even though something terrible that caused you so much pain did happen, once your head begins to wrap around the situation from the present viewpoint, you gradually accept that it’s better things turned out this way, the way it did. 

You lost something once special and meaningful to you, but that is life. Nothing lasts forever. Not even the pain. 

In this novel, it takes 16 years for everybody involved to resolve that pain, 16 years for someone to have the courage to apologize and forgive. 

Tsukuru may think he’s the only one suffering from the situation as he was rejected from the group. But the story tells us that everyone suffers in their own different ways as a consequence, even though all of them leads separate lives. 

“You can hide memories but can’t erase the history that produced them.” 

Perhaps I was wrong. We didn’t become desensitized by life as we grow older. We probably are better at hiding it and pretending that things are okay. We are able to feel things deeply still, but in a different way from our youth. The pain lingers longer, leaves us with wounds and scars from the past. 

The sadness is not overpowering us and we no longer weep because of it. 

Instead, it’s etched on our skin and transformed into permanent scars, deeper than before, and eventually becomes a part of who we are.