It’s 12.24 in the morning. I’ve been trying to sleep since 10.30 pm but it just isn’t working out right now. I feel a well of anxiety bubbling inside my ribs. It feels heavy. I’m trying to feel out the shape of it. But it isn’t regular – not spherical or triangular. It’s just a weird alien mass. I don’t know how it diffused into my body. I don’t remembering permitting it entry but now it’s here, getting comfortable.
Initially, anxiety was familiar only because I’ve interacted with people who have it. But since late last year I’ve become host to this very uncomfortable feeling, like an itch that you can’t scratch. When I experience it, it feels like pure adrenaline. I can feel my blood in my veins. My saliva tastes metallic. Breaths are only productive if I pay careful attention to them – a difficult thing to do since my attention span shortens considerably in these moments.
I am trying to do the things that usually help me feel better: colouring with crayons (I don’t care how odd it is for a thirty-something to have a box of Crayola sitting on her desk), reading Rumi (who is very calming and doesn’t make me feel like all of life is pointless) or writing (which is obviously what I’m doing now.)
I guess the point of doing these things is to locate the source of the anxiety. To fiddle around with colours or words (mine or someone else’s) and see if a mini-enlightenment will be unearthed.
Today’s magic wand was the Crayola: I don’t remember the last time I was truly alone with myself. The lockdown (deemed ‘Circuit Breaker’ in Singapore but I’m going to call a spade a spade) means that I’m living second-in and second-out with my fellow non-essential-services family. Though there haven’t been any arguments, I feel that I’m losing sight of my boundaries. Where there were once bold clear lines, there are only faded blurry ones. I am an ombré of everything around me. Light flowing into darker tones. I want to say blackness but thankfully, I don’t think I am there yet.
To me, being alone means Just Me. Zero external stimulation. No phone, no YouTube video. No episode of Friends (the one where Joey, Ross and Chandler play Bamboozled) playing in the background because I find their voices soothing. No dog. No music. No family. Nothing that morphs my identity or yanks out a label other than ‘Just Me’.
Perhaps it’s a collective anxiety. So strong and palpable that even the cosmos is struggling to neutralize it. It’s terrifying, thinking of how fragile this little blue egg we live on and abuse wantonly, is. I like to think that something beautiful will come out of all this…
I know what I need is to be by myself. To shut out everyone, everything and walk endlessly. Or sit in stillness. I haven’t done that in so long. Meditation doesn’t work unless it’s a practice. Getting your mind to stay clam and serene is a habit that needs to be cultivated. I can’t pull it out of my ass whenever I need a quick fix.
I still feel the thrumming in my body but it’s quieter now. I can sift through my thoughts a little better. I don’t feel compelled to pick up every single one.
I do feel pulled to pick this one up though: What am I supposed to learn in all this? I know that I’m supposed to emerge from this different. That I can’t walk out of this the same way I stumbled in. I just don’t know what that is yet. Until then, I will (try very very hard to) make this deep discomfort my home.
Empty motherfucking promises. That’s what WE run on. WE believe the lies that are fed to us. WE get strung along on so much bullshit that we begin to like the smell of it. WE can’t tell bullshit from good shit. What’s good shit? Who the fuck knows, I’ve been raised on bullshit. Will I even like the good shit? Humans are creatures of habit. Do WE keep it this way because this is all WE know. All WE’VE been told. Is it wrong to want more? To want better? To want earth that is fertile and skies that are kind. Where the sun shines on everyone and not just the same motherfucking few.
WE can’t say anything. WE can’t verbalize, can’t raise concerns. WE don’t know anything, right? I mean what the fuck do we know? We just live. Everyday. Ears firmly on the ground. There are no castles here. No mansions. No prime cuts of meat. Ours is a life of trying to stay in the middle. WE claw and bite and fight to stay right where WE fucking are. WE have cards to board buses and coins to make change. No money, no bus ride. No money, ask your family. No money, no empathy.
WE are constantly told by fools that THEY know better. That THEY are more aware, privy to things that our tender heads cannot hold and our ears cannot bear. THEY make decisions for ME. For WE. FOR WHAT. Who do these decisions serve? How dare THEY extend a hand, dusting off hope in even the most jaded and then guide US to an equator-length list of HOW-fucking-EVERS.
How dare THEY sit there, pockets bursting with paper drenched in power. THEY admonish US for what WE do, how WE think. Tell US to make better choices. THEY control OUR paper and so OUR power, telling US how to live better when OUR paper lines the walls of their homes, the surgical valves in their chest, the food on their expensive plates.
During the time of the Great Lockdown, I haven’t been doing anything. You might think that’s an over exaggeration, but I assure you it’s not. I’m a writer – with one book published and determined to make a living out of it. What does this mean? This means that I need to write. Everyday. I need to be figuring out ways to get better at my craft. I need to read books by other authors to learn different stylistic approaches. I need to be watching every Masterclass by every writer ever. I just need to constantly be getting better. Ideally, there will be marked continuous improvement.
But improvement of any kind is near impossible if you’re simply not doing anything to hone said craft. The biggest difficulty (a wanton lie because I know the only difficult is within not without, but I’m not ready to take a spiritual deep dive so I’m going to keep blaming things outside of me) is the amount of noise in my house. I share 1400sqft with five other humans and one beautiful dog. It gets noisy.
Before the Great Lockdown, I would write in the day at the dining table. Everyone would be out or sleeping and there will be a good amount of silence. I simply cannot write with noise. Not in the way that real writing occurs. Where you write a good thousand or even two thousand words that feel somewhat forced and then some underground well of creativity is tapped and it starts flowing. The words come out naturally and I don’t have to think. I don’t have to question word choice. It just comes out. Letter after letter, word after word.
It’s perfection, truly. It’s the closest I get to feeling the air alive around me. Thrumming along with my heart. I don’t know if it’s great or even good writing. But that symbiosis cannot be a bad thing. It just feels right. Some of my favourite things in the first book I wrote were things that just appeared in my brain. As if I had been pushed into a dark room with a flashlight and discovered words strung together, ready and waiting.
But now, with all this noise and my family around, it’s a lot more difficult, sometimes impossible to access these hidden rooms and wells in my mind. I feel stuck and it sucks. In an effort to combat this, I’ve flipped my schedule completely on its head and started staying awake at night and sleeping during the day. I’m not a fan of this way of living. For one thing, I like the sun. For another, it means I see my dog a lot lesser than I’d like. I also worry about this will affect me when the Great Lockdown is over.
I recognize that perhaps I’m just being bratty and complaining about things that are pretty benign compared to what the rest of the world is going through. After all, I have shelter, food, a comfy bed. I live in a really pretty neighbourhood with plenty of places to walk and workout in. But again, these too, are teeming with people. I think spending time with yourself is easy to do if you live alone but right now, during the Great Lockdown and living in Singapore, it feels almost impossible to get even a sliver of alone time. The only way that that seems possible is to become a night owl and enjoy the emptiness of the streets at four in the morning.
I think the point of this long, grossly self-pitying post is the recognition that this time had affected me in way that were really unexpected. I mean, we all expected to experience things that we didn’t see coming…but this was something that really feels out of left field. It also makes me question why my self-worth is so tied to my productivity.
This Great Lockdown is rudely pointing out the numerous holes in my inner self.
Personally, I’ve know that Joaquin Phoenix is got-damn incredible ever since I watched Walk the Line at the age of 17. The movie blew me away. The fact that the movie actually blew me away is in itself mind-boggling.
Well, the movie is about a
white, male country singer who battles with addiction. I am not white. I am not
male. And my idea of a country singer is Miley Cyrus.
I did not know anything about
Johnny Cash. I did not know any of the singers that were presented in the movie
but I was thoroughly enthralled. The story got me good. But more than the
storyline, his performance was compelling.
Where I gush about Joaquin Phoenix like a demented fan girl
It’s been 13 years and I
still remember bits of Walk the Line.
I remember the way Johnny Cash/Joaquin Phoenix passed out on stage during a
performance. I remember the struggle in their marriage. I remember not feeling
one second of restlessness during a movie that was 2-hours and 20-minutes long.
Most of all, I remember
Joaquin Phoenix. I remember he became Johnny Cash. He was him. No one can tell me otherwise. Not even Johnny Cash’s
Looking away from Joaquin
Phoenix when he’s on screen, even during parts that I found myself cringing (in
fearful anticipation because there was a far bit of violence) at, particularly
during the Joker, is impossible. He
commands your attention and not because he’s your typical delicious-to-look-at-actor
or because he’s a funny, benignly entertaining guy.
Joaquin Phoenix has simply
mastered his craft. Watching anyone deliver a skillset that they’ve worked hard
at and made their own is truly breath-taking. A lot of people claim to be
actors. Quite a number are good actors. They deliver good performances and they
sometimes make you forget that they’re an actor playing a role. But Phoenix is
totally different. You know who he is. You know how good he is. But every time
you watch him, he redefines the standards of an actor and he shows you what great
acting is really capable of: empathy.
Any movie-goer would be able
to easily recall a movie during which they felt sucked into the story. The plot
took over and then they were simply an extension of the scenes, following along
with the characters’ thoughts and actions. An almost out-of-body experience
that ends in a couple of hours with you safely ensconced in your seat.
The Joker managed to very successfully, and a little creepily, do just
Where I muse on what the Joker is about
I watched the movie with my twenty-one-year-old
sister. At the end of the movie, we both just sat in our seats and stared at
the screen. I’ve watched plenty of movies with her and this is the first time a
film has ever elicited that response from us. We just sat there, grappling with
When the movie starts, you
feel really sorry for Arthur Fleck (the Joker’s government name). He works as a
clown to make a meagre living, supporting himself and his sickly mother. Arthur
Fleck is presented as a weird guy.
As we all know, rich and
strange makes you eccentric. But poor and strange makes you weird.
Life has dealt him a shitty
hand and he’s trying his best to cope. But over the course of a few days, a
number of occurrences take place that catapult him to his moniker and its
accompanying legacy. He gets beaten up by kids. A less-than-well-intentioned
colleague gives him a gun. His social worker tells him funding has been cut to
his department and he stops getting his meds. The gun falls out at work and he
gets fired. He almost gets beaten up on a train but uses the gun to defend
himself and shoot the absolute shit out of three rich kids. He reads one of his
mother’s letters that she has been riding to Thomas Wayne forever. He reads a
file the local psychiatric hospital kept on his mother.
Add all this stress to a
mental illness and subtract medication and you’re left with a man who can no
longer distinguish fantasy from reality. His pills kept his delusions
controlled but left him feeling miserable. To quote verbatim, ‘All I have are
negative thoughts.” Without them, he is on one helluva trip.
When Arthur finds out some
information about this childhood that his mother had intentionally kept from
him (and for good reason) he realizes that his life is nothing but a comedy. That
his trust and belief in all the forces that were in control of his life in one
way or other – his mother, the system, society – had caused him pain and made
him believe he was nothing. The truth about his childhood brings him revelation
and freedom. He was free from the stories of his mother. Free from the drugs
that the social service system insisted he take. Free from having to behave in
a socially acceptable way.
His freedom gives him his choices back and takes away his fer of judgement and not fitting in. Arthur chooses revenge, to hurt everyone who had hurt him. Even his mother, a woman he had been taking care of for decades, gets suffocated by him in the hospital. Slowly, Arthur morphs into the Joker.
Probably the most disturbing
thing about him is his uncontrollable laugh. In the beginning of the movie,
during one of his outbursts, he hands a card a to a woman on the bus. The card
explains that the laughter is a psychological and neurological condition and
that he doesn’t mean any offense by it. You can see Arthur trying unsuccessfully
to control his outbursts. They happen at the most inconvenient times. When he’s
asked to stop bothering someone’s child. When he’s seeing his social service
worker. When he’s about to get beaten up on a train by three guys.
But as the film progresses,
it becomes clear or at least heavily implied that the laugh is not a condition but
just simply how Arthur is. His medication, though unable to stop the laughing
outbursts, allowed him to realize how inappropriate it was. Off his medication,
he luxuriates in the laughter. Understanding that it was not about suppressing pain
or fear but about mocking the ridiculous, biased behaviour of Gotham society.
The laughing goes from
pathetic and sad to powerful and commanding. Laughing under the most unusual
circumstances sets him apart from everyone else.
There’s so much more than can
be discussed about this movie. The repetition of the question ‘What’s so funny?’
by several people whenever Arthur starts one of his laughing outbursts. The way
the film is shot also makes you feel like you’re literally right there with
Arthur. Close-up shots and angles that feel raw and intimate. Close enough that
the timing of Arthur/Joker’s explosive behaviour always manages to catch you
unawares. And it’s his unpredictability and his no-fucks-given-attitude that
makes him truly frightening.
Anyway, if you’ve watched it,
let us know what you think! And if you’ve watched it in Singapore, do you think
the NC16 rating was fair?
I first heard about sensory deprivation tanks on Joe Rogan’s podcast. He was talking about this tank – I believe he referred to it as an isolation chamber – that helped him to disconnect from the world. Essentially, it unplugged him from all his senses.
The prospect of being unlinked from my senses is both frightening and fascinating. If you’re human and you own a smartphone, you know you’re overstimulated. Do you use it on the toilet? Do you reach for your phone first thing in the morning? Is it the source of all your entertainment? Are your best friends YouTube, Instagram and/or Twitter? Do you keep your phone next to you screen-up all the time because screen-down is simply unthinkable? Do you die a little inside when that battery dies? Do I need to go on?
A sensory deprivation tank is essentially a chamber of sorts that removes all that external stimuli. You float in approximately 600kg of Epsom salts – think Dead Sea in a tub. While floating, your body is weightless. You are not in contact with anything. Not even the tugging of clothes against your skin because ideally, you would be naked. The temperature of the water is identical to your body temperature. To quote Goldilocks: “It’s not too hot. It’s not too cold. It’s just right.” It’s also pitch black. You won’t be able to see your hand in front of your face.
What does all
this mean? It means you have voluntarily given up sight, hearing, touch and
smell for at least an hour. Giving up taste is a given. I don’t think anyone
would want to stick their tongues in the world’s saltiest soup.
To my knowledge – most of which has been gathered from JRE, a Buzzfeed video and a multi-episode VICE documentary – there are several names for these tanks and they’re not always tanks to begin with. They can be rooms or pods. There are also several names for the experience. Apart from isolation chambers and sensory deprivation tanks, there is also the less intimidating sounding float tanks/pods. Unfortunately, I could’t find anything that showed the room types clearly.
The Float Space
I had my first float experience at Palm Avenue Float Club in Singapore. As of the time this post was written, it’s the only one in the country.
float times from morning to night and you can choose either a sixty or
ninety-minute session. There are six pods so getting a slot shouldn’t be too
difficult if you plan ahead.
I didn’t take pictures except for the actual pod but the space they have is kinda great. It was a little creepy at first because I booked an 8.30 pm slot and the building’s exterior (combined with my perpetually overacting imagination) was pretty dark and doing its best Halloween impression. But once you get into the lift and smack the right floor, the doors open into a really pretty space with views to boot.
I was shown to my room and given a perfunctory explanation of how things worked – which is basically everything I’ve said here so far. The room was pretty bare. Apart from the pod and a little shower, there was a shelf with ear plugs, a towel and a mirror.
I took a
shower, unwrapped a set of ear plugs and climbed in. There’s a face towel and a
bottle of clean water hanging from a hinge inside the pod. There’s a little
light at the end and there’s a switch for it inside. That bottle of water saved
me twice in the short time I was in there.
Don’t Do Any of This
It took we a while to settle in. I didn’t turn off the light because it was just too dark (remember that overactive imagination?) and I thought I’d ease myself into it as time passed.
A few minutes into the float, the ear plug in my left ear dislodged and my inner ear started to BURN. There must have been a tiny cut in my ear from scratching or something and the heavily concentrated salt water got in. It felt like there was an ear bud-shaped hot poker topped with sulfuric acid being shoved into my ear canal. It felt crazy. I had to get up pronto to wash it out in the shower. The thing is, when you get up hastily in a float pod, you’re sloshing about a lot and trying to figure a way to stand without breaking your ass. Salt water trickled down from my head and ran into my eyes. So now, my ear and my eyes were burning. Miraculously, I remembered that spray bottle of water and spritzed myself in the face till I felt my eyeballs slowly escape the hellfire grasp of Lucifer. I don’t think this is the usual experience for most first-time floaters. But if you’re as ungraceful as I am, floater be warned. Salt water is a jilted lover. It’ll find the smallest of weak spots and seek its revenge.
I washed my ear out as best I could and shoved a new set of ear plugs in after reading the instructions because I didn’t want to waste yet another pair unnecessarily. Climbed back into the pod – and tried my best to relax.
My mind was LOUD in that carefully curated cocoon of calm. There were images and words and thoughts and a whole lot of randomness, as if everything in my head was suddenly jostling over each other for center stage. It was all very overwhelming. Until I just remembered to breathe.
I used basic meditation tools – just your good ‘ol inhale and long exhale and slowly, the TV in mind started to blur out and I sank into just breathing. It was the first time I truly felt my whole body breathe. Not just my lungs. Not just my chest or my nose. I felt everything inhale and exhale. I could feel my legs involved in it. My toes. My fingers. Everything. Every part of me was only focused on one thing. Breathing.
I don’t think this state of mind lasted very long because I started noticing channels on the mind-TV again. Perhaps the whole experience lasted two minutes but it was incredible. It was this silence of truly just being with myself and nothing else. I had been properly disconnected for two minutes and was just being.
There was no stimuli – no texts, no work, no distracting thirst trap on IG. None of it. I felt like a regular human – not this multi-tasking millennial machine that the 21st century has turned us all into in some form or other.
The rest of the float was me trying to get back into that space but towards the end I tried to let go again and simply be.
The music played to signal the end of the hour and I sat up slowly, keeping my head tilted back to ensure no salt water ran into my eyes. Then I promptly ran my hands over face to scratch at an itchy spot and had to use the spray bottle again to save my abused eyes.
To Sum Up
One thing I definitely realized is that floating takes practice. It may be easier for some but for me, it’s something I’ll have to do a few more times to really get the hang of it. And I do intend to keep trying. Maybe once or twice a month.
Full disclosure, I had the lights on and I could see it filtering through the crack between the pod’s two halves. But that’s because I am truly afraid of the dark and it was just too much for me to handle. I do intend on going full dark next time to get the full experience but I think you can choose how you want to progress with this.
The next time you hear from me about this, I will have fully immersed myself in it and I won’t be making any more silly mistakes that cause fiery pain. Sensory deprivation tanks appeal to me because of the way it can potentially help you tap into different levels of consciousness provided you’re willing to keep trying and figure out how to still your mind.
Also, those two minutes of pure being is worth the effort. I’m excited to see what it will be like if I can duplicate and magnify the amount of time I spend just being.
Hopefully, my next few entries for this would be less about the mechanics and more about the journey into the beyond or the within – however you choose too look at it.
I invite you to give it a try. And if you do, let me know what you think! (:
There are few things I love
more than a serendipitous movie moment.
Over the past couple weeks,
Netflix has been continually recommending me Someone Great. I took one look at the poster, saw three chicks on
it and wrote it off as the usual fun-wild-girls’-night thing that ends with
them realizing they have issues with each other and they confront it and blah
So, I swiped left.
I decided to go ahead and
watch it while getting my nails done. I would have preferred talking to the
lady doing my nails but we communicated primarily through over-exaggerated head
shakes or nods and thumbs up or down gestures. A prolonged conversation seemed
unlikely. Anyway, I digress.
The movie is about Jenny (Gina Rodriguez) who gets dumped from a goddamn nine-year relationship – which in itself, felt like a slap in the face from the get. The whole premise just seemed rude and as a fellow female, I already felt a strong urge to resolutely hate her ex-boyfriend, Nate (Lakeith Stanfield).
Jenny then contacts Blair
(Brittany Snow) and Erin (DeWanda Wise), tells them about the break-up and they
proceed to skip work and have a drug/alcohol fuelled day leading up to a music
festival, Neon Classic.
The kicker is this, Jenny has a series of flashbacks to her relationship throughout the 90-minute long movie, showing us how the relationship began and how they were when things were good and what happened that led to its end. It comes up randomly. Like in emotional conversations with her favourite drug dealer and while listening to a song in a convenience store. Even when looking at a bottle of coke.
You see all the important bits. You see the cute things they did when their relationship seemed to stretch on forever – like writing their names in a corny-ass heart bubble on the edge of a fountain.
You see the things they did
that gave them their identity as “us”. Things like giving each other piggyback
rides or answering “I love you” with “forever.” You witness the first time they
see each other – really see each
other. You’re there the first time they say I love you.
And it’s all done in the most authentic fashion. Jenny is your genuine real-deal average girl. She isn’t holding onto some ridiculous label that seems to completely define her. She isn’t the drunk college girl, the I-need-to-marry-someone-rich gold-digger, the can’t-get-her-life-together-because-she-can’t-stop-partying mess or the perpetually-chasing-the-wrong-guy chick that we’ve all probably been at some point. Jenny is a girl who fell in love in her early 20’s and showed up every day to build a real relationship with a guy and then found that she still had to be there every day as it crumbled around her.
The bits of their
relationship coming to an end is heart-breaking. I mean, truly gut-wrenching,
tear-jerking and whatever other hyphenated verbs you can think of.
It’s all the stuff that is sometimes impossible to talk about – the screaming fights that isolate you from each other and from everyone else in your life. The arguments that make you wonder when this person that you love changed so much. The anxiety of feeling the swell of your lives well up around you, pulling you in different directions. The shock that comes with realizing that not even the sex is good anymore. It’s frenzied and desperate, trying to hold on to each other a little longer but when the release comes, it falls flat, leaving you empty when you used to be so full after. And empty is just so much worse than feeling bad. Empty is an abyss. A vacant lot that was once taken up with something that you can no longer name.
Which is why I’ve always hated the term “break up.” It does zero justice to the absolute mind and heart fuckery that you go through to finally get to this point of separation. First, you break each other, then you break yourselves. Breaking up is only the final stage – the cancer started way before that.
So, yeah. I don’t know how they do it so perfectly. How they captured each moment and suspended it, making you feel the pain of what is about to come. And boy, do you feel it deep. You feel Jenny’s desperation in trying to hold on, in trying to draw things out. You implode with her when he pulls away from her kiss. You can’t help but empathize fully when she’s sobbing uncontrollably. This journey is now complete; this chapter has closed. And it’s clear that Jenny being unprepared for it didn’t matter.
The movie discloses the
ending of two other relationships. Blair and her boyfriend have a mutual,
completely unemotional break-up that only gives them a tsunami of relief. Erin
divulges to her newly-minted girlfriend about a relationship she was in that
ended because her partner decided to just “go back to dudes.”
The movie is about a lot of things. It’s about love, loss, growth, friendships, courage, strength, partying, fear and choices. But ultimately, it’s about endings that flow very messily into new beginnings. That messiness is wonderful to see on screen because that’s how life is after all. Few of us experience clean breaks from out pasts.
Jenny spends her final week
in NYC with her two best friends before heading to San Francisco alone to begin
a new job. Erin navigates a fully-committed adult relationship for the first
time in her life. Blair is now in a friends-with-benefit-situation and is
loving it. We leave these characters in the middle of their lives, which is
exactly how it should be.
Watch this with your girls, you’ll love it. Don’t watch this if you’re fresh out of a break-up, trust me on this. If your recently single friend is ignoring all warnings and watching this anyway, go to her house now with ice-cream or alcohol. Or both.
What if we told all those dieting girls that it’s okay to eat when they’re hungry? What if we taught them to work with their appetite instead of fearing it? I think most of them would be happier and healthier, and as adults, many of them would probably be thinner. I wish someone had told me that back when I was 13.
All my life i’ve been fat. All of it guys, I’m not joking. My family always jokes about how as a toddler, my grandma would keep feeding me and I would keep opening my mouth for more – so she would keep feeding me until there was no more food left. While the story of my toddler self never being able to control myself around food, sounds amusing to my family – It’s painful for me to hear.
Because, it sounds remarkably a lot like how I am now. Except now as an adult, I am my own grandma, and I keep feeding myself. Even when i’m full. Even when I know I don’t want anymore. Even when I know I’m hurting myself.
So while everybody thought this was cute when I was a child – things quickly got out of hand as I grew up. I still didn’t understand food and its role in my life. See – in my family we go by the rule “better to cook more than not enough”. So in case we have guests, or people are feeling extra hungry on the day – there’s always extra food in the kitchen.
But more often than not – there are always leftovers. And what happens to these leftovers? Well, my aunt (the main chef) will complain about how she slogged the whole day in the kitchen and everyone is not eating enough etc etc, essentially guilt-tripping us into eating more. And by us, I mean mostly me.
See – the thing about me is – I hate making my family disappointed. I hate making my loved ones upset. So, as a child I sought out the easiest ways to make the people around me happy.
Be well behaved.
Don’t make your parents angry.
Listen to the adults.
Boy, if I had known that all the adults around me had no idea what they were doing – I’d have been better off not doing any of that.
So I ate. I ate, and I ate more. And somewhere along the way, I developed a terrible relationship with food. I didn’t know when I needed it. I still don’t. The problem is – it’s cute to be a chubby child. But sometime between being a toddler and midway-through primary school, chubby goes out of fashion for all children. Then it becomes unhealthy. Then you are fat. Then you are essentially a monster for not being able to control yourself around food.
It doesn’t matter that the adults around you are the ones who couldn’t show you a good example. They are all considered to be a healthy weight – so the problem must be you. A child.
I have been put on diets since I was in primary school. I have been forced to work out, skip meals. I did anything and everything so I could lose weight as I grew older. Even tried weight loss pills – at my family’s recommendation, and on my own. Nothing has worked. Every kilo I lost, I put it right back on after a year at most.
Somewhere between being a cute chubby child and becoming the “giant” that many refer to me as now, I think I just gave up on my health. A part of me didn’t ever believe I will be healthy because I will never be thin. Somewhere along the way – I grew to believe that only thin is healthy, and therefore I am not. I could be working out everyday and eating below 1200 calories of home made food, and yet I was twice the size of my peers – so I was unhealthy. It made me angry. And before I knew it, I’d be back on the binge cycle again.
It just doesn’t make sense. Sandra Aamodt gets this. And in her video she explains why this doesn’t make sense.
The graph above shows how the relative risk of death increases and decreases depending on the number of the four recommended healthy habits an individual adopts. The study from which this graph was obtained observed that, if an obese individual:
eats enough fruits and vegetables,
exercises three times a week,
doesn’t smoke, and
drinks in moderation
they had the same relative risk of death as one at a normal weight. And this is what really struck a chord. It made me realise – it doesn’t matter how big I am. What I really want now that I’m older – is to be healthy. And to prove that I can be healthy at any weight. And if that means I will never be thin, or if it means I lose some weight along the way – it doesn’t matter.
What I really want – is to take care of myself. And to stop beating myself up through harsh diets and crazy exercise regimes. That isn’t healthy, and I don’t want that anymore.
As part of my quest into getting healthy at thirty (LOL), I will be adopting mindful eating, as well as the four habits listed above. I shall be doing some more research, but along the way I will also be getting my annual physical assessments done. So I’m excited to see where I am now. And where i will be in a year’s time. I’ll put them up here once they are ready so we can all see how this goes!
I also highly recommend that you watch the video if any of what I’ve written resonated with you. Aamodt goes more in depth about how your brain makes it much more difficult to return to a normal weight when you have been heavy all your life, but I’ll leave you to watch and find out more on that.
I started this post on a sombre note, but I’m really more excited than anything to get on with it. Till the next fortnight folks!
I’ve been thinking a lot
about what it is to be free.
Like any true millennial, I
turned to the 21st century’s numero uno double-edge sword: The
Underneath the steady pulse
of Instagram yogis, fake tits and giant asses, the Twitterverse, the latest
gut-wrenching shooting, murder, terrorist attack and the general never-ending
stupidity of politicians, is a hum of individuals who are participating in the
I say movement because it
does seem to require a seismic shift swing in the way one sees the
world, those around them and their very selves.
A few similarities run between
those aboard the self-love train. The list below is purely based on my
observations. If you have your own, feel free to comment below:
An incident occurred
that caused great suffering, specifically grief – this could be anything from a
heart-shattering break-up, the loss of a loved one, a terrible accident, an
insecurities/painful memories that were formerly shoved in a corner are now at
the surface and the only way to move forward is through
A realization that
there is a big difference between selfishness and self-love
That the only constant
thing in life is yourself
I’m sure there more factors but
these seem to be the most prominent. They present themselves to broken or
near-broken individuals in the form of a maze. Of course, the whole idea is to
realize you’re in a maze and then start paying attention to the signs.
But let’s say you manage to
get out of it. You beat down grief and self-pity and pain with your sword and
emerge from the maze bloodstained, weary and awake. The sun is shining in your
face and there is a path moving straight and true. No more circular pointless
roads with insurmountable roadblocks. Yippee.
What happens next?
I think most people get stuck
here. I definitely did. Allow me to explain.
So you emerge from the maze
and you clean yourself off and you take stock of what you’ve just beaten. You
took control of your life and you’d won. You sharpen your sword because you
know it’s value now. You begin to take yourself seriously. You begin to realize
you are worthy of love, respect and belonging.
You see this beautiful
glowing change in yourself. You’re proud of yourself. But you’re puzzled and
then upset when no one else seems to notice. And if they do notice, they
certainly don’t care.
Everyone around you seems to
be behaving in the same way. They are treating you the same. They’re still mean
and hurtful. Still saying nasty things when they’re upset or dismissing your
The old you would have stayed
quiet and saved the anger and the tears for your pillow or your journal.
But no. This new version of
you bristles at this mistreatment. Your eyes become over bright, your nostrils
flare and eyebrows arch upwards. You speak up. You tell them just where they
can shove it and refuse to back down. You see the surprise in their face and
you do a little dance inside your head: Victory!
I have been seen.
Now you’re arguing with
someone who time has shown to be impossible reason with. And as their
irritation and angers rises, so does yours to match it. But you’re standing up
for yourself! This is how it’s done, is it not? Do not allow others to walk all
over you. If they won’t listen to your words or your reason, maybe they will to
your yells and wilfulness.
So amid all the screeching
and blustering, what have you become? The answer is obvious (if my writing has
been clear). You are now one of them.
When I first hopped aboard
the Self-Love Express, I felt this need to protect myself at all costs. That no
one should be allowed to treat me in a way that undermines my value. This idea
was born out years of not protecting myself. I think I was trying to make up
for lost time. So, I’d argue with anger and go toe-to-toe with unfairness. But
it all wore me down. You really can’t argue with idiots. They’d bring you down
to their level and beat you with experience. If not, they’ll turn you into the
King or Queen of idiots and what will you be left with then?
Self-love isn’t about
worrying how others treat you. It’s about treating yourself and those around
you with respect, kindness and compassion. The world could use a lot more of
these three things but first we all need to separate what is in our control and
It took me a long time to
understand this. Actually, I’m still working through this bit. I can’t dictate
how someone else decides to treat me. I can only dictate how I respond.
Reactivity of any kind only withdraws from your self-respect. Being kind to
someone who is being nasty to you isn’t a sign of being a doormat. It’s a sign
of true self-love. Why? Because it means you are so secure in your own value
that what they say or do cannot hurt you.
Needless to say, this is
much, much easier said than done. I imagine it takes practice, discipline and a
steady flow of letting go exercises to remain calm in the face of someone who
is trying their best to hurt you.
So, I come back to my initial
question. What is it to be free?
In most countries across the
world, financial freedom is ruthlessly chased after. Most of us snap on
blinkers (horse blinders) and run after it without bothering to take in much of
what is going on around us. In that process, we attain only material wealth.
The thing about money is that
it comes and goes. It isn’t permanent. Jeff Bezos may argue with this. But then
again, maybe not since his ex-wife is harvesting half his fortune.
Emotional freedom is the true
definition of freedom. At least, in my book. To be able to do as you please
without needing or vying for the approval of another sounds like heaven. This
doesn’t mean that you don’t care about anyone else, of course. It just means
you truly understand that everyone is on their own separate path and that you
can be there for each other without being expectant of one another.
I’m not there yet. I have
some ways to go. I would love to find someone who is emotionally free and
interview them. Perhaps you know someone. Or perhaps, they’re all sitting atop
the Himalayas, bald and robed in orange. Or chilling out in Varanasi, buck
naked and smoking pot.
Anyway, this was my musing
for the week. I hope you will keep coming back every week. Feel free to comment
if you want to support or denounce. Either way, I’d love to hear what you have
Another Sunday, another frantic phone call from home about another parent being taken to the hospital.
I have another 6-ish months to go before I officially turn 30, but what I’d forgotten is that my parents will soon also face a far more terrifying milestone – 60 years on earth.
As overbearing as Indian parents can be, and as much as I have often wanted my parents out of my life in the past, their mortality is something I haven’t put much thought into.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve watched both my parents go through multiple surgeries since I was 17. My mom had a stroke and was in a coma that we didn’t know if she would come out of She hasn’t been the same since.
I’ve visited multiple hospitals in Singapore more times than I should have been before turning 30. I could tell you where you can go for a quiet space in SGH, what food is best in Tan Tock Seng, and how NUH is a lot more accessible now than it was years ago.
I’ve roamed the various corridors of these hospitals for days on end over the years, become so familiar with hospital procedures and protocols (before I started working in one myself), that I can honestly tell you, I’m tired of it.
So tired. Tired of receiving phone calls about falls, heart attacks, panic attacks. Tired of going to the hospital and home and work and back to the hospital. Tired of feeling terrified that this phone call will be the last one.
I’m worried out of my mind all the time and I’m sure I’m not the only one. And if saying that I’m tired makes me a bad person, then I’m not afraid of being a bad person.
At the end of the day, I will say I’m tired, I will get angry and upset. I will worry about my own mortality, and fret over my health. I will text my best friends, and get some relief from their supportive words.
And I will pull through for my family.
I will be there at whichever hospital I’m needed. I will ask all the questions to all the doctors and I will keep worrying about my parents.
We may not have the best relationship. My family will never make it to daytime television, with ever-smiling and overwhelmingly supportive families. But it’s all I have, and damnit, I will dig deep and pull through for them again.
A Wrinkle in Time has been my absolute favourite book since I was 12. I consider myself to be one of its founding fan club members, despite having no freaking idea that the book was just the first part of a series of novels.
Here’s a tiny summary. I emphasize the word tiny. Mr. Murry (Meg’s father) disappears into nothing one day when toying with the idea of a tesseract. A tesseract is a way to “wrinkle” the space-time continuum and essentially move great distances (and I’m talking about the distances between whole galaxies here) in a few seconds. Three other-worldly beings come searching for Meg, Charles-Wallace, her brother, and their new friend, Calvin. Together, they move through the Black Thing (cosmic evil at its finest) and enter the planet of Camazotz where they search for Mr. Murry. But things do not go according to plan. Not even remotely.
And end summary!
Usually, books-turned-movies aren’t quite my cup of tea, but in this scenario, I have the movie version to thank for finally realizing that there were books and not book.
A Wrinkle in Time came to me in a box of multiple novels sent over by older cousins. It was the first book I pulled out and despite being dog-eared and scribbled on, it had me at the first page. It was the first time in my life that I realized that books could actually change you. That they were capable of instilling new beliefs, new perspectives, and new ideas.
The book was the first one I ever came across with a strong female lead. Meg Murry is presented as a headstrong child with a stubborn tendency to resist authority simply for the sake of it. The book was written in 1960 and in this particular decade, a female, especially a girl, resisting authority was as far from being celebrated as possible. Meg was portrayed as struggling with the space-traveling aspect more than her companions. But the important thing is this: she overcomes it. Added to this her somewhat unbecoming appearance, Meg Murry is a girl written for the all the girls in the world who had far more to offer than just their looks.
I loved her immediately. I still do, really. I love how protective she is, how she pushes on relentlessly. How she loves despite not understanding. And though I absolutely loathed the subjects, Meg was great at science and math. Meg is just more. And as the heroine, she needed to be more. She rose to the occasion of saving her father and then her little brother. She showed me that girls could be more than just their assigned roles. Truly revolutionary to a girl who was constantly described as “chubby”, “fat” and “plain.”
I consider the book to be more forward-thinking than those of the present because it shows how strong females come from strong females. This isn’t your typical story of just one strong woman thriving in a sea of penises. Nope. Exact opposite.
Mrs Murry is an experimental biologist (what in the fuck even is that) who works mainly from home while taking care of the kids and keeping house. She’s brilliant. In the wake of her husband’s disappearance and the ill-mannered gossiping of the townspeople, she keeps her head held high and continues teaching and most importantly, living, for her children. She didn’t disappear into an emotional abyss; she didn’t attach herself to a slew of men. Nope, this badass stayed present and functional for her kids. And yes, I know what you’re thinking, it’s just a book! But think about it. Really consider how ground-breaking such characters are in the 1960s!
The remaining three female characters are Mrs Whatsit, Mrs Who and Mrs Which. Three inter-dimensional beings who were once stars. Yeap, actual stars that exploded and now spread their light through the Universe in different ways. The choice of putting these beings in the form of women shows how capable women are and how resilient and wise we can be. It shows courage and love and nurturing and all these great female qualities that were also combined with characteristics viewed as traditionally male.
I’ve read A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle more times than I care to remember. I’ve read it as a child, a teenager, and an adult. And every time, I get something a little different from it. It’s a book that is worth getting your hands on and I promise you won’t be disappointed.