Finding your soul at the bottom of a well*

Sometimes you lose your way in the midst of a prolonged testing period. You get depressed because help doesn’t arrive when it should, things are spiralling out of control, and you’re confronted with problems that shouldn’t be yours but are because no one else is attending to them. I’ve been in a deep pit that had no visible light at the end. In the darkness, you want to lash out, cry, snap back in frustration, give up. You wonder what’s happening to yourself. This isn’t you. The relentless setbacks eat you up–your personality, your joy, your soul. You become a drifter, a monster, an empty shell.

We had a postmortem of Project Ebola just now. I had been thinking about it for weeks, trying to decide how I would respond. I was afraid that if I said what was really in my heart (more useful in moving forward), my water faucet might start leaking, or my fuse might blow, and I would be looking at career suicide. Not exactly wise, Lennie. Alternatively, I could just stick to politically correct issues with only bad luck to blame: safer but of no real benefit.

As I looked at my notes scribbled an hour before the meeting, I turned the page and found a list of things I had written down during my darkest hours in the pit. It was a Saturday afternoon–yet another weekend at work. I was exceedingly tired, lost and burnt out. An ex-colleague was online, someone I deeply respect. I knew I needed principles to keep me anchored because I felt I was losing sight of myself and could combust at any minute. My reality then only consisted of this project: it was sucking up my weekends, my holidays, my nights, my sleep, my health, my humour, my social life, my creativity, my soul. I didn’t know who I was any longer.

So I asked: in such a situation, what do you do? What guiding principles keep you in check, how do you keep sane and not take it out on those around you?

She answered with the first two points below. The rest came as I searched my soul for answers. Here then, are the real lessons I learnt from this project:

  1. Try to do the best you can. No one can ever blame you for caring enough.
  2. You can’t care for other people when they don’t care about themselves.
  3. Do not act/react when you’re angry. Wait to cool down, then only think and act.
  4. Do not do or say things that will make people lose respect of you.
  5. You can do better than you think. There is always a more noble, gracious, uplifting way to respond to people. Choose this way even though you may not feel they deserve it.
  6. Do not act/react in the same shoddy way you criticise your enemies of acting, otherwise you’ll just be the same as them.
  7. Don’t overlook the details and make sure others don’t as well.
  8. Recognise the people who want to do good work and stick around them. If they are stressed and bite back sometimes, give them slack. Remind each other of the end goal and believe in them.
  9. It’s tiring, and you’ll feel discouraged, but most problems can be strategised out of. Take time to think, consider your game play, and act. Patience will reward you.
  10. Most important is to keep your relationships with all your teammates good. Help each other out, be kind and understanding because it’s easier to get things done this way.
  11. Don’t get political. Stick to your principles and focus on getting work done right.

When it came my turn to speak up, I am relieved to say that I managed to talk about certain things without losing my cool, thanks to the reminder above. This was by far the most demanding project I’d ever encountered: physically, mentally, emotionally. If you ever lose your way because you’re confronted with a problem bigger than you, remember to cling on to who you are and have faith that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

*In Haruki Murakami’s excellent “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle”, the protagonist is told by an ex-soldier of how he had a near-death experience in a deep dry well. When his life takes a turn for the worse and he finds a well in his own neighbourhood, he climbs down into the inky darkness and discovers new things about himself.
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The Pixel Project – Wall of Support

Recorded this last Sunday, at work. Yes I know, I’ve been spending way too much time in the office. Anyhoo, this is for a project I am/was sorta involved in (can’t give it much time these days) – The Pixel Project. For some reason I look sleepier than usual. The funky birds in the background were folded months ago by my colleagues AJ and Josie; I had the mighty honour of cutting squares of different sizes on black paper. So yeaaaaahhhhh!

If you’d like to add your voice to the movement to end VAW (Violence Against Women), just read the guidelines or download a starter script, turn on your webcam and go wild!

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Which way is she spinning?

I’ve always found this fascinating. It’s fun too, once you get used to switching between your left and right brains so you see the girl spinning alternate ways. By default, I usually start off seeing the girl spinning to the right (right brain at work). Then if I read the text below the image, I can see the girl spinning to the left as my focus leaves the image, and my left brain is at work comprehending the text.

Try it. It’s fun!

Instructions: Look at the spinning woman. If she is turning right, the right side of your brain is working. If she is turning left, the left side of your brain is working. If she turns both ways for you, then you have an IQ of 160 or better. <– Don’t know about this last claim. Would be great if it’s true, but I somehow doubt it… 😛

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Life is Boring

It was Friday night after a long week at work, and I was bored. A 4-day weekend lay ahead, full of the promise of unhurried mornings and sufficient rest. What better way to start it off by chillin’ at a mall?

Unfortunately, it was raining.

So I headed home.

Because I headed home, my dad opened the gate for me, umbrella in hand, waiting to shade me in. (Rare)

Because I headed home, I encountered my grandma and earned a genuine smile. (Rare)

There’s beauty and love in the boring bits of life. Don’t forget that.

Posted in daily life, family, thoughts | 3 Comments

Help! I can’t get up!

It’s been a long week, and it’s only Tuesday Wednesday*. Here’s a video to perk you up if you’re feeling the blues like I am. Thanks, AJ.

*Every day, I’m confronted with proof that I’m getting older. Today’s little discovery (tag: memory loss):

AJ: Tomorrow got concall at 8.30am.
Me: Eh, no la, that’s on Thurs!
AJ: Tomorrow IS Thursday!
Me: SHIT. You’re not kidding are you?

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One Future – by Tan Chui Mui

Loved this film. It’s part of Pete Teo’s 15Malaysia short film project. If you haven’t watched any of the films, please go do so immediately. Malaysia’s got talent, and a bunch of filmmakers with a potent commentary on society and the government.

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As the clock ticks, my body tocks.

This is my last hour as a twenty-something.

Of late, I’ve been feeling apprehensive as I encroach the border into another decade, another demographic, although I know from the existence of overweight uncles and aunties that billions before me have crossed into the big Three-Oh without any major hiccup (wrinkles are a different matter). The melancholia is setting in. I used to tell myself that heck, Jesus didn’t begin his public ministry till he was 30, so I’ve still got some time to muck around and figure this life out. Now I’m minutes away from my Deadline to be Enlightened. While a part of me feels rather adult and responsible, the other part of me is as clueless as a city chicken. Cluck. Cluck. 😐

On another note, thank you parents, family, friends and God for looking after me all these years. I wouldn’t be Me if it weren’t for you.

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