One day you’ll be there

IMG_20170718_133737I can still vaguely remember the moment.

It was within the first week of Standard Three. I pulled out my pencil box and there it was sitting in there, a blue and red pen. It was all pencils for the first two years of schooling life but the time has come to graduate to the big leagues. To have your thoughts, right or wrong, dry permanently on to a paper with no eraser to help you. Well, technically there were ink erasers but those things are like paper dozers, rub a little enthusiastically and you’re going to be a page short. There would no longer be a clean erase of your past. It felt exciting. It was like stumbling on to your brother’s porn stash without him knowing or finding a box of coins your dad has forgotten about at the bottom drawer that would serve you super at the local arcade. A lot of the ‘naughty’ when I was a kid was centered around being at places you were not supposed to be. But this was school. I am supposed to be here and yet, I am now encouraged to do something that was wrong just a year ago. The ‘pencil’ box was no more.

While this scenario would suggest we afford more grace to our young, it also suggests just how hung-up adults are about permanence. Like how our belts go from having adjustable clasps (which are honestly, insanely practical as a design) to leather ones where you have to punch gnarly holes through, as we get older. Woe is you if you decide to drop some weight or forbid, gain some. What then? Bring it back to the store to have them re-punch new holes or purchase a new belt because that’s what adults do. We are meant to make things nonadjustable and terribly inconvenient.

But there is a flip side to that coin. That perhaps permanence also means having to own up to one’s mistakes. No magic eraser to make things peachy again. If you talked it, you better be prepared to walk it as well. But the less-than-ideal byproduct of this is that a lot of us get muddled up in the guilt and shame of our failures and mistakes with seemingly no reset button to bring things back to zero.

But that was what initially attracted me to the idea of grace. Not that we can do all the wrongs we desire and have God come in and backspace everything to oblivion. But that without it, even in the light that I was able to change, I would still have to drag guilt and shame around like a corpse, and that just filled me with such hopelessness.

I would like to think that God’s idea that we should have child-like faith is not just linked to the idea of acceptance, but also that every situation we find ourselves ditched in is not meant to be permanent. Like how a kid takes every situation at a time and if they did stumble, they only focus on dealing with the physical hurt at that moment and not the lingering guilt and shame that comes from failing.

Or at least they do not deal with it for long.

 

 

No dreams last night

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The sun streaks through the exposed window, bathing the room in glorious brightness. I’ve always loved exposed windows, how unfettered and aesthetically clean they look. It’s a Saturday morning and the time is 8.45. She’s still in bed. I get freshened up, thinking about what exactly do I have in the refrigerator that I can make breakfast out of and just why I can’t grow a beard like Sam Beam. 

I walk into our work room, pick out a Clientele record and put it on. ‘Isn’t Life Strange’ gradually swirls throughout the apartment. The water’s come to boil in the kitchen and I make my way there to put together my cup of coffee. I catch a whiff of it but leave it on the counter and open the refrigerator door. Some slices of bacon, eggs, leftover rocket, garlic butter and bread. Sandwiches it is. I fry up the bacon and eggs and start toasting the bread. The counter top is now bustling with food items and utensils. I pick up my cup of coffee and take a sip and I go back to the pan. She’s awake. She hugs me from the back and heads into the bathroom to freshen up. I finish up the fry and plate the sandwiches. 

I pick up my cup of coffee, settle on the couch and take another sip. The record’s moved to ‘These Days Nothing But Sunshine’ now. 

Everything I do today I do for the day above, that’s hopefully to come …

 

Two tongues

HVT
Today I am severely missing the gorgeous view at the Hooker Valley Track

I have come to understand that society in some ways, was built on contradictions.

When I was a kid, I was served a pair of opposing philosophies to approach the larger world. Firstly that ‘good things come to those who wait’ and secondly, ‘if you want something, you have to go out there and get it’. Both were served in largely equal measures depending on the situation and what my parents perceived to be the most effective strategy to get me to shut up.

If I dragged that out to a more adult context, it would be me shutting my whining about not getting that girl because who knows, she could walk in through the door if you wait long enough (I have come to know this as being completely bollocks) and if you want that well-paying executive job, you have to get into the face of the interviewer and show them that you really want it (can backfire and make you look like sad try-hard sod). I grew up not quite understanding how each philosophy properly applies, except to know that neither has really worked for me, in almost equal measures.

Then again, if you scaled that back further, a middle class Asian upbringing is often filled with stacks of ridiculous contradictions. How our parents want to feed us well and gawk at our salad-chomping ways but then complain when we get too fat. Or how they want us to work hard to earn an honest living but nag when we have to work late to meet deadlines. It’s like trying to score against a constantly shifting goalpost and feeling like a loser when you don’t, which is most of the time.

But it got me thinking about the byproduct of these contradictions. What happens to the people who have been raised this way? What kind of an adult do they end up being? Can someone really be untouched by such perplexing parenting and if so, what does that say about the effects of rearing anyway? We might as well just leave a child to grow up in the corner of a room if that’s the case.

Perhaps this is one reason why we have people who are quite adept at missing the point of something. I have watched families slowly being put to sleep because the father pours himself completely into work so that he can provide for the family. I have seen romantic relationships end because one person decided that the other ‘loves them too much’. Or how about people who accept the wonderful terms of a gracious God for their wretched existence, only to turn around and judge another for being not good enough to accept those terms.

It’s tragic when these things happen, because it’s one thing to stride for something and fail in our efforts to, it’s another to be served the assessment that the reason why things did not pan out was because you were busy trying to make that very thing work. It’s somewhat insane and yet it is happening everyday at places that are near each and every one of us.

That is somehow so sad and incomprehensible to me …

Weights and measures

ZillaWhat we define as reality is really just perspective …

I used to love a good moan. I would moan about anything from the state of my personal relationships to how overcooked my sunny sides where in the morning. Age has extinguished a lot of the unnecessary fires of youth so I moan a lot less these days but there was a period where I absolutely adored a yummy chunky moan.

Over the weekend I was in the presence of someone who was having a ‘moan’, lambasting her existence and the people who are forcing her to be in it. At the height of her moaning aria, she stopped herself and said, ‘But actually I can recognise that my life is not that bad’. Her half-serious facade suggested that she was clearly aware that the high drama of her moan, does not commensurate with the severity of her problems. She was aware that she was just having a bit of a moan.

In the last couple of days, I have been combing my 40-year existence in my head, with a keen eye and a checklist tagged to an imaginary clipboard . Why? I’ve been wondering if the % of my existence I’ve spent moaning and mopping about stuff was justified, or just fluff.  Perhaps I was just cursed with a terrible perspective of my existence and was consigned to being a whiny little bastard for little reason. Jury’s still out.

It often fascinates me that while a lot of us occupy the same spaces as other individuals, our perspective of our surroundings could be colored radically different from the person standing just next to us. I have experienced seasons where it felt like the ground was being re-mattered into muesli and I am struggling to hold my existence together, to keep it from dissipating into a thousand pieces. At the same time, a close friend would be experiencing the life equivalent of being a oft-ignored bachelor coming home to Miranda Kerr standing at the doorway of the apartment with a beer in her hand while excitedly preparing a dinner of bacon casserole with a side of Doritos Cool Ranch.  That’s better than good, by the way.

The physical world rarely matters to us as a collective. Our agendas are often markedly dissimilar despite existing under the same patch of clouds or occupying the same roads during a big demonstration. Our colors may be the same then, but our perspectives could be quite different. So until we are invaded by Martians and forced to band together to fight the threat of extermination, perspectives are probably going to rule the coop.

It concerns me that I fundamentally have no universal baseline by which to gauge my existence. How do I know if the contentment I feel these days is a result of an actually fulfilled life, or just a temporary rose-tinted perspective with a side of delusion? Being ruled by these incredibly unsettled facets worries me. I would prefer to plant my flag on something a little more unmovable, so that I can be certain of at least some portions of the outcome.

Perhaps that is why we have a thing called faith, and the person we have faith on …

Baby, you’re my light

Blog-1That 10 seconds, it’s what separates love and apathy.

I used to have a habit of assigning value to superfluous things in a bid to obtain more meaning to my surroundings. In regards to the partner I wanted, I was certain that she would be absolutely perfect for me if she could sing ‘There’s a Light that Never Goes Out’ by heart (actually, in hindsight, this cannot be further from the truth).

With age I’ve gradually realised my folly, mainly that the heart-flutters you’ve reserved for your partner’s ability to karaoke Smiths classics quickly vanishes if they are unkind, vindictive and unreasonable. The truth is, we may dress our needs up in Salford Lads Club threads and train them to speak like dialogue from a Richard Linklater film but our based need to connect with another is really not based on the lyrics of ‘Here Comes Your Man’, no matter how much we think it is.

She affords me those 10 seconds. 10 seconds to gather my shoulder-drooped, scatterbrained thoughts over an issue. 10 seconds to rescind a gob-smacking decision before she sounds the red alert. 10 seconds to just breathe. I’ve never been a boot-to- door kind of guy. I do not rise to duress. I am the schmuck that needs 10 seconds to make the right decision, on just about anything. She gives me that. As such, for the first time in a relationship, I do not feel like I am the last rich cocky Chinese kid in a zombie yarn. It actually feels like I’m going to be around until the end.

I’ve actually taken an unnecessary rendezvous around the derriere of relationship junkyards and ended up back at the words of just about anyone’s mother, ‘Marry someone kind’. Actually it’s more than that for me, ‘Marry someone that gives you 10 seconds to be the best person you can be’.

Yeah …

What have I become?

suit

We all have a closet of jackets somewhere.

Each jacket is a representation of an identity you once wore. Fickle people have larger closets while grounded and square people have much tinier ones. There are also those of us with deep closets with pieces that are hard to reach, or buried.

The style of each jacket can range from the ridiculously flamboyant to the utterly dull for almost anyone. There are some you once wore with absolute swagger when you were a teen but would rather be clocked with a shotgun in the head than be caught wearing them today. There are some that used to fit you comfortably but these days they feel like they are trying to choke every breath out of you. Some have become too small for you, while others have become too large for your shrinking frame.

‘Musician’ is a one I’ve retired recently. It’s not hung deep, but I’ve shuffled it to the corner behind the closed door. It’s never been one I’ve worn comfortably anyway but a lot of people seem to like me in it so I used to wear it, somewhat begrudgingly. I’ve been slowly realizing that perhaps there are other ones that fit me a lot better. I still wear the ‘Writer’ one occasionally. It’s a little aged but it still fits and I’m comfortable enough in it. ‘Married’ is a brand new one that I would be adding into the closet this year. It’s one that I have perhaps been expecting to own for some time now but has always eluded me. The price, cut and fit have never really aligned, until now. Tomorrow, I retire the ’30s’ one. That ragged and torn one I’ve been wearing for exactly a decade now, and with it, goes supposedly any lingering shred of youth. Yet, I’ve never felt more alive.

I am expecting my closet to shrink dramatically in the coming years. There are those that would say nay, because it doesn’t have to be so. That’s true, but stability has never been something I had the pleasure of enjoying for a long time in my existence. I am going to enjoy kicking back a little and working with as little identities as possible for a while, to try and make the few I have stronger than any one’s I’ve had before.

It’s my own cheating heart that makes me cry

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I watched a film recently that tricked me into thinking the misguided protagonist was just a story prose, destined to be stopped by the little heroine at the end, only to discover I was in actual fact watching the origin story of a villain. The tables were flipped in my head and I was both enraged at being played a fool but contented for witnessing a piece of cinematic brilliance.

We’ve heard the expression, ‘life imitates art’. There is a saying that is often linked to Oscar Wilde’s 1889 essay The Decay of Lying, “What is found in life and nature is not what is really there, but is that which artists have taught people to find there, through art”. Lovely and all, but I seem to find myself grasping a little at straws when it comes to how ‘art’ has mostly represented heroism and villainy.

I won’t pretend to know the finest corners of the art world. Most of what enlightened society deems as art is unfortunately not very compelling to me. Art, to me, needs to have a moving narrative. Pictures and painting stay far too still for my liking. Perhaps because I have a stunted imagination. Writing and films, that’s where art mostly is to me. Writing requires some motion from my imagination but it’s hardly cartwheels, while films are well, constantly moving, in one way or the other.

‘Films’ have been educating me since I was five that there is often a fence between both heroism and villainy. Sure, we revel in art that attempts to blur that divide (art house films have made a calling card out of this prose), but for the most part, the classic sentiment is relevant – there is always a protagonist and an antagonist in most films. Perhaps it is what’s necessary for the art form to make sense, to be compelling. These two forces are often at opposite tangents, with markedly different agendas, who agree on little while confronting on a lot.

Yet I find myself being both the protagonist as well as the antagonist of my life. For as much time as I have apportioned in trying to secure an existence where I am happy, I also spend possibly equal amounts of time pissing over it by making illogical decisions to undo these plans. It’s like I am both the coyote and the quick bird, Tom and Jerry rolled into one. That for every effort spent on a good deed, effort is also spent on me doubling back and brutally power-drilling said deed in the skull. If I were a film, I would be an absolutely excruciating watch.

A lot of us would be quick to draw a line between us and people struggling with identity disorders but yet we often behave as if we are wrecked by the same disease. How would you explain people who rocket their good and stable marriage to smithereens over a senseless fizzy affair? Or people who in most cases would lambast a movie character for making that stupid decision but would in turn, make that same decision for themselves when confronted with the same dilemma in reality. Why? That well-aged head versus heart trope again?

I think we usually position ourselves as wanting what’s best for us. But history would fashion a retort. If this were true, we would spend far less moments grovelling in the language of regret. ‘If only’ is a mistress we make bed with far too willingly.

Perhaps we fundamentally love misery so much that we would gladly play the antagonist ourselves even there is no one that readily wants to be one for us.