All posts by kyohinaa

Here We Are

Is this the point when we can look back and say it was like a bad dream?

When businesses, schools and workplaces had to close. When there was debate over what was considered essential services. When everything that could suddenly went online and things that we never thought were possible or normal suddenly became widespread and rampant. 

I remember the early days of our country’s version of a lockdown, and I feel terrible to admit… I remembered feeling happy. 

Ok, relieved, to be exact. 

I was relieved that I didn’t have to deal with the pressure of showing up at work after crying for most of the night. I was relieved that I didn’t have to use extra energy to function outside of home. I was relieved that I didn’t have to deal with the anxiety with what people thought of me so much, because.. There were no people to deal with, for some time at least. I was so thankful that the bar of what it meant to be a functioning human being had been lowered and felt much more attainable for a period of time.

And of course I felt terrible for having felt this way because I also knew people were suffering. Dying. Families were unable to be united across borders. Livelihoods were being lost. Frontline personnel were being suffocated. And yet, I felt relieved that I didn’t have to physically go to work.

Over the next 2 years, I realise I wanted that sweet spot. The sweet spot of the pandemic still being a THING – so that we couldn’t open up fully, but being able to open up enough so that we could do the minimally normal things like going out for a meal, meeting some people (Eg: Therapists) and have small-enough gatherings. 

And now that the restrictions are slowly but surely disappearing, I am frankly quite terrified. 

Because it means that there’re no more excuses not to have workplace gatherings, face-to-face meetings, to conduct large-scale projects, to have to go on staff retreats and bonding sessions, and company DnDs. It means there’s socially acceptable reason why people should be having lunch alone, or why we should not be seated around a communal table.

And I feel terrible that I am feeling this resistance around things going back to normal, because it’s what everybody has been working so hard for over the past 2 years. It’s what everybody should want… right?

I think the real issue is that I need to stop using the pandemic as an excuse to embrace what I want.

I don’t need a pandemic to help me protect my personal space and downtime during lunch. I can set up those boundaries myself.

I don’t need a pandemic to happen to only make myself available for selected gatherings and meetups. I know which types of interactions are most meaningful for me, and what kind of people recharge, rather than drain me.

I don’t need a pandemic to rationalise my energy levels and how much I want to put out there in the world. I can embrace how much I want to give, how much I need to rest, and what’s the optimal level of functioning for me.

I can learn to do all that. Myself. Without needing a pandemic.

*Deep breath*

Here I am.

The Time It Takes

“Just so that we can remember this for next time…”, Therapist says. “How long did it take you before you started feeling settled in this new job?”

I slow-blink several times.

“Probably… two and a half…. three? Weeks?”

“Ok. So let’s take it as 3 weeks. 3 weeks is about the time your body needs to settle into a new place. This might be helpful to remember next time you embark on somewhere or something new.” Therapist smiles kindly at me.

“There’s a voice inside me saying that I SHOULDN’T take that long.”

“Well, this is a fact. There’s no should or shouldn’t about it.”

Post-session, I think about where that voice comes from.

“You shouldn’t take that long.”

As if there’s a fixed timeline for how long one should take to get settled in a new job. As if there’s a fixed period to measure how successful one is at assimilating into a new culture. As if there’s criteria to determine how quickly one’s nervous system should settle when encountering new sights, smells and all the subtle sensory information in the environment.

“You shouldn’t take that long.”

I imagine this comes from the unconscious conditioning we receive. The deeply embedded culture that glorifies results and products over process and journey. Such that when we encounter something taking longer than it “should”, like settling into a new job, the voice comes up.

“You shouldn’t take that long.”

“It’s ok to take the time you need.”

I like this one better.

Single is not a Bad Word

“All the podcasts for singles out there are about dating, how to find love, how to meet people, etc. Why are there so little voices from and about people who are single and don’t feel the need to date?”

This was my gripe to a friend recently. I’m not sure where it is coming from, exactly. To be fair, it’s not that I haven’t come across content by people who are single and who extoll the benefits of singlehood. But, all of them seem to be based on the premise that they are single AT THE MOMENT. They are happy, yes. They are fulfilled, yes. They have meaningful friendships and relationships, yes. But their content seems to be generally based on the caveat that this is not a permanent thing. Their true destiny, eventually, is to be partnered.

And while that in itself is not wrong or something I judge, I cannot help but feel a stab of disappointment every time I come across a page or podcast about a single person, get excited that I have found my tribe, and then somewhere along the way I read or hear a line that goes: “When I eventually settle down with someone…” or “Being single prepares me for being in a relationship because…”

What I’m looking for, I think, is the reassurance that this is a legit way of life. Being single and happy on your own is NOT just a stepping stone to being partnered. Enjoying your own company is not sad. There is nothing wrong with you for not feeling the desire to be in an intimate relationship. There are other ways to get your emotional needs met outside of an intimate romantic relationship. I want to be reassured of these things. Yet, the messages I constantly get from society tell me that this is meant to be a passing phase, that I just haven’t met the right person, that I’m just afraid of intimacy, that there is a Yet To Come.

Who knows, perhaps one day I will look back on this post, turn to my partner and laugh about it.

But for now, I am an angsty single person who is tired of all the implied societal messages about what happiness should look like. I want to rebel by taking up my space as a self-partnered individual and not feel smaller or less entitled for it. I want to claim my identity as a single person and not worry that people might feel sorry for me. I want to say “I’m single” and not feel that I’ve just said a bad word.

Writing.

So. I might have become one of those people who returns to their blog after a long hiatus.

I dust the digital cobwebs away and put my fingers to work. As these words flow I’m not really sure what will come out. We shall see.

Even though I haven’t been blogging, I have never stopped journaling. The physical act of writing has always been therapeutic for me. I think it has something to do with having an impressionable teacher during my formative school years. She insisted that we learn how to write in cursive – for what reason, I will never know. But I do know that it instilled in me an appreciation for beautiful fonts and handwriting, something I try to maintain. As I think about it now, I feel immensely grateful to the teacher who bothered to get her 8-9 year-olds to practice writing cursive ABCs daily in a penmanship notebook which she mandated them to bring daily. One of those things which would never count for marks in a standardised test, but which bring back precious memories and feelings.

At the end of our time together, this same teacher wrote an individualised letter to each of us in – you guessed it – cursive script. A testimony to her love for beautiful handwritten script and her love for each individual student in her class. Years later, when I became a teacher and wrote individualised notes to each student, it was with her example in mind, because I remember how she made each one of us feel so special and seen and cherished, and I wanted to pass some of that on.

I don’t know how I ended up reminiscing about a teacher whom I crossed paths with almost 2 decades ago. It really shows how we cannot underestimate the impact we make on people, even if we don’t feel that we’re making much of an impact at that time. Every little thing we do does make a difference, and sometimes its especially the little things – like your love for cursive script – that can make the biggest difference in another’s life.

The Self Remains

She misses the Self she used to be
The one in her tower
The one who hid behind walls
The one who trusted in blocks of independence and solitude.

She misses the nostalgic landscapes of her inner world
The expansive fields
The idyllic hills
The vast oceans of unparalleled depth.

No one in sight.

She misses being so sure of what the Self was so sure of.

Where is she now?

Exploring.
Learning new ways of being.
Uncovering new ways of seeing.
Discovering new ways of building.

She is grieving the loss that comes with change, even as they bring her learning and growth.

She realises she is still the same.
The Self remains.

The REply in my head

“Did you know? She declared that she has a mental health diagnosis.
I’m having second thoughts about having her come in to work here.
What if she can’t take the work? What if she has too many issues?
What if she needs more supervision and that means us taking more time to support her?
Maybe it’s a good thing for us if she doesn’t get the job after all.”

I listened with my heart in my mouth, thankful that we were speaking on the phone and not in person. I felt my heartbeat getting faster. I felt myself wanting to defend… Who, what, I’m not sure. But I felt like I had to defend something.

“I was there too”, I wanted to say. “I still have bad days. I know what’s that like. I don’t think it’s fair that her abilities should be judged just because she declared her diagnosis.”

I ended up only speaking a version of the last line, rather half-heartedly.

“Maybe we shouldn’t be so quick to discriminate… I mean, many people with mental health issues manage really well with medication and stuff like that.. Right?”

“Hmm… that’s true.”

The conversation ended, I went home and sank into bed, wiping away tears of shame and anger. The reply I wanted to give, wished I had given, churned on in my head.

“I was there too. I know what that’s like. Don’t be so quick to dismiss or judge people who struggle with mental health issues.

You didn’t know this, and there were times when I just wanted to drop the masks and tell everyone. But I didn’t. Because I was too afraid of comments like the ones you just made.

Did I affect the team negatively, even when I felt that my life wasn’t worth living?

Did I require extra support to do my work, even when I came to work after crying intensely the night before? (And while we’re at this, what’s wrong with providing extra support for someone who may need it?)

Did I create extra work for everyone, even when I believed I was useless and a fraud and had pulled the wool over everyone’s eyes?

Your words are hurtful and shame-inducing because they speak to the darkest parts of me. The parts that tell me I’m not good enough, the parts that I tried so hard to conceal under a facade of efficiency and confidence.

In a way I admire her for declaring, whatever her reasons may be. At least she doesn’t have to hide that part of herself anymore.”

it’s ok to feel good about yourself.

These days, it seems extra difficult to allow myself to feel good about myself. Something seems to kick in, as if my body sees feeling good as something dangerous and scary, and uses some mechanism to prevent me from going down that road.

Example 1:

Parent of a child I work with says something nice to me. I feel validated and encouraged, but also wonder if she is going to be disappointed the next time I make a mistake or fall short of expectations.

Example 2:

Colleague asks for my help at work to observe a challenging child in session and suggest what can be done. I feel honoured to be seen as a resource, but also wonder if they might think I don’t really know what I’m saying or suggesting and that they shouldn’t have asked me for help in the first place.

Example 3:

Friend and I are co-hosting a professional workgroup meeting and I help to summarise a journal article for the discussion. I show her the summary and she says it looks “great” and “wonderful”. It feels good to have my efforts appreciated, but I wonder if she is just refraining from hurting my feelings and thinks I won’t be able to accept constructive comments.

Example 4:

I get an opportunity to run a series of online group sessions for an organization. I am excited and passionate about running the groups to the best of my ability and truly believe I can do it. But I also wonder if the organisers agreed to go with me because only my quotation is the lowest and hence they are obligated to use my services.

And the list goes on.

I know it will take time. To allow my body and mind to learn that it is ok to feel good, it is ok to take pride in what you can do, it is ok to celebrate your achievements and abilities. You’re not going to be seen as arrogant and prideful and over-confident for acknowledging your strengths. It’s ok.

All part of the work in progress, right?

Over-onlined

It’s been an interesting few months.

I have fluctuated from “This is nice, I could get used to working from home” to “Ok I need meaningful human interaction” to “I need to go home, this is too much” (when I got the interaction), to “This is great, all our meetings are online now!”, to “I am EXHAUSTED from looking at the screen so much.”

I think the frazzled from looking at the screen too much is the latest one. (Which is ironic given what I’m doing in this moment). I think it’s not just the looking at the screen – its the interaction we’re supposed to have through the screen that is leaving me absolutely exhausted.

Having said that, I am also aware that if those meetings had been face-to-face, I would not even have the capacity to be typing this now. I remember the days when I would end meetings with a splitting headache and the fatigue felt in my entire body, the suffocation of being in the same room as people and listening to one person speak – at least now we have the option of turning our camera off (in some settings) and I can doodle or do something relatively mindless to regulate some of the tension during the meetings.

Some thoughts that have been passing through my mind these few days are: Am I normal? Why does this seem to be so difficult for me? Who feels this exhausted from an ONLINE meeting? What’s there to be so frazzled about when all you have to do is sit in front of a screen and be present? Why do I need to feel everything so much and so intensely?

And yes, crying helps, but crying also makes me go into the “am I normal” loop described above.

Still Alive, Still Thinking Too Much

I was preparing my bullet journal for August and it suddenly hit me that we are officially in the second half of 2020…

And things are not getting better.

They do not look like they’re going to get better any time soon.

They might even get worse.

And it sounds like a cliched, pathetic attempt to say this, but I guess all we can do is to find what beauty and joy we can in the moment.

 

Something that has been tugging my inner guilt strings – the fact that I am not working full-time at the moment. A recent email exchange with one of the places where I provide services informed me that they still have a “no visitor” policy, which I understand as totally valid and needed.

What surprised me was the sense of relief I felt upon hearing that.

And following that, guilt.

I feel guilty that I feel relieved that I have a legit reason not to be working full time right now.

If that makes sense.

In relation to that, I’ve been thinking a lot (probably too much) about our society and expectations and the social constructs of “full time” vs “part time” work, at least in this part of the world.

For example, why do we feel that someone needs a good, valid reason to be working “part time” (kids, caregiving duties, disability, etc)? I can only imagine the “oh ok…..”s should I tell people that I choose to work “part time” because I enjoy having time for myself, because I feel the stimulation of working “full time” to be too much, because “part time” allows me the balance of being meaningfully engaged without being drained, with enough time to recharge and sustain (ie: Reasons that potentially sound selfish and … *gasp*… lazy) …

Having said all that, I understand that being able to choose this “part time” option without too much stress and worry about finances is a luxury, and that many would probably choose this option if only their commitments and responsibilities allow them to do so.

Which then spirals me into another cycle of guilt for seemingly having it easier than others…

 

 

 

Zoom Fatigue

I am tired of seeing my friends and colleagues in squares on my computer screens.

My ears are tired of hearing distorted and sudden bursts of sound through the earpiece.

I am tired of dealing with technical difficulties and latency.

 

I miss interacting with people face to face – which is an unlikely thing for me to say, I know.

Ok I guess I should edit that. I miss interacting with some people face to face ;p