I asked Ian a straight question:”Are you stressed?”
“No” Came a straight answer.
I asked that when I read 2 articles from The Straits Times and it is all about children being stressed out. Recently there are some cases of children committing suicide due to ‘stress’. While I am a parent and father, I do not want to critic those incidents, other than to share my grief, I do not want to see either one of you die before me, by means of taking your own life. There are better ways to get things done, and solve life problems.
Committing suicide is a stupid, stupid thing to do and it solves no problem other than to bring grief to those who are left behind. Please don’t kill yourself.
So what is this ‘stress’ all about?
It starts with the parents.
I’m stressed out at work sometimes, when my boss gets to anal about my performance (He is a great boss, and I have great colleagues, but shit do happen at work!), so I do come home with a dour face. Bad mood, foul, quick temper, yes your dad has it, you both has seen it.
Which is why I am forever thankful to your mum. She knows how good or bad things are with me in the office, and she always tries her best to soften things up before The Papa comes home. She’ll give you both ‘advance’ warning to stay clear from me, put toys back in the right place, things neat and tidy, well as much as the both of you can help it. Live firing in progress.
More importantly, she soften things, by explaining what happens at work to the both of you. We try to be as open about the trials and tribunals of life. When we are cash strapped and we need to tighten a bit, she explained it to the both of you. When I have a shitty day, she explained it to the both of you. She also explains and tell me about the days for the both of you, and that helps me ‘adult-speak’ with her.
You both are kiddos, what do you understand about stress, if we do not explain it to you both? We as parents have long learned that you both learn fastest and best through example, good, bad, and the ugly. So we explain everything, the best we can. We do not want you both to pick up the sullen, dour, foul, depressive mood, without ever knowing why, or sorting out your feelings about it. So we do our best, not to shield the both of you from our sullen, dour, foul, depressive mood, we don’t try to pretend that everything is fine and dandy. We explain that life can be shitty at times, and you parents are doing our best to roll with the punches.
I think this is all where it went south for us as parents, now raising the new generation called cotton candies. I was brought up that way too. As a kid, my parents didn’t really tell me adult things, and they would rather hide these issues from my elder brother and me. These issues, were of course, complex decision making that was top down. We as kids, did our kids thing, while the ‘higher management’ deal with high level matters, such as finance, relationships, and other ‘adult’ things. We as kids, were not privy to such matters, nor were we guided in anyway.
Whenever we ask, they will tell us that it is adult stuffs they are handling and children won’t understand, and shoo us away. In fact we do, because when an ‘Adult’ says, “children should be seen not heard”, we as children, incidentally, sees everything and hears a heck a lot more. Shielded, protected, cocooned. For our own good these ‘adults’ often say! So we as children back then, learned these ‘best practice’ from our parents, and now as adults and parents ourselves, we do these to our kids since this is the best way to parent children. We have made a very conscious choice not to bring the both of you up like that. We want to provide guidance, to make sure you boys hear things as it is, and sees that life is highly complex and it is not a bed of roses. It never is and it never will be.
As your dad, the head of the family, I make the decisions, often dictatorial of course. You both, many a times bear the consequences of those decisions, good or bad. I always try my best to explain. In my lexicon, there is no ‘adult’ thing to shield from the both of you. Your parents also do not paint a rosy picture of happiness, materialism or good life to the both of you. We want to be grounded, pragmatic and transparent. There is nothing we don’t tell the both of you, and we expect the same in reciprocation. Thankfully, you both do, tell us, things that is happening in your life.
We here your pain
This is no typo error, we want to be present for your pain and suffering, physically, mentally, psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually. I never profess that I can wish them away, nor can I buy a upscale Nerf gun to soothe your suffering. We want to be there for your growing pains. We know you feel them, just as we felt them when we were younger. We cannot take away your pain, we do not want to shield you from your suffering, but if we can do something to lessen that, you boys know we will. Not just lip service, superficial rub on the head.
We are here for you, both, deep, long conversations, to help the both of your become stronger after you both are broken. We don’t have a sweep under the carpet mentality. You as our boys, sees life, our life, your life full on, in all glory.
There is no calm in life
Sorry, that is the cold, hard truth. Tell you both something, at my age and maturity, I (still) have a monkey mind, and the irony now is that they want to teach you kids how to be mindful so as to find ‘inner calm‘.They REALLY expect a kid to find ‘inner peace’??? First and foremost, I feel, if anyone needs that piece of mind(fulness), it is the parents, they are the ones transferring all the stress to the children. Even with so many years of martial arts training, your dad is ever so mindful, not to let the mind fool me, with mindfulness.
There you have it, reality sucks, really. I don’t want my kids to be raised with some esoteric, hippy mumbo jumbo mind tricks(Pardon my French), but I want the both of you to know life as it is, there is no calm. There is ups and downs, there are highs and lows. I want the both of you to be resilient. resourceful and responsible. If you boys do find inner peace along the way, then that’s good, but right now it is not needed to get through your childhood, what you both need is your parents to parent the both of you a little lesser, and let you kids, be kids.
the road to hell is always paved with a unhealthy does of good intentions
Your friend ‘K’ called you an asshole.
All I can say is that, sometimes; a particular word gets stuck in our head and we keep on using it like it was vogue. So he could have been stuck with this word and thinks that it is cool to use it. But you know better.
What I told you to do is, think of this friend during the days of happiness. Nobody is nasty 24/7/365. We are nice by default, there are no evil babies.
People do all sorts of things thinking that it is in the best interest, but people are most of the time, self centred, selfish and they couldn’t see beyond the halo of the ego they created for themselves. So don’t fall into that trap, since the road to hell is always paved with a unhealthy does of good intentions.
So this K friend had been nice to you before, he has helped you brought your homework back when you were ill. He did stood by you (not often though). So he did somethings that sometimes qualifies him as your occasional friends.
So I told you to tell him ‘I like you better, when you were nicer to me.’
It is true, since everyone has a nice side and nasty side, even when we are nasty, we often didn’t know we were being assholes. So you know better than to do tit for tat.He called you an asshole, that doesn’t mean you have to make his wish comes true. You can define the ‘asshole-ness’ in the word ‘asshole’, always remember never play the game by other people’s terms. He want to get his desired attention from you, to allow him to do that will mean that you are playing by his game. You are much better than that, you don’t have to play his game, you don’t have to acknowledge that K is K. Treat him with equanimity, you have plenty of friends, and he has to queue like everybody else, when he jumped the queue, by calling you an asshole, you have to put him at his place, back in the queue. Treat him normal, never accord him the attention he wanted calling you callous names. People do all sorts of things to get you attention, and when they becomes too obnoxious, you have every right to put them at the last of the queue, or take them out of the equation totally.
I’m glad you did what as I advise, and the last I heard from you, K did some other obnoxious things to you, you didn’t even bat an eye lid, you just treated him like he was him, plain, normal, nothing new, nothing fantastic. That’s good, because when you are able to control your feelings and deny negativity and nasty people to dwell in your mind space, your life will start to align with the great things in life.
We are all here on borrowed time.
I had a ‘taste’ of death.
It happened to me when I was still staying with my mum, back in Woodlands. I think I was already in my National Service. probably 19 years old. I can’t specifically recall what was it that triggered this epiphany, but it goes like a kind of dream.
The problem with words is that words are very poor messengers of life. Like this episode, I can’t tell you if it was a dream, or what.
It happened when I was asleep at night.
I usually tell people it is some kind of a message. But it was more than that, the feeling hits me in the depths of my soul.
It simply said that ‘We are all here on borrowed time.’
That’s the crux of the ‘message’ I got. What I knew was when I woke up, I felt the severity and seriousness of the message. And saw the world in a different way.
We are indeed living on borrowed time.
When it’s time for payback, we go, just like that. Everyday, every minute, every moment is time on loan to us, we don’t really own this life we live. We have it, and the next moment, we will not have it anymore.
It changed my life, and until now I’m still messed up trying to figure out the whole idea of what happened that night. The fact that I’m still alive means that I have a little bit more borrowed time to try and figure what that was all about.
The Scarcity of Death
It does darken my personality sometimes as I think about the scarcity of the whole idea of death, I will probably never get to finish what I wanted to do, and I might expire before my endeavour sees fruition. So why start?
Thinking about it, also spur me to do things, because there is somewhat a mentality of urgency, I have to get things done, before I die. Then the other side hit me, why start?
I’m kind of glad that I got that ‘message’. Since 19, I’ve gotten my life’s perspective right. Stayed happy, worked hard, I got a good sense of what is right and wrong, and somehow did what is mostly right, and stayed away from the wrong. When I want to die, I have to die right.
And I know now since we are on borrowed time, this life is a one way ticket with no return trip. I have to look forward, and when I die, I damn well be doing the things I love. I want to die with a smile on my face.
That doesn’t mean that I am always trippy high, not worried about anything in the world. I don’t try to cheat Death. I don’t fear Death, I won;t say I know Death, but I think I know Death a little better than the people around me. Sometimes thinking about it puts me in a dark place, and I can stay there thinking about death and the dark energy it brings. Sometimes, I’m bright and I want to be bright until I die.
It’s not here…yet…
As I grow older, moving into more borrowed time, I can get a sense of Death, and it is not here yet. But it is also not far away.
Your mum told me one day you made this remark: “Friends are like drugs, some are good for you when you are not feeling well, but having too much of that will be bad, and makes you addicted to them.“
I think you’ve hit the nail right spot on the head.
This applies to many things in life, but for you I know where you are coming from. Friends and the social life are a big melting pot for you in school. You get to work with people you like, and don’t like. Sometimes, the teachers will assign you to a team where there are ‘enemies’. You don’t always get the sunny side of the deal.
Drugs are good when you need them, and you have to stop taking them when you no longer need to consume them, and instead keep them handy in the event that you have to take them again. If you continue to use them longer than necessary, you grow dependent on these drugs. They will have an influence over your life, and soon after that, you will grow to depend on them, whether you like it or not.
And drugs changes you, and if you are not careful, you’ll turn into someone you don’t like.
Friends: Boon or Bane?
In my formative years, friends are a boon, as I do not have a strong family base. I started working young and depended a lot on my colleagues, who turned into friends for support. Friends taught me a lot, and I was thankful I mixed a a good bunch of guys. I owe a lot to who I am to the friends I know.
For your mum, she was the opposite, the family bond was strong, even until now. She has no allegiance to friends or groups, she is still very close to her parents, and there is always a time for family gathering and parties. These are precedence and priorities that I sometimes are at odds with.
Friends fade way
People always have their own agenda. We taught you this early, as we have been through many of these ‘cycles’. From young, we have a group of fun friends, close and tight. Good people whom we thought will be great to age along with. Truth to be told, everybody grows up, grows old, and grows away. Those who stays are families. That is for me; your mum, you, and your little brother.
As you are now in your final years in Primary School, most of the friends you know now will go into separate Secondary Schools next year. All of you will go forth and pursue the calling and destiny of your choice.
It is good to stay close, but being close to a certain level where you have a void, is no good. There are friends toxic to you right now, will also part. Fighting them, dealing with them now, only to face the reality that they will too go their own ways, leaves you with a kind of withdrawal symptoms.
I’m glad you have a metaphor like that, at this age. You’ll learn to distance yourself and have a healthy perspective over things. Never get too engrossed ‘fighting’ that undesirable character in school. I know you have a certain classmate, who is constantly at odds with you, picking on you. He irritates you, but he too will go his way. And when that happens? What happens to your epic ‘Me against Him’ story?
More important thing in life
Drugs are important too, for our lives, you know that. So use them well, and learn about their properties, their side effects. When to take them, what kind of ailments specific drugs can fix.
Friends are like that too, you need to learn about them and be useful to them, and make sure they are useful to you. Have an independent mind, at the same time, use friends to give you the right support and opinion. But never get too dependent on those opinions.
I think I’ve caused quite a ruckus at my office. You see, the place I worked is in a kind of Service Office, that means a lot of people uses a lot of shared resources. Think of it as a hostel, and you have to share the kitchen, toilet, office equipment and chairs.
That is where I think I became infamous.
Our office unit is located just outside the female toilet. and from where I’m seated, I can see who is going in and out of the ladies. Well, it is not that I want to, but the toilet entrance, is in my line of sight.
So I was on the phone one day and I caught a glimpse of a man, who made a quick knock on the ladies toilet sliding door, opened it and went right it. He wasn’t the office cleaner, he was, at that point in time, unidentified. And for me, an intruder.
My lady colleague also saw from the corner of her eye, and since she wasn’t on the phone, she went in to check it out; and at the same time, had the audacity to use one of the 2 cubicles there. That person, a man, no doubt was in the other cubicle.
The man got out of the toilet, before my colleague was done with her business, and before I was done with my phone call. He was just a about 10 seconds off. I hung up and went after him.
Face off with the Perpetrator
I caught up with him at the office reception, and first asked him, then told him.
Asked: “Did you use the female toilet?”
Told: ” You are not supposed to use the ladies!”
One of the Service Office staff manager came over and clarified what happened. (I felt it was more like in the perpetrator’s defence.)
The Perp explained that the male toilet’s 2 cubicles are both occupied….
Told: “Please use the toilets in nearby shopping centre! I faced this problem many times, and I always head for a shopping centre toilet a bare 3 minutes walk! You are not allowed to use the female toilet!”
I was instinctively pissed, the Perp actually have a reason AND excuse for using the ladies.
My female colleague caught up and asked him the same thing, that was right after I stomped off, making that scene. I wouldn’t want to tell her account, but what I got from her was the Perp wasn’t apologetic at all.
That was the story for the day.
I went back home unsettled and decided to pursue the matter on the Service Office’s Facebook private group page:
The Perp, after being confronted, wrote me an email:
I wouldn’t want to tell you much about the response I got from the Facebook group, but one lady, who is the staff of the Service Office, admitted that she also used the Male toilet ‘in a rush’. Well, that is certainly a ‘WOW’. That is certainly new age, hippie, uber feminism!
Scathing in my reply, I challenged her to use the Gents when she is out at the food centre, shopping arcade, and perhaps she ought to do a social experiment and get guys to use public Ladies toilet, and time how soon the police can get to the scene and arrest that man.
Female toilet is for the female.
Boys, remember this. Under no circumstances should you wander into the ladies. You boys are no longer ‘babies’. There are legal consequences if you do that. Granted that even if you have a ‘medical condition‘, you both shouldn’t even consider using the Ladies, when there is always a choice to do your business somewhere else. And in Singapore, you can always do your business in the right gender segregated toilet.
What “pisses” (pun intended) me off
Of course I reflected on the matter, and wondered what made me got up in arms over the whole matter, without deliberation. I guess I was brought up in a place that really is meritocratic. I don’t care who the hell you are, even if you are the Pope, you still use the Gents. Rules are rules, when the rules are broken, I will speak up, and face whoever breaks the rules.
Like I said, the female toilet is for the ladies. Call me a Gentleman, or a Chauvinist Pig, the ladies stays in the ladies, the men, in the Gents. For that Perp to use the Ladies, he has effectively hijacked the ENTIRE ladies for his own self-centred use. That means while he is in there, would the ladies be comfortable? My lady colleague who went is, is sure as hell not comfortable, but knowing her temperament, she went in to make a point. Unfortunately, her point was well received at all.
What pissed me off was also the ‘self entitled’ mentality. The explanation, and behavior suggests that the Perp thought nothing wrong about it. He can even justified with a ‘medical detail’ which wasn’t even detail to begin with. A simple, empathetic, genuine ‘Sorry‘ would have been great. But what I got was a weak excuse and a nonchalant attitude.
You’re wrong, you’re wrong. When I’m wrong, tell me, I say ‘sorry’, period.
He probably would have gotten away with it, and thought it was ‘no big deal’ until he was confronted by a short, angry Chinese man.
Alright, perhaps, it wasn’t even my problem to begin with, but as I age, I grew into a pretty much don’t give a rat’s ass attitude about who the ‘bleep’ you are. You’re wrong, you’re wrong. When I’m wrong, tell me, I say ‘sorry’, period. Is this the start of civic mindedness for me? I don’t think so, I just do not like people to get away with wanton disregard for gender sensitive signage.
Well, if a guy uses the Ladies, and not longer after that, a hidden camera is found in the ladies, where will the finger naturally point? As a matter of decency and privacy, if the man using the Ladies, made some ‘noise‘ while there are ladies in there, how would the ladies feel? And vice versa? If the ladies adjust her undergarment at the toilet sink and the man walks out of the cubicle, wouldn’t that be embarrassing for the modesty of the ladies? So boys, please don’t be stupid. Next time, when you both grow up, got into a very senior position in business or even in your community, please respect the sign. It is there for a reason.
Many years back, I recalled that the doshu (can’t remember if it was the 2nd or 3rd) mentioned that the translation got it wrong. Aikido’s kanji is 合気道, which literally means ‘The Way of Harmony”. The Doshu says that the ‘Ai’ in Aikido is actually Love, not Harmony. So Aikido is The Way of Love.
Things kind of happen to me in a serendipitous manner. I had a friend who recently mentioned that she has been in the same company for 40 years, and she didn’t love her job, but grew to love her job. I’ve just finished watching, in admiration (again) how Cesar Millan, the Dog Whisperer(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cesar_Millan), does his things. and in one of the episodes, he said, “That is why I love my job!” coupled with a million dollar smile on his face. He does what he does because he is good at it? Or is it because he love what he does so well, he became good at it. Chicken or Egg, huh. He has his bad times, and he certainly shine bright in his best moments.
‘O’ sensei made it very simple for us
You go to work because you have to make a living. Most of the time we do what we have to do because we have to do it. This is a problem, the pragmatic, objective, Cause and Effect attitude. We do what we do, not because we love what we do, that is usually further down the list.
So what about Aikido? Do you do Aikido because you love Aikido? Do you really fell in love with Aikido the moment you saw it? Even if you do there, will be times you feel less lovey dovey about Aikido. And frankly for me, I did Aikido, because Steven Seagal made it look so cool. No, I didn’t fell in love with Aikido, I grew to love it.
That is the antidote!
‘O’sensei, never sold Aikido, people bought it, and he never forced anyone to stay in Aikido, you stay because you stayed, and of course, you are very much empowered to leave, if you so deem fit. That is why Aikido is so paradoxically addictive. You don’t get addicted to Aikido so that you can win medal. Aikido is like a bad lover, damn it if you love, and damn it if you don’t. and frankly dear, nobody gives a damn.
Aikido give us that space to feel frustrated, and let us, let it out, through a quiet discipline.
So you have to learn to love, or rather, let the love you have in you flower. The love is always there, Aikido gives you the pace and time and space for your love to flower. There is no rush, no pushing of agenda. No competition to push you to the limit, no time limit; when the class ends, you can always come back another day. Aikido does not end in a win, nor in a defeat. you are only defeated when you give up. And when you decide to come back again, you can simply pick up where you left off and continue the journey, no one will scrutinize you, no one will criticize you, it is a very mature, automatic and accepting art, you call the shots to your own development.
So it gives you time to love, to feel, to affect people, and to feel the effect of people on you. Things that makes love, love.
Not the mushy kind of love, as it requires discipline, sometime, we turn up at the dojo, not feeling the training, and the love, and yet we have to do it. It sometimes feels like an empty shell, you are not your best, love is the furthest thing you are feeling. Frustration creep in, and anger and all that. Aikido give us that space to feel frustrated, and let us, let it out, through a quiet discipline.
Love is only love when you are disciplined, Love, lacking discipline, becomes lust, becomes desire, becomes attraction, all these will lead to the loss of your centre, and unbalance you. Then urgency sets in, anxiety creeps in, anger and impatience set in, love gets edged out. Slowly, with quiet discipline, you have to win your love back from all those belligerents.
Aikido teaches us love, and love, in the most difficult times. Even when we do not love our jobs, our partners, but with discipline, we have to continue to love, and let the love grows on us. Only then can we excel, do our best, in our own way, dominate our lives and not let the opinion of others dominate us.
Love is universal, the expression is universal, the feeling is universal, but the interpretations and judgments and the opinions is what clouds us. Dive into our Aikido training.
First published : Oct 15, 2014 10:44 PM