One evening for dinner, you asked us “Why is kor kor first and I’m second?”
Wow, the question seems so ‘duh’ yet we are kind of stumped as to finding the right answer.
You see life isn’t really about queuing up, it is more like it happened first, that’s why it is first! Time is linear, yet somewhat random. If you happen to come first, which in reality you never will, you will be the kor kor and you will be subjected to a different set of experiences compare to your time now as a di di.
Perhaps to put this in perspective, you didn’t come second, you came at your own time, your elder brother came at his own time as well. There is a timing which will take time to happen, in a sweeping statement, life’s like that!
It has never dawned to me that Eeyore‘s creator A. A. Milne has created such a melancholy character filled with such love and affability. But in real life, characters like Eeyore are often shunned, avoided and sometimes hated. Humans typically like to hang around positive energy, and will do what we can to get more of that, less of the negativity. So the knee jerk reaction to shun characters with depressive states is understandable.
This post challenge that understanding, when we read Winnie the Pooh’s adventure, we like to read about Winnie, Tigger, Piglet, Kanga and Roo, Eeyore usually stuck out in his own depressive way, perhaps something like an anti-hero of sorts. He is not the main character, but he has his own unique way to complete the ‘family’, Reading Winnie the Pooh without Eeyore, just don’t quite sound or feel the same.
Despite of his depressive trait, his friends didn’t leave him. They stuck with him, and involved him in their games and activities. They didn’t judge him, tell him to change, improve him, send him for therapy, counselling, treatment, detox and other stuffs to help him get ‘better’. They are friends of Eeyore, they didn’t want Eeyore to be ‘better’ so that they can be friends.
This is the metaphorical attitude of being ‘unconditional’ towards your friends and loved ones. You be with them for who they are, not for who they are going to become, because of your influence. You cannot manipulate your friends to become someone you think you might like to hang out with.
‘Change comes from within, not without.’
It is like how people always categorically puts it ‘Change comes from within, not without.’ You cannot change people by asking them to change, using your influence, Jedi mind tricks, hypnosis, peer pressure and other extrinsic methods. Eeyore’s friends never asked for him to be any other guy, other than Eeyore.
I have read to you boys some stories about Winnie the Pooh, watched a couple of movies about it, but I’ve never thought of Eeyore like this until I saw this post. It is very profound, telling how quickly we stereotype people, and make often ‘callous’ comments like ‘Why don’t you cheer up?’ If the person is brooding, let the chap brood, be there, be present for the person, if the person is worthy to be your friend.
Honestly, you cannot get ‘infected with depression’, by hanging around depressive people, it is all in you. If you get depressed around depressed people, the problem is you, not them. you have to ask yourself, why do you let external factors affect you and change your mood?
Not forgetting what we are discussing here is a 2 way street.
Whilst it is not in your power to cheer people up, others do not have the power to ask you to cheer up, when you don’t feel like it. When you become depressed, your friends will ask you to cheer up. You would want to cheer up, pretend to look cheered up, so that you don’t disappoint your friends. Honestly, sometimes, it is okay to stick with the group norm, fake it to make it a bit, but sometimes out of those friends, you might come across a friend, who is okay with you being sad, okay with you being happy, okay with you for being you, then that friend is someone who has the maturity to accept you. That is a gem of a friend.
In Eeyore’s case, he has quite a handful. He even has Tigger, who is poles apart in character with Eeyore. But they never quarreled about it, they literally ‘agree to disagree’, if I’m allowed to use that very abused cliche.
So this is not a post that says, boys, it is okay to be yourself as who we are as ourselves, are often constructed by the friends we hang around, and if you have friend like Pooh, Tigger, Roo, Kanga, even an Eeyore will learn to have fun when feeling depressed.
In our constantly engaged world where Social Media rules, it is very easy for everyone to look good and sometimes even looking bad on social media is also done for the sake of looking good, milking for sympathy!
It can’t be helped that we feel judged all the time, there’s exams to pass, and failure would bring a detrimental consequences. There is a constant need for us to look good, nevermind that we often are crumbling inside, a silent scream for help, and connection.
In martial arts, or Aikido, we are very conscious about this ‘Ma-Ai (間合い)‘ thing, which basically means the distance you have with your opponent, within striking distance, kicking distance, so on and so forth, and when you wield a weapon, the stand-off distance will be adjusted accordingly. Too close to your opponent, you get hit, too far, you’ll not be able to hit your opponent, adjustment is constant, fluid and dynamic.
There is a lot of frantic processing in the head especially when there’s multiple attackers closing in and you are pressed to prioritize them quickly, before they overwhelm you. You have to work and find a space that allows you to move and weave between individual attackers and slip between them to gain a better position to navigate the attacks. So ma-ai is not just about the physical stand off distance you hold against your opponent, it is a mental and spiritual stand off distance and head-space you hold against yourself.
We are our own worst enemy
We often want the best for ourselves and the best way to get it is to be critical about ourselves, so that we push ourselves harder, blame ourselves first before anyone else does, own up to our mistakes first, because we are ‘reflective’, give ourselves a beating we can be proud of. We train ourselves harder, so that we become better than the rest. We stand independent and hold our values and virtues with integrity of a solid pillar.
C’mon! Gimme a break! So uptight for what?!
The DRILL SERGEANT
I’m not sure when I changed but when I went jogging, the old self dialogue goes like this:
“You can do it! FASTER!”
“Just a bit more, sprint you piece of ‘bad profanity!!!‘”
“pump those stubby little legs!”
Phrases that would make me a very good drill sergeant.
Me versus Me
Of late I’ve changed to a new tone, more of a talk, between more nurturing, understanding and patient Randy to a younger exercising Randy. It’s a weird concept but basically, the chill self conversation doesn’t reduce the intensity of the jog instead it removes the unnecessity of being my own unrealistic demanding jogging shadow, so the output is a greater sense of situational awareness, not just a matter of completing the jog in the most expeditious military timing, but just completing the jog, as a form of fitness and exercise.
“It’s okay, anyway it’s just 5km, and you’re almost done!”
“There’s no rush, you’ve done it before, you’ll do it again.”
“it’s okay to slow down, there’s no rush. enjoy the run, enjoy the moment.”
Let’s be real
Creating a safe space means it’s a mental and psychological space where you can be really open and non-cynical, non-judgmental to yourself. There’s no ‘Shouldda‘, ‘couldda‘, ‘wouldda‘. No hypotheticals, no imagine beating that idiot’s face into a pulp. Sometimes we want that kind of psyche and angst, but eventually the hype is short-lived.
A more sustainable way is to create that sanctuary for you to be you. No beating yourself up for your silly mistakes, no self-reprimanding, self depreciating statements. Just allow yourself to be objective, take the persona out of the personality and give space for a mature, calm self assessment and learning.
This safe space allows you to build a kind of quiet confidence that infects and affects the world around you in a positive and constructive way. Safe space allows you to think creatively and critically in the most imaginative way possible. Sometimes, we can be hurt so deeply and badly that our fragile baby steps to recovery needs that protection and safe harbour from the cruel acrid reality of the world. Be that safe harbour for yourself and when you can do that, you’ll be able to weather the worst of storms.
Sometimes, under duress, you have the habit of closing up, clamping down your pent up emotions. I’m not sure if you have a loss for words, or when the stress gets to you, you just simply shut down. This kind of emotional withdrawal can be difficult for us to understand how you feel and it often frustrates us, as we cannot find out what we can do to help you. This is quite pertinent when you are dealing with difficult exam questions, and you revert to a downward spiral of a negative emotional abyss.
It took me a while to figure this out but during my one of my recent digital courses where I learned about Design Thinking and Continuous Improvement, I came across a few concepts that I think can help us better manage your emotional expressions
Design thinking is customer centric, so I asked you during a period when you are in a receptive and open mood what kind challenges and emotions you go through when you are dealing with a particularly difficult questions. From the feedback I gather, I came up with a few visual cues for you to quickly absorb and change your emotions from a not so constructive one to a more can-do attitude.
You’ve made many glaring mistakes on some of the seemingly easy questions and while we know you know how to do it, we need to find out why you continue to make mistakes when you shouldn’t. So I came up with this simple visual cues to prime you, as you’ve told me that you have a tendency to assume the question is easy, gloss through them and become careless, resulting in anyhow doing the questions, with obvious consequences.
Subsequently we also realised that there are papers where you got stuck and cannot finish the questions, which is equally bad, because you glanced through and realised that the questions is difficult as it is a long paragraph. You’re lazy to read the whole thing, and quickly concluded that it is difficult, and you become sian to do the question.
After ‘interviewing’ you, I realised that you know the questions, you just need to read one sentence at a time, and break the bulk into bite size chips. Use annotation, it is a technique your mum has taught you but you cannot internalize it, so I came up with this visual cues to prompt you and prepare you to think in this approach.
When you realised that you have spent too much time on a single question, you tend to panic and quickly rushed through the rest, again with undesirable outcome. So I use a simple phrase to help you focus your energy on completion with panic.
I got this off the internet to prime you on the importance of being organized in though as well as in your ‘hardware’ such as pens, stationeries and make sure you have everything where you want them to be. This will help you get into a more collected psyche so that you can better deal with the matter at hand, which is your question papers.
Planning also means that you flip then entire question paper at the get go to better sense of how much you have to do, how many pages there is until you finish, since one of the many issues you have is working on the questions, and coming to a realization you have another 5 questions, and less than 20 minutes, PANICK BIG TIME.
Managing your emotions
We also have to address your ‘going into a cave’ when you are stressed up. so I used emoticons to help us navigate a pathway to a better understanding of how we can help you, and how you can help yourself express your frustrations.
I pulled out more than 20 of the more common emoticons so that you can pick one to express your current feelings. We do this before you start your tests so that we can better gauge your response. While I didn’t get a statistical data out of the frequency you pick ‘Nervous’, ‘whatever’, ‘focused’ and others, it does help you give us a label which we can work on.
Work in progress
I put all these visual cues into our iPad and you can swipe them and pick the closest emoticons reflecting your mood, it does helps us better understand your feelings and while I don’t have a conclusive feedback from you if these method works or not, I do observe lesser occurrence of negative emotional melancholy meh.
While I don’t want to be critical or judgmental, we still have to get s**t done even when we are meh, especially when we are meh, but knowing that we are meh, can help us bring some level of awareness on it and we can try to swing that mood around. The exams won’t go away but if you can manage your meh, you can shift the mood and influence the outcome, which is a baby steps towards arresting that habit of a downward spiral into negativity.
Sometimes the words we use often has an impact on how we see the world and in turn how the world ‘see’ us. This is particularly important because if you don’t get this right, you’ll spend a major part of your adult life trying to fix what you have already sub-consciously conditioned yourself into thinking and acting.
This can be a creativity-killing-word, and using this adverb carelessly will always ensure you relinquish your decision making to a conditioned state.
‘I’m always like that what!’
‘You always never turn off the lights!’
‘He always like that one!
We all encounter such statements and make many more ourselves, all the time. We do so out of efficiency and more often than not, laziness. We make quick statements like these so that we can get to the outcome quickly. So if you forgets to bring your masks out, you can resort to ‘You’re always the forgetful one!’ which followed by a ‘hmph‘ and entertain a self depreciating thought of how you have limited memory of a mouse, you’re getting senile and then ha ha and LOL.
Such confirmation bias helps us soothes our lives small little mishaps and sometimes even cushion us from the larger ones, by assigning blame to conditions that is beyond our control. It helps us manage our lives’ daily minute ups and downs and it can be a helpful coping life skills.
Not Always So
This is a Zen saying I learned sometime back, and I’ve forgotten much of it, I think it was by Shunryu Suzuki, a Zen monk who coined this ‘famous’ phrase. The point is, it helps us untangle ourselves from our daily, often self-limiting speech-act.
We need to know that we can make decisions, life changing decisions which can helps empower us beyond our feeble inconsistencies and insecurities.
This three words is the antidote to our ‘always‘ culture, paradoxically, it includes the very word we try to untangle ourselves from.
Every time, we do something that seems like a mistake we made before, or we got lazy and left the dishes unwashed, we can blame it on laziness, we are ‘always‘ procrastinating, or we can ask ourselves, Is that always the case? Am I always like that? Not always so! We can change, reflect and make amends, fix things, grow a new habit and exercise our decision making faculty.
Nothing is Fixed, and Nothing can be Fixed, Everything is Constantly Fixing
So we need to know that while we form habits which shapes our behavior, nothing is fixed, except our decision to set it. Even that can be changed, of course there will be consequences when it comes to a fixed habit, as well as fixing a habit, but as human beings, we must constantly make decision, that will change the range of choices that leads to a wider variety of outcome.
So to me it is not the faculty of choice, it is our ability to decide, when we make a lousy decision, we can then make another decision to correct it, or we can lament that we are always making shitty choices, which leads to a downgrade of personal empowerment, and then a replay of our entire life’s mistakes, failures and boo boos. Or we can decide to make another outcome, take another route, do it again, and again, and again, so that we get it right.
Life is about making one decision after another which takes us from one outcome to another, by constantly exercising our decision making muscle, we will never be short of choices that can take us from where we are to where we want to go.
Lt Gen (ret.) Winston Choo
Our very first Chief of Defence Force Winston Choo was a farmer, who became our country’s most well known soldier. Had he maintained that mindset that he was a ‘farmer’, will be farming, and always be a farmer, he will never have risen to his full potential.
Has he always been a farmer? Not always so!
As human beings we are here to make sure we keep doing what we can to better the circumstances we are in, otherwise we will always be homo sapiens. So learn from our country’s longest serving military chief, be something more that we we have always been, never settle for always, keep questioning our being, our ability, move quickly from our mistakes, learn from them and make our problems a source of solution and experience for us to become a better me.
Decision making are the breakfast for champions
In my dictionary, there is no good choice, no bad choice, no bad decisions, nor good ones, as long as it brings you closer to your outcome then that is the decision to take, not right nor wrong. Sometimes you make a decision that seems to take you to your destination, but we end up going another route, which serendipitously enhances our learning and experiences, in turn helps us revaluate our earlier decisions. Nothing is fixed unless we decides to fix them.
We often look at achievers and think why are they always the ‘smart’ ones making all the right moves and choices? Frankly, it all lies in our decision making and our ability to correct our decision quickly, so that we avoid making the ‘always‘ self-defeating statements.
‘Tom is always so lucky!’
‘Dick always gets good grades!’
‘Harry is always getting the promotion!
So if you want to have an always, have an always striving, always learning, always getting better, always the hardworking one.
So, boys, condition yourselves to make decision, constantly evaluate your ability to make decisions, and sometimes you might make a lousy stand, don’t die with it, don’t get emotionally or personally attached to it, change, make another decision, get new information, find out and study what you are lacking that resulted in you not making a quality decision, and please don’t dwell on self limiting conversations, you are never ‘always‘ like that or like this, unless you really make a decision to be!
P.S Lt Gen (Ret.) Wiston has a book out, titled A Soldier At Heart, is published by Landmark Books and is based on 40 hours of fresh interviews, oral history transcripts, speeches and Mr Choo’s writings, said a statement from the local publisher.
I hadn’t been writing for a while, due to a few reasons. And I want to start writing again, as I e-learned something from Seth Godin. He asked his friend, the great Isaac Asimov who was a prolific writer and published more than 450 books in his lifetime. How does he write so much? Seth asked him one day, to which Isaac replied that he starts the day at his manual typewriter, and type for till noon; it doesn’t matter what came out, good, bad, and ugly, there is no judgement to it. There is no such thing as a mental block, writer’s block or any kind of block, it is all in the head, and your mindset.
The epiphany didn’t happen instantaneously, it still took me a while to start again, as I need to overcome excuses and latency, and plain old laziness.
Of course with all the COVID19 that is going around, we cannot help but put a lot of our usual things on hold so that we can get a hold of ourselves and watch in trepidation as the world spins out of control and into craziness. Your dad also have to deal with personal, career issues along with other things. So it’s not easy to just continue like nothing has happened when there is so much happening around us.
Overtime, all the tumultuous turn of events can simply wear us down, or we can decide otherwise, while there is a lot of madness going on out there, there is also an equal amount of good and grace there has risen to the challenge. There is a greater awareness of mental health, amidst a rise in suicide cases in Singapore, people are beginning to see beyond work and school grades. There are social movements that is attempting to influence institutions and companies to look beyond profits and performance to really take care of their people and employees, my own personal take is that COVID19 is really the great leveler, no one is immune to it, CEO, Presidents, Celebrities, Rich and Poor, of course the poor suffers more but COVID19 kills all, regardless of how important you are.
So it is okay, to take a break, give yourself mental head space to take a step back.
If you have a mental block? No problem, just chill.
Writer’s block? Hang up for a while.
Toxic people in your life? Walk away, even when you think you cannot.
Let’s start again, and again.
So back to writing, hopefully, I can endeavor to display more consistency in putting my thoughts for you boys, as there are a lot of things I wanna tell you all for your future and for my past. Well, let’s just put pen to paper, or for my era, keyboard to screen and see what happens from there.