A Life of Firsts

A Life of Firsts

Dear Boys,

Sometimes, you can get bored of life, you get the same mundane thing again and again, after a while you lose that spark of life, wondering what’s next that you can look forward to.

Materials or?

Your mum and I agreed that we ought to give you boys a life focused on experiences, not material gratifications. That said, we are not short of material comforts and possessions, however we feel that the value an experience can bring to our lives far outweighs the brand attachment our modern consumer-driver lifestyle can bring. We are not crazy over LVs, Pradas, top tier mobile phones, $300 latest wireless ear buds from Bang & Olufsen, or the latest Apple products.

While these items can bring about a level of pride, satisfaction and happiness, after a while, the novelty of these items will dull, and we are back to the shallows; chasing for the next latest craze again. This kind of chasing after material attachment is tiring and mentally draining, not to mention the financial blackhole that sucks money with impunity. So we do not chase brands names, or material possessions.

Keeping things fresh- My first Cappuccino

I remember my first cup of Cappuccino, my friend Sebastian bought me a cup, when I was 15 years old, working in Changi Airport. It was a Delifrance cafe at Terminal One Arrival Hall (Long gone!), and if I remember correctly, it was also the first time I have such an expensive, classy cup of coffee. I never knew coffee came with a biscuit. Since then, I silently expects a biscuit every time I order a cappuccino, and will be silently disappointed if I don’t get one.

Photo by Quang Nguyen Vinh from Pexels

The point of bringing this up is life is full of firsts, but the daily routine grind can make us become careless and miss the beautiful first experiences everyday, every moment. That is when life gets you down, you’ll see the same old thing again and again.

The ‘Best’ isn’t the first

Don’t get mistaken, sometimes the best isn’t what you need, there is a business function called Marketing, which makes people need the things they want. So marketers goes all out to position their products, services and solutions to make you want them, desire for it, and will do whatever it takes to get that experiences, and bring the first to get it is often the bragging rights that they brainwash you into.

Photo by Krizjohn Rosales from Pexels

So we will never queue for the latest iPhone, concert tickets to BTS or other hype. We are not going to line up overnight just to get the latest Hello Kitty toy from MacDonald’s. Being the first to get those extrinsic and material items is a waste of time and adds little or nothing to enrich our life experiences.

Ironically, the very first iPhone you get being the first in queue, might not be the best set to have.

The Small Thing Matters

Wild Durian at Pulau Ubin June 2014

So be particular about how you want the things in life, so far your parents has tried our best to give you life experiences, memories and stories to share, which will last long after your material items are worn down and thrown away.

When you both are older, learn to observe these fresh first experiences, which will be personal, intimate and unique to you as an individual walking the Earth.

Ian with a puppy at Pulau Ubin, June 2014

My First *Bagel

There was a scene at the end of the 2014 WW2 movie The Monuments Men where Frank Stokes, played by George Clooney said to the captured German Colonel Wegner: “Every morning, I walk there and I get a cup of coffee and a bagel, and I read the newspaper.” The rest of the conversation went on to other grimmer agendas of the film, but this line captured my curiosity.

How does a bagel tastes like?

While it’s commonly available, but I just never got around to buying one to try, on top if that, Bagels are just too expensive and gourmet to eat. It’s just a fancy bread, with a hole in the middle, kinda like a donut.

Cheese Bagel

So recently, curiosity got better of me and I bought a bag of 6 Bagels (expensive!) and as you can see, I over heated it in the oven and it turned out slightly charred, and hard, since it went straight from freezer to oven, anyway I think all bagels are hard, they look hard-ass.

So that’s it, my first Bagel at 45 years of age, what significance does it makes, all I can say is that I’ve checked off a little culinary list of mine, and satisfied a craving I held for a long time.

Never chuck those things, the to-do lists that you are curious about, and when you can the first chance to try it, remember that first experience and that’s what makes our lives well lived and filled with stories.

(*I just learned that Bagel is of Polish Jew origins, and perhaps that’s why it’s mentioned in the movie, the irony that the American Officer Frank Stokes will go home to eat a Jewish bread while The German Colonel Wegner will be executed for war crimes against the Jews )

Wayne’s weird question

Dear Wayne,

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!

Posted July 10, 2015

Have you got a friend like Eeyore?

Dear Boys,

I came across this post by  Canadian Mental Health Association Grey Bruce Facebook post, and along with the comments.

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.

Posted January 10, 2016

Expressing yourself with Visual Cues

Expressing yourself with Visual Cues

Dear Wayne,

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

Visual Controls

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.

6 Ps-Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance

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.

The Writer’s Block

The Writer’s Block

Dear Boys,

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.

It’s okay

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.

Photo by Andrew Neel from Pexels

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.


Photo by Suzie Hazelwood from Pexel

Forgiveness- Asking and Giving

Forgiveness- Asking and Giving

Dear Boys,

As you both know, I don’t have a family past which I can be proud of. My parents, and my elder brother, well…they’re difficult to manage, they have never been in my life, for the good times, and they’re always there in my memories when I think of the bad. That’s a fact.

The Letter-it’s not that bad…

The story of my life is one of waiting, for the dreaded. When it finally came, well… it didn’t feel so bad. So…moot point, nothing in reality is as bad as you imagine it to be. Whatever happens, you can deal with it.

The letter was from the government, sent when my mum went to them to get money from me. My dad did that to me about 7 years ago. I’ll go into the details later in future, but the gist of it was both my parents think of me as a kind of ‘gold mine’ where they can milk money out from. This leaves me in a bad mental state, and oh let’s not talk about my elder brother.

Wishin’ and Hopin’

Celebrating my elder brother’s birthday, circa 2000

So I carry them as my ‘family history’ as a burden on my shoulders, always gnarly and bitter about not having a more supportive and loving parents. Well I guess I am always kind of wishing for something better, the wishin’ and hopin’ was actually not doing anything good for me. There’s really nothing nice I can say or mention about them, they are not my source of pride and joy.

Whoever or whatever they are or were, they are literally poisoning my personality and reality without even being there. The best part was I was allowing them to do so, lurking in the fringe of my mind and psyche.

Turning the bad to good

The relationship is so aloof with them that they’ve never found a good reason to contact me, and this caused me to develop a doubt over the good things that has happened in my life. That cynical person in me (usually my mum), who is always suspicious over a positive turn of events. ‘Cannot be! There must be a catch!’ ‘How can it be so good! You just watch it, it’ll always turns bad!’ And things always do.

While I was thinking about the bad stuff they’ve caused me, bad personalities they’ve endowed me with, twisted stories my mum (especially my mum) and dad has told me; a silent voice in me grew louder of late, whispering softly to me that they also did left me with something good. I just need to find out what that is, while my dad was a failed businessman, who was probably a bankrupt, he was after all an entrepreneur. My mum was at times a good judge of character, she has a wonderful smile in better days. Even if all they left me was something bad, I didn’t turn out bad, I learned from the bad things they left me with. The trap was I was learning so much, I was slowly turning bad. I was learning to avoid the poison, by eating them to get rid of them, not very smart right?

Forgiveness

From what it seems, they’ve very much unwittingly done me wrong and left me a little twisted. If we were to move on, forgiveness is a mental closure for everyone to heal and become a better person. Sometimes our perpetrators might be self vindicated, to think they are right and you are wrong. and you are the one who have hurt them, therefore they hold the ‘key’ to your forgiveness, and they’ll punish you and hold you psychologically hostage, by not forgiving you for the hurt you did to them.

Relationship is always a 2-way street and for my case, I don’t think I can get them to forgive me, and I don’t think they will ask for my forgiveness, after all, I cause them the hurt, didn’t I?

I forgive them

My mum

I forgive them anyway, never mind that they’ll never know I did, ignorant to the reality that they have left a son, a younger brother alone, lonely and a little bitter almond seed in my heart.

I forgive them anyway, as I have to accept the judgement they’ve passed to me. I’ll never be the good son, or little brother in their lives. I’ve punished myself enough to try and live up to that fantasy, and the reality is, I am a good husband, decent dad, and okay guy.

I forgive them as I need to forgive myself, for being unfilial, for ditching them, and for being the bad guy in their narrative. I don’t live in their narrative, I live in my reality. I have to forgive myself for playing this sad sorry tune in my head for the longest time.

Always give and quit asking for it

An old polaroid photo of my dad and my elder brother. My only photo of my dad.

Don’t beg

If you are waiting for people to give you their forgiveness, you’ll always be begging. While in a healthy and balanced relationship, you can ask the person whom you’ve hurt; for forgiveness, and it’ll heal faster for both the victim and the instigator, when you give forgiveness, ask for forgiveness and gets it. Nonetheless, if you ask and you’re not given, it’s okay, forgive them for not forgiving you and move on, some things are never meant to be solved and some sour relationships are meant to be sour, no matter how hard we try to better it.

Don’t do what your dad did for the past 20 odd years, waiting in vain for my history to better. History is history, no matter how hard we try to rewrite it. What has happened is not something we can understand, I can never fully understand why my elder brother is the a**hole, he still is, why my mum tells lies to everyone about everyone. People are people, they’ll change to their whims and conveniences, a lot of us live like this and will be like this for as long as we live, you boys can be better, and start being better by learning to forgive yourself, and forgive those who have hurt you.

And boys, if I’ve hurt you, please forgive me, I forgive you for any and all the hurt you’ve caused me.

Healing yourself

Healing yourself

Dear Boys,

After all these years in Aikido, I’ve had my countless injuries, and thankfully, nothing serious. Sometimes you’ll get injured without knowing why, or how the injury comes about. What’s interesting is that after a while, my body will ‘tell’ me how that injury came about.

One recent muscular pain in my left forearm baffled me. I couldn’t understand where that pain came from. The pain was a deep, dull one but nonetheless, I knew I had somehow injured it.

As I continue with my daily chores, the realisation came to me out of the blue. I must have pulled a muscle doing this stunt.

Which was to me at that time, seems like a kind of fun, but I was putting my entire weight on that arm, and I thought the first thing that should go was my wrist, but it didn’t, it was my forearm that probably got twisted and hyper-extended in a bad way. It’s fine now.

Physical Pain, Mental Answers

Well, one thing I learned these months was that my body, or psyche, can tell me what went wrong, and how I got injured, my mind can do the same thing as well.

Lacking Self-Compassion

It came to my realization one day, that I lacked Self-Compassion. I didn’t know that came from, the message just floated out into my mind and it got stuck. I know I was onto something. Somehow, I was mentally hurt, psychologically maimed and just limping around, pretending everything is fine, or hiding behind a thin vile of pseudo-positivism. Besides, in our society, we need to project happiness, strength, independence and look great not just good on every front.

My Own ‘unbiased’ Self Assessment

While I am an overall nice guy, the one thing that lurks beneath that niceness, was a sense of dark, melancholy brooding. My defense was everyone has a ‘Harvey Two-Face‘ like the character in Batman. We all have a good guy and a bad guy persona. That’s true.

What is also true was that the ‘dark’ side of me was becoming toxic, making me cynical over the good and gloat when things turn bad. It is beginning to taint my ability to interpret reality objectively and tell a more holistic self-narrative. My wife, your mum do tell me that from time to time, but it really takes yourself to know yourself.

I am an A**hole

I used to say that in a jest and shrugged it off nonchalantly. It’s like telling people don’t expect me to be nice and it’s a given if I misbehave! While it was a social defense mechanism, it ultimately worked best against…me. I was giving myself an excuse to be bad, and look at good things as a bonus. While I thought I was being pragmatic and brutally realistic, I didn’t realise that in doing so, I am also missing out the other colours of life.

Self-Narrative: The Good, Bad and the Ugly

Like I said, generally I am a nice guy, and nice things should happen to nice guys right? Wrong.

It’s all the self narrative that I am telling myself in the head, and I realised that I am not giving myself space to just be. It was always something about ROI-Return on Investment, or Cost Benefit Analysis, or something of a quid pro quo. There’s always a condition, a cause and effect. Something’s gotta give, oh yeah, there’s karma, BIATCH! Being a working adult, you’re always looking at dollars and cents, cost-centre, profit centre and all that. My self narrative keeps telling me to be productive, effective and efficient, and I get wound up tighter and tighter and I turned into this uptight, cynical, often hypocritical person who cannot see the good, bad and the ugly as it is. There is always a value adding and it’s getting heavier and heavier.

Why are you so hard on yourself?

I’m not sure how it began but I guess the current cruel and harsh reality really began to wear me down, mentally, emotionally and psychologically. There’s really nothing good in the news these days, and really nothing productive or positive about the COVID-19 era. It is as bleak and dreary as I can imagine. Everyone’s down and there is no way to fake it, there is nothing upbeat to look forward to.

Then one day, I felt this thought floated up, that I am very hard on myself for reasons I cannot really put my finger to. That sub-conscious thought of constantly comparing and measuring myself against this and against that. There is always something external which I can match with my internal psyche, and after all the measurement, and keeping up with the Jones, I realised that it is all crap.

Then the word Compassion came about.

(This is where I stopped typing…to contemplate the word C-O-M-P-A-S-S-I-O-N)

still contemplating….

okay, let’s get back to it… 🙂

In all true sense, there is nothing wrong with my life, sure there are ups and downs, and right now, I’m actually at the down…though in reality, I’m not in a crazy free falling down. It’s a controlled descend and I have whatever in me to stop the descend and climb back up when the time is right. I am fine, really, really fine, and I’m only lousy from all these past bad shit that has happened to me, but it isn’t happening to me now. I’m just bracing myself for bad shit to happen, and in bracing myself, I’m unable to relax and stay open to how life really is, happening.

Thinking about compassion helps me control my sense of helplessness. The internal dialogue in me started to change, it is no longer performance driven, it’s just performing, nevermind the outcome, we can fix that when it happens. It’s about being present and not let a past historical story about the poor sad sorry me get in the way of what is really happening now. I’m still a realist, and being compassionate helps me become more grounded, without the extra historical backstory and baggage, sure they are there, but they stay where they are, in the past. I only use it as a reference point, and not a paint to ruin my ability to see things as it is.

Being Kinder, Not One Kind

It is a more forgiving dialogue, and thinking about giving myself compassion, lets me be me. I’m kinder to myself, and when that takes place, I interprets the world in a kinder manner, and when the cold harsh truth comes, I didn’t get as defensive as before, or let my old angsty story gets in the way and put a scowl on my face.

Being prepared for the eventuality-Death

As I’ve mentioned in my previous post- Death, I had this epiphany that we’re all here on borrowed time, and unfortunately for me, I interpreted the message wrongly. I looked at it with trepidation and bleakness. It’s a simple fallacy of ‘why try when we’re gonna die anyway?’ I lacked the compassion, guidance and wisdom to see the message in a more positive light. All I saw was the end, and nothing more, just waiting, waiting for expiration.

It’s not a Race! Give some Space!

There is no guessing, we are all gonna die, and I thought I was kind of a special to have that sort of death vision and qualifies me to be a little wiser and more introspective than the general population, and of course I wasn’t, I was just outsmarting the person I am meant to be.

We all need space, mental space and physical space, and personally for me, compassion gives me my space. Internally, I am able to tell myself it is okay to f**k up for the umpteenth time, as long as it doesn’t kills me! I can always try again, and succeed at my own time and place. When I do, there is no need for public triumph, just an inner contention that it is what it really is, nothing more, nothing less, because the ultimate success we can find is our ability to stop hurting and start healing ourselves.

YOLO & FOMO for COVID19

YOLO & FOMO for COVID19

Dear boys,

We were undecided about going for a holiday for last year’s December holidays. Firstly, Ian has already gone to Japan for his school’s learning journey, and I was planning a trip to Japan this year, 2020 for the IAF, International Aikido Federation meet, happening once every 4 years. The last time I was in Japan was back in 2000, it would be an epic journey for me to return after 20 years.

IAF pass
My IAF card back in 2000

Your mum told me that if we were to plan for a December holiday, I will have to scrap my trip, money’s (or the lack of it) is the issue. We decided to go ahead with a short getaway so that Wayne will not feel FOMO, now that his big brother had an awesome trip with his school to Japan. Besides, I decided to YOLO, as we will never know what will happen in 2020 (look what happened!!), we’ll cross the bridge when we get there, if I get to go to IAF2020, it’s be great; if I don’t get to go, at least my kids and wife gets to go on a holiday in December 2019. So we made some plans and calculations and ended up going to Desaru, Hard Rock Hotel, which was an awesome trip, no regrets there.

Hard Rock Hotel Desaru

We had a good time there, and I’m thankful we went; because COVID19 happened.

Travelling will no longer be the same

I was just thinking about it while I was cleaning the toilet, it was a good call to go. Now that the new COVID19 world, global travelling will be severely curtailed, and we can only reminiscence the good ‘ol days, where we went here and there.

Oh, my solo IAF trip shelved as well, as most event and meets worldwide are put on cold storage, anyway the Olympics 2020 was pushed forward to 2021 too.

IAF photo
My IAF trip back in 2000

Travelers worldwide will have to take stock of how to restart the holiday business again. We may be able to travel and visit places, but I don’t think it will be with great ease like before.

So I’m really glad Desaru happened in December 2019, as this year, I don’t think the world have a solution to deal with COVID19 yet, and so holidays are going to be holidays at home. We can only look at the videos and photographs we have on our trips.

Saving Money and Spending Money

While we do make plans to save and it is important to do so, we were glad that you boys enjoyed your fair share of travelling, taking planes, flying here and there. We want you boys to have beautiful memories of the places you’ve been as a family as as brothers, these are shared experiences that build the bonds you both will have that will carry through thick and thin.

We could have been stingy and saved every penny for a great big trip, something epic, and once-in-a-lifetime, for example my IAF2020 trip, but all that saving is sort of in vain, now that this global phenomenon is upon us, we cannot travel like before, even if we have tonnes of money.

IMG20191215184443

It’s a balance, and YOLO (You Only Live Once) is an acronym used to describe The Millennials and their lifestyle, spending like crazy, living just for today (Live Once), and not worrying about tomorrow, not saving a cent for rainy days. As parents we do worry about your tomorrow and I feel that your mum and I managed to achieve a good YOLO for you boys, we don’t spend like there is no tomorrow, and yet we don’t save like misers, making you boys FOMO all the world-travelling fun. Now with the new COVID19 world, we will really FOMO some things we’ve done in the past, and take for granted. And I’m glad we had our share of fond memories.

 

5km Everyday for November (addendum)

Dear Boys,

I realised that there are some other details I’ve not explain well in my other 2 posts.

Losing Weight

No, I didn’t lose weight, nor was I aiming to when I started this challenge. The strange thing was the weight loss should have come as a sort of given effect, as I am putting more activities on the road, every day, but no, my weight stays on stubbornly.

What actually happened was my blood pressure started dropping. This was more acute when I run in the morning and take the readings after that, evening reading has traditionally for me been a spike, but even that was brought down during my runs at night.

recorded some of my best BP readings during my 30 day challenge, especially morning runs.

That was an encouraging sign as it does indicate that my body is responding positively to the increased cardio-vascular stress and load.

Breaking Mindset

To be frank the challenge was more like an experiment. I wasn’t sure if I can keep to it, as there are many unexpected things that can happen to break my running streak (pun intended). I could fall ill, got hurt, it could rain, and a lot of other events.

More importantly it is a self-commitment to see how far I can take it, before the challenge, I do felt stiffness/pain on my lower back, and instantly the mind came up with this perfect excuse/reason: “Yeah, shouldn’t run so much/long! Give ya back a break!” Or days where I planned it poorly, and ended up exhausted even before I hit the road, I’d tell myself: “Why the heck are you doing this!” Or “At your age?” Or “Hadn’t you got enough? Aikido, Cycling home, and then another 5km?” 

Cycled home…

…followed by a run

While there are tonnes of reasons why you will tell yourself not to do it, I always give myself 2 reasons why I do it:

1- It’s only for 30 days, consecutively, so don’t break it.

2- It’s only 30 minutes out, it’ll be over before you know it.

These 2 mantras helped me get through the toughest run, which is always about the mindset. Even during the run, these excuses/reasons never leaves me alone. But action builds traction. I learned that as long as I keep at it, I’ll get through it. Except when it rains.

Plan B

I’ve already mentally prepared that even if it rains, I’d run. Unless it is a massive thunderstorm. Then I’ll have to resort to Plan B, and thankfully I have a treadmill at home for such continencies, which I only used once.

The other time which I had to look for a gym/treadmill, was a Thursday where I have to see Ian off, flying to Japan for your 9-day school trip. I knew then the night will end late for me, so I left work a little early, popped into an ActiveSG gym, ran the 5km, showered and head off to the airport.

complements of AciveSG Gym at Jalan Besar

The mind is a very tenacious mechanism, and we need to be careful where we apply the tenacity, it can work for us or it sure has hell can work against us.

Reality Check

The other thing was a reality check which was closely tied to our mindset. We have to hit the action button constantly to make sure we are who we are, and not who we think we are. I also wanted to see how my body espond to a higher physical tempo, will I break? Will I fall ill? Thakfully my body held up well through the entire 30 days.

Putting 5km every day on the road, helps me constantly check myself. If I can do it, then there is no lying about it. And if I pretend to be fit when I am not, then there is no way I can do what I did. And despite of my physical ability to do it. The lazy me, did thought of cheating, like cycle instead of jogging, or do a quick 3 km and qualify it as an effort. The mind is tricky and sly, it is a constant battle to keep at it, and not stray from the goal.

Habit forming

There is a popular saying that it takes about 3 months for a habit to set in. I think that is bullcrap. It takes a long longer, and it takes commitment, discipline, and constant eye on the target to keep at it. And breaking it? It is just a matter of days. And the body will want to stay at rest, and continue its optimum rest position.

But what I learned was to be kind to myself, while it is a 30day challenge, I walsy give myself a caveat. I am not going to die achieving it. If I need to break it, so be it, I’m fine, and I am not going to be unhappy about it.

Besides, this was my 3rd attempt, as I’ve failed once a long time back, and again in Sept this year, where I must stop due to a bad bike fall.

Lessons learnt

At the end of the day, I took away valuable lessons in exercise, and staying in control. You see, to be able to put on your shoes and run, would mean that you have faculties under your control and influence.

While your world might become crazily out of control, as long as you can run and exercise, you will know deep down inside there’s still a part of you, that you have control and influence over. It is important for us to build our self-confidence over our own effort to shape and work our body, this is one faculty, no one has permission to control, except ourselves.

5km Everyday for November (Part 1)

5km Everyday for November (Part 1)

Dear Boys,

Your dad challenged himself to a 5 km run everyday for the month of November, and this is how he did it.

Planning

It is not as simple as just pick up the shoes and run, well it is actually that simple but there is some planning to do. You need to run through a couple of things in your head before you actually put the foot on the ground. It is the simple Franklin Covey’s ‘measure twice, cut once.’ mindset, as he as mentioned in his highly acclaimed 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

Route planning

I need to know where to jog, that is to measure the distance and not do more than 5km, there is a discipline to it that you don’t over-run which is unnecessary, and will do more harm than good, there must be a good pace to contain fatigue (more on that later…)

To know where I am jogging, I use Mapometer. This website helps me plot my route and work out the areas I can jog to get my mileage. It is quite intuitive although in some places the routes are not updated, so you still need to have some ‘on the ground’ knowledge to make this work better.

mapometer.JPG

Planned Routes

After working out Mapometer, I will list out a few routes, so that I don’t get bored running the same route for 30 days. For where we stay, I’ve listed 5-8 routes which is in the range of 5km.

The 5 primary routes are:

  1. Punggol Central =5.47km
  2. LRT = 5.19km
  3. Kelong Bridge = 5.17km
  4. Triple Bridge = 5.06km
  5. FGS (Fo Guang Shan) = 5.18km

Once these are identified, I’ll work out a day to day plan:

october planning

This is to help me visualise what I need to do, and prepare the night before. I will usually have my ‘run package’ ready, which is top, shorts, socks, blister tape (more on that later as well…) running pouch and blinkers (talk about that, safety aspect too…)

Look, the plan is the plan, when it comes to execution, it often don’t go as planned, but without a framework, it will be no problem to start, but difficult to be consistent.

Having the map routed, and days sort of planned, it is time for the run! After every run, I will record it down in the journal:

Scan0009

While I use a running app to keep track of my running, nothing beats, old school writing it down. It helps me collect my thought and look at my efforts so far, there is a minor satisfaction writing down the accomplishment, and it does help me move day to day, with some level of motivation.

Hit the road!

Once all the planning is done, it boils down to the execution of the plan. If planning is strategic, the execution is tactical. In order to be successful, you need both, and with all the planning done, without proper execution, you will fizzle.

I know I can run, the issue is running consistently, and finding the time to do it. The running itself will take typically 30 odd minutes, the warming down, taking a shower and settling down at my journal, takes up another 20 odd minutes, so it’ll take me about an hour to end the whole exercise. Once you get the timing the first few times, you’ll know how much time you need to get it done.

While it is all about putting on the shoes to run, your mind will play tricks on you to drag it out, during the weekends, where you have the entire day to do your stuff and you will tend to procrastinate the run till almost the end of the day. This is even more acute during the weekdays, where a huge chunk of the time is taken up by work and commute. which left my running fighting for time with sleeping.

On top of that I have Aikido lessons in some weekday evenings, so in the most ideal situation, I’d like to jog in the morning, so that I have time for Aikido in the evening, but in reality, I’d ended up doing Aikido and jogging after class, which totally exhausts me.

I’ll talk more about fatigue, blisters, safety blinkers and other more nitty gritty details in the part 2.