Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Thanx to berds

Apparently, I'm cyclothymic... hmm....

DisorderYour Score
Major Depression:High
Bipolar Disorder:High
Cyclothymia:Extremely High
Seasonal Affective Disorder:High-Moderate
Postpartum Depression:N/A
Take the Depression Test

A blog about nothing in particular

I'm sitting here in Starbucks, allowing myself to be distracted by the baristas and the cute angmoh babies running around. Oh.... babies :) Aren't they just adorable? I read my mails and think about how technology closes the gap between people. I read my posts and the comments here, and marvel at how I miss my school days, and the friends I hardly keep in touch with. Even those who made me feel small when I was schooling :) I call it character-building. What cannot kill you, can only make you stronger. I think of all the miles between good friends, and feel melancholic. I think of how people can be so close to each other physically, and yet so far away emotionally, and feel sad. I wish things to be different, but I know it can't ever be the same again. Life plays funny tricks on people. When you least expect it, life can throw you a curve ball. And sometimes, life can be stranger than fiction. Who's to say it isn't pieces of a puzzle to form a bigger picture? Que sera, sera.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Lent and Suffering

Thursday, 13.04.2006, 0122 hours

I was talking to a friend the other night, and he mentioned that, one of the reasons why he's generally agnostic, is that, having gone through more than his fair share of difficulties in his short life, he refuses to believe that the God of Love is also the God of Suffering, the burning question being: How could our common understanding of a God that is kind and just condone seemingly senseless human suffering?

I blame the almost 40 days and 40 nights of Lenten reflection to be in this relatively sombre, almost morose mood. In the same long conversation, I mentioned to said friend of my normal recalcitrance and discomfort when it comes to the common concept of 'sharing' (in Bible/ Catechism studies, cell/ discussion groups, religion classes and the like) with near strangers. I suppose it is due to the fact that I am not particularly partial to the idea of someone I don't really know poking in the dark recesses of my paranoid mind. I am probably afraid of what they would find. Who knows, I might scare them away if I allow them to dig too deep. I would certainly share, but only with those I am comfortable with.

After all that had happened in the past couple of months, though, I believe I would like to share these: two articles on Christianity, Lent and the ruminations on the concept of suffering. Oh, I don't consider myself particularly religious, I have no such pretensions, but I shan't lie. Religion and faith does work for me, even if on occasion. I would like to think, that there is a Greater Being out there to watch over me, fool that I am. The thought comforts me, and acts as a check and balance for outrageous behaviour :p

From Catholic Asian News, March 2006 issue, an article by Rufus Bruno Pereira:

Suffering in Perspective

In Search of Meaning

Suffering is inevitable but why? Explanations like suffering results from evil, from sin or misconduct, or misjudgement are inadequate.

Augustine's basic claim explaining evil as human freedom misused fails the empirical test for the mature and disciplined exercise of freedom has seen terrifying pain and suffering. Unexplained and incomprehensible sufferings are known to have resulted from good and well-intentioned efforts.

Prior to Augustine, Irenaeus (120-202 A. D.) and others presupposing an imperfect creation have argued that the presence of suffering challenges people to moral or character development. The world then is a higher place for forming the higher potentialities of the human personality otherwise impossible in a world without suffering or pain. The weakness with Irenaeus' position is that suffering instead of calling forth moral development has seen moral collapse.

Some have contextualized suffering within the understanding that life is a school teacher that can teach us things if we are open and willing to learn from life. Valuable though that reasoning is, it is not absolute for how does one reconcile with the fact that there are people who suffer tremendously only to learn small lessons in life and end up bitter?

Will the appeal to Job or Jesus help in explaining the meaning and the purpose of suffering in life? The author of Job insists that suffering cannot be caused by sin. However, Job's suffering has significance being part of a larger cosmic drama between God and Satan while for Christians, Jesus' sufferings have turned cosmic wheels redeeming cosmic life.

Yet ordinary human experiences of sufferings appear stripped of such epic significance where little meaning can be found while the experience plagues a person into despair. Besides, giving suffering a divine purpose for the universe is to mean that God willed it, and if God willed it, claiming that God will not allow suffering beyond human endurance has been disproved by life itself in the atheism that stem from bitterness and anger.

A Necessary Predisposition

How does one approach the reality of suffering then? Even those sufferings that are logically explainable do not make sense to the very persons whose lives have been plagued by the experience. The above explanations are logical ones based on religious premises but logical arguments based on secular academics are just as inadequate.

In the midst of so many questions and so few answers, there are few consistencies that enable one to meaningfully approach the inevitability of suffering.

Harsh as it may sound, it appears true that if one were to cower before the inevitability of suffering, one leaves life to chance and both life and the experience of suffering disintegrates into aimlessness. That is even worse than having to suffer as a result of attempting to live life meaningfully.

No one doubts, that suffering is part of any meaningful and purpose driven existence, and time and again, grievous suffering at that. It was stated earlier that for many, suffering can be very painful when no meaning or significance behind that suffering is seen. Could a lack of meaning in suffering stem from a lack of meaningful existence? It may be part of the reason.

Attempting to live one's life meaningfully is not fool-proof but it reduces the possibility of our lives becoming aimless when we cower before the inevitability of suffering. Many people are afraid of pain.

Pain panics them into irrational thinking. Choices, decisions and behaviour become erratic and they fall from the frying pan into the fire. From pain to chaos. Courage is fear surpassed, not fear absent. Courage here means training oneself to live with the reality of pain and of suffering.

Taking such a stance one can be assured that one would suffer, but grievous as one's suffering may be, there is really little to lose. Enduring difficulty has the capacity to strengthen one to grow in self-confidence, in courage, in patience, in perseverance.

One learns to appreciate and to value life without taking life and people for granted. We begin to realize that unplanned though our sufferings may be, we profit from the experience of suffering.

Limitting Ourselves

What can potentially reduce our capacity to find meaning in our sufferings is the kind of environment that we have been born or socialised into. Our environment is secular.

Religion has been privatised. Conveniences and luxuries are almost instant, not to mention that ours has become a culture of deadlines, quick-fix.

Consumerism, materialism and individualism has crept in.

Ideas like sacrifice, abstinence, selflessness and moderation are pushed to the periphery and some of these ideas are associated with discipline and regimentation, good in themselves. Overall the idea of postponing self-gratification weakens the will. Our education system harps on the intellect and everything is subject to the explanatory power of science or logic failing which it is rejected.

Suffering, on the other hand, rarely gives us quick answers, quick meanings or quick solutions. Most of the time, it involves engaging in a process and we moderns find that unbearable.

Escapisms are more available today than times past. When people become soft resulting from such socialisation the requisite will for moral living is broken by the experience of suffering.

The pace of life has quickened so much that we don't make the time to listen to ourselves and to take stock. Then when suffering and pain enter into our lives, we find ourselves in a situation not even knowing ourselves well enough to know how to live with difficulty.

It doesn't become surprising that suicide rates and stress related illnesses are on the rise for our lifestyles may have made us so soft that we are unable to cope with life.

From The WORD Among Us, Lent 2006 issue, by Joseph Difato, Ph. D., Publisher.

Suffering, Redemption, and Hope during Lent

While many people tend to prefer the New Testament, the Old Testament is simply amazing. When looked at as a whole, this 'book' of the Hebrew Scriptures does something unique: It tells us how God's plan unfolded during the long years before Jesus was born--and it does it in a way that tells us a whole lot about Jesus in the process.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the four 'Songs of the Suffering Servant' that are found in the Book of Isaiah (chapters 42, 49, 50, and 52-53). In these songs, we meet an unnamed 'servant' who takes upon himself all of the infirmities and iniquities of the nation. Through his sufferings for the sake of others, this servant revealed a new insight into the mystery of human pain and suffering. Rather than seeing affliction as God's punishment for sins, this servant revealed a redemptive dimension: Suffering is not a curse from God but rather an opportunity to draw closer to him, to be lifted up to his presence, and to experience more of his grace.

With the help of the Holy Spirit and with hindsight, we can look at this Suffering Servant and see him as a prefigurement of Jesus. In fact, these songs are instrumental in helping us see that Jesus' death and resurrection are the keys to our forgiveness and our healing.

As we read and meditate on these four songs, we should, on one hand, ask the Holy Spirit to show us more about Jesus and all that his suffering has accomplished for us. But on the other hand, we should also ask the Spirit to show us how to approach our own times of physical, emotional, and spiritual suffering.

Lent is a time of special grace. So know that if you open the door of your heart to the Lord this season, you will be rewarded. You will sense his presence moving in your life, filling you with love, giving you God's peace, and showing you a different, more godly, way to live.
I wouldn't claim to know a great deal about human suffering. Definitely, I have more to learn. By the time I am 50, I would look back at this time in my life and wonder about what I was thinking at this precise moment. What I do know, is that, there are no easy answers to suffering. There is no general scheme of purpose, just as there is no general scheme of answers. All of us would like to think that our suffering serves a greater purpose, but who's to say that what it serves for us is not a great purpose in itself? To a certain extent, I do believe in the power of one. One person can make a difference, if not in the world, then at least in the social community he lives in or associates with.

When I die, just in case I die tomorrow, I hope at least, that there are people who have been genuinely touched by me in my short life at my wake. I hope that, at least, there would be people missing me when I am not there. There would be people mourning my death, and celebrating the life that I have lived, and the life that they still have. I hope that I would at least have touched their lives in some inexplicable, intangible way, short though it may be, and that they were better off knowing me, that my presence in their lives made a difference. I would hope for that, at least. I won't pretend that I can change the world, for who am I? What I do want, is that I live my life as I believe I should, that I did not crumble under pressure, that I stood by my principles and beliefs, or at least tried as hard as I could have, under circumstances, and that I die beholden to nothing, and to no one, with a clear conscience. That I tried my best to be a good person, a good daughter, a good sister, and a good friend. If I marry and have children, a good mother, and a good wife, as well. And that I left a legacy behind, for those who know me, and who would remember me. For I think life would be without meaning, if there is no reason to live life for, and if there is no one to touch, and no one to remember a life well lived.

Am at: My room, staring at the view
Listening to: Kirk Franklin's Now Behold the Lamb

Friday, April 07, 2006

Of food, memories, books and considerations

It's 0326 hours on a Wednesday morning and I'm not sleeping because I'm letting my stomach digest. I know I should feel like a pig, but I'm not gonna apologise for eating. :p I never do. In fact, I'm delighted that I can still eat like I used to. I thought I had lost that type of appetite. I can justify, after all. It's been my first real, nice, proper sit-down meal for a long time. I've been feeling a l'il out of it lately. Now I'm out of a self-imposed temporary exile, I should celebrate. So I did. Been craving for chocolate for sometime now. So I went out with a couple of friends to Secret Recipe's and let myself be an abominable P-I-G. Beef lasagna, chocolate brownies with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream and blueberry cheesecake. All in one sitting ;) MMMIIIIIIAAAAAAAAAOOOOOOOOOOOOO.......... =) I'm like a cat with cream. This group of friends know I'm a pig, but they've never seen me been SUCH a pig. Heheheh... They had no idea about the double Whopper Burger set story or the two plates of nasi goreng kampong. :D Now I can't sleep. I've over-eaten, and I rarely sleep on a heavy stomach. It makes me feel bloated the next morning... same reason I rarely take supper.

I had wanted to pack up for a trip to Penang, but I've decided against it. Having the damned red tide. Explains the gluttony :p Sigh... I hate this. Feels like a leaking/leaky faucet. Cranky, painfully rusty and disjointed, and bleeding like a friggin' wounded animal. Men shouldn't complain, really. In fact, they should thank God they don't have to plan their sex lives and their vacations around their uncooperative reproductive systems. *wail* I really wanted to go to Penang. Yeps, the food, of course! And the road trip should be fun.... ;) But I can't now :( how can I when I am having cramps so bad, I can hardly crawl out of bed? So I decided to go through my books and take out something to read, instead. I love books. And I buy and keep the ones I want to read and re-read. Here's the thing about good books. With each subsequent read, you discover something different, over and over again. A different approach, a different insight, a different perspective, an unexpected twist, a sudden humour. You thought you knew what you were reading the first time, but then you realise you don't. Not really. Not everything. Not all aspects of it. You read it again, and discover something new. Something you didn't realise or notice the first time round. Something of relevance to you now. Something you can relate to. Something you can identify with. And perhaps, something that you need just right now. You read, and go "AHA!! Exactly!!" What am I reading? A cute, silly little book I bought on a whim 2 years ago, when I was in between jobs... and getting very confused about someone I've known for awhile, and care deeply for. Still confused about, still care for, but that's another story. And too personal to blog about :) sorry... It's funny, though, the thing about books. Perhaps that's why, despite advances in technology, people still write. And people still read. A lot can be said about a person's writing. And a lot can be read into it, too. What he's trying to say. What he's trying to hide. What's important. And what he doesn't want you to know is important. As for the book? Written very lightly, it tries to explore the frailty, fears and insecurities of human relationship. And its very true.

Maybe I've been running away from what matters to me most. Because I fear. And the fear of the unknown is the scariest of all. These past weeks, I've been unable to sleep. I worry. About many things. I look out at the view of the city I live in, in the still, witching hours of the morning, and feel inexplicably detached. Disaffected, and at the same time, terribly lonely. Which is partially why I write. Because it is difficult to tell in person, sometimes. Because, although many people would disbelieve me, I am actually painfully shy. I express myself better when I write. Because I can go through what I want to say in my mind. I have friends, some close, some not quite so. But we live separate lives. And there are some things I could never tell. Some personal demons few people would ever know. Which I am also afraid to admit to myself. I feel different from the world I live in. Different, detached, increasingly disaffected and disinterested. It frightens me. What if I die cold and heartless, and intractably lonely? I've said it before, and I'll say it again. It's strange, how, in a city of 1 billion, people can still feel so terribly inwardly lonely. Perhaps love is an emotion borne out of the fear, and the intrinsic desire or need to not be alone in this universe. It's strange how growing up addles my mind. I had less demons being a hormone-addled angsty adolescent. Life was simpler. Stupid simple. Black or white. We grow up and find life does not exist in stupid simple. No definitives. No black or white. It's all in B-mode. Like an ulstrasound system. Greyscale. Shades of grey. Grey-black, or grey-white. Grey in-betweens. Relativity. Einstein sure as bloody hell knew what he was talking about. It's all in relatives.

When I was younger, I couldn't give a rat's ass about being different. So what if I didn't join the Angels? I don't WANT to join the Angels. Fuckssakes, I can't throw a ball in a hoop for nuts. I fail Physical Education every time I am being tested for ball-throwing-into-hoops, and it's the only subject I'd fail. I'm short, and short-sighted. Add to that really bad astigmatism, and the fact that it's a contact sport, and my glasses cost a BOMB, so I can hardly afford to break it in some stupid game. And you want me to join the Angels, or none of you would be my friend? Yeah, well, whatever. Don't get me wrong, I'd be the only one to watch NBA games with my dad when they used to air it on TV. He'd reminisce about being the best three-pointer in college while I roll my eyes and tell him to stop pretending to talk about b-ball when he's probably thinking of ex-girlfriends, or I'd threaten to tell my mom :D I have no qualms about having a man who plays the game. I don't even mind going to watch him sweat it out. Sexy. I'd probably go cheer him on. :p He probably needs the adrenaline and testosterone rush anyway. And who's to say I wouldn't benefit from it?

But I don't see the point of joining a stupid club that might have been formed with and for good intentions, but misused because the trainers were relatively cute boys from across the street. Didn't think I'd know that? :) Just because I don't talk about it doesn't mean I have no idea what goes on around me. Giggling and simpering when some boy walks by kinda gives it away too, no? If I had wanted to meet boys, I could've just walked over and befriended all my brother's classmates. They knew me already, anyway. I avoided boys. I wanted to stay under the radar. I didn't want no trouble. Boys were trouble. They still are. Sigh. Testosterone-packed trouble. How the hell was I supposed to know they already knew me anyhow? Gave me the shock of my life when I went on to Form Six and found out. So I'm a snob. And I'm scary. Good. Better a scary snob than a slut. Threatening to ostracise me socially if I didn't join only served to piss me off. I was a floater already anyway. I didn't need to join some clique. I didn't need anyone to tell me who to befriend and who to stay away from. I certainly don't appreciate having my thought processes and ideas pre-fabricated just to join a particular hierarchy or social group. That only serves to insult my intelligence, perception and discerning abilities. I didn't need no one telling me which brand of pencils to use, which shoes were cool, and that I MUST have Converse cloth pencil cases and Jansport or Eastpak or in the very least (in the vein of) Tropicana Life backpacks to be 'in'. Fuck you, fuck all of you. You think my parents' money grows on trees? Joining a particular club wouldn't get you noticed by a boy, trust me. If he doesn't notice you, he never will. Even if you wear the most violent shade of pink from top to bottom. He'd probably think you're weird and a stalker more than anything else. Like I said to a friend before, "It's not what you wear, but how you wear it." It also doesn't help your cause that I caught you telling the rest of your buddies that now I couldn't be derided during practice because I refused to join even under duress. Well.. yeah, I hate being prodded. And I couldn't be damned to make you look good at my expense. Yeah, it's been more than 10 years, but I remember. Some things we just don't forget, you know? It helps shape our lives and our future. We're all much older and more mature now, and things have changed between us. The balance and flow of relationships change with time, after all. But if certain behavioural patterns were of such prevalence in our lives, it's near impossible to forget such folly.

I'm sick and tired of this. Even now, I still get this kind of shit. No, I don't want to be manipulated. And I'm not going to. I might allow it to happen a couple of times, but that's because I don't mind helping, and I'm relatively nice. But don't think I'm so stupid and blind that I don't see or notice what you're doing. I won't steal company information for you. It's unethical. I won't let you move in with me just because you're pissed with your in-laws. It's childish. I won't let you diss me in front of men you're trying to impress. It's ridiculous. I won't call your ex-boyfriends out for dinner at your behest, so you can find out things through me. That's ridiculously childish. No. I'll ask him out because he's a friend, and I still want to talk to him, even if you and he are no longer on speaking terms. Why not? I still value his friendship. It's not like I would sleep with him. I don't do rebounds. Rebounds hurt. Rebounds only bring regret. For both parties. If you don't learn that now, you never will. No amount of manipulation can bring you any form of wisdom whatsoever. That's something else you have to learn. No one is that dense. If you think so, you're self-absorbed, obnoxious and unbelievably egotistical. So no, and stop borrowing books you'll never read, and conveniently forget to return. My books, collectively, is my first love. And I remember each one of them, by name, by author, by storyline and by the dates I purchased them. Don't kid yourself, I'll kick a man out for insulting my books, what makes you think I won't remember you borrowed which, when and what?

I'm sick of being a door-mat. I'm sick of being nice. I'm sick of being made use of and manipulated because I am too nice to tell you to shut up, to stop and consider others' feelings and to quit thinking the entire fucking universe revolves around you. I'm tired of giving you advice, even if it makes perfect sense, because you never listen. I'm exhausted of listening to you repeat yourself over and over again, like a broken recorder, because, again, you don't really want to make a change, and I should really tape your bullshit, and play it back at you, to show you how terribly boring it all is. And how pointless. I'm sick of knowing u tell stories about me behind my back, and thinking I don't know. I'm not that stupid. I'm really weary of listening to you telling me how I don't care, because I DID, and how you're the only person in the whole universe and beyond who cares about anyone at all, because really, you don't, or you wouldn't have done all of these and I wouldn't be writing this now, would I? This is pointless, though, isn't it? Because you really don't care, and you'll never change. It doesn't matter what everyone else thinks, because only your opinion matters, and only you are the epitome of perfection itself.

So be it then. Stay in your perfect world. Sad, alone, depressed, cold, heartless. Perfect. Human frailty, human failings and foibles, human fears make us colourful. And imperfect. And beautiful to me. I fear it, because that's how I am. Imperfect. Afraid. Foolish. Cowardly. But I embrace my imperfections. And I want to learn. Because I care. Because I know I need to improve myself. To be better. Because I love myself, and that's the first step to letting someone else love me. Learning is a life-long process. And it's a difficult one. I couldn't give a damn about being different when I was younger, but now.. living in this city makes me realise that there's a certain amount of fitting-in to be done. Being an individual is punished, being different is scorned at. It's sad, and such a waste, since variety is the spice of life, but that's how life is. No man is an island; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. I need to do some major re-adjusting. Paradigm shift even, maybe. I don't know how it's going to be done, and how long it's gonna take, but I'll have to find a balance somehow. My sanity is at stake, and this time I can't afford to fail.