slow

species

It’s interesting how things have changed. I used to show a very quiet face to the world, quiet because I dared not or didn’t know how to speak. So there was tension there, in not being able to say what was within me. Now, I speak easily, adorably, excitedly, and my quieter, slower side is less visible. It is a curious reversal… curious mainly because I used to fight against myself to speak, and now I put in effort to be still, to let the face come to rest. Now I sometimes long to show someone my quiet face, to not be misunderstood in another way. Funny that. Funny me.

I love the muck of my life, the parts that nobody sees, with only me as witness, as lover, as mother and friend to myself. Being grubby, clumsy, foolish, romantic, lovesick, bored, restless, rude, incomprehensible, anxious,… This is an abundant and simple life that I get to see, full of ordinary routine that makes me feel so much like everyone else. I love it. It is good.

From 3 January

I walk out of the station and it is drizzling. I walk slowly in my slippers, almost shuffling. The ramen place which opens till morning is still open. I see a teenager with his fringe tied up in a little stub on his head get up from his booth and put in his face mask.

It is cleaning hour at the food market, so the floor there is wet too. As I pass through, some water from the floor splashes on my foot. I continue walking, feeling the wet. I take deep breaths to expel that nagging sensation of disgust, of wanting to wash or wipe it somehow.

I head for the 7-11 hoping for the last pack of ramen eggs and a sweet snack. On the way, I loop around a darkened food centre where old men mill about having their last mouthfuls of beer. One of them looks at me as I pass. I can see his eyes even though most of him is blurred by the lack of light. I hope he is okay, though I doubt it.

The cashier has her back to me as the entrance bell jingles. I admire her lack of fear. Quickly I see that there are no eggs left. Even the Seng Choon eggs have all been wiped out. I hover at the potato chips section for a while. Then I spot the budget packs of cereal I bought the other night, still on sale for a dollar. I swop out the Koko Krunch for Honey Stars this time.

Nothing savoury appeals to me. I almost give in to some Jin cup noodles when I remember that we have so at home. I pay for my cereal and leave.

The rain has gotten heavier. As I reach for the hood of my jacket, I walk into the long sheltered walkway that stretches all the way home. So I drop my hands and keep going.

I was knitting and watching another episode of What Did You Eat Yesterday? when the fireworks started. For a moment I considered just sitting there and going on as I was, but I stood up and went to the window. I slid it open and watched the reddish pink light casted upon all our buildings flash over and over. Behind a distant building, I could see the edges of the nearest fireworks peek out with each burst. There were loud voices from neighbouring blocks and residences as well – people cheering. I looked down at a bus, which was pulling into a bus stop. I watched some taxis with green signs turn at the junction.

It occurred to me to not take this moment as I usually would – alone, containing the experience within myself, not externalizing or sharing in it with another person even if they were right next to me. It occurred to me that I had family who might also be looking out of the windows of our home.

I opened my room door to see the master bedroom door shut. Ah – my father had chosen his usual bedtime over the turn of the year. How characteristic of our family. But my brother was there in the living room, and he remarked on the suddenness of the noise. I said something offhand in reply, finding the whole situation unfamiliar and a touch awkward. As I retreated back into my room, he came too, asking if the angle from my room allowed us to see the fireworks properly. Still retreating, I reached for my phone to scroll through something as he continued speaking to me. Eventually, he said he would go to bed because he had work tomorrow (part-time, 1.5x pay public holiday kind of situation). Then we hugged (!), holding on for a little longer than we have before. I gave him a squeeze (“happy new year!”) which he returned. Then we said goodnight and he went out, closing the door behind him.

I went back to my seat, still registering what had happened. I realized the fireworks and cheering had stopped. To my surprise, though, I could also hear rain. I went to the window to find that it had just started raining. Mere minutes into the new year, mere moments after the fireworks had stopped. I looked down again – someone under the sheltered walkway was running to catch a bus. Another person was walking with a red umbrella. I reached my hand out as I usually do to touch the rain. I smiled. I looked down one more time to see another bus pulling into the bus stop, another bus that had been on the road as the world seemingly changed.

I’m exhausted from the last few weeks of living and shifting. I think I’ve found some peace and resolution for my questions in the last post. I’m still rearranging the physical objects of my life. I’m really enjoying where I am now, and all the things I have and am doing. I’m still a little nervous about the stability, but I’m more alright with it now than earlier in the year, when my peace and joy frightened me.

I have learnt that when one is happy and busy cultivating peace and non-suffering, one loses many desires and habits. For one, I’ve noticed that my dependency on Instagram as a space for expression and as a salve for loneliness has eased up a lot. My desire for certain material things have also quietened. I find it easy to let go. I am eager to share my life with other people.

Tonight though, I am so tired and don’t quite know why I am writing here. I guess I wanted to check in briefly since my last post was quite a while ago. 2022 is coming, too. I wonder what sort of turns we will experience in the coming weeks.

I am still learning patience, patience for life as duration, but also as a series of passing moments which do not need to accumulate into anything. Can I let go of the need to arrive somewhere? I would like just to be here, in the palm of this moment, cupped face blissful and relaxed.

I know that this is at odds with the ways I work, and the ways in which I conduct myself in work situations and exercise my relentless work ethic. I have not been able to conceive of a middle ground between the two positions. Even though I don’t like to think of them as opposing, the line I walk between them is taut.

How can I strive toward the things I dream of and long for while holding on to peace in the present? How can I enjoy the present moment while still looking toward the future? Perhaps I must change how I look at the future then. It is not there, in the horizon. Perhaps it is here, in the present moment. Being here, being peace, I learn to dream of here and now as the future. This, however, is an exercise in fusing the two. I wonder if what I must do instead is to let go of one. I know which one that might be.

I have let go of it before, briefly and here and there. But to cement it would take new habits and commitments about what I consume. That seems to be the theme for the moment: body and what it does, what it ingests and makes part of itself. Can I do it? I will.

This morning, when my brother declared himself exhausted and remarked that he didn’t understand how I was still taking everything out and packing, I stopped short. How could I tell him that I had been image training for this for years? That I have, in fact, watched maybe a hundred videos (vlogs, tutorials, etc.) of people spring cleaning, Marie Kondo-ing, drastically downsizing of their things. That I have been writing up plan after plan of how I would reorganize this space since I was in my teens. I guess I could have said exactly these things. I couldn’t because I was only realizing all of them in that moment, when he said those things to me. Ah. I was not just enamoured by minimalism or living vicariously through the people I watched. I was also training and preparing to do this, for this day I was adamant would come.

I moved as if on autopilot, even though I was making rapid calculations about how to reorganize the many parts, how to facilitate the next step when the clutter started to flood the counter, the floor, the table. I was running a marathon I had been promised years ago, a spring that had been held down that was finally released. I could not have stopped myself.

When I finally came to a rest, when the decade-long hunger had been slightly satiated and calmed, I was awed by my own work. The kilos of books and kitchenware I had put in new places, and the many decisions I had made about all of them in such a short time. I am enjoying the new airiness, as well as the clearer sense of how else we will change this space.

A part of my calculations also involved designing the next steps for my family, putting things out in the open in gentle or more forgiving configurations that might give everyone more time and space to make our coming decisions. More than anything, I think I wish to not feel like I’m going at it alone anymore. I wish to make this home ours together.

Many beginnings and new habits in the last month. I feel my viney body thickening and thinning, turning greener by day, quiet and fecund, each vine spiralling, wrapping, tightening around the mass. I glimpse the iteration a year ahead of me, I lean with the faintest human resistance now.

For one, I’m finally transitioning toward a vegetarian diet. Life is aligning to make this smoother than before, and the shift has called for me in a clear voice. I turn, body still loose and open, not impatient to cross at all. It will take time and I am happy to walk the duration.

Also, after seven years of not taking consistent dance classes, I’m putting myself back into a weekly circuit. Ballet gave me a lot, but not much by way of looseness, ease and more adaptive techniques. It was difficult to admit after quitting that my years of training amounted to quite little once I switched styles. I had worked hard to be a ballet dancer. Now, I no longer need to pretend to myself that I already have the sort of coordination, control and range I wish to have. I can just work toward it.

I had a blast today even though I bombed a large portion of the choreography, which is to be expected. There was good and kind energy in the room, and quite frankly I enjoyed the struggle. I’ll be back to flail more! Also, I wanted an arbitrary goal to reach before I get critical about anything I’m doing, so I’m going with 100. 100 classes before I evaluate what to hone in on next. Now is the time for quantity and stretching, stretching my bubble!

These larger waves roll out amongst many micro-shifts, small decisions and changes in perspective that accumulate thickly over the weeks. In the end, though I feel much vaster and wilder than this body, I know I still am here, and I feel more and more happy to be here. I have made friends.

I see how indifference is performed to mask the inner face, which is scrunched up in confusion, in grief, in pain. I saw it in a loved one, and then I saw it in myself. The two of us play this in turns, each trying to being more chill and unbothered than the other about what’s happening. This is how we cope and grip our dignity.

And then two nights ago, witnessing an outpouring of grief from people I don’t know well. I practiced listening that night. I said nothing and was thankful for it. Still, I was moved to tears by everyone present, all of whom were so attentive and sincere. I’m lucky to have been amongst them, and I hope to sit with them again.

season of

  • confirming suspicions
  • finally setting my rates as a freelancer
  • new clarity abt sustainability, resources, a longer-term vision of work
  • building structures for making now that I know a bit more how to move forward
  • cutting things out, letting go of dead rope
  • revisiting and revising my relationship with money
  • mailing things out
  • “Of the two witnesses, hold the principal one.”