“New York is just 3 hours ahead of California, but that doesn’t make California slow. Someone graduated at the age of 22, but waited 5 years before securing a good job. Someone became a CEO at 25, and died at 50. While another became a CEO at 50, and lived to 90 years. Someone is still single, while someone else got married. Obama retired at 55 and Trump started at 70. Everyone in this world works based on their time zone. People around you might seem to be ahead of you. But everyone is running their own race, in their own time. Do not envy them and do not mock them. They are in their time zone, and you are in yours. Life is about waiting for the right moment to act. So, relax. You are not late. You’re not early. You are very much on time.”
– I wish I knew who wrote this!
Goals are great. We need to be constantly stretched in order to grow. And change, as I learn almost every season, is not always a bad thing.
But we put so much pressure on ourselves for things to happen now. Microwaved happiness, microwaved connections, microwaved success or healing even.
Hardly anything is that tenuous slow-burn anymore.
I for one, can get so either mired in the past and what I would change, or live so far off in the future its borderline La La Land… which is the thing psychiatrists and life coaches tell you not to do if you want anxiety attacks and the feeling of being overwhelmed all the time.
It also doesn’t help when others conveniently assume that you’re on society’s great unwritten timetable. You’re in your teens and it’s, What are you going to do after high school? In your 20s it’s, What are you going to do after graduation? Have you gotten that dream job yet?
In your 30s, it’s When are you getting married? When are you having kids? Where is your career going? How much are you saving? When’s the investment property happening? questions.
And then finally one day, you’re standing in your kitchen, interrogated (ok–in a friendly, motherly way) by your dear cleaning lady whom you consider family, justifying why you want to leave your corporate job and why you don’t necessarily want kids. And to Please. Stop. Asking.
My point is to not let yourself be rushed by others. And worse still, to not feel like you’re wrong or weird if you don’t want any of the things that you’re ‘meant’ to have. If you don’t want kids at all, that’s cool. If you want to focus solely on your career, you do you. And it’s ok to change your mind in between. Nobody has to tell men these things.
Side note on mothers: I look at mums with a mixture of worship and amazement at how they beautifully, imperfectly, fervently live their lives. Mothers of all ages and life stages inspire me daily. They’ll tell you it takes a village and indeed, some are a little more fortunate than others in terms of support. But that doesn’t diminish my awe for them (and how intimidated I’d be in their shoes).
This whole timing thing applies to the idea of success and ‘making it’ too. Who wouldn’t want to be an overnight success.
It can be so tempting as an [insert your job here] to look at your peers and feel like you’re lagging behind. Like, Why hasn’t my business taken off yet? Why was I overlooked for that promotion? Why is my art not as impactful or recognised as XYZ’s yet?
Sadly I don’t have answers for you. But I do have a theory that hustle and heart will set you apart. I tell myself on less than Instagram-worthy days to work hard, have faith, keep swimming in your own lane without feeling like you need to pop your head up out of the water to check where the competition are. Something good is coming around the corner. (And P.S. the grass is not greener. They used a filter, as I once read).
But coming back to why we’re here. If you’re waiting for that perfect something to happen to you in order to be happy, feel complete, finally feel fulfilled… you could be waiting a long time.
- Be here now.
- Be here now.
- The past is not where you live.
- The future is going to happen anyway.
- Just enjoy being here, now. This pain, happiness, joy is teaching you something.
Before I start spiralling, I often remind myself to come back to this moment. And tell myself it’ll happen when it happens. And that’s ok.
It can seem laughable in these moments to think of things like beauty or art, or even aromatherapy. But it’s these sensorial elements of what we smell, touch, feel—which help us anchor us back to this moment.
- Do a body scan from top to toe. Observe how you feel in this moment, without judgment.
- Write it down.
- Get still and very quiet. Apply or diffuse your favourite meditative essential oils (we love Recovery Mode – though it may seem dark and low in energy at first whiff thanks to its super calming sandalwood, think of it is a blanket encouraging you to pause. Mmerci Encore’s Nightshade Sleep Mode blend also works like a treat and needn’t only be saved for exclusively sleep. Picking wood-based essential oils is a great and easy way to help calm, restore, and slow down those racing thoughts).
- Put away all devices for at least 16 minutes and just think. Acknowledge that you feel rushed or overwhelmed. Perhaps admit that how you’ve been surviving but not exactly thriving. Then think of what you really want and what truly makes you feel alive. Be still. Rewire those pathways in the brain.
Image by Choe Minjung
“You’ll never shine throwing shade“
So here’s the thing. Pray and hope all you like to be a more patient, loving person, but you’re always going to be patient in theory until your wifi slows down or your suppliers don’t respond to emails, or people at pop-ups make snap (mostly entitled or misinformed) judgments, or things just simply don’t go your way.
Patience and lovingkindness need loads of hands-on, real-time practice, especially for someone like me who wants it all. But I don’t just want it all, I wanted it yesterday, and therein lies the tension.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful to be living in Singapore: land of efficiency, home that I love. But this season, more than ever, I find myself stretched on the patience front in interactions with others but mostly, myself.
It’s like patience is the pigeon pose. And every time I think I’ve got it, that I’m feeling a nice stretch, the teacher (patience) comes around and pushes you deeper and deeper into that posture.
All this circles back to grace. The grace you extend to others when things aren’t going your way, and the grace you give yourself when you’re messing up so royally.
And I’m learning in this season to also live less triggered. Saw a shady post online? Trying to move past it. Overhead a dodgy statement? Breathing through it. Felt like someone you were generous to is just being plain calculative? Trying to find a middle ground. Whatever it is: the goal is to react less. Not all opinions need to be verbalised or expressed.
Even on a cellular level, we know that stress hormone, cortisol, is the body’s persona non grata over prolonged amounts of time. It has your body in a gridlocked flight-or-fight mode. It makes you edgy, creates inflammation in the body, influences weight gain and a whole bunch of non-helpful things. I realised every time I give into these triggers, I see these manifest in my body. A frozen hip here, an eczema flare up there.
I guess it’s about recognising how you’re feeling in that moment. Acknowledging that it sucks and then deciding one of several things:
a) Save your fucks. This issue won’t matter in a year and it doesn’t warrant a response. I generally recommend saving your fucks for big things that matter – the environment, equality, female empowerment, not stealing other people’s creative work & passing it off as your next brainwave, not doing or accepting dervative work. That sort of thing
b) You need to respond but not before taking time to really process your next move. Pause, and think about how your reacting is going to play out 5 minutes, 5 days, 5 years from now. Pause so that you can regroup and be really intentional with your words. Mostly so you don’t ‘rain down fucks’ on someone as Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck puts it, but also so that you don’t unnecessarily burn any bridges in the heat of anger, as I’ve learned before. (My lessons are expensive)
c) trying to find a conciliatory middle ground and seeing how grace can be extended
So here’s what I’ve begun doing since late last year with varying degrees of success: I see you and your shadiness, your attempt to hurt because you are hurt or insecure, and possibly envious (though you don’t know it just yet—because see, what haters do, is hate on you, then copy), and simply, look away without judgement.
In the immortal words of Coco Chanel, “I don’t care what you think about me. I don’t think about you at all.”
I focus my joy and the light of my being, and give myself to what really matters. I diffuse. I move on. You’re not living rent free in here *places hand on head and over heart simultaneously*
Hypothalamus, you can relax. Tell all your other friends: the adrenals, the limbic system and the like that you are safe and not under threat. You are whole. Nothing is going to get you down.
And remember, you’ll never shine throwing shade. And impatience with yourself or a situation, is not going to get you to where you want to be any faster.
We sat in a cafe talking about our year. Me, a nobody with a little label. My friend, the founder of a multi-million dollar beauty brand gone global. On the outside, we don’t have that much in common. But we do share the same faith and are guided by common values.
When I asked how 2017 had gone for her, she didn’t hold back on both the good and the bad.
The encounter was brief, but I feel that hearing her story and sharing a bit of mine, was the most healing thing that had happened in the past few months.
The same feeling of relief washed over me when I read Lisa Bevere’s Without Rival just days earlier. A book about embracing ‘your identity and purpose in an age of confusion and comparison’, I found Bevere’s honest and broken revelations incredibly reassuring and empowering.
The fact that she openly and in such a gutsy way, shared her life’s challenges – right down the most intimate of details – made me realise I’d never get anywhere or help anyone if I continued to life and operate in the same paradigm as I am. You know…. Keeping people at arm’s length (because you never know when they’re going to cut you off or use you). Never telling my story (because they’re going to judge you). Generally, not wanting to rely on others (because they’re going to let you down). And that whole thing of pitting and comparing yourself to others (why bother, you suck anyway).
A few days ago, I was riding home in an Uber when I heard a little voice in my heart tell me, “Just drop it.”
It was such a voice of peace and security, not one of fear, desperation or exhaustion. Just drop it.
It being all that you would have read in the previous handwritten post.
Where my word for the past several years would have been ‘escape’ and all the connotations that come with it, I no longer want to escape. I want to live free, untethered, un-weighed down by all the toxic feelings and situations I/we tend to want to take responsibility for.
So done with that.
In 2018, I’m inviting more balance and lightness into my life. In the words of Lysa TerKeurst in Uninvited to ‘live loved’. That is to say, operating with grace, being ok with who you are (and being unafraid to show it), remembering that you’re not forgotten or left out, and to see things as falling in place (instead of merely falling apart). x