Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A cocktail of thoughts

So it has been quite a while since I last posted anything, and today I found out that blogger has a new interface. I can't say whether I like it or not because I try not to get to attached with things like this - they are bound to change all the time. It is like once I am comfortable with something, then the interface changes, or the design changes, or whatever changes happen. I guess this is the new era of ... err... entertainment?

This month has been great, lots of public holidays, there was the Easter long weekend, and today is the Anzac day. I spent days like this cocooning at home, mostly counting my blessings and staying warm. The not so good side is that it is so difficult to settle into a routine, but the time to rest and breathe in between is very much welcome by someone like me, who seems to be running out of time all the time.

I am not a big fan of the cold weather purely for the fact that I tend to feel lazy all the time. Plus every time the termperature dips, I always mistaken feeling cold with feeling hungry. This is something that I have to watch out for all the time because I want to maintain my figure. Trust me, it takes a lot of effort to look this good, but the irony is that it has to appear effortless. You can't appear as if you are trying hard, even when you are trying hard, because then the perception is that you are trying too hard. It is really shit, of course, but it is also the norm in this particular area in life. We get judged by how we look all the time, I know I judge people based on how they look. In part this is because I think those who look good are the fortunate ones because they have the time and the resources to look that good. And those who don't have as much time or resources and still manage to look that good - well, hats off. You are hands down the undisputed kings and queens of looking good.

One of my friends is going to turn 30 in a few days. I mean, this is the friend that I have been talking about turning 30 with. I think 30 is like the forgotten time - a lot of people I know seems to be pregnant or raising a baby or two or doing all of that, such that they don't think very much about turning 30. If anything, 30 is like a deadline, like I have to get married before I turn 30, or I have to have a baby before I turn 30. Neither of these things applies to me because I don't want to get married before I turn 30 - really, what's the rush and secondly, I can't quite imagine having a baby without being married first. Call me old fashioned in this department. Plus the biological clock doesn't worry me right now, I am hoping that I can just by-pass this whole biological clock worrying thing. I don't know, I guess I am just so not maternal.

I mean, you know there are those people who knew since they were kids that one day they are going to have their own kids and so as soon as they are married, they have kids? Or they have kids even before they were married? Actually, I am not sure if the latter is planned or whatever, but they seem to be fine with it, so I guess who am I to comment right? Afterall, I know deep down that I am not one of those people because I don't even know if I want to have kids or not. Yeah, I know that it is a miracle and blessing, etc. Yet I am not sure I would buy the whole you-have-a-responsibility-to-procreate thing. Maybe the responsibility does exist, but I guess I just don't want to bear it.

Turning 30, to me, is so much more than deciding to have kids or not. It is like you have been living for 30 years in this planet and you hope that in those 30 years you've made this world a better place, and that you would continue to make sure that you keep doing so. I am of view that this world is a better place if I am happy, as happy people make this world a better place. Thus I work very hard on my happiness. I wish I worked out this 'secret' earlier in life: you are as happy as you allow yourself to be. Over the years, I have friends who told me to do things to make me happy, and none of their advice made sense to me partly because I felt guilty being happy when my parents were going through the divorce.

It is pretty hard to be happy when you come home to a mother who wants to kill herself constantly. It is like by default I have to be miserable because she is miserable. Do you know what the hard thing is though? She is still somewhat miserable till this day because she seems unable to let go of the fact that her marriage didn't work out. This used to sadden me a lot. Lately I realised that there is nothing I can do for her that would make a difference, not because I am so useless, but because she just doesn't allow herself to be happy. Her whole life is predicated on waiting for something to happen - and then being happy when that thing happens. I swear I would never put my life on hold like that. This is why I hate people who say, IF I have this, then I am happy. Complete bullshit. Most of the time when they do have that thing, they are not going to be happy because they focus on something else that is wrong with their lives. They are forever putting their happiness on hold.

Being happy is hard work. It is like love - it is an emotion that takes a lot of work, a conscious decision and constant self-affirmations, daily, hourly, as often as you need to fight for it. You need to focus on yourself and you need to remind yourself to be happy. Chance is that you will be happy everyday, just not all day every day. It is about choosing to enjoy the little bursts of joy in the little things in life, smiling when you spot something beautiful and giving thanks for the things that you do have right now, as well as the things that you don't have right now (like an illness, for example).

The good news is that overtime, being happy can become a habit. I think this is one habit that is worth adopting. We get better at being happy with time. I think growing older has its perks, as long as you know how to live well.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

You can't censor me

Often the most powerful things in life are our own personal reflections. How we view ourselves and how we feel about ourselves and our choices in life make up who we are each and every day. They said that a man finds a woman most attractive when she is comfortable in her own skin. But other women would more likely dislike her for being comfortable in her own skin (because most women are not). The real choice is whether you are comfortable in your skin or not, attractions aside. I would choose to be comfortable in my own skin because I think my life is better when I am comfortable with myself. I can live with others disliking me, for whatever reason. But I don't think I can live if I dislike myself.

In the past I have written quite a lot about my personal reflections. My boyfriend at the time hated it so much because according to him, my recollections of what happened were not true. He saw things differently and he was angry that I did not see things from his point of view. An online war ensued. The war ended by me closing down my blog. This is extremely silly of me, upon reflection. I bent down at the demands of someone irrational and unreasonable, who basically, instead of listening (or rather reading) what I've got to say, decided to get angry, ignore everything and refuse to acknowledge that as a human being, I have my own thoughts, perceptions and reasons. No wonder the relationship disintegrated soon after.

But I am going to write about that relationship today. Just like any other human being, I am subject to the rosy introspection bias. Or maybe I just choose to remember the good things more than the bad things.

I was never someone who said "I love you" each and every day - in fact, I rarely ever said that, even until today. It is not that I don't love anybody, it is just that I have always been a firm believer that actions speak louder than words. I think I have a pretty good command of words in the sense that I can write clearly, and I do appreciate some awesome literary creations (Joan Didion anybody?). Yet at the same time, I do not put a lot of emphasis on words. Especially if they are delivered orally. Seeing things in print, or even better, in writing, is a more powerful experience for me. Is this why I prefer to email rather than call? Perhaps.

One of our so-called issues was that according to him, I never said "I love you", and that I never acknowledged our "relationship" in public. Both were true. The first claim, I have already explained. The second claim - I don't have an explanation because I don't think I should be declaring anything in public. We were not in high school any more. I don't think I behaved like a single person - I certainly was not looking for a boyfriend. Yes, I had an endless stream of male suitors and I think they all just wanted to have sex with me. That's nature, isn't it. The real issue is whether I allowed them or not. I did not. I can't stop them from wanting to have sex with me, but I can stop myself from having sex with them.

I don't talk about my relationships with anyone, I don't think I am comfortable with sharing the details with anyone, really. The key word here is talk, as in face to face conversation detailing what happened, what we talked about, etc. This is because I think a relationship is something sacred and special and should only be between two people. When there are other parties in the relationship, then things start to fall apart, especially if those people are not supportive of what you want in the relationship. Yes, there are people who are supportive, but these people are rare. Most of the time, quite unfortunately, people don't care, they are just curious. I learn from a long time ago that to protect my relationships, I don't discuss them, unless it is with the direct parties involved. It is called communication - direct communication is the best, because the chance of misunderstanding is minimised.

I have explained this to my then boyfriend and he just could not understand why. Maybe it is the fact that he is more of an extrovert and I am more of an introvert, or maybe that is just how he rolls, what happened was that this is one of the very many things that we cannot agree upon. We can't even agree to disagree on this one. I don't mind disagreeing with him. He did not like that we don't agree on this.

While I did not talk much about my relationship, I did write a lot about my reflections on relationships in general. This is how I learn in life. I realise that the lessons that we learn are often personal and are unique to our set of circumstance, and quite often involve some un-doing of an unnoticed damaged that happened in our past. I think this is how we evolve as human beings. This is how we become better people. Something that is blatantly obvious for someone is not always necessarily obvious for another person, and subsequently, the same issue have different impacts on different individuals. As such, it is unreasonable for anyone to say "that is not a lesson" because each reaction is so personal, and how we handle those reactions are even more personal than anyone can ever realise.

I mean, really, it was and still is, my form of therapy. I used to have regular sessions with a shrink when I was going through a difficult moment in my life and we used to talk about these things. We discussed strategies on how to handle difficult issues in life. One of the things that we talked about was what was termed the active avoidance strategy. It is like when you see someone you'd like to avoid coming down the corridor, you just turn around (subtly) and walk the other way. This is different from running away - which is when you refuse to confront the issue altogether. This is when you confront the issue and you consciously devise strategies to cope with it so that you can still live your life without falling apart.

I get that life is not perfect - but what makes it perfect is how you manage to handle and manage it. I get that any relationship can never be perfect, but what makes it perfect is how two people manage to balance their lives and their relationships together. Where I went wrong was that there were certain things that I actively avoid - like discussing issues whereby I refused to follow his views. In retrospect, what I should have done is assess how important those issues were and asked myself whether I could be with someone who did not accept me the way I was. This question is really important because acceptance is vital in any relationship. I don't think I need to understand you wholly and completely, but I do need to accept that that is just you and that is fine.

One lesson I learn over and over again in my life is this: stay true to yourself. Be comfortable with who you are. You don't have to fit into any mould or whatever. The ultimate prize of being comfortable in your own skin is that you get to enjoy your life the way you like to. This is one of the ways that you can be happy.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Some observations about money

I am thinking about why we judge others on how they use their money. If they spend too much money, we think they are reckless. If they don't want to spend money, we think they are stingy.

I fall into the latter category, just in case you are wondering. I'd like to think I am careful with my money, but I bet my top dollars that a lot people think I am stingy. It's fine. I have a thick skin.

I judge my friends too on how they spend, I just don't tell them about my judgements. I am judgemental, so it takes more effort for me not to judge. It takes less effort not to share my judgement. That's why I take this path.

I am pretty open about how careful I am in managing my money. People around me generally accept that I am stingy because I am so honest about it. I am not trying to portray anything different. In my case, honesty is the best policy.

There are things that I just can't stand.

1. At times during catch up with friends, we split the bills. And when this happens, there is always that one person who needs to drink crazy amount of wine/cocktails and have entree, main and dessert. When this happens, I just want to puke at his/her face (usually her). If you'd like to consume so much food, please, fund it yourself. It is rude to ask other people to pay for your consumption. And you should also be the person who tips the most, thank you very much. But chance is that you are not going to tip because you are so stingy like that.

2. A "surprise" birthday celebration! And the person who is celebrating his/her birthday is a stranger to me, as in I have only met him/her that one time and I am being robbed to buy him/her dinner. In the past I swallow my pride and paid my share. These days, I just said, sorry, this is not in my budget, here is the part for my share. By the way, a friend of mine came up with that line, so all credit goes to her.

3. A "mandatory" collection - you know, a colleague is leaving, bla bla bla, so we have to give him/her a farewell gift. I really don't know the logic for this one, because I don't really get the notion of farewell gifts ever. If I am leaving a particular place, then I'd like to have as little possession as possible. But then again, that's probably me. I swear that the economy is supported by irrational things like this.

4. "This is for charity!" This is perhaps one of the worst offenders there is, especially those who rock up to your face with pictures of some village in some remote part of the world, etc etc etc. I usually ask for some paperwork. No paperwork, no money from me. Most of the time, there is no paperwork. Go figure. If I'd like to donate money, I will donate it to reputable organisations like the Red Cross or the Salvation Army. But honestly, I prefer to just give it to someone I love so that I can make his/her life better.

5. "You have a duty to share!" This sort of follows from the above. I get this because I happen to live in a first world country, or because I am fortunate enough to travel to other parts of the world. Newsflash: not all travellers are rich. I don't think I have a duty to share. I share if I can sincerely share. I don't have to be forced to share. I don't think that counts, really.

6. "I don't have any cash with me, I will pay you later." When this happens, you either (1) not consume, or (2) go to the nearest ATM and withdraw money, or (3) use your credit card and everyone can pay you their share. Your friends are not your personal ATM. And it is rude for them to have to ask you to pay repeatedly. A more offensive form of this is the person who always pays short of their share - like if the split equals $18, then she would pay $15. Once or twice, it is fine. But repeat offenders offend me, so I just stopped hanging out with them.

I don't mind paying for my friends, especially if I happen to like them and I have enough money in my bank account. In fact, I do so sometimes. The people that I treat usually return the favour without being asked. I think that goes to prove that I prefer to hang out with people who show gratitude. Those who take advantage of me, one way or another, are going to loose me as a friend, and they don't even care because they are always too busy to ask me to catch up.

The way we handle money and our attitude towards spending it, and also our attitude towards spending other people's money are generally extensions to our character. Maybe I come to this observation because I work with money, or because I watch my money, or both; money does have the power to make people do irrational things. And this makes the world goes around. Corruption anyone?

On that note, if you are in a serious relationship with a woman (and yes, most of the time, you have to be a man), then by default you should be footing all of the bill when you are on dates. Yes, she may offer to pay every so now and then, but really, be a man and foot the bill. In case it is not clear, yes, you have to decline the offer. But she can buy you coffee and/or dessert later on.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

On good looks

Yesterday I browsed an article - an opinion piece about how difficult it is being beautiful. The catalyst is this article here. Then there is this one from a guy's perspective. Go and read all of them.

Good looks
One of the things that I have always insisted on is having good looks. Insecurities aside, I spend a lot of time on a daily basis to look good. I make sure my hair looks a certain way. My face looks a certain way. My outfit has to appear a certain way. And everything has to be (or at least appear to be) effortless.

Ever since I come to the realisation that I cannot be taller, and I make peace with my twin A-cups, decide that my inverted triangle shape is pretty cool, I made a conscious decision that what makes a person attractive, to me, is how well groomed he/she is.

All of my friends are well groomed, dress well and as such, are attractive in my eyes. We spend hours talking about outfits, designs and cuts, proportions. One said just a couple of days ago, that in another life, he would be a fashion designer. And I said, I would be a model and I could be his muse.

Whether we want to admit it or not, we do judge people based on how they look. I know I get judged based on how I look. I don't care whether the judgement is favourable or not. But this is probably not true for most people out there. Each and every day, I want to project a particular image, and that is independent on whether other people like it or not.

Put simple, it is my version of being myself.

The same way we get judged based on our postal codes, how neat/stylish our abodes are, what ride we've got, how we spend our downtime, etc etc etc.

The world is a judgemental cocktail mix. Why is it so hard to admit that.

Other people's reactions
There are not very many people who stand out as being attractive. This is by default because most of the world fall into the category of what statisticians call average. Or in lay man's speak, ordinary. This is not a bad thing per se, it is just what it is.

But there are some people who are born attractive. Like this, for example. Then there are those who deliberately make themselves more attractive. Like this, for example. I like looking at both because I am a sucker for beautiful things. Both are inspirational to me in their own ways.

In the land of Oz, we have this thing called tall puppy syndrome. The majority of Australians hate those who stand out from the crowd. No, this is not just something I observe. This is something almost everyone I have spoken to admit to observing. It is an acceptable phenomenon here and no one is doing anything about it. People take it as a given.

I love tall puppies. Gawd, who wouldn't. They obviously have the potential to go places higher and better than most of us. I sincerely hope that they do not have to tone down their aura and talents in an attempt to fit in. Fitting in is overrated, seriously. You don't want to settle down with friends who do not love you for who you are.

I am also continuously saddened by the fact that a lot of people in this world make themselves feel better by bringing other people down. And the only way to counter this is to actually maintain your high ground. Do not stoop down to their level. Remain true to who you are. Remember who you are and who you want to be.

The people we remember
Last night as I walked home from the office, I thought to myself that the people that I remember in all walks of life generally fall into two categories: those who are really good and those who are really bad. The ones in between are just passing strangers, who become familiar strangers at some point or another. Our inherent rosy retrospection bias would ensure that we remember the good ones more - which is good. The bad ones we remember so that we appreciate the good ones.

Sometimes, it really is not you, it is them.