Keep Moving Forward

beautifulandthebrave

Its been over a month since the detox ended and I went back to the “real world”.

The good news: I managed to keep to my commitment to workout at least 4 times a week (i.e. 20-minute cardio, some arm toning and ‘core’ pilates sessions). I’ve also begun daily weigh-ins as a form of accountability. My weight has stabilized within the 131-133 lbs zone — which I’m very pleased by.

I don’t have a very rigid diet but I have made some dietary changes. I’ve ditched my routine of eating “breads” for breakfast (HK norm) and have taken to eating natural cereals (oatmeal squares, bran, wholewheat oatmeal) with low fat high calcium milk. I’ve cut my caffeine intake to just ONE flask of home-brewed coffee everyday. This is a stark contrast to when I used to have 6-9 cups of instant coffee before lunch just to keep awake.

After school, I have a light dinner mostly fruits, salads and nuts. These are mainly to give me energy for my workout. After the workout, I usually don’t eat anymore but sometimes I’ll drink a little bit of milk chocolate (excellent for recovery). As a result of this routine, I’ve noticed that I no longer take forever to fall asleep. Note: quality sleep is an important component in my health.

Not sleeping = more caffeine = weight gain = anxiety = self hate = weight gain = not sleeping (AKA the vicious cycle).

I knew that I was truly on a roll when one day, one student in my class (an attention seeker who likes to “offend” teachers) called me “fat” and you know what I said?

“Oh honey. I may not be thin but believe me — I’m strong.”

Hong Kong is a society where being “slim” is synonymous to being “fit”. This, of course, is just plain ridiculous. The women here are genetically pre-disposed to being “slim” but many of them are NOT “fit” — i.e. they have no muscle tone, no strength and no stamina whatsoever.

There is a lot of emphasis on “diet” and cutting on food to become “slimmer” but there are very few women that actually workout on a regular basis. Women here want to be “thin” and slim – muscles are masculine and do not fit their ideal of “waif-like” beauty.

I’d always been sensitive to jabs at my “weight” because its only now that I’ve begun to accept that THIS is the body that I’ve been blessed with. This body has boobs, butt and big bones. I was NEVER going to be “slim” by Hong Kong standards.

But since I’ve taken more responsibility over my fitness, my insecurity has begun to fade – steadily being replaced by a very strong sense of pride. THIS is the body that I’ve been working on. It may not be the ideal, but it is mine and I’m proud of it.

The high point of September was when I spoke at  {The Beautiful & the Brave} — an event that called on women to discover God’s idea of beauty and to respond to the call of beauty — to use their God-given beauty to brave the challenges we face — “in such a time (and place) as this”. 

But alas, mountain top experiences never last – they usually follow a harsh descent to the ground below.

I was slammed by flu. Being a teacher, it’s really just a question of “when” rather than “if” I would get the flu. I began to notice a steady decline in my body’s performance during workouts – I knew then that I was getting sick.

October saw Hong Kong in a state of civil uproar as a result of the civil disobedience movement i.e. “Occupy Central” or the “Umbrella Revolution”. But it seemed that physically I was also in a state of civil war. I began coughing a lot – so much so that I lost my voice completely. My two-day “National Day” holiday was spent in bed – eating and sleeping all day – with no workout. My body, once again, began to feel like a prison.

Its now mid-October and I have not recovered. I’ve gone to the Doctor twice. The first gave me regular medicine – which improved but did not eradicate my cough. The symptoms persisted until I was not only coughing but also developed colds and phlegm. Yesterday, my coughing was so violent it made me vomit for the very first time in my adult life. I went to the doctor and got me some antibiotics.

Being sick is part of being a teacher. As a student, you love missing out on school – as a teacher, its really an inconvenience not only for yourself but for other teachers as well. Teachers get sick and we never really get the chance to fully recover. All we can do is to suck it up until the next “holiday” comes.

So here I find myself — unable to workout as I used to, feeling fat, weak and ugly.

Fitness is an uphill battle for me. Not only am I GENETICALLY predisposed towards fat storage, I work in a field where stress is norm. Under stress, some people may lose weight but stress triggers my body to STORE fat rather than lose it. I love my job and I work well under pressure but I hate what it does to my body.

The upside of being at the bottom is that there’s nowhere to go but UP. At least, that’s what I want to tell myself.

I recently began my period – and its alleviated some of my problems. I realised now that I was not only sick with the flu, it was being worsened by my hormones. Now, I feel like my body is mine again. Even though I still have the flu, I don’t feel so bloated anymore. YEY.

Now feeling more optimistic, I decided I’ve done enough moping. I want to end this blogpost by sharing one of my all-time favourite quotes:

silhouette-womanI hope this can encourage someone today.

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Offline Holiday: Challenge Accepted! (or not…)

The past few days have been tiring. I blame it all on the medication that I’ve been taking. It drives me absolutely stir crazy at night.

In the past 48 hours, I have slept a grand total of 3-4 hours – I think. I hadn’t been able to “nap” in the day time either. Was too busy yesterday and was too excited today.

Resurrection Sunday at Cornerstone Church was great. Even though I was sad that we didn’t have the Way of the Cross this year (like the past two years). I’m so glad that I was able to use the Easter holidays to regroup, recoup and get rejuvenated!

Plus, I have been eager to go see my Church mates! Ever since I’ve started to write DAILY for The Tapestry Project, I’ve formed a sense of connection to the Church. Even though its more of a “readership” connection, the fact that I know there are people who are “liking” my posts or reading what I’ve read, gets me excited to know what they’ve experienced and thought of.

Every week, we’ve been having unofficial “journal circle” where we’re basically talking about some of our favourite prompts during the week. I love LOVE LOVE doing it. Its so encouraging to me as a writer. People are calling each other throughout the week – just to ask, “Have you done today’s prompt yet?” or “Which day are you on?”

I was so excited that I ended up staying at the church until everyone had to leave. We were still talking on the way to the MTR station and I was talking until I was alone – at the Kwai Fong MTR Station.

I reached in for my iPhone to find that I had left it at the Church.

(long sigh).

Most days, this would have induced a violent visceral response. Me without my iPhone is like an anxiety attack waiting to happen. Today, I shook a little. I gave a loaded sigh and then I started writing on my journal – an idea started to form.

“How about an Offline Holiday?!”

Throughout this holiday, I have enjoyed – and I do mean ENJOYED – just living blissfully at home. For a self proclaimed HomeBuddy, going on trips is not a holiday that’s just leg work.

I was going to go to Macau with my mum and dad but frankly, I wanted to give them some alone time and give myself some alone time too.

I’m an introvert – I love alone time.

So here’s the Game Plan:

  1. I’m going on an ALL-DAY OFFLINE HOLIDAY (off the Internet, off FaceBook, off Instagram, of WordPress (GASP!).
  2. I will have no music so I will need to have my journal and probably a book.
  3. I will have no camera so its time to dust off my trusty  D90.
  4. I’m going to shop, eat, shoot, journal and get some much needed sun (although I’m told its gonna be cloudy tomorrow).
  5. I will upload pictures from my adventure later.

challenge-accepted

 

The only question is whether I can even wake up tomorrow without my iPhone.

sad-challenge-failed-l

Bummer.

 

I’m sick…

“I knew it was nothing.”

Most women do not readily admit weakness – we may really still be damsels in distress but most of us do it under cover of warrior princess or superwoman. In the end, we have the “usual” humdrum of everyday life and then, there are the bad days. You wouldn’t notice the difference because if you did then my full face of glamouflage isn’t working as it should.

To put things simply I’m not okay. My body is mutinying against me, my skin is breaking out, my emotions are partying like its DEC 31, 1999 and its not fun.

I’ve finally decided to cough up the cash to go to an oby-gyn to get myself checked because over the past half year, my menses have not been normal. I’ve always been very attuned to the workings of my body and so I knew that there was SOME sort of imbalance, I just didn’t know what it was.

My period has been lasting 2 weeks at a time leaving me emotionally unstable, bloated, always tired, craving and too maxed out to exercise. I go home and all I want to do is sleep. But sleep is hard to come by and sleep isn’t giving me rest.

The doctor tells me I have menstrual disorder due to hormonal imbalance and gives me progesterones to get things right again. He mentions some side-effects but I’m just happy to hear that my womb and uterus are okay.

That, doesn’t mean though that I am okay.

There’s something wrong with me but its not a physical sickness – its an imbalance that is keeping me from living a happier life. And that gets to me. Some days, I just wanna remember the last time I was happy. Like carefree happy.

I know this sounds like the rant of an angst-ridden teen so I’ll stop soon I promise. I just needed somewhere to rant. To make this struggle real somehow.

I hate it when people look at me like I’m overreacting. I hate it when they won’t even acknowledge what this thing is doing to me. The meds by the way are totally messing me up too. It just feels like nothing is real until you are SICK sick. But heart sickness, mind-sickness, those aren’t readily seen but they’re as real.

The Ups and Downs of Living all by Your Onesie

Its been more than a week since my parents left for their vacation and I started my life as a “single woman living alone” – I’ll have to admit that there are ups and down. 

Up: There’s always something to do:

I like preoccupying myself in the evenings. Besides the obvious “Harry” (my British Shorthair cat) chores, I do random chores around the house and prepare my food for the next day.

Up: I’ve been enjoying cooking

I’ve never been the epitome of domesticity and truth be told, my skills in the kitchen leave much to be desired. Oh sure, I can prepare ingredients but putting them all together is a science that I’ve never really had the chance, desire or reason to delve into. But since living alone, I’ve taken up the challenge of cooking my daily lunch/dinner. I was thinking that I could buy from the school cafeteria but I’ve managed to get this far – without buying pre-packaged food. 

There are some things I’ve learned about myself:

  1. I enjoy cooking. 
  2. I enjoy eating my cooking.
  3. I’m interested in learning more about this.

Up: I’ve been working out consistently

My evenings are a whole lot more productive lately so I’ve been running 7 km on my elliptical machine (20-25 mins) 5 days a week and I think I’m just about ready to get back into blogilates “beast mode”. 

I love working out. I love feeling like I’m doing something good with my body. I’m trying not to weigh myself too often (I bought a weighing scale a few weeks back — to keep myself in check) because I’m not working out to lose weight (Keep reminding myself!). Working out makes me feel better about myself. It gives me positive body image. The more I like myself, the better I feel. The better I feel, the better I look – at least that’s how I think. 

I wish I could say that there were no “downs” in this period. But I guess you just can’t win it all. 

Down: I find that self-pity and loneliness are never too far from me

One moment, I’ll be all happy and proud of myself for yet another successful and “healthier” week. I weigh myself and find that I haven’t lost a single pound. Bummer.

Last Friday, I got sick and my throat felt like sandpaper. I had fevers on and off throughout the weekend. It was hard. I’m 27 years old and all I could think of was, “Mummy! I want my mummy!” (sigh) Oh the luxury of having the parentals around. 

I don’t hate staying at home but its a sobering thought – that I’m going to an empty house, waiting for no one to come. Sometimes it gets to me. 

I haven’t lost sleep yet nor have I cried about “being alone” – primarily because I know it won’t be forever. Come to think of it, three weeks has come and gone so quickly. 

But sometimes, it still gets to me. Yeah. 

I put on the TV so that I don’t have to endure the silence. Its not like I can start talking to Harry now can I? 

Down: Temptation is at every corner

Being alone makes me very conscious about the way I spend my time and what I do with my body. In fact, I’m more self-aware now that I’m alone than when I have people in the house with me. Strange that.

Unfortunately, I’m a creature of many weaknesses and truth be told my “resolve” isn’t that strong either.

Some days, I win… some days, I lose.

Regression and Return

Its been a year since the last time I was here and a lot has changed.

In so many ways, I have regressed to who I was even before this blog began. I won’t say that I haven’t had any progression because I have – but only in some areas. The expression, “One step forward, two steps back” comes to mind.

There is no defense I can offer myself, I suppose the best thing to say at this point is just that “nobody said it was going to be easy”. The idea that true transformation happens overnight is not only false but a dangerous delusion.

Its funny because I haven’t touched this blog for the simple reason that I had nothing “good” to report. But “Seven-Fifteen” was never meant to be a blog just about my victories… I forgot that I had meant for it to be a platform on which I could display both my victories and my defeats.

But now I have an urge to return. I am not saying that things are getting better – they are not. I am even more plagued now than I ever was. I have no delusions regarding my resolve to fight my own battles. What I do know is that I serve a God who is more than capable of keeping me – even to put me back together should I break apart. He is altogether trustworthy – the most!

So consider me fearless only in this regard. I know who my Father is. I know that He is good. And even if I do not deserve it, I know that I can trust in his “name and heart”.

So the prodigal returns home.

Live. Live Today

Sometimes I find myself echoing the feelings of the writer of Ecclesiastes.

Smoke, nothing but smoke.
There’s nothing to anything—it’s all smoke. 
What’s there to show for a lifetime of work, 
a lifetime of working your fingers to the bone? 
One generation goes its way, the next one arrives, 
but nothing changes—it’s business as usual for old planet earth. 


The sun comes up and the sun goes down, 
then does it again, and again—the same old round. 
The wind blows south, the wind blows north. 
Around and around and around it blows, 
blowing this way, then that—the whirling, erratic wind. 
All the rivers flow into the sea, 
but the sea never fills up. 
The rivers keep flowing to the same old place, 
and then start all over and do it again. 


Everything’s boring, utterly boring— 
no one can find any meaning in it. 
Boring to the eye, 
boring to the ear. 
What was will be again, 
what happened will happen again. 
There’s nothing new on this earth. 


Year after year it’s the same old thing. 
Does someone call out, “Hey, this is new”? 
Don’t get excited—it’s the same old story. 
Nobody remembers what happened yesterday. 
And the things that will happen tomorrow? 
Nobody’ll remember them either. 
Don’t count on being remembered.
{ Ecclesiastes 1: 2-11 > The Message Bible }

“What do you do for a living?” — is a question that is often asked. But I always felt it oxymoronic – coz if we were to follow the logic of this question, we would come to the conclusion that “life = work”.

But if one were to “live for work”, you will find (in time) that you are not “living” at all.

I remember staring into the darkness of a fire-exit and screaming out these thoughts, “… If this is life, then I have no wish to continue living it…” Its funny coz I was barely 12 then and I had already despaired over the thought of having to wake up every day – forced to live a life without purpose, without meaning.

Because even then I understood that without purpose, there is no point to life. I wasn’t “suicidal” – no. I merely yearned for my life to have meaning. There just had to be more… why else would I still be alive?

When I found Christ (well, when Christ revealed Himself to me) – I found that purpose and finally, “life” began. I remember chanting those words “We are the warriors of the New Millennium”, singing songs like “History Maker” and “Spirit of Revival” — filling my heart and my mind with the sense of purpose that I craved – that I needed.

I learned that I was part of the generation that would “shake the nation” -we would bring the change the world needed. I was “chosen” to represent Christ. I was a ticking time bomb strategically placed. When it was my time to “explode” – everyone in my blast radius would have no choice but be affected – infected – with Christ.

Sounds kinda ominous. Like some kind of weird propaganda. But seriously,

I didn’t just chant it. I didn’t just sing it. In my heart, I really believed it.

Its funny because my future was clearer to me when I was 13 than now that I am 25 because of that very reason.

Sometimes, in the attempt to “make a living”, people forget to “live”.

Steve Jobs died today and so many people “mourn” for the loss of yet another great life. And rightly so – coz he changed our lives to the point where we might not even remember what it was before the iPod, the iPhone, the iPad… who knows what other creations the world will now never come to know…

It seems the entire world is in mourning and I find myself thinking, rightly so. But not because Steve Jobs is dead (and because I will never get an iPhone5 approved by his genius…)

What use is there to mourn for those among the dead?

If we mourn, let us mourn instead – for those among the living who have never really lived. 

I write this, not so much for those out there who are reading this, but to myself.

I can’t help but remember all the promises I made to myself – that I would live my life to the fullest – if not for myself – then for all those who don’t have the chance to do so.

For the children of the Shan who may forever be forced to live life inside a refugee state – unable to exercise the right to freely pursue life as they so desire.

For the “Karen”s of the world – taken too early — even before they had a chance to make something out of it (a story for another time).

How many more must die until I fully realize the gift I have been given?

I don’t know why God decided that Steve Job’s time was over and mine was not. I don’t know how to justify that logically. But surely, he knows something that I do not. So, I must preach this word to myself.

Even as a heavy cloak of death hangs about me – even as my bones creak and my withered muscles shake, my whole being seems to be reaching out in desperation screaming,

Save me. I want to live. I want to live today.

The Draw of Darkness

If there is anything I’m good at, its repressing and running away from things that are too traumatic, too painful. Mind you, it is a useful survival instinct that has saved me a good many times. But its one that has also greatly impeded my emotional, psychological and spiritual health.

The fact that I have repressed and buried so much stuff has not escaped me because I have experienced encountering things that I ought to know but find that I cannot conjure up anything. Scary – like your mind has this empty hallow space. But even scarier when you find that not only have you repressed memories – you’ve repressed entire days, weeks, seasons of your life. You’ve repressed places and even people.

The other day, I encountered one such person.

To be sure, I know that I know him. Used to know him. I spent quite a lot of time with him at one time. So why wasn’t I able to remember much about him?

It took a little bit of small talk and questions before memories starting unlocking and the whole thing started to unravel. I dug a little deeper and finally, there it was. I remembered why I locked him away in the first place.

I’m a bit of an empath. No, its not a superpower. Its more a description of how I deal with (understand, comprehend, get along) with people.

You probably have heard the expression “place yourself in my shoes”. In my case, its more like I’m absorbing you into my system. I try to “become” you. i find that I am strong at picking up on people’s emotions and ‘reading’ people.  The problem is the more I absorb, the more difficult it is to differentiate who I am from who you are. I suck things in but I don’t filter things well. This is often referred to as a recipe for psychological overload.

I’m a bit like Rogue who is my favourite mutant from X-men by the way. She has the ability to absorb memories, abilities, personalities and even physical attributes through touch and according to her official Marvel profile (and yes I had to google this)

Upon absorbing another’s memories, Rogue also gained any associated emotional responses. Rogue was typically able to control such emotions, however absorbing psyches more powerful than her own resulted in Rogue’s psyche being supplanted.

In essence, she and I are very much alike. As much as empathy could be a useful tool, I often consider it more like a curse than a gift.

This person, I now remember, was one of those people I categorized was harmful for my psychological status. He was (and still is) a black hole of despair, a child of cynicism, seemingly in the throes of depression. These people are what I consider my kryptonite.

From what I now gather, in an effort to protect my own self from all that I had absorbed from him – I locked him away into the deeper recesses of my psyche and calcified him so that he wouldn’t disrupt me so much.

When I first began talking to him, I wondered why I had repressed so much of him but the more I began to ask, the horror began to grow – nothing had changed – he was still the same mess I used to know and he was still not good for my psyche.

Then again, maybe something had changed.

Because instead of just going with my natural instinct – to pull away from him and his darkness. I began to feel this sense of compassion and urgency in me. How could I help this person? It was like the darkness was drawing me in – paradoxically like moth to flame.

I realize now that this idea of being ‘drawn to darkness’ is not new. Since coming back into the Life of Light that only God can give, undergoing (and still under) the process of getting a new heart and building a love for the things that God loves – I’ve been finding myself in the company of the very same people I considered to be detrimental for my mental health.
Whether this will end up in my demise remains to be seen.