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Sunday, 5 September 2021

how we get there


 "Sometimes, I wonder if I will make it till forty," she said matter-of-factly, as she stared into the bleak evening sky. "It feels like it is a matter of time that I will succumb to the pain, the depression, and the darkness."

She pulled out her mood journal, which she started 96 days earlier. It was either 'sad' or 'meh' on most days, with the occasional 'contented' (usually when it was a windy day, when her 10a.m. coffee was perfectly brewed and no one yelled at her) or 'suicidal' (when thoughts of how the world would be better off without her intruded her mind).

She can't remember when she started becoming so acquainted with sadness, or how it even happened. It was like learning how to walk - no one teaches you how to do it; you just slowly get up on your feet and walk one day. 

She flipped to a page that said 'suicidal', and showed to it him. 29 Apr 2021. 'Walking was hard today. Had to hold railings to make it across the overhead bridge. Syncopated breathing. Thought I was going to die.'

She wasn't quite sure why she was showing it to him. Perhaps she wanted to caution him of her emotional baggage. Or perhaps it was a cry for help.

But he wasn't surprised. Neither did he seem too concerned.  

Instead, he took her tiny hands and wrapped it inside of his. "Don't worry about forty. Let's focus on today. And we will do the same for tomorrow, and the day after. That's how we get there."

Sunday, 25 July 2021

Choosing the responsible life

Two thousand and six.

That was the year when everything became apparent to me. The fact that life isn't as rosy as it seemed when I was a child. The fact that more often that not, people have bad intentions and hidden agendas. The fact that even though the world wars are long gone, people all around the world are fighting their own battles every day. 

-

I have my own battle scars too.

The scars on my wrist remind of a time when I was young and reckless, using physical pain to overpower the emotional pain and emptiness that I felt inside. The scars on my fingertips remind me of a time when I knew not how to remain calm in face of intense pressure and anxiety. The scar just above my left brow reminds me of a time when I thought I couldn't survive a night without getting intoxicated.

Those days are long gone. When you have a family of your own, there's no other responsible way to live but to flee from those battles. Selfish and irresponsible. That's what you are if you let those battles weigh you down. 

-

It started as a musing. At that age, depressive thoughts were romanticised; in books, film and music. 

And then, I found that I had a predisposition for melancholic tunes, sad endings and philosophical pessimism. I could spend hours ruminating about how fleeting life was, and wondering if there was even a point in living another day. I indulged in my depressive thoughts, a lot, and walked around with a dark cloud over my head. I didn't seem to find a problem with it, as I continued to fulfil my obligations as a good son, friend, and worker. 

Not until I fell in love and started a family of my own. 

It's funny how it never crossed my mind that I would ever have to bid farewell to my depressive thoughts. They had been a part of me for almost a decade. I wouldn't call it an addiction. Perhaps, a disposition; a way of life. And I guess I made the mistake of presuming that this is me; and to love me is to accept me for me.

When I first saw her tiny hands and legs, I knew that what my wife had been saying for the two years of marriage was true. We couldn't raise our kids in such a pessimistic environment.

-

When I see my baby girl running around in the garden, playing catch with our Goldie, the sides of my lips curl up as I know for sure that I did (and am doing) my best to raise her in a healthy environment.

But sometimes, just sometimes, as I take a long walk around the neighbourhood, I still let the dark thoughts creep in for a second. In that split second, it feels as though my heart is being ripped into pieces and the tallest building in the distance seems so alluring. Thankfully, I time my walks such that I always make it home in time for bedtime stories, before the darkness takes me to a place I never want to be. 

And seeing her sweet and restful face is always the emotional pat on the back that I need.

Saturday, 10 July 2021

The Gin Parlour


The Brass Lion Singapore Dry Gin. It wasn’t her number one choice. She would’ve preferred a Botanist or Four Pillars, but it wasn't too bad for a Happy Hour drink. 

She had been wanting to go to the Gin Parlour for some time now. For someone who claims to be a gin connoisseur, she thought that it was slightly strange to have only gone to the parlour a decade after its opening. It sits across the Marina Bay Sands, with an unobstructed view of the flyer, the ArtScience Museum, and arguably the greatest Feng Shui building in the world. She counted the number of windows that were lit up at the hotel, and pondered about how lovely it would be to be on a Staycation. 

But this was not too bad either, she thought. Sipping gin at one of her favourite areas in town on a Friday evening, all by herself

She usually spent Friday evenings with friends, chugging pints of beer and playing pool. It was nice, too, but wasn’t her, her. She was a gin person; she wasn’t one for small talk; and she would choose reading a book over playing pool any day. 

Today, she was unusually tired. Perhaps it was the five reports that she had churned out the past week, or the fact that her social battery was low. Either way, she said no to pool and beer; and boarded the bus to nowhere in particular. It was only fifteen minutes into the ride that the idea of visiting the Gin Parlour popped into her mind. 

She spent the entire evening there, sipping gin, reading The Queen’s Gambit, and taking in the scenery. As the hours passed, she felt more and more tranquil. She was free to be herself and enjoy the things that she loved. And she knew that she needed more of this in her life. Perhaps a Friday a month, at the Gin Parlour, by herself

But with that sense of peace came a profound sense of loneliness. And it then dawned upon her that the price to pay for freedom seems to be loneliness.

Thursday, 3 June 2021

pointing a middle finger @ anxiety

I've been thinking about the Arab-Israeli conflict lately, and the Palestinian refugees that have lost their homes since 1948. I imagine being born in an era of war, spending your entire life fighting to survive. I imagine not having a proper education, let alone a constant supply of water. I imagine violence, bloodshed, and the screams of my neighbour as a social norm.

And then I think about the problems that we deal with every day. Hating on the government for making us stay at home. Whining about the weather. Playing office politics. Feeling anxious about what other people think of us. Veganism. (jk! or not...) And how these problems are so. damn. trivial lame. I know therapists say that every problem is different and should never be trivialised but really. Our problems are lame. 

We get so hung up with that one person who always seems to be better than us in that one area that we think matters the most. We let it get to us and make us unhappy. But it has occured to me while I was doing all these thinking just how pointless it all is. Our anxiety. Our insecurity. Our inadequacy. On what grounds are we not good enough? If we were struggling to survive a series of artillery shells, it is not the person with the highest education that is going to come out alive. Neither is it the one who is most popular, most eloquent or most beautiful. It is the one with the best survival instincts, and a good dose of luck. I guess what I'm trying to say is that society has shaped us to measure our worth based on a certain set of rules; but when the rules change, our worth is going to change too. And when the rules break down (a n a r c h y), everyone will be nothing but a mere human being. 

There are certain things that trigger my anxiety. But as I ruminate about the Arab-Israeli conflict over the past few days, I think I've learned to point my middle finger at anxiety. 

i am a flower slowly fading, here today and gone tomorrow,
a wave tossed in the ocean, a vapour in the wind.

Saturday, 1 May 2021

a slow day


I like slow days. Work is as tiring and fast-paced as it gets.

-

Just two weeks ago, we were sailing out to Sisters’ Island on the yacht that you chartered for our first anniversary. The wind in my hair, sun rays bouncing off the surface of the water, the CBD skyline in the distance, and the thought of office workers writing papers and crunching numbers while there I was, beside you, with your hand in mine, gave me that familiar sense of liberation that I haven’t felt in a long time. I like slow days.

We had been looking forward to our staycation for a couple of months now – yes, I didn’t know I was going to end up on a yacht. The plan, in the name of gender equality, was for us to each book a night at a hotel as a surprise for each other, starting off with your surprise for me.

When I opened my eyes and found myself on the yacht, I felt loved. You always knew how to cater to my needs and preferences. You knew how much I loved the ocean. And there was no better way of making me happy than to take me out to sail. 

-

The past two years have been a blur of events but what I was most acquainted with was pain, guilt, feeling constantly tormented by my own infp brain, and yes, the perfect garnish to complete the dish – alcohol

You found me at my worst. When I was drinking too much that it almost cost my life. When I was prepared to live a frivolous life. When every little thing triggered my anxiety. You found me and you loved me. 

Ours wasn’t a cheesy love story that blossomed like the Dutch tulips in Spring. Some days, it felt like a bloodbath, as we dealt with past hurts and trauma. Other days, it felt like learning how to walk all over again, as we figured out how to love each other properly. But most of the time, it was you patiently walking me through my pessimism, my depression and my defensiveness; even at the expense of your own well-being. 

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So when you promised that you’d always tell me that ‘we’re good’, even in the happiest of times or toughest of moments, and asked me to spend the rest of my life with you, the answer was simple.

I like slow days. But it in a society where every single day is passing by so damn quickly, I’m thankful for you. 

My sun and moon, my afterglow, my better man, my bad guy, my mi pan su su sum 

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