Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Learn to Let Go

Source of picture: thebeabook

A serious fault of mine is the inability to let go. Be it friendships, relationships or, sometimes, anger. If only letting go were as easy as pulling your hand out of the water or even saying the phrase itself. 

My problems with detachment can only be attributed to the feeling of 'unfinished business' as well as other feelings of being 'forgotten', 'abandoned', and 'lonely'. I often find myself in relationships and friendships that end abruptly, leaving behind only a bitter taste of frustration and confusion. And it is only natural to want to solve the problem and not dwell in sad emotions for too long. A dear friend said to me "No matter what, you're always looking for a conclusion. An answer." I think that is true for most people. Answers are what give people closure, relief and thus, the ability to let go and move on.

Part of my experience in Singapore was to learn, in a healthy manner, how to let go. Of relationships. Of friendships. Of bitter emotions. However, the questions I wanted to ask could not be answered definitively. And sometimes, things will always be unfinished business, no matter how hard you try to find answers for them. The only thing to do - 'When you're on your way out or they're on their way out.' - is to say goodbye right there and then, and not make a fuss. 

But, I can't say that I have completely moved forward from it all. I promise I'm working on it.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Complexities in Human Existence

Source of picture: Now Public
"... the arbitrary and capricious nature of life -its randomness- is something very difficult for us humans to accept ...the end result is of one's own contemplation upon an evident reality: "Horrible things happen to innocent people all the time, for no good reason."- David Guterson on his book, 'Snow Falling on Cedars'
The above quote is from a book I hold quite close to my heart. I can't remember how I came across it but I'm very glad that I did because it was a story that didn't conclude in a happy manner. Not all of the characters received what they wanted (and no doubt, I was angry!) but realising it now, the truth in the book was far more important than a happy ending. Sad, but true - in every sense of that phrase.

I recently started a new job in the city area a few weeks ago. To get there, I have to take the train into the city station. From the train station, I then take a 5 minute walk through the shopping area to get to the building. The shopping area is a popular place for the homeless to be at. Alot of them can be found sleeping or begging outside shops. The ones that are slightly better off sell copies of The Big Issue. On my first day at work, I passed through the shopping area at 8am and surprisingly, was greeted by an elderly man at his Big Issue vendor. He said "I hope you have a wonderful day, ma'am." I was grateful for him saying that as it made me realise how long it was since I had greeted someone in that way.
'I'm 18 and homeless.'
This is just one of the many signs one may find the homeless holding in Perth. It worries me when some individuals make the assumption the homeless are going to spend the money given to them on drinks, cigarettes and drugs. Sure, that may be true for some. But the majority of them have good intentions and have sadly, found themselves in situations they had no control over. I remember listening to my lecturer in a Social & Welfare Law class saying that the homeless shelter she often volunteered at, was predominantly made up of miners who had lost their jobs when the Financial Crisis crippled part of the mining industry in Western Australia. They came back home to their partners, who then kicked them out of their own home. Many applied for jobs but soon found out that their skills weren't transferable to other sustainable occupations. No money, no house, no family. If that were my life, I'd probably drink too.

This post has no intention of being over-bearing and pushy for people to help the homeless and poverty-stricken (although, it's something that I believe each and everyone of us should be doing, regardless), but to reflect and reiterate Guterson's humbling thoughts. Terrible things happen all over the world, for no good reason. An evident reality I try not to admit too often.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Have A Little Faith

Source of photo: strangevoices
"If we tend to the things that are important in life, if we are right with those we love and behave in line with our faith, our lives will not be cursed with the aching throb of unfulfilled business. Our words will always be sincere, our embraces will be tight. We will never wallow in the agony of 'I could have, I should have.' We can sleep in a storm. ...And when it's time, our goodbyes will be complete."
Mitch Albom has an uncanny ability to express his writings in a very gentle and humble way. The first book of his I picked up was 'The Five People You Meet In Heaven' (now one of my favourites). I discovered I could never read too many texts of what it means to be a good human being. And now having read Have a Little Faith, Albom has added his pages and beautiful quotes to my bookshelf.

Faith and religion are topics I have already expressed thoughts on in a previous post. Albom writes about his interactions with 2 religious clerics who come from very different backgrounds but who now preach similar beliefs. But this book doesn't delve into the gritty particulars of each faith. Instead this book goes beyond the administration of religion and to the fundamentals of it- love, hope and compassion.

No matter how downtrodden or unfortunate many lives may be, it amazes me how people, through the power of faith, are able to find the strength to survive amongst hopelessness and still be grateful they did not have worse. And indirectly, finishing the book assured me that there is a universal belief we all have access to, that can provide those with relief and guidance.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Sunday Morning Satisfaction

Source of picture: piccsy

Getting up at an ungodly hour on a Sunday morning is nothing I would willingly do on a regular basis... unless it's for a big, beautiful breakfast in Fremantle. Usually, I reserve Sunday (late) mornings for the gym but today a breakfast was part of my best friend's birthday celebrations so I was obliged to go. Not that I didn't want to in the first place - my friend and I have known each other for the better part of 2 decades! But still, I begrudgingly got out of bed at 7am and rushed around getting ready and, at the same time, making sure I wasn't late. (I did end up being a little bit late but I apologised profusely!)

A group of us ate at a little, quiet corner restaurant in Fremantle and chatted away for roughly an hour. My other friend thought the manager was eyeing us to get out of the place because we had been there for so long. I told him he was paranoid but we ended up leaving 5 minutes after having that discussion. The restaurant itself was lovely - away from the cold draft of the Fremantle piers and away from most of the big and busy restaurants in the heart of the town. There's something oddly chic and refined about the whole experience. I honestly cannot remember the last time I had a hearty morning breakfast, let alone having it outside of my house. Today, I discovered how much I have missed it and wondered why I didn't do this more often.

It surprised me to realize how extremely gratified I became when I ate a delicious meal outside. If I knew this was what it took to make me cheerful for a while, why didn't I pursue this as a regular activity? But even as I reflect over this question, I hold the same excuses as I'm sure other people have when it comes to doing something that requires going out of one's way to perform. Time, money and other commitments barely scratch the surface of my day to day life. 

Life is chaotic but if we can all find that little bit of comfort once in a while, we should make the effort to see it happen. So I've written a note to self: Have more breakfasts outside. Even if it means putting money aside, dragging friends out of their houses, skipping one gym class and getting up at an hour when the rest of the city is still asleep.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Life Without Borders

Source of picture: azuo
"When a bookstore opens its doors, the rest of the world enters, too, the day’s weather and the day’s news, the streams of customers, and of course the boxes of books and the many other worlds they contain—books of facts and truths, books newly written and those first read centuries before, books of great relevance and of absolute banality. Standing in the middle of this confluence, I can’t help but feel the possibility of the universe unfolding a little, ‘once upon a time’.”- Lewis Buzbee, 'The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop: A Memoir, A History'
I dropped by the Borders bookstore in Perth today. Books, magazines, stationery and assorted knick-knacks were 40% off. Naturally, a bookworm like me headed into the store with the intent of buying a birthday present for a friend but shamefully ended up walking away with a book for myself that I paid $15 for.* (In Australia, any book with a price stamp under $18 is a bargain. Haha.) The sad truth is that Borders has been in the process of closing down their outlets in Australia (and all over the world) following the filing of the company's bankruptcy in February. There are only 6 outlets left in Australia. Unfortunately, no company is willing to take over Borders. No company is willing to invest in books. Just one private equity firm in the process of cleaning up their assets.

For me, Borders has to be the most accessible store for any book, regardless of what country it originated from. There has never been a time where I couldn't find something I wanted. But people are finding the knowledge they want on the internet and understandably so. The internet was designed specifically for this purpose. It's easily accessible from your couch and I've never come across a person who has failed to find what they were looking for, through the internet. 

The closing down of Borders is just one of the many settings where printed books are becoming a thing of the past and, unfortunately, time and money are not dispensable for most people. But as I discovered today, some folks are continuing to go! I found myself in a right mess in Borders. Books were everywhere and it looked like a tornado had done severe damage to the compound. There were a couple of books lying around the store, but most of them were gone - many shelves were laid bare (which had saddened me because it meant that there was a slim chance of finding a book I truly liked). From what I can ascertain from the 'wreckage', is this. People still have a love for hard copy, printed books. (Either that, or they're cheap. But who says you can't be both?)

Downloading an e-book to your Kindle and Kobo is convenient. (I, myself, have recently jumped on the band wagon and am not going to criticize it). But nothing can truly replace the feel of being in a bookstore. I could easily lose myself in a bookstore for hours on end. In fact, I did so not long ago and came out with 4 great reads. And Lewis Buzbee was right. The possibility of the universe is quaintly held in pages and pages of text stored in a 2-storey compound. The assortment of people that pass through the doors at any given moment is a testament to those who are constantly thinking and fantasising for more than the world they are living in right now. I'm sorry to see you go, Borders. You've served me, and my fellow booklovers, well.

*Side note: The book I bought was Nicole Krauss 'The History of Love'. (No, not a soppy romance novel.)

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Many the Miles

Source of picture: Le Portillon

More often than not, I take for granted the situations I am blessed with. I'm doing my best to rectify that attitude by slowing down and giving real thought to those who have made the opportunities possible. I hope this post reflects how truly grateful I am to the friends who have continued our relationships even though we may not see or communicate with each other on a regular basis. 

After meeting people from many countries, I'd always develop an immature worry in the back of my mind that whimpers "What if we don't stay in contact? What if you forget me? I may not ever see you again!" The continuation of a friendship takes substantial effort and if the persons are separated by distance, dedication. It may be all to easy to give up, at that point.

I've always had friends who lived in different parts of the world. The furthest lives in Japan. She was my host sister when I went on exchange to Kyoto, Osaka, approximately 7 years ago. Since then, we've communicated through written letters, email, MSN, Skype and of course, Facebook. I eagerly await for the humongous gift packages at Christmas time from my former host family. The boxes are normally filled with small, cute Japanese trinkets and stationery. I send them Australian souvenirs and generous amounts of Tim Tam packets. (Okay, so I'm not the most imaginative mind going around...) We have a strong bond and I truly miss seeing her. Unfortunately, since the disastrous earthquakes and nuclear crisis, the fondness has been replaced with worry and fear for her and her family's safety in Japan. (As of this moment, they are all safe!). Needless to say, the communication is more frequent nowadays...

There are friendships I'd formed and kept with people who live in Singapore. Some of them I met in the country itself, others I have met in my hometown and who have moved back to their country of origin. We check in with one another just to see how the other is doing, or even for a simple hello. One calls me every Sunday to tell me about how many pets he currently has in his house! Haha. Sometimes, the conversations are mundane but the thought of picking up the phone on a Sunday afternoon and talking to someone overseas about anything is, to me, pleasant.

Long distance friendships are sustainable, so long as both are willing to commit and dedicate themselves through it. Some think of commitment and dedication as being arduous but it needn't be the case. Something as simple as a text or email can go a long way - there is alot of contentment within the feeling of not being forgotten. I am aware that life can, and does, interfere with our friendships but with mediums such as Facebook, Twitter and your phone(!), conversations with anyone around the world is accessible with the tapping of your keypad. There really is no excuse for the lack of communication between people nowadays and the rewards are worth more than the 2 minutes it takes out of our respective lives to say hello. So in saying that, I might just shout my friends an email or a text soon. They aren't that distant after all.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Hey You! What Song Are You Listening To?

There are three things I adore about this video.

1) I love the atmosphere of New York. Look at the commuters walking around the city during the winter- rugged up in winter gear, headphones in ears, focusing on not bumping into others doing the same thing. The lights and LCD screens of Times Square are fantastic! I frequently imagine myself standing in the middle of it, arms spread open, while a camera pans around me looking into the sky. You know, the stereotypical city shot to signify the embrace of the surroundings? Well, New York is definitely a place I must visit before old age cripples me and takes my arm waving and spinning abilities with it.

2) The guy listening to The Black Keys "Too Afraid To Love You", is divine... I am a sucker for men with a shaved head and strong facial features. (I just had to throw that in there.)

3) I find it interesting to hear what people are playing on their iPods. Even more surprising when I would expect them to listen to a specific genre of music, only to discover they are listening to something far from it. For example, I certainly didn't think the gentleman sitting by the stack of tables was listening to Lady Gaga. It just goes to show that you shouldn't assume anything, really.

It's fair to say that music takes up, roughly, 60% of my knowledge. I'm a self-confessed music junkie. Much to the dismay of my academic studies, I listen to a wide range of music and enjoy taking the time to research about songs (and their singers) to learn how the song came about. This results in knowing very odd and useless facts (which I usually pull out at dinner parties, haha). If you want to know if a song was likely to have been produced by Ryan Tedder from One Republic, I'm the girl to go to.

With that said, let's take a look at what my Top 5 played songs are on my iPod. I don't have a favourite band or song, it's impossible to restrict oneself to the many wonderful options out there in the musical world.

You've Got the Love (The Source Cover)- Florence and the Machine. What can I say? It's the harp strings that get me. It's an instant spirit-lifting song that makes you want to celebrate Florence's love with her! I listen to this when I feel crappy about my love life. Haha. Throw your hands up in the air!
    Forever - Chris Brown. Guilty pleasure. As you can probably tell, I am a dork when it comes to joyous love songs. Say what you will about Chris Brown's musical talents, but this song was stuck on repeat across clubs, radio stations and stayed in the Top 10 Australian charts for an extremely long time. It's a happy song and has a great beat to it. Also, Keri Hilson provides the backing vocals for this song. Another great artist I fancy and a fool proof recipe for success.

    Sunsets - Powderfinger. Ever since I've owned an mp3 player, you can be sure to find a Powderfinger song on there. They are one of my favourite bands and if ever I feel homesick when I'm in a foreign country, I listen to Powderfinger. I was quite devastated when they split last year. So much so that I listened to them everyday for two weeks before attending their last goodbye concert. Their music conjours up beautiful sunsets and beaches - a sense of openness, freedom and relaxation. It's hard to convey how 'Australian' their sound is so the closest phrase I can use to describe their musical style is "laid-back rock". Give them a try... you won't regret it.

    3AM - Matchbox Twenty. This is the first Matchbox Twenty song that catapulted the band to international fame. And it was also the first song I can remember listening to on the radio. You can say that I have a strong affinity for this song. I'm listening to this song as I type this post.

    Make You Feel My Love (Bob Dylan Cover) - Adele. You didn't think I'd write this post without making a mention of the wonderful Adele Adkins, did you now?
      I'm interested in hearing about your favourite artists and songs. There's still room on my iPod to add new talent!

      *There is also a "London Edition" of the abovementioned video, where the question was put to a couple of Londoners . You can watch it here.

      Sunday, June 5, 2011

      Power Planks & Motivation

      Source of picture: sweatsparkles

      If you work at something worthwhile for long enough, pretty soon you will find yourself on the other side- the side of achievement, relief and pride.

      This happened to me today. I've countlessly attempted to perform a 'plank' exercise at my gym (not to be confused with a popular stupidity called 'planking'). I managed to hold myself in a 'plank' position for 3 minutes. The first time I tried to do it, I wasn't even able to stay on my knees for long as my shoulders would give way and my stomach wouldn't cooperate with the pressure I put on it. (Not to mention that I clearly didn't have abs that resembled the rock hard facade that people in the 'Ab Pro King' advert had.) But today, I finally cracked that barrier. And although this may seem  a very minuscule accomplishment in the exercise world, it was an accomplishment nonetheless. 

      My stomach is the most untoned area of my body. I have heard of people who, no matter how hard they train their abdominal muscles, don't produce the results that show the work put into them. It may have something to do with the genes... I think (or would like to hope) that I fall into this category. To try and count how many sit ups, crunches, planks and all the mini-exercises in between that I've done is a tedious task. The results don't show for it. My stomach is only relatively flat, when I should have a six pack and I could only 'plank' on my knees for the most part. So to have finally achieved a goal like a 3 minute plank on my toes, is utter bliss!

      I suspect these are the little things that everyone aims for. They contribute to a continual motivation and by achieving them one by one (even if it means taking weeks and months to get there), they keep going back for more - at least that's why I do it. I'll be able to walk into my next gym class, knowing I can plank (properly) and keep up with the class instructor. Haha. I can plank!

      Wednesday, June 1, 2011

      Reevaluating Priorities

      Source of picture: traveller33a
      “It’s come to light this week that animals being transported via boat from Australia to Indonesia, are subject to inhumane treatment. Now, meanwhile we’ve quite literally got boats coming past the other direction and the people on board we can only really describe their situation as inhumane as well. Now, in the view of the panel, which story is more likely to generate compassion from the wider Australian public?” - Matt Graham on Australian television program, Q & A
      So far, this blog hasn't concerned itself with many political and cultural issues Australia faces. (I admit, my previous posts have been quite selfish and will continue to be... I apologise in advance!) Often I think, it's not my place to write a sensible commentary when I don't know alot about the subject at hand. This post is not a detailed piece about the treatment of live cattle and the problems surrounding it's export to countries where halal and kosher killings are present nor is it going to focus on the treatment of refugees in detention camps.

      What troubles me about this question is, frankly, the need to have it asked. There are copious amounts of Facebook posts on my news feed (I know, not the most reliable source of valuable information and opinion) that thoroughly support the decision to ban live cattle export. The day after this issue was brought to light on Australian program Four Corners, immediate action was taken by the federal government to ban the export of live cattle to most Indonesian slaughterhouses. When I say, immediate action, I do mean immediate... literally the day after the program was shown on television. 

      I must admit that the issue of animal welfare in this particular instance is an easier issue to resolve than incoming refugees. But the amount of sympathy generated for Australian cows seems, for me, to be equivalent to (if not more than) compassion had for human beings coming to Australia. Human beings! Another low for Australia, I might say. It is terribly disconcerting to hear human beings are placed on a lower scale of respect.
      “That’s an extraordinary question and not one I would have expected in a million years. I think... whether or not there might be some people who would be terribly moved by the plight of cows going out of Australia and might be less moved by the plight of refugees coming into Australia because they’re not Australian refugees and sadly I think that’s probably partly true. I think there would be a certain sort of, shall we call them an overzealous patriot, who might place the value of an Australian cow over a foreign human being. But I do think there’s room for both... I think politics is a difficult thing but when it does get to the point of people being smashed on rocks and literally dying, then you have the very unbecoming spectacle of people having a debate about whether they should be able to go to their families’ funerals or not, which I thought was a new low point in Australian politics. I think there’s a danger that politics ends up just sort of - and the rough and tumble of politics ends up enveloping things that are far more important than that and I would probably suggest to people that the instinctive reaction they have to cows being treated inhumanely might well be extended to human beings being treated the same way…” - Joe Hildebrand on Q & A