The first 31 days of the year are almost over and tomorrow we’ll be entering a new month. Can you believe it? January has been so busy – the energy at work has been relentless! Maybe it’s because everyone had some time to rest and recuperate for the new year but the energy in the office has definitely changed and it feels like for most people there, things are going up and UP.

And yet, while my colleagues seem to be engulfed by that relentless driven energy, it’s more than obvious that I certainly have not been. I feel like I should be teeming with it – it’s a new year and I’m trying to have a more positive outlook – but instead I find myself falling, not just short, but flat. I feel listless and like I’m just “floating by”. I can’t seem to drum up the energy to find any motivation; I feel so uninspired and have no drive at all. Feeling under-qualified, under-motivated and not nearly giving it my all in the office, I know I’m doing a really piss poor job. It distresses me because I want to do right by and do well for my colleagues (as much as for myself), but what worries me most is that there’s some part of me that really just doesn’t care anymore.

The last week has left me feeling so incredibly down on myself. Countless times throughout the week I’d catch myself on the verge of tears for my inability to do my job well and it’s seeping through to my personal life too; making me doubt my ability to do anything well. There’s no passion left. All I want to do is crawl deeper into my cave and cut myself off from everyone. I know beating myself up doesn’t make it better but I’m so frustrated and disappointed in myself! The inferno of hurt keeps building up inside and there is no room for me to let it out. I don’t know what to do with myself anymore.

Down.

It’s MY Body, Not Yours.

If there’s one thing Indonesians love to comment on it’s about people’s weight. We are known to be demure, polite and respectful people who rarely speak out about sensitive issues that we know can be hurtful for others, but it seems that when it comes to weight (or people’s bodies in general) it’s open season. For example, after exchanging the mandatory kiss-on-the-cheek greeting with family and/or friends you haven’t seen in awhile, it’s not at all uncommon to hear them say: “Oh, you’ve gotten so fat since I last saw you!” or “Oh, you look so… Chubby”.  Whether you want to hear it or not, that’s all it takes to open a public discussion about your body. They talk about how much you weigh, how you should try this new diet or that new diet, how you could try to get some more exercise, how you should follow what they do and only eat once a day because heaven knows, your body has enough fat on it to sustain you through the day without adding more on! -Breathe-

When it comes to these situations and discussions, it’s really such a common and almost ‘natural’ occurrence that people don’t even bat an eye when the topic gets brought up. It happens so much that people pass it off as regular chit-chat – like it’s okay to just publicly dissect the defects of MY body in front of everyone. Like it’s okay to constantly point out how awful I look compared to this cousin or friend because I’m fat and they’re not. Like it’s okay to tell me that if I just lost some weight, I’d be pretty. Sometimes it’s all I can do to just laugh along with them and nod in agreement with the little nuggets of wisdom they impart. It’s so hurtful but people don’t understand when I get upset about it; ironically, they just think I’m being rude for getting angry. After all, it’s just “regular talk” so why am I so bothered?

It’s like every time I (almost) convince myself that I’m okay to be as I am and that I shouldn’t care what people think or how they see me, something happens that makes me trip over backwards. For instance, like at work lately. I’m the youngest but admittedly also one of the heavier ones in the office and because I am they delight in making jokes about my love for food. Don’t tell Dini about the goodies we just received! Give Dini the smallest slice of cake because she doesn’t need it as much as so-and-so does. Hurry up and eat the chocolates before Dini gets here! Or even, Dini, you should stop reading so much – you need to do something physical! I try to laugh along with everyone else and just shrug it off. I try to not take it so personally even though every comment they make is like a suckerpunch to my (obviously bigger) gut.

When did it become okay to so publicly discuss and make fun of someone else’s body in an office environment? When did MY body become everyone’s property and cause for concern? Does my being heavier make me less smart, less good, less helpful than you? Does it make me any less deserving of respect? Do people not think I have feelings too?

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Too Close to Home

We heard the news while we were sitting around the office conference table having lunch. A few of my colleagues and I were talking about buying ice creams to celebrate the submission of our first proposal of 2016. We were happy and relieved because we finished it on a ridiculously tight timeline. That’s when another colleague came rushing into the room announcing that there had been bombings in Jakarta at Sarinah, a mall located in the centre of the CBD. Our heads swiveled to our little office TV and stared in shock at the scenes playing out before us. The local news channel was showing, on a split screen, scenes captured by a CCTV camera of a bomb exploding in front of a building and LIVE streaming of police cars, the military and ambulances that showed up to the scene in the aftermath. The fight was far from over though.

My pulse was pounding in my ears, drowning out all sounds, as I stared dumbfounded at the screen. I felt sick to my stomach because the streets and the buildings being shown on screen were much too familiar a sight. The UN building where I used to work is located on the same street, directly across from where the chaos erupted. The explosions (of which there were six) had occurred on a street that I used to walk down every day, a building and mall that I used to frequent for lunch with friends and a Starbucks that I would go into often enough that the baristas knew my name. All I could think was this cannot be happening.

I sent panicked and hurried text messages to friends who I know were working and I prayed that none of them were out there caught up in the chaos or injured or worse. I was swept up with a sudden urge to cry and both my throat and eyes burned as I forced myself to hold the flood back. Thankfully my friends and colleagues from my former agency were safe, but as if this didn’t hit close enough to home for all of us, a colleague from a different agency was in that Starbucks when one of the blasts went off. The afternoon was lost to me as my concentration was absorbed in following the story on various local and international news websites.

At 5PM it was finally announced that all the suspects had been killed or apprehended and the fight was over. It’s shocking. I still feel the urge to cry and my body keeps being wracked with chills every time I think of this afternoon. Of course, this is one of those things we think will never happen in our country or our city. I’m so sad and angry and scared and frustrated and none of it makes sense to me. WHY? How is it that we have come to this point where there is so much hate and anger and fear in our world? How is it that we continue to have more and more innocent people being killed every day and all in the name of religion?! I don’t care what your religion is or what it says – there is no way you can ever convince me that taking innocent lives will bring you good fortune on this earth or in the next or in wherever you believe you’ll end up.

Although I can feel myself being filled up with so much anger and hate towards these people who think they have the right to hurt others, I know that in allowing myself to be consumed by these feelings, it will make me exactly like them. They who are so filled with hateful negative feelings towards the world in which they live. We will not stoop to your level. We WILL stand strong in solidarity and we will fight people like you with our compassion and empathy and love. KAMI TIDAK TAKUT. We are not afraid.

kamitidaktakut

#KamiTidakTakut #WeAreNotAfraid

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2016 Panda Goals

Even before the clock struck twelve on December 31st my newsfeeds were already dotted with sentimental notes for the year that has passed and some resolutions for the new year to come. Since then, as it typically does every year, posts about new year resolutions have gone viral. What surprises me the most this year is that these types of posts have been made by a great majority of the friends whose lives I get a peek into most frequently online. It seems that when it comes to 2015, I wasn’t alone in experiencing a year chock-full of lessons both good and bad and crazy life experiences (also both good and bad), as indicated by the many testimonials of my friends and acquaintances.

Ever since I graduated from high school, I gave up with the notion of making resolutions because knowing myself, the excitement was more from creating a list and not in actually following through with it. No shocker there. Yet now, for the first time in my “adult life” (I can’t say that without chuckling a little bit – adult!), I find myself swept up in the resolution frenzy and I’m hopping straight to the top of this bandwagon. Of course, in this panda’s typical fashion, I am late to the posting party and the frenzy has died down in the second week of this brand spanking New Year; better late than never though, right?

I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on the year I’ve had in 2015 and what I’d like to do differently for myself in 2016. Frankly, the list is long – I am after all an expert at criticizing myself and so finding a host of things that I’d like to change was no issue – but I have condensed it down to a few that I’d really like to work on and can (more or less) apply to all aspects of my life. I don’t like using the term ‘resolutions’, as history shows that whenever that word is used there’s not much result to show for it, so I’d like to talk about my list in terms of goals. I know that in the end they’re just words and it doesn’t matter because whichever way I look at it, if I’m not committed shit ain’t gonn’ happen. But ‘goals’ sound more long-term and less full of pressure in comparison.

Below is the abridged version of my list but if you’d like to continue reading my ramblings you can find the unabridged version here.

Goal 1: Read 70 books

I have joined the 2016 Goodreads book challenge and set my goal for 70 books this year. So far I’m down 2&½ and have 67&½ more to go!

Goal 2: Be social

It seems I have retreated so deep into my shell that I now get anxious and easily tire being in social situations. I have so many excuses that keep me in my comfort zone but this year I am determined to push excuses and fear aside and to pull myself out. I’m hoping that being social will help me find my lost confidence and comfort with myself. I think that it could also help me feel less inadequate with my position at work, as this year will involve a lot more out-of-office calls and networking. It’s definitely time for this “new outlook” I’ve developed to change this year!

Goal 3: Be active

It’s not even that I should be more active, it’s more like I need to be more active. In Bali, I spend 80% of my time sitting in the office, 10% sitting in my car and 10% sitting or lying in bed reading books. Sometimes I feel the lethargy flowing off me in waves and I wonder how it is that I could be so tired when I haven’t been physically active at all! Then I realize this is probably my body’s way of rebelling and telling me that I need to get physical. So this means this year will be more about walking, joining (fun) fitness classes and just in general becoming more conscious of the toll inactivity is taking on my being.

Goal 4: Explore my little island home, Bali

It’s been 8 months since I’ve moved to this little (big) island and I still haven’t done much any exploring. It’s shameful – I know – I keep telling myself and others that I live here so I have plenty of time to explore but history also shows that “time” never actually comes. What little I know of this island oftentimes makes me feel like a fish out of water and I feel like I still have such a long way to go before this place could feel like home. I envy those who find immediate kinship with this place and who so easily embrace all it has to offer. I think it’s time for me to learn and see if I can do the same and I think I’m going to start with these: Natural Attractions and maybe some of this: Top Things To Do.

Goal 5: Learn and/or improve three skills

Thanks to globalization and rapid technological developments, the opportunities that are available to us nowadays are boundless. Sometimes when I’m looking online at websites like EdX and Coursera, I get so caught up in all the exciting classes that you can take that I find myself wanting to sign up for 10 courses in one go. I am determined to at least learn or improve three skills this year and I’m going to start with learning a new language (French) and improving my networking skills (by joining a group that focuses on public speaking).

Goal 6 Ultimate Life Goal: Self-love

Ultimately though, whether or not I fulfill these goals I set, what I really want this year is to just be happy – with where I am, who I’m with and what I’ve got. I want to learn to live in the moment and really live it and not just be a complacent bystander watching it all whizz by because lately that’s what I feel like I’ve been doing. I want to take chances and do things because I want to and not because it’s what’s expected of me or because I’m scared of how others will judge me if I don’t or because I want to be more like someone else or because I’m worried of being too different. I want to do things because I enjoy doing them and because it makes me happy.

In many ways I haven’t been very kind to myself (especially) over the last couple of years and that negative energy I’ve been feeding my soul only serves to keep me stuck in a bad state mentally, physically and emotionally. This year, I need to take a conscious step back and remember why it’s important to love and take care of myself because if I can’t do that for myself, no one else will. I don’t want to just learn how to be happy in my own skin, I want to be it. So here’s to 2016 being a year of true happiness and self-love!

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Night Terrors

“It’s starting again”

My heavily pounding heart beats a steady rhythm that seems to increase in pace with every breath I take. I can feel my nausea surge as fear courses through my veins and spreads over my body like a too-tight, too-hot blanket. My stomach is churning like a wicked roiling sea and unsettles me even more.

Before I can begin to wonder where I am, recognition dawns as I take in my dark and dank surroundings. Despite the differences in scene I know I’ve been here before because the feeling I get is exactly the same; this place might not be a mirror-image but this feeling of mine cannot be mistaken. It’s a dark place I’m all too familiar with, especially as of late, but there’s nothing I can do about it because it’s far outside my realm of control. This is the world that I dread sinking into each night as I fight my closing eyes to stay open over and over again. The universe wasn’t listening to me as I prayed for it to keep me away from this world that’s a conjured up reality and a much too-real product of my night terrors.

I often wonder (in my waking state) if people ever have that sensation of déjà vu within dreams. Whether they ever find themselves back in a place and know immediately that the outcome will either be good or bad; like how I feel when I find myself in this place and my gut instinct knows that whatever happens here will not be good because this is where only nightmares come to life.

Not again, not again. Why did I have to fall into this place again?

My whole body thrums with the knowledge that something is wrong here. Someone or something is missing and I should be searching for a way to fix the problem and the only way to do that is to get out of here but I don’t know where to start. I’m so exhausted. Seconds that feel like hours, an eternity, tick by as I find myself floating through scene after scene of nightmares. An unnerving feeling lingers over my body and leaves sticky fingers all over my mind and I just know that this time, when I wake up from this dream terror, the feeling will seep over into my reality too.

I’m desperate – so desperate – for something. Anything. I want to cry but I don’t know what for yet my tears gush down my face in torrents. I want to scream but for who I can’t tell and I wail in mad frustration until my throat feels rubbed raw. My desperation increases and burns like a fire through me, making my heart race faster, making my throat constrict tighter, making my nausea swell and pushing me tumbling towards an end I’m still unsure of. I can feel my mind sprinting ahead of my body and just when I feel like things are about to get even worse – I gasp.

My eyes are open and I’m staring up at a white ceiling. Cool air washes over me as the air-con sweeps over my bed. Am I awake? I sit up and cautiously look around feeling disoriented – feeling off. Shit. I’m awake, it’s 08.30am and I’ve overslept for the fifth time this week. I didn’t even hear my alarm go off (again). What’s wrong with me? My skin tingles with awareness as that unsettled feeling creeps over me, making me conscious that I have just woken up from a nightmare. A really bad one this time. And as I hurriedly throw off my blanket and jump out of bed, that feeling sinks to the bottom of my gut and settles like a heavy weight.

Friday. It’s been such a long and tiring week, I’m so glad it’s finally come to an end.

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So I didn’t exactly intend for my first post of 2016 to be so… scary and dark but I have been plagued with night terrors all week and I had to get it out. I don’t know why I’ve been having so many disturbed dreams, perhaps it’s the Stephen King and Greg Iles books I’ve been reading, but conducive to my health it has not been. Here’s to hoping that my Friday dreams are much quieter and less terrifying!

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