Let’s be loving

With six hours of sleep- this morning my mother’s petulant voice woke me at 8:40- I am a grumpy old fart. Anyone who forces me to talk or gets in my way is the devil. I had to pick up my SAR passport, and whilst waiting in line, I was met with the most pungent smell of sausage bread. These two kids were munching away and I scowled, thinking who eats sausage bread in a government office? Why would anyone #stank up the place like that? Then I came to my senses and thought: how can I hate on children for eating bread? I am a terrible human. 

Speaking of terrible humans, I have developed a prejudice towards Mainland Chinese people. I know not all of them are rude, I know there are exceptions and lovely people from the Mainland, just as there are in any other place in the world, but recently I’ve witnessed so many situations that reinforce the negative stereotype. My sister says they’re loud and proud… A generalisation that I find myself agreeing with. I try to keep and open mind but unfortunately for me, the stereotype is always proven right. 
Just yesterday, I was at the food court with my sister, holding heavy trays of steaming food. We waited by a table for around fifteen minutes, when suddenly a family of three plus a grandmother slid next to us, and the father put his bag onto one of the empty seats- a cheeky way of saying THIS IS MY SEAT NOW. Um, hello? I gave him a look so that he could re-evaluate. When the people eating finished and left, there were four empty seats. Let us take two, you can take two and split up, or go somewhere else. If I saw that people had been waiting for a while and they were holding food, I’d give them the seats no doubt. It’s the courteous, polite thing to do. It’s what people should do for an optimal and functioning society. But, the mother took a seat, the grandmother advanced to ‘my’ seat and was beckoning the rest of the family to sit. I spoke to the father firmly in Cantonese, but he couldn’t understand. They spoke mandarin. Mainlanders. I pointed to my wrist to indicate that we had been waiting for a long time, and put my tray down to mark my territory. I took the seat before the grandmother (of around 60 years) could (#sorrynotsorry) and told my sister to sit. The family shot me daggers but I was hungry and tired of standing around, especially when there were barely any free tables in sight.
That is just ONE of the many examples and experiences I’ve acquired throughout my 18 years in Hong Kong. Hong Kong people can be rude in the sense that they don’t have time for people; they’re indifferent, standoffish. But Mainland people? Cut-throat, every man for himself, no concept of the other? Is it an ingrained cultural attitude? They cut in front of taxi lines, bus lines- any line to be honest, as if nobody else exists besides themselves. They raise their voices in public spaces, cram themselves into the MTR when there is no space (cause they can’t wait?) and apparently, pee on the streets. News articles on the inappropriate behaviour of Mainland people do not bolster their reputation. Maybe I’d be more sympathetic if I understood their need to fight for resources, but my sympathy would not change the fact that it’s not okay to treat people with such little respect. It shouldn’t be okay. 

I’ve realized that the opposite of love is not hate, but selfishness/ self-centeredness. Every evil, bad thing finds it root in how we love ourselves too much. I am the only thing that matters, I’m entitled to this, I’m better than and superior to this person, I can exercise my will over these people, I deserve better. My feelings are more important, my thoughts are more valuable, and I need the universe and the people in it to bow to me, to change for me because I am right and I am proud.

So, I guess I’ve just convinced myself that I must forgive the Mainland people who have angered me. I can’t change them but I can change how I feel about them. I will let it go. 

ACCLIMATISE

Sea foam, like erupting clouds… As if the sky had fallen. Beer bottle aimed down my throat, you are a speckle that seldom dances behind my eyelids. What I see when I close my eyes is my own darkness. I don’t even miss your fuzzy outline, which used to peer out from behind my shoulder. I don’t even mind the coarse sand against my shin, between my inadequate thighs. I’ve allowed my hair to become stringy with salt and I’ve stopped fighting the sound of your berating. Yes I am all of the above and I’ll take another swig.
Serenity does not exist as a pebble in your hand. It lies somewhere between realising that some messes don’t need to be fixed and knowing that you can coexist with chaos- because it will follow you until you silence it with a knowing look.

Love is the best way

Friendship, I have learned, is conditioned. At a certain point, too much is too much and the defence mechanism kicks in: you’re not good for me, I hate being hurt and I will no longer have you. You care too much or too little, expect more than is possible or accept everything. The struggle takes its toll. But I want to learn to love when it is difficult to love.

“You don’t get to choose if you get hurt in this world…but you do have some say in who hurts you’.
– John Green

Thanks John, that pretty much sums up my attitude towards friendships. If friends are the family you choose, love them like you would your family. Hurt me, neglect me for a while, but as long as you love me- even when it seems too late, I’ll be here. I will welcome you with open arms, whenever you want to come home, because that’s the kind of love I wouldn’t deserve, but would love to receive. That is the love of Jesus Christ and that is how I want to love.

‘…Love does not demand its own way. It is not irritable or touchy. It does not hold grudges and will hardly even notice when others do it wrong’. (1 Corinthians 13:5)
‘If you love someone you will be loyal to him no matter what the cost. You will always believe in him, always expect the best of him, and always stand your ground in defending him’. (13:7)

‘You imitated us and the Lord; and even though you suffered much, you received the message with the joy that comes from the Holy Spirit.’ 
1 Thessalonians 1:7

Now I see

‘Feelings linger where thoughts do not’ (Kathleen Taylor). Even if you say you don’t care, make up your mind to move on, your heart cannot be separated from the person it is entangled to. When you’ve grown up with someone and you’ve spent a great deal of time with them, your feelings won’t let them go. But what I fear now is that there will be no pain of separation when I leave my sister for university.
I didn’t care when my brother left because nothing changed; we had grown apart long ago. My parents don’t speak to me much and I don’t mind, because it’s normal, I’m used to it, it doesn’t hurt. All this time, I’ve sworn to myself that I’d never let this happen with my children. But it’s been happening with my very own sister and I hadn’t realized it until now. When I go, will there not be a difference? I’m barely home because for years I’ve chosen my friends over my sister. Whilst she was at home with no one to play with, I’d be sleeping over at someone’s house.

She once wrote me an email back in 2009 saying:
YOU ARE SO MEAN YOU ALWAYS COME TO PEOPLES HOUSES WITHOUT TELLING ME. DO I HAVE TO BE BY MYSELF WITH ONLY EKA (my helper at the time) WHEN YOU ARE NOT HERE!? (EVERYDAY, ALMOST -.-)

I responded with a belligerent email because I thought she didn’t have a right to be mad at me. She did though, and I’d be happier if she still was. Now that she’s not mad, she doesn’t mind. That is the worst thing. We are used to not being around each other. We are used to distance and she is used to being lonely. Now, I have a week and the rest of my life to make up for it.

An interesting book

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)
– Whitman, Song of Myself, lines 1325-7

When I don’t feel like myself- basically when I experience cognitive dissonance, there are two things that happen. Either I change my beliefs or I make exceptions for myself, explaining away the discrepancies and compromising the original thought. I’ve been reading Brainwashing, The science of thought control by Kathleen Taylor for a while now and it’s great to read something and think THIS APPLIES! THIS IS RELEVANT! I can catch myself when it happens now, so I can mull over what it is I truly want to stand for.
If it’s really so frighteningly easy to change and let external stimuli influence our fluid minds, I want to defend myself, ground my beliefs and resist. Of course, this means I have to make sure my beliefs are examined and worth fighting for in the first place. So how can I make them strong? Apparently through reinforcement, so it becomes habitual, imbuing the belief with emotion, and forming wider connections and associations (expanded by experience) so that it becomes interlocked with the many cognitive webs in the mind. The belief must be stronger than any incoming idea that you are bombarded with. I might just make a list of things I believe in, with as many reasons and feelings to support them as I can. If I can stick to what I believe, I can be more sure as to who I am.

The book talks about emotion: ‘Their function as short cut to action can weight decisions in favour of short-term indulgence rather than a greater but more long-term benefit…’
Yes. Every time I fail to stick to the plan, it’s because I become short-sighted for a moment. It’s rarely ever worth it. Gotta #werk.

Clearing

I wanted to sit and watch the clouds move from one end of the sky to the other. The pink-tinged smoke from behind the buildings wrapped themselves around the stars in a haze. I didn’t want the future, to think about what I’d be choosing or what I’d be losing. What am I supposed to do? God, please tell me what to do. I don’t want there to be a later, only a now.
And then slowly the sky cleared and the moon was radiant. I knew what I had to do. Who knew that you can feel pain and calm simultaneously?

You will know the Lord

After a run, I didn’t know where or how to start. How do I close the distance between us, God? I was frustrated because I didn’t know what to do. The bible. Let me turn to the bible.

I put my earphones in, a worship playlist on and flipped through Ezekiel. What should I read? Where will I hear You? I ended up on Hosea, under the section of my childish bible (that my mum gave me when I had just become a teen) titled Israel’s Adultery Rebuked. 

These verses struck me:

She will pursue her lovers but not catch them; she will seek them but not find them… (2:7)
She does not recognize that it is I who gave her the grain, the new wine, and the oil… (2:8)
Therefore, I will take back My grain in its time and My new wine in its season… (2:9)
I will put an end to all her celebrations: her feasts, New Moons, and Sabbaths- all her festivals. (2:11)

Then, under Israel’s Adultery Forgiven:
Therefore, I am going to persuade her, lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her. (2:14)
There I will give her vineyards back to her and make the Valley of Achor into a gateway of hope. There she will respond as she did in the days of her youth, as in the day she came out of the land of Egypt. (2:15)
I will take you to be My wife in faithfulness and you will know the LORD. (2:20)

I have lost sight of Him and consequently lost my joy, my reason. But He has brought me to my knees again to show me love, to give me the answer- the source of eternal peace.

And then the song Oceans by Hillsong came on.

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
let me walk upon the waters
wherever you would call me
take me deeper than my feet could ever wonder
and my faith will be made stronger
in the presence of my saviour

So quickly has my thoughts and mood been lifted! Whenever I’d wander back to how I felt just half an hour ago, I couldn’t quite grasp the feeling. A blanket had been thrown over that part of myself. Today, I smiled more brightly. Today I lived for You.

Passing time

We want freedom, control. But we were born into the world without choice and we will die the same way. I experience spasmodic sadness or emptiness, when suddenly all colour drains from the world. I wrote in a feverish prayer:

You are my reason when everything I do seems fruitless- to pass time. I am passing time.

God needs to be my reason because I am stuck in life… I didn’t choose to be here but somehow I was put here. Do I have to force myself to enjoy life because I have no other choice? Like, sorry, you’re here, live with it? That’s how people live and somehow get by, day to day.

How do people love life so passionately? Are the good times worth living for? I guess all shitty moments are opportunities for me to come back to God. Every time I’ve felt this way, when I didn’t think I’d get out of the rut, I’ve pulled through- or God has helped me. I’m still here aren’t I? But in those darkened moments, no good times exist. Or they do but they’re muted, like I was never ecstatic. They were good, I suppose, but not that good. It just doesn’t seem worth it. Yes John Green, pain demands to be felt; it is an overhanging shadow.

I know I am blessed, that I am lucky, privileged. I also know I am ungrateful, so I’ve thought many times: why is my soul the one in this body and in this life when so many others can appreciate it more than I can? Or maybe I should suck it up and just try to be thankful? I view it almost as a chore, feeling trapped and poised for a temper tantrum. I know how terrible that sounds! I would offer myself to any starving child so that he/she can have what I have. Please, be me, because sometimes I don’t want to be.

We want to gain control over our emotions, our petty thoughts; we want to be happy. But are people content through comparing their current situation with the many underprivileged? As long as someone else has it worse, you’re convinced that you’re happy? I find that paradoxically, the most contented people I know or read about are the ones who have given themselves away totally and completely. They seem at peace with the world and themselves- like they’ve tapped into something most people are blind to. They feel more free and love more deeply than myself and even a lot of Christians I know. Why? Because my God is not as true? Or their ways, their gods are just as true? Why am I lacking and why are they fulfilled? Maybe because they are also connected more deeply to what they believe in than I am. They devote themselves entirely, whilst I give my God a passing glance on most days. How can I expect the same effects or to uncover my reason without full commitment?

Perhaps that is the problem. Perhaps I know what will cure me, and so I always yearn for God when I feel like this. It makes sense to me and I will always come back to the same answer: God.

“I am the Alpha and the Omega, says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”
Revelation 1:8

He is in control. He is why I am here, even if the only reason is to love Him.

FOR YOU

For you my dear I’d lose my petals
stamped between your pages
what use are they to me?
I don’t need birds or bees

For you my dear I’ll count my blessings
something for my tendrils
in case of rain or drought
unwavering throughout

For you I’d bend my stems
away from the sun
but the one
thing I’ll ask of you is:
please don’t uproot me

Missing you

Sometimes I miss people and I like the feeling. I mean, I hate it but I don’t want it to go away. Oh the sweet torture- it means you’ve met someone worth missing. Do you miss loving someone or having someone to love? Maybe it’s not the person themselves you miss, but the way they made you feel. There’s romance in that.