Have you seen the newspapers this week? They’re really much thinner than usual. About the only persons who seem to be doing any work in this holiday season are Israelis and Hamas fighters in the Gaza Strip. Everyone else seems to be in a holiday mood.
I struggled to get started with work on Monday, but the hot weather made it nigh impossible to get anything done. A visit to the office to return a stack of books borrowed over the course of three years – mostly commemorative books for reference – yielded a most pleasurable discovery: that I was not alone in this holiday stupor, and that many of my colleagues held an equally bored expression of our faces. One colleague inspired me to do something which I spent the next two days doing – editing.
While the subject was not strictly work, it still felt good to use a work-related skill, because there I was thinking on Monday night, “Damn it. My work is draining me of life. That’s not supposed to be the way, since I am supposed to like my work.” Then I came to realize that even I am not immune to the effects of holiday mood.
So as I sat on the precipice of the end of one year, and looking over the edge into 2009, I started to reminisce about how this year has been for me.
I began 2008 in an emotional and spiritual low. Mid-year saw two peaks for me. The emotional high stretched from April to June with my engagement to Nutella, and my spiritual high lasted from July to early September with my pilgrimage to World Youth Day. Both have since dropped to a low again, in a repeat of 2007′s late-year close encounter with the dark kind. More on this further down.
Relationship-wise, 2008 has been a fruitful year. The Marriage Preparation Course that Nutella and I attended early this year has helped us greatly in resolving much of the tension in our relationship. What benefited me the most was a particular session in which all the engaged guys suddenly learned that there were certain unspoken rules in a relationship that we never heard of before, but apparently all the girls know of.
These unspoken rules have led to much tension in relationships because men unknowingly break the rules that women think that men know. Here are some examples of the rules:
- After entering a steady relationship, both parties are not supposed to be close to friends of opposite gender, regardless of how long they have been friends. This unspoken rule can be the underlying cause of much tension in a relationship.
- Men are not to show any sign of affection or concern for another woman as this could easily be misinterpreted, especially early in the relationship.
- Neither party should spend any regular time with a member of the opposite sex, even if it’s just lunch near the office, or a ride home after work. Apparently many men are completely clueless about this rule, incurring the silent but deadly wrath of their women.
- Time spent in the company of friends even as a couple does not equate as ‘couple time’. ‘Couple time’ means time alone as a couple doing couple things. Bringing your woman along for board games at my friend’s place, or playing Nintendo Wii with her friends is not considered ‘couple time’.
We could write a book about these unspoken rules of relationship, which is one of the things Nutella and I had been talking about. But the number one premise is that women know the rules, men are completely ignorant of them and usually don’t even know there are rules.
Since learning about the rules, I’ve tried to follow them and Nutella has made every effort to explain why such rules are important for our relationship, often reminding me when I forget one of them. That has helped us greatly in our relationship whereas before, we used to quarrel rather frequently. We still do, but not as often anymore.
Hence, we highly recommend the Marriage Preparation Course for any dating couple serious about their relationship – even if marriage is not yet in the foreseeable future. Both of us attended when we weren’t even engaged yet, actually inspired by a friend of mine who attended the course six months into her relationship with the boyfriend who is now her husband. The course has really helped open our eyes to what a relationship based on love and mutual respect is really about. 2009 will probably be a time of testing for us as we begin preparations for our wedding and married life.
Professionally, I’ve progressed with credit given largely to the Holy Spirit for inspiring in me during World Youth Day, a desire to develop into the person God wants me to be i.e. my vocation in life. The opportunities the Holy Spirit then provided me with has opened my eyes to the importance of Catholic media, not just in Singapore but in the region and in the world. 2009 will be a chance to develop myself more professionally, and to work on my more defined vocation as a writer in Catholic media.
Socially, I’ve become a little more racist this year. Before this year, I’ve always prided myself on not being racist, of the fact that my best friend is an Indian Muslim. But reflections on bad experiences in 2007 and 2008 have made me realize that I have unwittingly become a little racist, though I wish that I were not.
A recent sharing session centred on the dignity of the human person, helped me to realise that despite what I feel towards certain individual persons, not everyone of the same race as those persons are like them. A person should be respected simply because he or she is a person. It also helps that I know a number of persons of the same race who are very good people. 2009 will probably see me trying not to be racist again.
Psychologically, I’ve learnt that I do not react well under certain forms of stress. I’ve actually started to get heart palpitations from some stress that I’ve been having lately, and have been having to take things more lightly. I’ve also come to learn that much of the stress is self-induced, placed on me by the high (and sometimes unreal) expectations I have for myself. 2009 will probably see me taking myself less seriously for the benefit of my psychological health.
Physically, it’s been a great year. My weight hit a new high of 79kg this year after my trip to Australia. Those meat pies are really good! My weight also reached a new low of 74.3kg through a lifestyle change. I’ve not been this weight since I graduated from university some five years ago. The good news is that I can now wear pants that I love wearing. The bad news is that I can no longer wear pants I bought to fit my growing size.
While attending two months of Remedial Training this year, I made a lifestyle change by eating only one meal a day where possible. I say “where possible” because sometimes circumstances make it difficult to do so, such as at full-day workshops or in the company of friends and family where meals together are a form of bonding. So I eat one meal a day when it does not inconvenience others. Needless to say, this holiday period has not been good for my weight, and it took a week to bring my weight back to below 75kg.
This eating one meal a day thing was actually inspired by an encounter with the Venerable K. Gunaratana, from whom I learnt that Buddhist monks are supposed to eat only one meal a day, apparently one of Buddha’s teachings. Of course Buddhist monks are vegetarians, but I’m not Buddhist, and I do snack a little throughout the day.
I’ve learned to identify and differentiate a hunger pang from a thirst mechanism, and discovered that I often mistake thirst for hunger, and that drinking water often helps rid me of what I thought was hunger – usually when I wake up in the morning.
This one meal a day routine has several advantages: i) it helps me to eat less per meal; (ii) it helps my digestive system to become more efficient; (iii) I drink lots more water; (iv) I’m fasting pretty much everyday, which is good for me spiritually and must be why Buddha taught this to his followers. The main disadvantages are: (i) having people tell me that it’s not healthy; (ii) sometimes having gastric or dizzy spells when the meal comes too late in the day. A large mid-afternoon meal, followed by a half-hour run in the evening is just perfect for me.
Since finishing RT, I’ve also picked up a basic daily exercise consisting of push-ups and crunches. I managed to hit 100 crunches in one sitting on last night, but I usually do only 50. I’ve also regained my ability to do chin-ups in an overgraft hold – something I’ve not been able to do in a long time. I’m still at one chin-up though, but we always say that the gap between 0 and 1 is larger than the gap between 1 and 4. 2009 will be my last year in Cat Y… and I have to do another round of RT, which I’m actually looking forward to. My goal in 2009 is to bring my weight down to 70kg.
So that about rounds up my life in 2008 from the physical, emotional, spiritual, social, professional and relational aspects. I am looking forward to 2009 and I hope it will be a good year. It may not be a good year financially, but hopefully that will enable us to have more time to focus on other more important parts of life.