After being forever in an incubated draft mode, I decided to hit ‘enter’ today to let it all loose.
Exactly a year after our world shifted because of a global pandemic, I thought I’d be in a better headspace.
To my surprise, I find myself increasing in sensitivity, acute to small changes in the atmosphere, and constantly finding myself tearing up in moments I didn’t expect. A slight shift in my train of thoughts can send me bawling for a few minutes. This has happened many times – during a long drive, on the prayer rug, trying to sleep and even when drawing for long hours.
I can’t pinpoint a reason for this heightened sensitivity. Where did it come from? What triggered it? Who can I talk to about this? Why me and why now? When will I be able to accept this new version of me?
It could be that I am undergoing an overwhelming amount of introspection, that I don’t know what emotions fits to express myself – so it comes out in tears. It could be that underneath this smiley face, I cannot keep it all together as I process the ongoing heavy feeling of perpetual reflection linked to sadness. It could also be that I am lacking exercise that would regulate my hormones better. It could also be that I am secretly grieving over the loss of who I was striving to be. All the unrealised potential, dreams and hopes that I had to chuck away quickly to adapt to a new norm of working – especially being a mobile art teacher, running physical workshops and interacting face to face just cannot happen as often anymore 😦
In 2019, my self-employment record was at the most exciting yet. Ready to take on more meaningful projects in 2020, it all came crumbling down. I know that I need to process all this self-inflicted guilt, but the problem is I don’t know how. Slowly, I try to tie knots to projects that requires closures. I send formal emails to cancel prior commitments and to communicate that events are “postponed until further notice”. Proposals to art camps that were supposed to happen in nature or remote locations have to be edited without concrete plans, some points are intentionally left blank. Then I am left with an empty word document. Just me staring at the screen, digesting the fact that I have just buried my career as a mobile art teacher. My dream of being a part of a creative community and being surrounded by a crowd of spontaneous chatter as we explore together how to solve design issues or flex our muscles with new art mediums, has to be put on hold. I was at an all time low in March – July 2020. Depression and anxiety took over, leaving me always exhausted and weak, sleeping over the time limit and waking up tired all the time.
I wasn’t aware that I allowed ‘loneliness’ to creep in, and so did ‘self-loathing’, ‘self-doubt’ and ‘isolation’. They take turns to occupy my mind in between the happy days and the days that I could function as a working adult.
New friends are now most internet friends, in the form of text messages and gifs. I am thankful for each and every one of them, but I still find it funny that I can’t see their faces in real time – leaving me to wonder what their small reactions would be like. It’s as if I don’t have enough real-time information in my system to recognise them, who are indeed real people. Old friends disappear in an array of incoming messages, lost beneath hundreds of notification on a daily basis. Then again, I understand that keeping in touch feels exhausting, but we still try to reconnect whenever we can. Scraping away at whatever energy we have left after a long endless day. Sometimes a reply comes in and sometimes a reply is forgotten. We hang out way too long on, being connected to the world wide web. The presence of being online and offline is way off-balance, and it hurts. There are times I can’t feel my legs after sitting too long, or the times it burns to close my eyes for longer than a minute. I think it’s unnatural for a human being to uphold the digital life in such a manner. It should be more seamless, and we should try to utilise all our muscles.
Earlier today, I got the news that my foster mom in the Bario highlands of Sarawak, passed away. I didn’t get a chance to visit her once more, which was previously scheduled for 2020. Could it be that the universe has been tapping into my subconscious before, that bad news was about to come in. I thought I would crack open and cry once more, but my eyes swelled up with tears and I was digesting the news faster this time. There is a time to grieve and cry, same as there is a time to breathe and just be. Today, I decide to sit with my memories of her, Aunty Lucy Bulan, her warm smiles and stories that warmed up my heart once upon a time by the cool valley breeze of Bario. She would tell stories of the history of people in Bario, their determination to gain an education and their sheer survival of the human soul to live in an area almost cut off from modernity. I guess, she is happy and at peace now. May her soul rest in peace. When she retired as a school teacher in Miri, she chose to go home to Bario and to live the rest of her life there. I could hold my tears and I could hold the sweet memories simultaneously this time, a new found balance.
I am thankful for this new ability to cry on demand.
It’s proof that I am human and my heart is very much alive and intact. Alhamdulillah.
It does make each feeling I am able to feel into an extra heartfelt moment that humbles me down to the earth.
I am fast to realise what a beautiful world we live in and move quicker to appreciate how the Creator has crafted this environment to make us see, laugh, wonder and grieve too.
Ramadhan reflections in lockdown.
8 May 2021