The Kindness of Giving

A blog I happily wrote for Tune In Not Out. Their website also has a cool video on “the breakfast club” which I recommend viewing if you have a few minutes!

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What’s the best thing you’ve ever spent five bucks on?

There are a couple of things that spring to mind when I ask myself that. Once, I beat that diabolically rigged arcade game “Stackers” and won an iPod for $5. Another time I found a bunch of rare Animorph books at a library book sale (my favourite book series from when I was younger). But one memory trumps all of the others, hands down: when I was twelve, I walked past a lady in the train station who was singing “My Heart Will Go On”. I didn’t have any loose coins, and the only money I had was a $5 note which I had carefully hoarded to spend on ice cream at school. After a moment of agonising deliberation, I decided that I wanted to acknowledge the beauty of her singing more than I wanted the ice cream, so I put the money in her hat. In return, she gave me a smile which I will never forget for as long as I live.

Psychologists conducted an experiment where they gave $100 to every person in their study group. Half of those people were instructed to spend the money on themselves, buying whatever they wanted with it. The other half were told to spend the money on someone else in the form of a thoughtful gift. When the two groups had spent their money, they came back and explored their responses to it. The results discovered that the people who had spent the money on someone else were many times happier than the people who had spent in on themselves.

Why is that? Well, psychologists and philosophers can theorise about it all day long. They might say it’s because we feel guilty that other people are less fortunate than we are. Perhaps it’s because of enlightened self-interest, where the individual believes that helping others will raise their esteem in the eyes of others. But if you ask me, there’s a blaringly obvious reason to be charitable. It’s not because someone will give you a gold star for it, because it makes you feel good (though it feels amazing) or because it will improve your image; it’s because all human beings are fundamentally like you. Just in the same way you avoid pain and enjoy pleasure, nobody wants to be cold or hungry or impoverished. The closer you look at other people, the more you see yourself in them. And perhaps, if your heart is very open, you might even come to the belief that all life is connected. That by changing the life of one person, you change the life of all people everywhere in subtle but significant ways. And if you can recognise that much, then you might be inspired to help other people for no other reason than because you love them, and you don’t want them to suffer when there’s something you can do to help. That is the heart of charity: love.

It’s all very easy to talk about theoretically, but going out of your way for the benefit of other people isn’t easy to do- it takes an absolutely huge leap to see yourself in others, and to see others in yourself. All things considered, it’s pretty bloody scary. I like to think I’m a pretty nice guy, but it doesn’t stop me from being terrified of confrontations and uncomfortable around strangers. But one morning as I was walking through the city centre, I saw a man sitting on the sidewalk collecting change from passersby. Almost everyone ignored him, and in most cases, I would have too. But as I passed, I forced myself to look him in the eye and recognise him as a human being. In that glance, I noticed that despite the freezing weather, he was only wearing a singlet and a light shirt as he hugged his knees. I kept walking, glad that I had the courage to at least acknowledge him. But as I moved further on, my heart tugged a little and I turned around to watch him for a while. He was just sitting there as important-looking people in business suits strode past without a care in the world, and something in me felt compelled to reach out and help this man. There wasn’t much I could do, but perhaps that “not much” would be “just enough”. I made myself walk back to him, my heart pounding, and I asked him if I could buy him a hot drink. He gratefully accepted, so I bought a large coffee for $4.70 and gave it to him so he could keep warm on a cold day. And I felt so, so joyful at that singular act of kindness I had performed despite my instincts of self-preservation. I had just been paid so it didn’t cost me very much, but it made a huge difference to both his day and mine. On the way home I vibrated with joy, bouncing off the walls and saying “Good morning!” to everyone I met.

There’s nothing I can do or say that will make you believe me, so please let me urge you: try it yourself. The next time you see someone collecting money for a cause you support, rustle up some change for them, even if it means going without a soft drink on the way home. The next time you see someone struggling with their study, even if you don’t like them, set some time apart during lunch or after school to share a little of your knowledge with them. The next time you see someone wearing something beautiful, tell them so! Kindness is free, but it makes a huge difference in someone’s day. If you make a special effort to compliment someone (or another worthy act of kindness) every day, I promise you from the very bottom of my heart, it will change your life for the better.

Oh, and your hair looks amazing by the way.

Xin

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Parp?

Oo! I totally forgot to mention something.

 

On the way home, I had just enough mental coherence to remember to say something very important to my parents. As we were driving, I said the word “Parp?”

 

No one got it.

Alas! My wisdomousness!

What an incredibly fragile yet miraculously resilient thing the human body is. Last week my back started hurting, possibly from carrying too many 18kg bags of dog food and getting lazy with my manual handling. I’m still not too sure why or when it began, but karate on Thursnight seemed to make it worse. A gentle massage from Beth on Frinight might have helped a little, but on Saturmorn when I went to taiji, I had to excuse myself from class about five moves in. As I did a particularly low posture something twinged. I did some yoga, did some foam rolling and took it easy for the rest of the class. Sifu suspected that I inflamed the muscles around my spine, causing them to lock up in order to minimise movement and prevent further damage. With only a minor familiarity with human injuries, I had hypothesised the same thing the night before. I find it amazing how wise we can be from just listening to our bodies rather than ignoring them. He suggested heat and a gentle massage to relieve the tension, and I went home early to get ready for work.

After having a shower and a brief lunch though, my body cooled down enough to let the muscles lock back up again. I began limping, and then occasionally a movement would case me to spasm in pain and fall to the ground. I was determined to go to work anyway because I’d been late twice that week and had already taken a day off, but as I put one leg into the car, I couldn’t help but cry out in pain. After a few seconds it subsided, and I managed to lift my other leg high enough to swing it inside the door. I decided then that I probably wouldn’t be much use at work and reluctantly called in sick for the next few days. I spent the rest of the afternoon hobbling around like an old man.

When I woke up the next day, most of the pain was gone. I was delighted! But as I started walking around happily, my muscles remembered they were there and began to seize up again. By 10am I was limping, and by 2pm I was holding onto furniture for support as I shuffled slowly around the house. I sent a message to Trev, the brilliant trainer who runs the circus conditioning classes I sometimes go to, who is also a top notch physiotherapist. He met me at the dojo on Monmorn, whipped out his magical table and watched me walk around for a while. I had felt my posture shifting forwards (like one of the horrendous worm aliens from Men in Black) but he also observed it was twisted. I was a little confused when he started massaging the front of my hips, rather than my back where the pain was located, but he explained that when the body is injured, it instinctively uses the bigger muscles to draw strain away from the smaller muscles. Thus the hips kind of lock up in a band to minimise unpleasant movement, which is why 80% of back injuries can be improved by releasing the tension in the front of the hips. To my amazement my posture dramatically improved and I felt light and loose, practically pain-free. He worked on my back a little and gave me some front-of-the-hip and quadricep stretches to do every hour for the next few days.

Fast forwards to Wednesafternoon. Three of my wisdom teeth had come through more-or-less straight and beautiful, but one was taking it’s sweet time and getting infected as it did so. It was decided to remove it, and since I was getting one out, I was persuaded to get them all out to prevent further pain in the future. I didn’t realise I had a choice about how many to get removed, and that there would be a significant cost difference, but I went with it anyway. The anaesthetist put a tourniquet around my bicep, but try as he might he couldn’t quite get the canula in my arm. While he was jabbing away, I began to feel very light-headed and intensely nauseous, and stopped paying any attention whatsoever to what my dental surgeon was explaining about the procedure. They stopped jabbing so I could explain I already signed a consent form – it was over there in the black clipboard inside my bag, could you please just knock me unconscious and steal my teeth now – and then he shifted the canula to the inside of my elbow and there it stayed. It worries me that I’m started to hate needles – I always considered them a test of courage, knowing that pain was coming but that it would do no real damage, and not flinching away when it hit. For some reason that attempt at giving blood, and now this… I didn’t have too long to worry about it because I started to feel suddenly tired. I had enough brainpower to realise it was the anaethesia, and I welcomed it blissfully.

 

I heard people talking a little while later and managed to open my eyes. An hour had passed and the anaesthetist was happily chatting away about kitesurfing or something. I assumed that they were done, and eventually I managed to raise my head enough for the assist to notice I was trying to sit up. I felt pretty good, just sleepy, and there was something in my mouth. Turned out to be gauze pads which I was chomping on to stem the bleeding. I couldn’t feel my chin or lower lip at all, and it was really bizarre to stick my tongue out and feel it with my tongue but not my lip. I prodded around for a bit trying to see if they had left gauze in my mouth, but I was getting blood everywhere so I sheepishly stopped. My parents came to pick me up, and I have vague recollections of Dad cracking embarrassing jokes. Seemun, my dentist, consoled me by saying her Dad was exactly the same. When I stood up to go, I was overcome with dizziness so I got put in a wheelchair. It was awesome. As my parents sorted out payment, I slyly unlocked the wheels and rolled myself over to the TV, just for the pleasure of rolling myself around.

 

On the information and self-care sheet, the dentist had suggested I drink a powerade after the surgery. She didn’t tell me that I would have a great deal of trouble drinking. I turned my head to the ceiling, squirted some in my mouth, then closed lips and turned my head forwards again. Or at least I thought I did. My lips wouldn’t form a seal properly because they were numb, so I just dribbled powerade and blood all over myself. I found it hilarious, and as I laughed, the saturated gauze pads fell out. It was a very messy car-ride home, and I wished I had had the foresight to wear black.

The numbness was the most annoying thing about the whole procedure. I had been fasting since 10am, and I wasn’t able to eat until around 8pm because I just couldn’t move my face properly. I learned to drink by squirting the powerade into my mouth, swallowing while looking up, then repeating. It was still a bit messy, but at least I had changed into a black top. I replaced the gauze every twenty minutes until I ran out, but thankfully the bleeding had stopped by then. I watched The Matrix with as little effort as possible, snapping at people (even poor Bethi who was beaming me love and support. I didn’t want love and support, I just wanted to lie down and watch The Matrix without having to care about how other people felt! How inconsiderate!) while holding oversized ice packs wrapped in tea towels to my face. I was so relieved when the sensation returned to my face, but as the numbness withdrew, the pain set in. I tentatively and painfully ate a little jelly, which was okay, and then some Le Rice (which was fabulous. I nearly ate the second tub as well), took my three antibiotics and a painkiller, then had a whole tin of soup. Mmmm, all this talk of food is making me hungry. Might go get some (vegan) jelly and ice cream.

I didn’t rinse my mouth out to led the blood clot and then went to bed. When I woke up (far too early, but reasonably well-rested) most of the pain was gone. No swelling, only a tiny bit of soreness when I opened my jaw to eat a breakfast of oats, and only a few drops of blood as I brushed my teeth and sutures. I consider myself ridiculously lucky not to need constant ice packs to reduce my chipmunk cheeks, or streams of painkillers in order to let me function. All in all, a reasonably pleasant experience! Hope you guys are enjoying the rest of your weeks.

 

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Minutes after I woke up. Those are gauze pads in my cheek and numbness in my lips, not really swelling.

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My failed attempting at drinking on the way home.

Is it OK to see a counsellor?

I keep forgetting to update my blog in synchronicity with when my articles are published on Tune In Not Out, but I’ll try to space the updates out over a couple of days so as not to overwhelm you! Let’s start with this really important one.

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I had a pretty bad time in high school. Without going into details, I was bullied, I knew what it was like to be hurt and alone, I felt angry, sad, and eventually I felt nothing. I was not okay, and I knew I was not okay, but no one else seemed to care. None of my friends were willing to really open up to me. It was like I was drowning and I was surrounded by people in boats, but none of them were willing to risk reaching out to me.

Yet despite everything I was going through, I didn’t want to talk to any adults about it. I was smart, I was strong, and I could find a way to deal with my problems on my own. But despite my strength of will (I believed that I was strong enough to carry the burdens of other people as well as sort out my own shit), and despite my intelligence (and knowledge of psychology), I was barely coping. And for a while, it was enough. I was functioning as an ordinary student, going through the motions of what it meant to be alive. But day by day I was getting more frustrated, more hurt, more estranged from my peers. What little comfort I found online was barely enough to sustain my will to live.

And then one day, quite by accident, I saw Diane. When I was late to school one day, I wrote “moribund” as my excuse on the sign-in sheet. Moribund means “at the point of death” – I was trying to be cheeky, making it sound as if I had been sick and just needed a little extra time to get ready in the morning. The Head of Year 12 did not find it funny, and she strongly encouraged me to see the school counsellor even though I insisted nothing was wrong.

Thank God for that. Diane was the lifebuoy to the drowning man. She was smarter than I was (something I considered impossible), joyful, and fit, funky and fun. To start with I was cautious about opening up to a stranger. As a psychologist, I feared that she could psychoanalyse me and strip away all my defence mechanisms, leaving me vulnerable and hurt. But it was nothing like that. She was so non-judgemental and so friendly that I soon realised I could tell her anything. And tell her I did. Not only would she listen to everything I wanted to say, she really, genuinely wanted to help me learn to enjoy life.

At first I was loathe to admit that I needed help – I was so determined to survive it on my own – but I’ve come to look at it another way. I no longer consider it a sign of weakness to want help – everyone has problems, and seeing a counsellor doesn’t mean you can’t cope, it just means that you don’t want to cope alone. And why would you? If you’re carrying a boulder down the road and someone comes by with a wheelbarrow, what do you gain from stubbornly clinging to your rock when help is right next to you?

I started seeing Diane every week, partially to get out of classes I didn’t like, but mainly because I could talk to her about life, psychology and my problems. We talked about all kinds of things, and it felt so wonderful to have someone I could open up to and still be accepted. She helped me gain a new perspective on my problems that allowed me to cope with them more easily. She gave me practical advice for how to deal with certain feelings and certain people. She made me laugh, she helped me understand myself, and she respected me for who I was.

Yet despite all that, I was never really fully satisfied with her as a counsellor. I learned over the years that counsellors are not flawless examples of the human condition, immune to pain or problems. They’re people, just like you and me, and they’re trying to help others in their own unique way. As a result, you’re probably not going to click with the first counsellor you see. I saw three different counsellors during my first year of uni until I found the one that I felt cared about me, understood me and could help me in the way I wanted to be helped. I remember calling the Kid’s Help Line one time, talking for less than a minute, then hanging up because the person on the other end was rubbish. So if you have a bad experience, don’t give up on getting help, just try again, either at the same place with a different person, or somewhere completely new. (As it happened, I called the Kids Helpline back later and had a really great chat with someone different.)

You don’t have to be desperate or crazy to want to see a counsellor, it just means that you’re willing to hear a fresh perspective on whatever’s going on for you at the moment. The psychologist that I’m seeing now has, within a few minutes, understood problems that have confounded me for years. She has provided me with perspective that I wasn’t able to get, despite all the time and effort I put into trying to figure it out on my own. Sometimes an outside view, particularly one that’s trained in understanding the mind, can be invaluable and help you with problems you didn’t know you had.

There are plenty of good reasons to see a counsellor, but this one stands out most for me: I am happier now than I ever thought I could be. I am learning to let go of things that no longer serve me, and to accept outrageous and unreasonable amounts of happiness into my life. Not all the time (it’s still early days yet), but with each passing day I am learning more about myself, more about my approach to life, and more about how easy it is to let go of things that don’t matter and to just be happy. Seeing my counsellor has allowed me to be the happier, healthier person that I didn’t know I could be.

And looking back on my life, it seems outrageous that I could have spent all that time suffering needlessly when help was right there. It’s like getting a stomach ache, and rather than seeing a doctor, you just struggle on for years and years hoping that your body will eventually heal itself. It’s so easy to get help, and I can almost guarantee that it will save you years of suffering down the track. I know how scary it is to be that vulnerable, but it was the only way to really set my life straight and start living fully. And man, if I can do it, you can do it.

Whether it’s to hear a little advice, to gain a fresh perspective or to get some professional help with mental struggles, seeing a counsellor is not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of accepting more joy, more health and more happiness into your life. So next time you’re feeling a little beat down and wishing you could change, I hope you remember that help is always within reach if you want it.

Keep safe and happy everyone.

Xin

PS: For tips on finding a counsellor, your school, uni or even workplace probably has at least one that you can talk to if you inquire about it. If you don’t have access to a counsellor through such means, try looking up cheap or free counselling services for young people- there are literally hundreds of agencies that can help with all kinds of youth issues.

If none of this is available to you, you might consider seeing a private psychologist. They can be pretty expensive, but you can claim back a lot of what you pay through Medicare. You can find more information here. The gist of it is this: if you’re experiencing symptoms of mental illness (and you’d be surprised how many of us struggle with potential mental illnesses without realising it- see this page for an idea of what constititues a mental illness), go to your GP and request a referral onto Medicare’s mental health care plan. You can request to see a psychologist you’ve found, or you can get the doctor to refer you to one. Once you’re on the plan, Medicare will pay for a large part of your consultation fee, for six-ten sessions or more depending on whether you need to get your plan renewed. It’s really easy, and saves a stack of money.

For finding support online, TINO has a lot of great resources in the Topics Page. Specifically, the Finding Help section is worth a good look. ReachOut.com has a really amazing support network if you want to join the forums and talk to other young people about what you’re going through. I particularly recommend having a look at Helen’s story if you’re still undecided about getting help. Headspace has some great resources as well, including an online chat program that allows you to talk to counsellors over the internet. The Kids Help Line (1800 55 1800, free call from most mobiles and landlines) is a counselling service available for anyone up to age 25, and also has online chat facilities. Lastly, if you need to talk to someone right now, you can call Life Line on 13 11 14, available 24/7 for telephone counselling.

On feeling tired

I’ve been debating with myself for a number of weeks whether or not to write this post. On the one hand, I recently learned how needless it is to draw attention to how hard my life is, how hard I’m struggling and how much I’m suffering. On the other hand, I still want to be able to talk freely about my perspectives and experiences of life. In the end I decided to write it anyway because, as noble as it would be to suffer silently, I do want the people in my life to know a little bit more about what I experience every week, and sometimes, every day.

I think I feel tiredness differently to other people. I have no way of confirming my belief of course, but from what I’ve observed it seems to make sense. When other people only get six hours sleep, they  appear to feel a general sense of fatigue, a desire to avoid physically challenging work, and a kind of persistent but ignorable desire for sleep or coffee. It seems to affect how energetic and joyful they are, but they seem to be able to summon up the will to be cheerful and get things done. I don’t know for certain, but this is what I’m hypothesising from seeing other people who appear (or try not to appear) tired.

When I get only six hours sleep, I experience a number of symptoms in various combinations and to varying degrees, depending on the quality of the sleep. Most obviously, I will start to fall asleep throughout the day, despite my sincere efforts to invigorate myself. I’ll fall asleep in class, while sitting in the waiting room, while reading, while gaming, even while driving.

When I wake up earlier than I would like, I spend up to an hour stumbling around the house, trying to summon the energy and mental power to tackle simple problems like making instant coffee. My thought process might look something like this: “Get the coffee and the sugar out of the cupboard. Good! Now what do you do with them? A mug. You need a mug. Okay, got the mug. Why did I get the mug? What did I need it for? I came to the kitchen for a reason… Coffee! And I need the mug to put coffee in! And so now I need to get some hot water, and the coffee, and to put them both in the mug.” And so on. This will be accompanied by many pauses and staring blankly and incomprehensibly at the required implements. It is utterly useless to try and do tasks which require concentration and higher-level processing like study when I am in such a state.

This stumbling isn’t restricted to early mornings in my own home, either. When I get tired and I’m out in public, I do not exaggerate in the slightest when I describe my ambulation as drunken. I bounce off walls, walk into people, throw myself at doors to open them (and possibly collide with them if I don’t invest enough energy in pulling the handle all the way down), trip over my feet or just plain fall over. Most noticeably, my right knee has a curious tendency to give out from under me when I’m especially tired, so while I’m out shopping with Beth it will be quite common for me to drop suddenly in a spontaneous genuflect. Sometimes I can catch myself before I hit the ground and straighten my leg slowly. Other times I crash my knee into the floor and take a moment to drive myself to my feet again. At first I was amazed that no one ever asked if I was okay, but it happens so often now that I usually just dust myself off and pretend that nothing happened. I think most people prefer not to have strangers collapse nearby them in public, and it’s easier to just go along as if everything’s fine.

Another symptom of being exhausted is losing the capacity to care about other people. I see happiness, joy, kindness, compassion and love to be directly related to the amount of energy one has to spare. How they access this energy is different from person to person, but in essence, I believe that a person who has no energy to spare is not able to show love. What this means for me is that when my well of energy runs dry, I stop trying to give it to other people and I start trying to figure out ways to make it last long enough to get home, or go on break, or escape from an unpleasant social situation so that I might read a book or replenish my energy on my own somehow. I become like some sort of cave goblin, hoarding my precious bucket of energy and hissing at people who come nearby to try and take it from me. I am not proud of it, but when I am tired, I care very little about the problems of other people.

Another trait of my tiredness is the inability to express myself eloquently. It’s hard to describe what I mean, but I get into a state of mind where I have so little energy that I’ll just blurt out whatever words trail through my brain. Say I’m in a conversation with someone, not really caring about what they’re saying but determined to look like I do (because I’m in goblin-mode, and I’m trying to be polite while desperately wishing I could go home and sleep). I’ll latch onto the occasional keyword they utter, come up with a few related words in a loose sentence, and spit them out at the first appropriate gap in the person’s speech.

That reminds me of another trait I experience in my exhaustion: an unshakeable single-mindedness. If I set a goal for myself, I’ll throw myself at it until it is completed. In the example above, my goal is “Showing this person that I am trying to care about whatever they’re saying to me.” But my goals can be anything, and if I genuinely believe that finishing the shopping is the most important thing to do right now, I’ll do it. No matter how many hours it takes as I get progressively slower, no matter how many times my knee gives out, no matter how many walls I bump into or people I collide with,I’ll do it and do it and do it until it’s done, or until I physically cannot do it any further. This poses risks of its own, because as I’ve mentioned, I have a tendency to fall asleep all over the shop when my well of energy is completely exhausted. Quite often I will throw myself at an activity (say, staying at a friend’s house to enjoy playing video games with them) until I am too tired to continue. Then, with whatever scant drops of energy remain in my bucket, I will have to make the long drive home. Many a time have I fallen asleep at the wheel because I was too determined (i.e. single-mindedly focussed, i.e. stupidly stubborn) to go home earlier.

I have come to the conclusion that there is no factor more potent in effecting the nature of my day than sleep. Getting to sleep is almost never a problem with me – most nights I fall asleep within perhaps three minutes. In fact, if I’m still awake after five minutes, I start to wonder why I haven’t drifted off to sleep yet and question whether something is seriously wrong. I am utterly grateful for this blessing, this ability, but it is somewhat negated by having a huge sleep requirement to feel “normal” during the day.

Staying up late, or worse, all night is one of my greatest fears. I can go for days without eating, I can train for eight hours a day for a whole week, no problem, I can take cold showers in the middle of an English winter, but I cannot bear the thought of staying awake when I become tremendously tired. If Jesus Christ himself asked me to stay awake all night to pray for him in the Garden of Gethsemane before his imminent crucifixion, I would not be able to.

Generally speaking I seem to work best with nine hours sleep a night. Eight is sufficient to get through the day, though I feel like how I imagine most people feel when they’ve only gotten six. If I get seven or less, I’m at high risk of falling asleep or exhibiting any or all of the characteristics I’ve described above. Even getting ten hours sleep can still leave me exhausted if I have a poor night’s sleep. In particular, I usually find it quite hard to sleep in the same bed with Bethwyn. Normally it takes a few days (perhaps four or so) until I become accustomed to having someone else in the same bed as me. Cruelly, I usually stay over for a maximum of four nights a week, so just when I’m starting to get used to it I leave and it resets for the rest of the week.

The other thing I’ve started doing to boost my energy is drinking coffee. I’ve always strongly held the belief that caffeine is harmful to the body, and that people who drink coffee are just using an addictive chemical to artificially stimulate their sympathetic nervous systems in an attempt to mask their bodies’ desperate attempts to tell them they needed sleep. It has long been my belief that if you’re tired, the solution is sleep, or food, or fresh air.

It never really occurred to me that these things had little effect on my own energy levels. So it was with shame and guilt that I started drinking coffee every morning so I could keep awake on the drive to work. It was hard for me to then start drinking a second coffee in the late morning or early afternoon once the first one had worn off in order to have enough energy to continue processing information, moving at a moderate or quick pace rather than a slow shuffle, or caring about other people’s problems. Recently I’ve even had a third and fourth coffee so that I would have enough energy to pay attention to Bethwyn when I got home from work, and not just lie down on the carpet and fall asleep at 7pm.

I asked Roger and Naomi about their views on coffee, expecting them (as naturopathic enthusiasts) to refute coffee as unnatural and poisonous and evil. Instead they said they enjoyed it all the time (if it was good coffee). That simple conversation utterly changed my life, and I now see it as a semi-natural solution to feeling exhausted. Not ideal, but barely harmful. I drink coffee nearly every day now, and it completely transforms me from dejected and self-centred into enthusiastic and endlessly kind. I hate and love that it has that effect on me.

Reading all of the above makes it seem obvious (to me at least) that something is wrong. But for many years I held the belief that everyone experiences tiredness the same way, they were just better at hiding it. Perhaps I was just whining and drawing too much attention to myself. But one day, I realised that nobody else seemed to be struggling as much as I was as regularly as I was. I saw my doctor, and after a bloodtest, he informed me that my Vitamin B12 is very low (probably due to being vegan). As I understand it, B12 is related to how the cells absorb and use energy. My basic options were to change my diet, or to start taking supplementary pills. Medication (including supplements) are another thing I have always despised. “The body will heal itself if given the right conditions! Humankind went for thousands of years without popping pills! Hippocrates, Father of Western Medicine said ‘Let medicine be your food and food be your medicine!'” I cried. All of that went out the window when Dr Choi explained that my choices were eating five eggs a week, or taking pills which had no recorded side effects whatsoever. I haven’t noticed any real difference since I started taking them two weeks ago, but I’m going for a check-up in a few months to see if anything’s changed.

So thank you very much for reading all this. It feels great to get it off my chest. I hope you’re all having wonderful days, and that you feel fully refreshed and full of joy.

Love,

Xin.

Unconditional love

Hi there. Apologies for the lack of posting, but life has gotten very busy all of a sudden. My schedule this week has involved five days of work, one day of study and one day of errands with Beth. Outside of work hours, I’ve had three or four sessions of training. I’ve never been so busy before, not even when I was on full-time placement, plus training, plus a casual job back in 2008. This is going to be a pretty shoddy, poorly edited, highly mismatched entry which I mainly wrote a few days ago. I hope all of you are doing wonderfully, and that I might enjoy the pleasure of your company some time soon.

Love,

Xin.

***

A few days ago I had my first session with Naomi in several months. I confessed to her that despite really loving my workplace and generally enjoying the work, the glamour was starting to wear off and I was starting to find excuses to stay home or arrive late. Like a child playing with a puppy, after a few days the excitement isn’t quite as high, and the whole process turns into a lot of walks you’d rather not go on and poop you’d rather not pick up. Naomi gently asked if I recalled what Roger had said to me the previous workshop. He had turned to me suddenly and asked “Were you mollycoddled as a child?” After a moment, I said “Yes. Almost everything was done for me.” He nodded, satisfied, and didn’t offer any further explanation. Naomi was kind enough to explain that many people whose parents did everything for them, for the best of reasons and out of love, prevented them from learning how to do anything for themselves. And now that I’m finally getting some responsibility and independence, I’m rejecting it because I don’t want to deal with it after it stops being fun. She described her day to me: Staying at work until 6:30 or later every evening, going home to cook dinner, putting clothes in the washing machine, hanging it out if she has energy, going to sleep and waking up at five every morning. Saturdays she spends guiding others in their meditation, so the only time she really has to herself is Sunmorns. And she loved every moment of it. I couldn’t understand how she wasn’t exhausted and resentful that she didn’t have more time to relax, more energy for her self, and she gave me some very powerful advice.

Suck it up. In the words of the immortal Les Stroud, who was explaining how to cut down a small tree without a knife, “Just fuckin’ do it.” (Incidentally, if you ever need to cut down a tree without a knife, bite into the trunk and work your way around it like a beaver, using your teeth to strip off the layers until it’s thin enough to break.) Almost everybody works five days a week – why did I think I deserved special treatment? My sense of privilege and self-importance was blown out of proportion. She explained to me that she didn’t find all this work draining, but instead discovered it was invigorating – so long as she gave unconditional love to everything she did. As a psychologist, she helped her patients to the best of her ability. In return, she expected them to feel better so that she could feel good about herself. She had no idea she had been doing it until she met Roger. Now she gives freely of herself without condition or expectation of reward. She is like the apple tree, who doesn’t screen who deserves to receive its fruits; it doesn’t withhold fruit from people it doesn’t like, or think are worthy. Instead it produces the best apples it can for any who pass by, regardless of whether they appreciate the beauty and the sweetness, or if they’re worms in the earth.

These tiny changes in attitude have utterly transformed my world. No longer do I loiter around the staffroom for as long as possible, trying to stretch every minute of my break for all it’s worth. No longer do I spend as long as possible doing computer training, which is easier than heavy lifting and actual work. Instead, I give from my heart to every person, at every moment. At least, I’m trying to. I’ve found that it makes everything completely different when you really open your heart to someone to let them know you care. I’m extremely good at being polite, respectful, courteous and kind, but these things are not love. And to really, really love someone, freely and unconditionally, enriches relationships in ways I didn’t know were possible for me. I still have a long way to go, and a lot of practice to get in, but it really does make a huge difference.

So thank you all for reading. I hope you all have wonderful days.

 

 

Update: Things have been going well since I wrote this about a week ago. I’ve really enjoyed working, looking forward to it every day. I don’t fear boredom anymore because I’m no longer trying to draw out meaning for as long as I can stretch it. By devoting myself to every moment, however much or little there needs to be done, I am present and enjoying myself. I’ve also started being more responsible and arriving early to work most every day. Rather than clocking in at exactly 8am (or however late I dare to push it), I’ll arrive early, get settled, start work and then clock in when 8 rolls around. And it feels fantastic. It starts the day on such a joyous, giving note, rather than the stress of speeding through traffic and fearing what the boss will say. I treat each customer with as much kindness and radiant sunbeams from my heart to theirs as I can possible muster, and though I’m still exhausted (due to a low Vitamin B12 count), I’m joyfully exhausted and take great pleasure in helping people without complaining or drawing attention to myself. I’ve started drinking coffee again to invigorate me, and it’s amazing how it transforms my energy level. I do fear addiction to it though, and I hope as my B12 picks back up I’ll become less dependent on it. More sleep would probably help too. Speaking of which, good night!

 

PPS: I’m just going to put this out there. The past ten years or so, I’ve had no special love for cats. For a long time, I thought they were ungrateful, demanding, scratched you for no reason and believed to be our superiors in every way. But a day or two ago, I met a 14-week-old kitten named Sonny, a short-haired domestic tabby cat. He meowed at me from his crate, and so I unlocked it to pet him (because all creatures need love). He put his paws on my chest, and before I knew it, he was somehow in my arms, rubbing his face on my chin, batting at my glasses and purring softly. My heart melted into a little puddle of goo, and I felt an absurd urge to cry when I put him back down. It’s finally happened. I get why cats are (or can be) awesome. Since that life-changing moment, I’ve cuddled Sonny several times throughout the day, just because he watches me in that heart-wrenching way from behind the bars. Bethwyn be warned: there’s a frightful high possibility we’re getting a cat.