The Balancing Game

So much of life seems to be a balancing game between two crucial resources: time and money.

When I first started working full-time, I earned so much that I didn’t know what to do with all the money. Going from the sufficient income of $250 a week to  $1000 a week was mind-blowing. I found ways to spend it of course, a creeping sense of entitlement that I had always hoped to avoid when I was living comfortably enough on humbler means. “Why yes, I have worked hard this week, I do deserve that cup of coffee from the cafe rather than the instant stuff.” “Why yes, I am working more now, and that means I can definitely pursue a third martial art while I practice the other two.” “Why yes, I am having a bad day, I do deserve to buy myself a new video game, because gosh-darn it I’ve earned a little treat.” And so, in a short span of time I had cancelled out much of the extra income I was making to keep myself happy amidst all the stresses of working full-time. And that wealth that I did not spend accumulated, waiting dormant in my bank account for whatever long-term investment, grandiose holiday or material whim I could throw it at. When I told people honestly that I didn’t know what to do with it all, they joked that I could give it to them. My mother, a passionate believer in saving every cent, was happy that it was accumulating for the day I might need it. I found it so hard to fit in housework, relationships, video games, martial arts and every assortment of errand around my new work schedule. In short, I was working so much that I didn’t have time for anything else in my life; I didn’t have time to live.

This pattern has played out before, when I was working as a youth worker and a library assistant simultaneously. I found I was too busy and resigned from one of my jobs (the wrong one, perhaps), and I suddenly had a wealth of free time to pursue every pleasure in life, and not very much money to do it with. All those things that I’d been neglecting were suddenly available to me, those books and games and friends and hobbies and passions and interests that I’d always wanted to dive into… And yet no long-term goal, nothing beyond “enjoy the pleasures of today and make sure you earn enough to do the same tomorrow”. And enjoy them I did.

I face the same dilemma now. At my current workplace, I work three days a week. I’ve been offered a fourth, possibly a fifth working in another (highly stressful) team. In truth, I think three and a half days is about the right amount for me in terms of enjoying my life and managing my wellness without slowly breaking down over time. I’m sorely tempted to leave it at those three days, and yet that fourth would add an income that I am finding myself needing for the first time in my life. Yes, all my material needs are currently being met. And now that I have that much financial stability, I long for the next big expense: a house of my own. To afford such a luxury would require me to work more than I want to. And that’s the age-old problem: we work not because we want to but because it gives us money in return. If we loved our work so much, would we do it for free?

Logically I know all that. I guess I’m just stuck at the moment between working harder than I want to so that it enables me to live a more comfortable and luxurious life later. That is, if I don’t burn out from the challenge of trying to sustain more than I can handle. It may just be temporary, but I find myself slowly collapsing under the weight of this new opportunity for dosh in exchange for, it seems, my health, my wellbeing, my life. Is life worth the cost of money? Maybe. I think I’m being a touch dramatic because my mental health is not the best today. Well, I guess we’ll see how things are going a week from now.

A tree in the wind

Just a quick draft I found from June 2013. I’m guessing the reason I didn’t post it is because I didn’t feel I, or anyone, would benefit from it being made public. But I still think it’s true, and I think it’s worth sharing.

 

The idea for this blog post has been mulling around in my head for a few days now. I’m not quite sure how to say it, so I’ll just start writing and see what happens.

Slowly but surely I’m learning that I’m not the most important person in the world. This is a lesson that has been hard to unlearn, but I’ve really been giving of myself, from my heart to yours, really trying to listen to people when they speak and love everyone in every interaction. And truly, it has made things more wonderful. Connecting with people and caring about someone other than myself is wonderfully refreshing, inspiring and invigorating. It’s really wonderful to genuinely connect with another human being and care. And not to get caught up in whatever is going on for them, because I love them enough to not lose my own feet.

Roger once described me as a leaf in the wind. It was absolutely true. If anyone didn’t like me for any reason, I would go to extraordinary and self-destructive lengths to try and change their minds. Now, for some reason, I can hear what people are saying, feel what people are feeling, yet not let it affect who I am and how I feel. To a greater extent, anyway. When once it might have crushed me into a tiny ball, now I hurt, let go, and allow myself to be happy again and care about others. Not always of course, but I’m getting there.

Malaysia was truly a wonderful experience. Again, I really didn’t expect to enjoy it very much because previous trips have involved sitting down quietly while everyone around me talks in Mandarin or Teochiew (sp?!) around me, but something was different this year. Notably I started learning bits and pieces of Mandarin so that I wasn’t completely in the dark, but I think I was treated differently as well. First of all the kids played with me and opened their hearts to me so I was welcome among them (for the most part). But the adults included me as well, talking with me and me talking with them. Everyone was open and friendly, and it was so excellent to bond with family I didn’t know I liked so much. And I had a wonderful time in general as well, baking cupcakes with Caysin and Ashley, spinning out with Kenny, hiking and shopping with Weng and Yi Qian (and some really lovely conversations, How I Met Your Mother and nutrition shakes), and of course the wedding events… They were all really great, and it was so wonderful doing so much that I loved with so many people I loved.

Having been back a few days, the first and most pressing imbalance to address was my need to see Bethwyn. I’ve spent the past four days with her now, housesitting for her neighbour. It was indescribably wonderful to be with her again even after such a short time apart- I realised that I need her so much that I start to lose myself and my stable perception of the world without her- everything seems slightly different, and there’s a longing in my heart that only she can fill.

But, having well and truly sated my need to be with her, I did some training with Kaneda for the first time in a few weeks. It was awesome to get some conditioning and learn some interesting and important techniques regarding sprawling, chokeholds and knife disarms. I played a lot of Spirit Tracks, and I’m really looking forward to spending heaps of time at home over the next few days cleaning out my room and taking care of all the little jobs that I’ve been meaning to do for weeks. As good as it was to see Bethwyn, I really did miss my home. Staying with her in a house of our own, walking around in underwear and leaving clothes, books and crap (as in accoutrement, not faeces) everywhere is awesome, but this is where I live. All my clothes, toiletries and belongings are here, and travelling around the past two weeks has been adventurous and wonderful, but nothing quite beats being at home.

And for the record, I now have a renewed appreciation for the importance of getting dressed in the morning. As entertaining as it is spending the day in your pyjamas because you don’t need to go anywhere, it also carries with it the listless feeling like you’re not doing anything throughout the whole day. It’s not much harder to put on shorts and a tee shirt, but the feeling is completely different. That tiny ritual of going from resting to actively living is so important.

So to finish off, here’s a brief list of the areas of my life which are a little imbalanced.

  • Exercise (good to get a little, need to get a lot more)
  • Sleep (It’s nearly 2am man, get some rest you idiot)
  • Family (really, really need to spend some time with them. Quality time.)
  • Nutrition (less unhealthy snacks (aiming for one a day), more fruit, more green stuff)
  • Miscellaneous jobs (they’re building up…)
  • The Sword (I need to spend time relearning my sword, inside and out.)

My first ever balance check

After talking to my dear cousin Yi Qian for some tonight, I realised that almost everything she does it striving towards a greater sense of balance in her life. She honours each part of her, including her family, her friends, and the many dimensions of herself, and does her best to live heathily and righteously. Although I too strive to live well and kindly, I think I still have a lot to learn in terms of getting a greater sense of balance. It is only when you are balanced and know your roots that you are able to move an object heavier than you. So, inspired by my cousin, I have decided to start thinking about the areas of my life that are falling out of balance, and perhaps over time I can chart where and why I’ve been slipping. Let’s give this a try.

Areas of imbalance in my life include:

  • Food (been eating too much and too quickly. Need to slow down, eat a healthier variety of fresh and green things, and also perhaps delve into just a little bit of meat and animal products).
  • Family (not enough time has been spent actively doing things with my parents. My brother and I get along well, though not oftenly enough. At the moment, I really should spend more time with Caysin, Yi Fei and Sin Ler, and Jit Ching’s sisters who I am not entirely familiar with… And Qi Shu of course. We’ve barely spoken this holiday, and he was my most beloved Uncle for most of my life.)
  • Friendships (I have neglected too many friendships worth investing in, including Kaneda, Jack, Andy, Craig and many others.)
  • Physical (too much hard, not enough soft. I really should spend more time doing yoga and taiji. My muscles are complaining.)
  • Love (missing Bethwyn a lot, though it is healthy to take a break for a short time. I must also be careful not to overdo it when I return to Australia.)
  • Sleep (it’s 1am, and I keep taking naps during the day. Honestly John, get some rest you idiot!)

There are other areas in my life that are more balanced, but I’ll exclude them for now and just keep checks on where I’m losing the plot. Let’s see how things are another time.