Covid-19 RMO, Day Fifteen

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Day Fourteen? Fifteen? : I remember waking up on Monday dead certain that it was Sunday, only to find that I’d skipped a day. I still haven’t figured out where Saturday went, if the real Sunday I thought was Saturday wasn’t actually Saturday.

This morning I left my apartment complex for the first time in fourteen days, to grab some supplies and medication for a nasty skin rash I’ve somehow developed while stuck at home. It gets really humid here in the day and I’m a strong believer that my living room is a little too spacious for just one air-conditioner. The heat also breaks me out in hives and I’ve been slathering steroid ointment all over on the daily.

I go back and forth between loving this slowness and freedom to do as I please (with my time), and a deep restlessness that makes it hard to sleep at night. On a lighter note, I think I’m learning to connect with music again – Something I haven’t been able to do in a really long time. I’ve been really enjoying listening to my favourite tunes and relishing in all the things they make me feel. I feel…alive, for the lack of a better word.

I’m also thinking my next big purchase will be the Roland RD-88, whenever that may be. And then I’ll have to really tighten my belt afterwards to fund my first home. But until then…I’m enjoying my massive struggle at learning how to play the guitar, it being the only instrument I have at my disposal.

If you’ve made it this far – I’ll also be experimenting with a 30-min Instagram Live thing this weekend. My nerves are wrecked because I’ve never done a backing track show alone, ever. I’ve never performed alone without musicians, let alone go live on social media.

Covid-19, Day Nine

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Day Nine : I spent half the day before bringing in and folding a fresh load of laundry. The days are getting hazy now, I try not to wake up and get out of bed too early to keep my days just a little shorter. I then took the time to write Malaysia Airlines a second email to check on the refund status of my flights. No word.

It was also announced yesterday that this RMO is to be extended an extra 14 days, possibly with even stricter measures – Making that one full month on lockdown. This leaves us three more weeks confined to our homes, with potential extensions.

I’ve been toying with the idea of getting myself a keyboard over the past couple months. How apt, that this be the perfect time to pick up playing, but the worst possible time to make big purchases. I’m looking at a likelihood of a pay cut, or unpaid leave, with no gigs in the foreseeable future. So I went on Shopee and got myself a new vacuum cleaner instead of a keyboard – To replace my broken one. I also attempted to learn Jeff Buckley’s version of Hallelujah on the guitar. I could definitely use more practice, if I can get myself to it tomorrow.

I don’t know where this is going. I guess I’m looking forward to receiving my vacuum cleaner, and doing some vacuuming.

Covid-19 RMO, Day Six

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It’s evening time on Day Six, and Fareez is trying his hand at making my favourite shakshuka for dinner. He’s made two grocery runs in the past six days – One to replenish supplies, and another this morning for the ever elusive loaf of bread. I still haven’t gotten around to learning how to cook.

Fareez works remotely all year round and continues to do just that. He’s twice asked me when I’m going back to work, jokingly (I hope). I pass a lot of my time refreshing the news pages, getting angry with the government, catching up on one movie daily, and reading comedic Twitter threads. I’ve been working out daily – Something I haven’t done since starting my new job in April last year. Because I sing mostly in the car on the way to&fro work, I haven’t been singing since the RMO. I miss it terribly, but don’t live alone and don’t want to risk being told to shut up by my neighbors from my balcony. Hahaha.

I’m enjoying this slower pace I have dearly missed over the past year, but this can quickly turn into a nightmare should the RMO be extended – And it seems quite likely. I wish I had a piano here. It may have been a better idea to quarantine at my folks’, with the piano and the nice big porch, garden and backyard.

Ah, well. I remain thankful to be here and alive, and in the best company who looks after me but also leaves me to mind my own, and asks the same of me. I don’t miss climbing yet – Is this blasphemy?

Covid-19 RMO, Day One

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Day One : Ironed a bunch of clothes, watched a few episodes of Dirty Money, found out both swimming pools are closed, gym is also closed, felt like I was about to lose my mind. Also made a mental note to myself that when I start property-hunting again, I’ll look out for a landed property or an apartment with a huge balcony and big complex compound.

Still, it was really refreshing to have so much Me Time. Think I may be able to finish one book on my Kindle in this time. Hope you’re all well out there 🙃

Meltdown

It is said that your dreams while sleeping reflect your present state of mind.

Should that ring true, chaos is my current state of mind.

My post-meltdown dreams last night saw me losing a friend’s guitar I was supposed to be keeping an eye on, missing my business class flight home from Thailand because I absent-mindedly misread my flight details, walking into a room full of people and onto a performance stage with my makeup impeccably done but without lipstick on and screaming in the crowded room unable to be heard.

I tossed and turned and tossed and turned and finally got out of bed at 1:40a.m. to drag the entire weight of the world into the shower. Showers always help. I’d never gotten into bed to sleep without showering beforehand. How did I end up in bed? The last thing I remember clearly was wailing my eyes out, unable to stop for over an hour. There is a vague memory of a whiff of essential oil, Fareez laying me down on yoga blocks and rubbing my head and shoulders. And then I woke up four hours later in bed.

In the shower I try to process what had just transpired but my subconscious shuts it down over and over again. Now is not the time. These showers are almost sacred. In all my past meltdowns, the shower has always been the final point where I wash away the tears, the fears and the insanity of the past hour. Showers always work. Showers always help. But last night was different.

Looking back, I’m coming to realize that my mind and body has been shutting down at least once a month, for the past year. In all of the times this has happened, I usually find myself paralyzed on the floor shedding a few silent tears, then feeling better and getting up within a span of 45 minutes or an hour. During these shutdowns, I go from airing my grievances and frustrations about work and life, to a deep glumness, followed by acceptance and a will to keep pushing forward. I hop into the shower and come out recharged and renewed.

But last night was no ordinary shutdown. It felt more like a full-blown meltdown. I hit Fareez once in the process and woke this morning before 8:00a.m. feeling worse than I did at my 1:40a.m. shower. I hung my head low and made it through my morning shower, threw on a t-shirt and a pair of jeans, slapped on sunscreen and made it to work. My eyes are telltale, and thankfully nobody asks. I retreat into my cubicle and soldier on with work, sorting out housemate drama while checking accounts and making myself socially functional during lunch. That’s a new-ish achievement I’ve been rather proud of – Being socially functional even when I’m down in the dumps. I’d never been able to do that before.

I have not felt the intense desire to take my own life in a long, long time. It used to be a staple in my younger days, almost like one of three daily meals. At least once a day, it crosses my mind. But that hasn’t happened in over a year, until last night. Last night I repeatedly said and thought, I can’t do this anymore. I can’t do this anymore. I really can’t do this anymore. I want to die. I don’t know how else. I need to die.

That sentiment hasn’t changed in the last eight hours I’ve been here at work, but after years of battling the same demons I’m aware that if I wait long enough this feeling always passes. It’s just unfortunate to be finding myself here again, spiralling into a darkness I’ve come to be so familiar with. At this point, I’m not sure which of the following I need more : To disappear for a week, to speak to a professional, to up and leave everything and everyone behind,

Or to simply suck it up and keep on keeping on? This is such an unattractive portrayal of Samantha de Lune, the singer and storyteller.

Communist

Today, I got my first ever “Communist” comment on social media. Thankfully, it wasn’t directed towards me (or so I hope). Mr Daus (I’m guessing Firdaus?) was calling my grandfather a communist.

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37450_401180702825_2654474_n.jpgTo be fair, (let’s assume) Firdaus knows no better. My yeyeh was a PAP/DAP Member of Parliament (MP) and Ahli Dewan Undangan Negeri (ADUN), eons ago in 1969. That’s him on the mic, questioning or saying things I can only try and imagine today.

37450_401180697825_7284024_n.jpgI’m not entirely sure how many terms yeyeh ran for, but I know it wasn’t for long. His version of the story is that BN was constantly trying to buy him over with promises of land, a big house & other luxuries. He had no interest in any of it.

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His retelling was that he saw the amount of corruption and red tape to make good changes or progress, got extremely disheartened and ended up quitting politics altogether for a simpler life with small pension and no luxuries, and less heartache.

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It’s crossed my mind that perhaps yeyeh just did not have the stamina or tenacity for a game so rigged, which is ironic considering how ridiculously stubborn this man remained for the rest of his life. We remain a middle, working-class family to this day.

You see, I now can say we come from a very modern and somewhat Westernized family, but at the same time many of us have also remained rather conservative. Some of my family members see themselves as Chinese first, while others vow they will always be Malaysian first.

I struggled with this identity for many years. But as I grew older and matured I finally came to a stand that I identify with being Malaysian Chinese. But always, always, always, Malaysian first. Granted, being born Malaysian was never my choice, but choosing what is dearest to my heart, being Malaysian, is. Which probably explains my despair at what has transpired in our homeland over the past 10 days.

My political views are simple : Equality. Across the board. Need-based aid, not race-based. Freedom of religion, which includes freedom FROM religion. Quality secular education accessible to all. I could really care less about what races run the country as long as they run it fair and just. Of course, this is a far-fetched dream for the next generation, although that’s not to say that I won’t be doing my part in fighting the many battles it’ll take for us to get there.

IMG_9579.jpgI don’t expect overnight changes. But the saddest thing, to me, is that I’ve been overthinking how I responded to this comment. I read and re-read, and can find so many ways in which I could’ve been kinder. I could’ve called him by his name, I should’ve wished him all the best with his properties(?), judging by the little on his bio that I understood. I could’ve been more personal and warmer. But my command of Bahasa Malaysia is shamefully poor, from years of believing I was too good for the language. I start to wonder if my reply may be coming off as arrogant or condescending, although that was never my intention.

But dear Mr Firdaus, a 22yo man so misled by blind racial hatred imprinted by over 60 years of racial politics, will likely never once even consider if his words or actions may cause unnecessary hurt towards others. That, is what saddens me most. Because to be Malay, inciting hate on the Chinese and non-Malays, is some sick form of “mempertahankan agama & bangsa”. There is no consequence on these people. The consequences on the non-Malays, however, are dire. Of course, such behavior is not exclusive to the Malays only, but that is a story for another day.

I can only foolishly hope dear brother Firdaus grows out of this, and starts to form a thinking mind of his own. I hope he achieves the riches and success he aspires to have. I hope he’ll be the odd one out to expose and educate others when he does.

I wish you all the best, Firdaus. There is a whole world out there and I hope you make the choice to see it all.

 

*edit* I’ve gotten a few messages asking where you can find this comment/Instagram post. It’s actually an old post on my IG account, posted two years ago in May 2018. I’m guessing Firdaus went searching up hashtags to leave unsavoury comments, which if I may add, must’ve taken quite a bit of time and effort.

Farewell 胖胖

For the longest time, grief from a loss of life has been a concept that has eluded me.

For one who’s spent a huge part of her life being a sullen, dispirited character capable of spending days in recluse from a song or movie, I’ve somehow managed to find an understanding in the impermanence of time and life, enough for it not to ever keep me down. This, of course, could also be rooted from my unmindful selfishness of often being too self-absorbed to really care.

For the most part, though, I’d like to believe that this insight of mine stems from my grandfather as well as parents’ very healthy understanding of death. It has been ingrained in me from a young age that death is only the most natural thing in the world, that people die every day, and that the only certain thing in life – is death. While this has given my siblings the spirit to move on quickly post-grief, it has hardened me to a fault.

When my grandfather, the man whom as good as raised me passed on in 2013, I found myself unable to feel anything but guilt – Guilt for being unable to feel much. I questioned my virtues as a person and wondered if my inability to grief or cry made me a horrible grandchild to the man who spent countless hours over the years getting me versed with the notion that death is not just inevitable, but consequential.

Fast forward to last Sunday, I found myself once again in the very same stance. I was visiting home, having my usual round-table reacquaintance with my sister and folks’, when one of their four dogs began groaning and howling so loudly it sent us all racing to the backyard to inspect. Thinking she was having a nightmare we called out to her, to no avail. Realizing this dad rushed closer to her, and that’s when the howling stopped. She took two more gasps, and she was gone. All of this, from the time the howling began to her demise, lasted less than 30 seconds.

胖胖/Phung Phung (English translation : Fatty) was the family and especially my mom’s favorite. We found her on Facebook when a few previous owners gave her up for being hyperactive and destructive – Turns out she just needed attention and most of all space to grow, of which my folks have enough of. She was to turn three next month.

Because I don’t live at home I have even less of an attachment to the pups, but share the heartache of my family members who did.

Goodbye and RIP, 胖胖. I hope we gave you happy home you ADHD doggo.

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Goodbye, 2017. Hello, 2018!

I won’t even begin trying to illustrate how quickly time has passed in the year that was, so let’s just concur with the cliché – Time flies, and it is here and now that I bid farewell to the year 2017.

2017 was a strange, strange time not just in regards to the happenings in our constantly evolving modern world, but also in my own little bubble. While I am quite possibly too unscholarly to come across passing commentaries on world issues, I can at the very least look over the year’s events in my life.

It was in this year that I started seeing someone I met back in late 2015 when I’d just started climbing, and have been fortunate to see it blossom into the relationship we have today. Coming from a place where I was more than happy with absolute freedom with no interest in dating, I’m really glad I made an exception for this.

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2017 was also the year I made my debut at the Dewan Filharmonik Petronas with The Swing Kings, and very fortunately and coincidentally got discovered at soundcheck by conductor Harish Shankar who was backstage conducting closed auditions. I was hired on the spot without an audition for an upcoming concert, and three months later realized two of my biggest lifelong dreams of singing with an orchestra, and singing The Sound of Music. I got to perform The Hills Are Alive with the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra, along with a few other classics from Rodgers and Hammerstein. This definitely goes down as one of the biggest highlights of my life, and needless to say, there isn’t a day that I don’t think about how majestic and magical it felt to be held so tightly and healed by the waves of orchestral music.

I also lost 7kgs, finally weighing in at 55kgs; climbed a tiny number of 7a(s), and made a resolution to climb 7b by the end of the year. It saddens me to report that instead of hitting the 7b goal, climbing took a backseat in the second half of the year and I’m back at struggling on 6b(s) 😂 I also regained 5 of those kilograms and now stand at 60kgs. FML.

When the second half came, it saw me getting reacquainted with a dark old friend, which took me on a downward spiral towards the big black hole of nothingness. I got three years’ worth of hair chopped off in a bid to shed some weight off my head and shoulders, all in vain. While it is still an uphill battle to keep alive one day at a time, I’m thankful this recovery is being made easier with the support of the most amazing life partner and family one can ask for, who have all been ever so patient in loving and supporting me despite never quite understanding wtf is going on in my head.

With that, here comes the part of this entry that I’ve been looking forward to – listing my goals for the new year. I have always been a firm believer of making resolutions, but this year I’m adamant on becoming a believer of keeping resolutions. Wish me luck, and willpower.

So come 2018, I look foward to :-

1. Taking better care of my voice.
It was really tough having to take most of November and the entire December off from work, having suffered a vocal chord infection that’s still actively triggering allergic reactions that renders my voice completely useless. Less fried food, less curry, less pepper, more sleep, more water, more practice.

2. Getting healthier and fitter, and staying that way.
I look forward to experimenting and finding out what works best for me – What’s sustainable and what’s not. Regain some agility while getting rid of this lethargy. I’m not weight-obsessed or extreme by any measure, but the goal is also to stay below 55kgs for the sake of my poor fingers.

3. Eating better.
In terms of food quality, quantity and schedule. To banish gastric, acid reflux and bloating forever. Ever. EVER.

4. Working better.
Finding and sticking with a more efficient work flow, but also ensuring that my work adds value to the occasion/event/clients/musicians/audience. I will strive to work only with musicians who add value to what we do, who are invested in their craft and every job big or small. Above all, I aim to no longer put up with bullying at work.

5. Climbing harder.
Getting back on the walls and training board to boulder better, and eventually getting back on ropes and the outdoors.

6. Managing my time better, so I can pursue my other pastimes. 
More sewing, embroidery, leatherwork and pottery time. I really want a sewing+embroidery machine…

7. Completing two full songs.
And getting them produced.

8. Seeing and experiencing more.
More road trips, short getaways, and one rock trip a year.

9. Reducing waste.
Stop wasting money on cheap things that fall apart in no time and end up as trash. But also reducing waste by minimizing my usage of plastic cups and straws, pretty but unnecessary paper bags, etc. Walk more, take full advantage of the MRT, and just try living as minimally as possible without depriving or torturing myself.

10. Beating depression and stop self-harming.
And no more attempts to escape it all.

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And that concludes it! For now. I don’t believe I’m setting myself up for too much. With that, I’m signing off to do the one thing I’ve done well in 2017 and will continue to practice in 2018 – Sleep! I’m really quite proud to have stuck with a pretty good sleep-early-wake-early schedule 😇

So, HAPPY NEW YEAR, folks! I wish you all prosperity, good health and most of all happiness as you start afresh.