Tag Archives: Covid19

Night Thoughts by Day

I think that to write is to come to an understanding.

I think that, I think that.

I think that, to know what is in one’s own mind, one must express.

Does a feeling need a name to be known?

Sleeping has been a challenge for a while now, but last night’s experience was particularly interesting. I was part of a conversation that included two people who I know, only one of whom was making any sense. I remained alert for quite some time after awakening and mulled over what had been said, but it trickled away from me as fast as I recognized the nonsense that was happening. And then I remained alert thinking about the strangeness of these people having a conversation, and I noticed a feeling of something lost.

I wonder what people mean when they claim to understand others.

I wonder what people mean when they claim to understand themselves.

Can we understand others without understanding the self?

And can we understand the self separately from understanding others?

I am far calmer lying awake at 3am than 11pm.

At 11pm, my eyes are active. It takes effort to put the book down, effort that my occasionally rational brain insists upon because it’s late. It’s 11pm, after all, and I haven’t been sleeping.

At 3am, my eyes are tired. My brain spins but my eyes are tired and at least I’ve slept until then, which is comforting. I need to stop the thoughts from dancing but at least my eyes are closed and that feels good.

At 3am, I go back to:

How am I feeling about the move?

Aside from feeling defeated by the question, I’m terrified.

I was a different person the last time I moved, and that was in a different lifetime.

How am I supposed to be feeling?

At 11pm, I am alert enough to avoid the subject.

During a very dark period of my life, I used to record my thoughts in the middle of the night when I couldn’t sleep. I used to turn on the songs that made me cry and play them over and over. I’d mouth the words until they became part of me and then I’d cry and be able to rest.

This is not that time.

But I am aware of how the patterns of behaviour that I developed out of necessity at that time have imprinted themselves on how I cope with challenges.

Adaptation is critical to human survival, and I wonder if I have become habituated to the sort of aimlessness I am experiencing now. This is not the right word, and far from an accurate characterization of my time and even my personal reflections of my time, but it is an accurate word to describe this feeling. It is a strange world when the reality and the feeling do not match.

Something is different this time, this move, this change. I cannot blame the pandemic, for blame is cause-effect, right-wrong, black-white. And the world is shades upon shades of gray and purple and green and blue and and and.

But I can acknowledge that coping throughout the pandemic has necessitated adaptation.

I wonder about our claims to significance.

Do we know at the time that a thought, a conversation, a shared glance, an observation will become signficant?

Or is significance developed through, over, across time? And then, is it the act or event itself or our memory and interpretation of it that becomes significant?

And does it matter?

I remember what it means to be excited and intellectually, I am. But my body does not have those feelings. The first inkling I had of what my body had lost was the moment when a friend reminded me, “This is an adventure.” As I write the word, I cannot keep from smiling.


My body knows what it is to have an adventure.

My mind knows what it is to live an adventure.

Does a feeling need a name to be known?

I think that, to know what is in one’s own mind, one must not be afraid of looking.

Just What I Needed

I threw a mini temper tantrum in the humanities office on Friday when news broke about new restrictions here in Singapore due to new Covid cases. It was not entirely unexpected, but still hugely disappointing, when a return to home-based learning was announced Sunday night. When I walked into work Monday morning, a colleague asked if I needed a hug.

Yes, I really did need a hug.

Earlier today, another colleague and I were joking about the persistent negative voices in the back of our minds, but it’s not really a joke. We have all, at some time or another, experienced lying awake at night due to thoughts that skip, hop, and jump, unbidden. Most of us have very little control over this, which I have recognized acutely through years of regular mediation practice. I find that it helps to know what’s happening in my head, even at those times when regular meditation practice is of little use.

Through my exploration of my own brain, I have also learned that I can easily occupy two minds at one time, a bit like cartoon shoulder angels having a conversation. About ten years ago, I started writing what I was grateful for at the end of my daily journal entry. Three things, every single day. This means that I try to go to bed focused on what is actually part of my world rather than dwelling on the past or living in the daydream of the future. It is not difficult for me to find the beautiful place of being fully present in the world as it is, and I cherish this very much.

Enter: The other shoulder angel.

Alongside the beauty that I seek out and always find, I also find it very easy to spiral into the dark place that is home to rather persistent demons. Nightly journalling isn’t always that helpful, and meditation doesn’t always do the trick, either. I understand why people turn to all sorts of maladaptive coping methods. It is not hard to go there, not at all.

Going through this pandemic alone, as well as trying to make arrangements for the future alone, has made me keenly aware of something I already knew: The things that upset me, upset me to my core. When I find myself in a bad place, it takes a heck of a lot of work to pull myself out of it. And there’s no one to turn to for help right now because there’s no one there.

People who love me would argue differently. They would say, likely correctly, that they are “there” at all times. But that is not the kind of “there” I mean.

This is why the hug mentioned above was so important. Sometimes, we need the physical presence of other people. And sometimes, they need us. So reach out. There are people right there who need you, even if they’ll never ask.

An admirably resilient tree – Green Corridor, Singapore – May 2021

Ask and Answer

With four weeks of school already gone, I’m taking a moment to reflect on the passage of time. It has been five months since Singapore’s circuit breaker and just over eight months since a new virus came into our world. I am in my fourth consecutive year in Singapore and my tenth year as an educator.

Time goes. It just goes.

This is why it is important to be aware that every single day makes a difference. Every day is a chance to be in the world, to breathe fresh air, to taste our food, to feel our bodies move, to smile at a stranger, to make a new friend. We have so many opportunities to ask questions, have conversations, learn something new, help those in need and those around us, and make choices that make the world a better place.

I recently learned the question, “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”. This was a pivotal moment for me and I can already see its impact on the way I make decisions. Simply knowing this is both powerful and frightening. Framed like this, the answers to some difficult questions become so obvious that they are impossible to ignore. And yet accepting those answers is as scary as asking the question in the first place.

What would my world be had I learned this question half a lifetime ago? How would those years have shifted, woven, and been shaped into a life I’ll never know? What worlds might have been built within that time?

Even more to the point: What’s next? For that matter, what is now?

Times goes, but first it is ours.

We have all recognized at this point that the luxury of normal is indeed a luxury. Predictability is a luxury, a thing of the past in some very stark ways. I wonder which habits of mind we will return to when normal returns – because it will. History tells us that it always has. And I wonder which former habits of mind we will discard in favor of new ones that we’ve learned and adopted.

We have just completed the fourth week of this school year. It is unprecedented, but so is the last. These are four weeks that we never envisioned existing as they are, four weeks that very easily might not have looked like this, and might change still. We are all asking questions and getting used to a reality of few answers.

But if I have learned anything, it is that the unknown will always be unknown. We can never know what it holds or looks like, and this is not unique to the present snapshot in time. I have learned that we won’t even know we’re there until that’s what there is. And I have learned what truly is constant. The trees still stand tall. When the world seems to be spinning out of control, I now know what I can cling to and what will not let me go.

Just over a year ago, I hesitated to buy a couch because I didn’t want to be anchored anywhere. I didn’t want to own an object that might hold me down. And now I realize it is not the couch holding me down but my own fears of what might be out there in the unknown.

What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

I’d close my eyes and jump.

Lake Taupo, New Zealand – December 2018