Back on the Writing Bandwagon

Waking up to cool breezes and sunshine without having rain pour down is heavenly.  Suddenly it’s November and year-end is approaching. I realize I haven’t written since January and I hit myself on the head.  I have so many stories I’d like to share with you. So many stories that remain swirling around in my head like dreams floating around in a cauldron.

I say this all the time and I’ll say it again, time flies. Time waits for no one, and each second, the clock continues to ticks on. If you’ve been following me, you know I’ve a big thing for “Time.” The fact is we all have 24hours in a day. The question is what are we going to do with those 24hours in a day?  What are some goals you would like to achieve? What are some places or things you would like to do? What do you want to do before you die?  I’ve been working on a few of my personal goals this year, but that is still no reason. There’s always time, you just have to allocate it well.

Today, I wanted to thank a dear friend (you know who you are) for pushing me back onto the writing bandwagon by recommending me to write for Urban Affairs, a new and upcoming magazine for Bangkokians. You’ll find it distributed at Villa supermarket and a few other places in Bangkok.  My first article will appear in the December issue and I’m excited.  Reading and writing have always been my passion and I’ve always loved and thoroughly enjoyed sharing my experiences with my readers. I hope to be able to keep doing this for a long time.

I promise I’ll write more often from now on. See you again soon my readers. Now it’s time to go out and enjoy the awesome Bangkok weather. Are you getting enough Vitamin D?

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Ed Whitlock, 85 year old marathoner because he can.

Sitting on the plane from Sapporo to Bangkok, I read an interesting article in the Bangkok Post about Ed Whitlock, an 85 year old marathoner who ran the Toronto Waterfront Marathon in 3:56:34. It’s inspirational. He doesn’t do any specific training, doesn’t adhere to any strict diet or use any gadgets to monitor his heart rate and training. All he does is run by the cemetery by his house in 15- year old shoes. He doesn’t run for his health, or gets runner’s high. He runs because “the real feeling of enjoyment is getting across the finish line and finding that you’ve done OK.”

Numerous tests have been conducted and he apparently has a large VO2Max capacity and good muscle retention for his age. I suspect his genes play a big part in his being able to continue running at such an age. What I find more intriguing though is his attitude which I think is what really keeps him going. In the article he is quoted as saying, ” I believe people can do far more than they think they can. You have to be idiot enough to try it.”
This, to me is probably his secret. If you believe you can do something and truly work at it, I believe you can achieve anything you want to. It’s the story we tell ourselves that determine the story of our lives.

If you tell yourself you can’t do something, then you can’t and you won’t. If you tell yourself, and believe in yourself, you can accomplish whatever your goal is. That said, it might take some time before you accomplish your goal, but if you work at it long enough, you’d be closer to your goal than if you had never started. If you focus on the end goal, you might get frustrated at not being able to reach it, but if you focus on taking action towards those goals, then you’d keep moving forward. As Ed Whitlock showed us, age is not a limit and is not a constraint to living your life because at whatever age you start working towards your goal, you are one day closer to your goal than the day before. 

Thank you Ed Whitlock for reminding us that life has no limitations than those we set for ourselves. Now, the burden is on you. What are your goals in life? Let’s get moving!

To Love or Not Love the Rain

It’s been a long time since I last wrote and what better time than to write on a lovely cool morning after the rain has stopped. How I love the rain varies from time to time.

Most times I love the rain when it’s just light rain or drizzles. I love it for the greenery and freshness that comes with it when it stops. Lawns become so green and life beckons. Birds chirps and splash around in the puddles that form along the driveway. Snails and slugs appear along with other types of insects moving about slowly in their slow way of life. Toads hop around in my garden and give me a surprise everytime one unexpectedly moves in a dark corner. My dogs equally like it (I think) as they lie happily on the porch with the cool breeze that passes through.  I practice my guitar, and life is just wonderful.  I feel calm and settled.  I feel home like when I grew up in cloudy, rainy Brussels.

Other times, I feel less tolerent of the rain especially when it’s pouring down hard coupled with thunder and lighting.  The heavens roar and you wonder if Thor was having a fight up there.  On Earth, the grass grows at exponential speeds and if the rain is follwed by the sun, ticks and fleas re-emerge.  Roads get flooded and commute to and from work takes a couple hours.  The light reflecting on the road makes it harder to drive and accidents happen.  You see news of people’s houses with roofs broken and neighbors with water pumps working to drain water from their houses. 

In the end, do I love or not love the rain?   It depends on how much rain there is. I love it when there’s just enough of it to cool the skies and make pitter pattering sounds on the window pane. I don’t particularly love it when it’s accompanying by thunderstorms and lighting and comes in such large quantities that it floods. 

I suppose this is much like human emotions. Sometimes you like something but if you have too much of it, you might not like it so much anymore. For example, I love choux cream but I wouldn’t be able to have it everyday.  Emotions, like the rain, has ups and downs.  It all depends. What do you think?

Wishing everyone a wonderful Sunday ahead.  Have some ‘me’ time. 

The Impermanence of Life

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Life is strange. So many uncertainties yet one definite truth about life is that it all ends at one point in time. How it ends, how it stops, how we spend our last breath is one we do not know. When reading the many articles and literature on happiness (humans seem to be obsessed with finding happiness), one advice that often comes up is to think about life and death.

This week I’ve had many reminders. Many opportunities to think about life and death.

First, having dogs that are innately hunters, I am constantly reminded about the circle of life.
My happy dogs like to bring me gifts from their day’s play. Sometimes it’s a dried up dead lizard or snake. Sometimes its animals which I’d rather not see and have to ask Alex to dispose of. This week, I found a poor bird whose life has left its winged body on my porch. It was such a pretty little bird who had a ‘bad’ day. For dogs, hunting is everyday life and play. They hunt, they kill, then they lick me happily on the face and take a nap. I love them dearly.

My second reminder was on how weak physically humans are. I caught the flu. A vicious flu that showed its full strength just as I had to travel for work. I have had my annual flu vaccination and been exercising regularly. I believed I was in pretty good health, but yet it still took a great many days to overcome this vicious virus. I am still not completely well. I survived meetings through aids of medication and vitamins then spent nights trying to sleep amidst the fever and congestion. Once I got home, the adrenaline that kept me in working state vanished and I was left feeling frail and weakened. Muscle strength vanished and appetites disappeared. Thumping headaches followed. It’s been a long time since I felt so weak and such an invalid. Life is indeed fragile. Although a flu is nothing compared to other illnesses, it’s enough to remind me.

My last reminders were news of a dear friend’s family loss. The next day it was followed by the lost of a dear colleague’s family loss. Just a day apart, they have had family members who suddenly parted. One morning, you wake up to what will be another day, like every other day, but by evening it is not so. So quick and fleeting is life. So final.

So impermanent is life like everything else. Let’s remember to enjoy and be grateful for our lives. Let’s live in the present. Let’s not worry so much about the future, we forget to live in present.

Let’s do something to help our world. As Benjamin Franklin once said we should constantly remind ourselves and ask ourselves is “What good may I do in the world?”

I’m searching for a cause I would like to devote my energy to helping make a difference in this world. There are so many I can’t quite decide. What are some causes that drive your passion? Please share. 🙂

Grandma: 7 January 1923 -24 November 2015

They say that when you look back on life, it is the little things that you’ll remember and cherish. I agree for it is indeed the little things about Grandma that put a smile on my face and gives me a warm fuzzy feeling. To me, Grandma embodied warmth, kindness, and happiness.  

I remember sitting on her lap when I was around 5 years old and playing with grandma like granddaughters do: rubbing her skin, measuring her arms against mine and overall just curiously playing with her whilst listening to childhood stories. Grandma always had time for her grandchildren and stories to tell.

I remember spending Sundays at Grandma’s for it was when family would gather at her house for lunch. The house would be buzzing with activity and food more than one could possibly eat. She would sit there beaming and smiling drinking her coconut juice and having a comment for each and everyone. I always loved hearing her comments. She was a lady truly unlike anyone I know. She was our pillar and our centre.

Strong, sharp and loving; Grandma I love you. We all love you. Although you are no longer physically here with us, you will remain forever in our hearts and nothing can take away our love. Thank you for being such a wonderful Grandma. Thank you for being our inspiration. You were the best.

The Boy at the Supermarket

Today at the supermarket I overheard a conversation between a young boy of about ten years old with his mom. They weren’t Thai and were most probably expats living in Bangkok. The young boy made such a funny and pleasant remark that I want to share it with you.

As you know, ever since I lost weight around 5 years ago, I’ve become a lot more healthy, aware of what I am eating, and avoiding the fried or sugar infused foods. Growing up I didn’t really have a concept of what was healthy, or what wasn’t. My mom is a wonderful cook, but once I went off to college and worked, dinners ended up whatever was available in my fridge. My often late dinners were simple pasta and pesto. My snack at work was raisins. Hey, they are dried grapes which are fruits, what’s so bad about them? Answer: they are high in sugar.

Okay, so what was it I overheard? It started out with the mother asking the boy “What would you like for dinner today?”

The boy answered, “Potatoes, mashed potatoes and oh, I want some salad and vegetables Mom! The food at school is so sweet! They put sugar in everything even soup! I might have to stop having soup at school!”

Wow, that really hit me.

He was only around ten, but with health conscious parents, he has grown up being aware of what he is putting into his body. It’s great. He will grow up healthy.

Now it’s up to the schools to serve children healthy food. Parents really should check out what’s being served at schools and perhaps like Jaime Oliver, fight for healthier servings. No sugared pink milk please!

To be or not be: happy

When I read the news or turn on the TV I don’t really want to know all the details of beheadings, attacks and killings.  I can’t get away from it though. It’s everywhere, it’s sad and I pray for all affected. No one should have to experience such horrific events.  Yet they do because there are unhappy people everywhere.  What makes people happy or unhappy?  Alex and I discussed this recently in one of our many discussions.  Countless books have been written on this topic and gurus abound, but here is our take on how to be happy.

1 Acknowledge and accept that one cannot be happy 100% of the time, but believe that you can have more happiness than unhappiness. Like anything in life, accept the truth and move on.  It’s impossible to be happy all the time.  There will be times when you are sad, angry or feel blue.  These emotions will pass.  How fast they pass by depends on you.  This is a fact of life. When you acknowledge this and are no longer fixated on being happy all the time, you will have less stress.

2 Search for the true cause of the problem that is making you unhappy.  For each ‘unhappiness’ that you want to fix, you need to be able to find the true root cause of it.  If you don’t find the root cause, it will be like cutting weed without taking out the root.  The weed will come back. It may expand underground and resurface in different areas, but it will be back.

For example, most people, myself included, have some form of insecurity. As the german psychoanalyst Eric Fromm (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erich_Fromm) said, “The task we must set for ourselves is not to feel secure, but to be able to tolerate insecurity.” We must find the cause of our insecurity and face it.  Insecurity can take many forms. A lot of people hide their insecurities through accumulation of material goods.  If they have so and so , x and x with this much value, people will ‘love’ or look up to them.  They don’t think they can be liked without their possessions.   Sometimes the insecurities come in the form of defensiveness.  I bet we’ve all experienced this where the other side just cannot accept any form of constructive criticism.  They feel insecure and threatened.

3 Really believe you can fix it.  It is in your power to fix it. The important thing is to ‘believe’ and make a plan.  A lot of people make the mistake of believing that problems can be fixed right away and result in immediate happiness, but more often than not results take time. A lot of time.

For example, a lot of people complain about work. They are unhappy and complain day after day, wishing that things were better, but do nothing to fix the problem.  Years go by and the unhappiness intensifies. What do you do to fix the problem? You could start by taking small steps to make it better.  See if you can improve the situation. Can you make the environment or do something to make it better?  Little by little the situation can and will be improved.  Be patient. The responsibility is in your hands.

What do you think makes one happy or not?