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Finding The Happy

Looking for joy in all the right places

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organisation

Welcome to 2015!

My 2013 was horrible for the most obvious reason (mother’s death, for the uninitiated) but last year really blew for many of my friends, and for Malaysia’s aviation industry. There were quite a few good-riddance-to-this-rubbish-year posts on my FB news feed, and I’m glad for them, at least, that we have reached 2015.

For us, 2014 was largely a calm year. A winding down from the emotional roller coaster that was 2013. There were a few points for anxiety – the sale of my mother’s home being one, haggling with financial institutions on two continents, being another – but on the grand scheme of things, they proved paltry compared to the addition to our family. Atticus signaled a new chapter to our family life in late November — and a welcome focal point. We rounded off the year largely sleep deprived while being surrounded by family, and feeling older, slightly melancholy and stressed, but not sad. And after the sorrow of 2013, being not sad was a great step forward.

There was a study on “workplace happiness” conducted in Singapore between April and August last year. And the grand reveal was that Singaporeans are Under Happy – that vague, lukewarm, non-committal, soggy middle ground between the state of being Happy and being Unhappy. Under Happy was last year’s Meh, and the punchline for many Singaporeans still secretly seething about being ranked the Least Emotional Country in the World in 2012.

And it got me thinking. Although I had many things I’d been grateful for, and felt largely content with my lot in life, there was still a lot of Meh left in me last year. I’m wondering if it’s a self preservation thing, or the natural trajectory one follows after being shot out of the Emo canon that was 2013. Numbness is comforting. It allows one to function well and to even feel episodes of muted happiness. But although a bland life can be a happy one, happiness isn’t blandness.

I know this is a blog largely about my children and a little about my personal life. But some of the things I keep circling in this blog seems to be Life organisation and finding the Happy – whether it’s about some habit tracking app I find useful, or whether it’s about reflecting on my list of gratitudes every Thursday. I know I probably appear to be overthinking things, or maybe I’ve reached some kind of 40%-life crisis that induces me to contemplate my life and purpose. Perhaps I’m still trying to define myself, since I’ve currently parked my Career Woman persona. Or my cousin’s and mother’s early deaths have shaken me to the very core, and what you see here are the aftershocks.

Or perhaps, if I can indulge in some hubris, my soul resonates with the likes of W.H. Auden, who observed that “between the ages of twenty and forty we are engaged in the process of discovering who we are…”

I don’t know. I just know that I’m searching for… something. Every New Year, I pounce on the chance to reinvent myself to some extent, and this year is no different.

I had started out last year reading Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project, and then got sidetracked. I had planned to explore my year like she did with a theme for each month, but that intention got seriously derailed by January, when I decluttered the house (just like in her book) for our anticipated move (which didn’t happen), only to pack her book in the process in one of 70 boxes now sitting in a storage unit four suburbs away.

Oops.

Anyhoo, I’ve gotten hold of an electronic copy and I’m trying her book out again. This is my Eat Pray Love, except I don’t have to leave my husband and children, and swan off to India to learn how to meditate. I’m still plotting my game plan for 2015 in between innumerous breastfeeds and rocking and shushing and diapering and cleaning and cooking and soothing and playing and including… so wish me luck.

What are your New Year resolutions, by the way? Made any this year, or cannot be bothered?

Addressing my consumerism with distracting fun

I’ve spent way more than I meant to this month.

A couple of reasons…

  • I’ve discovered what glorious fun it is to find great online retail prices, and then slink into brick-and-mortar shops to coyly ask if they’d price-match my finds. (And they all did. All four retailers.)
  • This modern version of bargaining with shopkeepers coincided very neatly with the recent purchase of my DSLR camera, and with it all the accessories. New lens! Camera bag! Nappy Bag to fit New Camera Bag!
  • In a very inspired week, I went about decluttering my personal and business emails and ended up stumbling upon all the Pumpkin Patch sales I had previously assiduously avoided in the Promotions tab. Catastrophe, but the Boy Blob can now consider modeling as a career next Winter.
  • Andrea and Ben came for a week and when three Singaporeans are gathered, there will be good food if not shopping.

I’ve been trying to get back into the habit of tracking my superfluous spending through Toshl – so anything outside bills and groceries qualify. My coffee and babycinnos with Arddun, for instance. Entrance fees for indoor playgrounds, lunch out, takeaway dinner when I’m on my way to a Tupperware sales meeting, clothes and homeware shopping, that sort of thing. It started out as a way to track where the money primarily goes, but along the way I’ve tried to give myself a limited budget per month so I’d be pushed to weigh up my options more deliberately.

And then I came across an article on The Buy Nothing Year.

Okay – I am privately not a fan of the hippie lifestyle. I’ve seen and smelled human beings who have used homemade soaps and shampoos, and have decided I wouldn’t like a bar of it. (Geddit? Bar? Of soap? Boom boom.) I also kill plants remarkably well, so starting my own self-sufficient veggie garden is not going to sail. And I’m not going to walk or bus everywhere. Not with a toddler and a nappy bag and an already achy pregnant body. My time is already precious.

Also, I’m not altogether comfortable about stingeing on others. I get that splurging on myself is indulgent, but generosity and hospitality are values I esteem quite highly too.

Still, there is something to be said about how much those roommates saved, and the behavioural changes that came about from that project. Consumerism is, unfortunately, a large part of city living and I am a city girl at heart. (Actually, consumerism is a large part of First Worlds, period.) This past week, I feel like I’ve been reacquainted with that original spirit which inspired me to start using Toshl way back when.

And so, to add to the tracking of my daily spend, and the monthly budget I’ve set for myself, I’d like to start setting goals for what NOT to spend on.

Which means running out and downloading a bunch of free apps to try! Wheeee!

I’ve looked at habit tracking apps before, but this time I was looking for apps that had to do with goal setting and getting inspired by others. It also had to look heaps pretty but cost me nothing. And so after hunting around, I’ve come up with my shortlist.

New free apps I’ll be experimenting with these next few months

Some budgeting goals I’m refining at the moment

  • Limiting the number of indoor playground visits as the weather gets warmer for Arddun
  • No clothes, bags, cosmetics, bling, shoe-shopping for a month (this includes buying for Arddun as well, which is even harder to curb)
  • Limiting the number of café outings with Arddun (will make exception when we are with friends)

More about The Buy Nothing Project

The Middle

I have two posts jostling to be written today. One is supposed to be a snapshot of Arddun, aged 3 years and xx days. It’s a burst of adoration, a love letter, a scrapbook of scrappy descriptions that can only hope to sketch the lovely creature she was and is and is becoming.

The other is this post. It’s all about the distractions, and the art of decluttering the mind and heart to prepare for goodlier things.

I haven’t been very organised.

Part of it started from the sheer exhaustion one feels in the first trimester of baby-growing, when all you want to do at day’s end is crawl under the doona and fall into a deep sleep. Except I couldn’t bear to indulge myself this way, because I needed to do lots of other things. So we started packing and sorting for the eventual, inevitable house sale. Even before the papers (the stacks of papers!) got signed, Tony and I went and rented ourselves some storage space, and put away about 20-odd boxes before the bitter winter chills set in.

And then it felt too much like I hadn’t had enough Me time, so I started watching The Good Wife from the pilot. And because no one I know in Canberra watches TGW religiously, I wasn’t prepared for how utterly well-written and addictive the series is. Oh my word, it’s addictive.

I’ve finally caught up with the series, so now that there’s nothing left to fill my very late nights, I’ve turned back to decluttering my life. Also, I’ve stumbled upon The Fabulous – a rather pretty Android app that can be summarised as a Life Coach wearing lace. Or something.

I’m realising that my life pendulums from 20,000 boxes of discrete tasks that reek of chlorinated discipline, to wild, unstructured periods of floating and exploring and meh. Except ironically, my unstructured walks in la la land seldom provide inspiration to write or read. There is a mid point, before either extremes take over, where I feel free and disciplined enough to blog regularly.

Welcome once more to my middle.

Now that my energy levels are back to normal, I’ve awakened to a few new truths.

  1. My time with Just Arddun now has a rough end point.
  2. I need to work out a new weekly routine that involves fewer errands and that maximises whatever little free time I’m going to have with a new bub.
  3. I’ve been mentally run down, which usually results in some form of disengagement from social things – bad juju for extroverts like me. I need to lock in time to recharge batteries, find the discipline to follow through, and keep irrational guilt at bay. This includes sleeping before midnight, for a change.

So with that, I bid you a good evening. Sorry this is such a boring post for you, but writing literally helps me think better. Also, I haven’t blogged in ages – so I’m out of practice. So thanks for listening.

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