Community

Lately, I’ve been discovering how important having a community is. It makes all the difference whether you’re in a good or bad place. 

The feeling of loneliness — whether perceived or actual — can actually affect one’s health. Besides triggering health issues, it can also (apparently) cause early death.

I’ve always thought of myself as a loner, but in an article on the value of community, Allie Decker writes that community “needs to be something we seek out and set as an intention”.

I’ve been working on being a part of communities lately. Ones that suit my introverted personality. From Silent Book Club to board game nights to casual drinking sessions. 

Not everything needs to be networking or business related. 

What I’ve found is that being part of different communities enables growth. Choosing the right communities and people to “hang” with is motivating. 

Community is beautiful because it exposes us to diverse thinking, hobbies, and more. If your community is synonymous with where you work and spend almost all your time, how will you ever be challenged and grow?

— Allie Decker

So perhaps I’m not as much of a loner as I thought I was. I just needed to find my niche.

Ming

My girl friends are often surprised when they find out that Ming does house work. He mops the floor, he irons his own shirts. When my clothes are ruined (happens surprisingly often, because I’m clumsy), he knows how to mend them. 

You should hear the excitement in his voice when he talks about vacuum cleaners and refrigerators. 

Today, he decided that since I’ve been ill, he would make a herbal tea. Butterfly pea, red dates and goji berries, I wouldn’t even have known what to start doing. 

When we do face masks at home, it’s because Ming decides he wants to. And then he has to put the mask on my face as well (because I don’t know how to). 

He laughs good-naturedly when I call him “my wife”. 

And I wonder, who put all these gender roles into place. Who decided that a person has to do such and such a thing to be considered a man or a woman? 

Why do we let society dictate what a man or a woman is “supposed” to be or do?

Ming has been asked if he is a “real man”. (A question he didn’t even deign to answer.) I’ve been asked if I’m sure he’s straight. 

When it comes to love, does all this really matter? 

Tentacles

Although being sick is always a pain, there’s a silver lining — being stuck in bed gives me the chance to binge read. And when I’m sick the way I’ve been for the last two days, I binge read romance novels.

The latest series that I’ve gotten my hands on is about the humans left behind on an alien world, over 350 years after the first colonists from Earth landed. 

It’s sci-fi on a small scale — about individual lives (which I like) — combined with sex. Lots and lots of sex. 

And in this series of books, the sex involved tentacles.

I’m always amused when I read about sex between humans and weird creatures. Kraken with eight tentacles, satyrs with two cocks, horned aliens, were-dragons. It’s weird and delicious at the same time. 

What’s most striking to me though, is that even when the stories shift into the “monster’s” perspective, there’s still something relatable in there. 

Although the characters are varied and no, I don’t see myself in the characters, I am still able to slip into their skins for the duration of the book, maybe even feel what they’re feeling. 

Besides the pleasure of diving head-first into a story, reading fiction helps me to understand that people are complex. They do the things they do for different reasons. 

That while I may not agree with a certain approach, I could possibly appreciate the end goal that they’re aiming for. 

Writing

Every time the world seems to be falling apart, whenever something doesn’t seem to make sense, each time I’m left behind with an unresolved situation, I have a lifeline — writing. 

“We write to figure out who we are,” Josh Spector wrote in a blog post on what it means to be a writer

Writing is my way of processing the world. It’s my way of understanding things. 

Because writing is not the same as a thought dump (raw thoughts belong in personal journals). 

One of my favourite quotes about writing is about how it’s telepathy — getting a thought from one mind into another.

For that transition to happen, raw thoughts have to be distilled.

Sometimes I begin with a question. For example, what is loneliness?  Sometimes I start with a thought like superfoods are bullshit, and who knows if it’s a true thought?

This is where research comes in. Writing gives me an excuse to follow my curiosity, go down rabbit holes, figure things out.

Often, the ending is different from what I had in mind. 

Even when writing fiction, sometimes my characters surprise me and do something reckless, or something brave, and I think, “Oh gosh, I didn’t know you had it in you.” 

And it gives me hope that maybe I’ll surprise myself as well. 

“…writers know the best way to figure out what we have to say is to write.”

— Josh Spector, For the Interested

Lonely

How is it, that in spite of being surrounded by people, a person can feel so lonely? 

Researchers say that there are a few types of loneliness and one of them, internal loneliness, comes “from our perception of being alone”. 

This is the kind that happens even when you’re in a crowded room, although you may have an active social life, even if you have a partner and/or loving family. 

In a study on loneliness, one of the main findings was an inverse relationship between loneliness and wisdom

In this study, wisdom was measured based on six components — general knowledge of life; emotion management; empathy, compassion, altruism and a sense of fairness; insight; acceptance of divergent values; and decisiveness.

Could it be, that we are not really as alone as we think we are? Could this emotion just be yet another lie our brains tell us? 

What happens if we perceive things differently? Would we still feel as lonely?

I say “we”, but what I really mean is “I”. For as long as I can remember, I’ve felt this thing that I call “deep loneliness” and I don’t know where it comes from. 

Perhaps my self-awareness could use more work.

Collective

“It’s human to want more,” Paul Jarvis wrote in one of his latest email newsletters about setting goals. 

“A lot of successful entrepreneurs want to convince you that if you aren’t aiming to dominate markets, crush it, and put every competitor out of business, you’re letting your apparent lack of self confidence get the best of you.”

But I’ve been questioning this idea for some time. While I do experience a very human desire to compete, I sometimes manage to stop myself and wonder why. 

Oftentimes, it’s because of an irrational sense of fear. 

As a writer, I have lots of friends who in the traditional sense, may be considered competitors. But if I take a moment to see it from a different angle, they become potential collaborators instead. 

One of the many things I’ve learned from working at the bar is that there’s space for differentiation, that we have to trust in our own abilities, and that there’s so much space to work together to elevate the industry as a whole. 

“Commerce is collaborative, not a zero sum game for me.”

— Paul Jarvis

For the last couple of months, I’ve been exploring ways to collaborate with others and I’ve come to realise that collaboration works best for those who are individually strong. 

It works for those who are confident enough in their own abilities to know what they’re bringing to the table. 

Reduce

Last year, Ming and I challenged ourselves to question all our purchases. 

Do we really need this? Or is there something forgotten that could be refurbished instead? Is it something that we could do without? 

Is it something that we would really use? How many times a week will we use it? 

So many of us work a job we don’t like, to spend money on things we don’t need. And I’ve been wondering if it’s because we aren’t always conscious of what we buy. 

There’s a reason that “reduce” comes first in the “three R’s”, followed by “reuse”. 

While buying biodegradable, compostable, or even recyclable items can be a good thing, it still takes time and energy for that kind of waste to be processed. 

By questioning every potential purchase, Ming and I realised that we would rather spend money on experiences and on time together, rather than things. 

That we would rather buy things we really wanted and could see ourselves using for years, rather than cheap items that have short lifespans. 

I wouldn’t call myself environmentally-conscious. I’m not that socially-conscious either, I think. 

But the idea of owning something that I don’t need, that I don’t use often enough, makes me feel uncomfortable. 

Why spend that kind of money?