Animal Instincts

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I rarely watch movies these days, a while ago, I took netflix off because I find it was too addictive, I would much rather spend the extra time I have by reading or writing. If I decide I want to indulge in a movie, I either get pirated DVD locally (which you can still get in Sibu), or purchase from Itunes.

I watched “The Professor” last night, I was both amused and enlightened by it at the same time. It was a simple and short movie, and as always it’s delightful to watch Johnny Depp act, I thought he portrayed the character splendidly.

After learning he has six months to live, a college lecturer transforms into a rebellious party animal. To the shock of his wife and school chancellor — and to the delight of his students — he leads a crusade against authority and hypocrisy. “

It’s a very simple movie, after getting diagnosed with cancer, he decided to just “live life”. Where he took drugs, indulged in drinking, had affairs, (and even experimented with having sex with a man) , it was both hilarious but sad at the same time.
I get a completely different message out of it. I was reading “Socrates in Love” by Christopher Phillips, and I came upon this passage, in relations to Eros (The Greek, meaning “desire,” comes from “to desire, love”, of uncertain etymology)

“Eros is knowing what you should desire, and acting in such a way that you overcome all those other desires of yours that conflict with it, so you can come closer to realizing your “higher desire” 

Think about this, if we give into our impulses all the time, is it truly “living the life we want?” Is that the kind of life we aspire to have ? What sets humans apart from animals is we have higher thinking and we are better at controlling our impulses. It does get significantly harder these days, as we are constantly bombarded with stimuli and temptations.

Daily stoic

“A mind that isn’t in control of itself, that doesn’t understand it’s power of regulate itself, will be jerked around by external events and unquestioned impulses.”

“The most powerful control we can ever attain, is to be in control of ourselves.”

Week 1 : Coffee Abstinence

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So I visit this coffee shop every morning, by coffee shop, I really mean Malaysian’s style “kopitiam”, where the lady boss uses cheap local coffee powder to make the coffee, with condensed milk. I like the ratio of the coffee with the condensed milk she makes, it’s slightly bitter (due to the acidity of the cheap coffee powder) but sweetened with the condensed milk. I am addicted to my morning cup of coffee, made by her specifically.

As if Universe wanted to help me kick off the addiction, this lady boss told me she was going for a week-long vacation, I  was disgruntled, I remember telling her :”How am I going to survive my week without your coffee ?”

I decided perhaps it’s time for me to take a sabbatical from my coffee consumption.

I’ve toyed with the idea of coffee abstinence in the past, but it has never worked out. Most days I do 2 cups, somedays I try to do one cup. The main reason I wanted to try it was to see how it’s going to improve my sleep, I do notice my sleep hasn’t been optimal since my deficit has started, and at this phase, I can’t afford to use more calories to support my sleep (which should be, ideally) , and I just wanted to see how it’s going to effect me in terms of energy level, too.

The past week has been interesting :

Day 01 : So I usually have my first cup of coffee (with my meal) between 6.30am-7am) and I started having migraine around this time, and it went on for the whole day. I can count on the number of times I have migraine…which is rarely. It effected my mood and productivity level greatly, I had a hard time concentrating throughout the whole day. My mood was foul.

I started googling…whatever they say about “coffee withdrawal symptoms” I clearly had it. I grind through the first day

Day 02 : I started using some tea…in limited amounts. Ice lemon tea (yes..sweetened as always), and it kind of curb the craving of sipping something in the morning for me. Migraine and bad mood persists, I was starting to think maybe I can do one cup…but I grind it out.

Day 03 : Migraine still in full swing. I gave in and took 2 aspirin in the afternoon. It brought relief, I felt better that day.

Day 04 : Migraine is gone. The withdrawal symptoms seems to have subsided. I feel good today.

Day 05 : No more withdrawal symptoms. I also notice energy level is more constant, instead of the highs and lows I experience throughout the day.

Day 06 : My sleep got better. Thou i still battle with nocturnal urination (something I continuously work on) .I was able to sleep. I woke up feeling very refreshed and energised.

Day 07 : Not going back to using coffee, atleast for now.

I have alot of internal dialogues with myself, obviously. I would say things like :”You can work on your coffee addiction later, when you’re done with the prep, not now, this can be a powerful substance to help you through these few months of deficit.”

Or

“Why add another stressor when you’re already stressed?”

The problem is it’s all correlated in some way, I need to prime my sleep for more efficient fat loss. And when my sleep is good, everything feels good. Perhaps if you’re metabolically robust, coffee would be a good “supplement”, unfortunately, not for me currently.

I do miss coffee thou, either a good cup of latte, or a cheap kopitiam kopi peng.

 

 

 

Master the art of showing up

“Be silent and listen_ have you recognized your madness and do you admit it_ Have you noticed that all your foundations are completely mired in madness_ Do you not want to recognize your madness and welcome it in a f

The novelty of my swim practice has wore off, I’m on my 7th lessons, still trying to learnt the basics of freestyle. I am starting to feel the deficit and I am feeling pretty beat up on most days, and these days, I look forward to my rest days more than anything.

Despite not “feeling like it”, I still make myself go regardless of how I feel. As I understand the importance of showing up, regardless of the quality of the effort I put in. I will show up, practice and go home, and this is usually after a training session, 3-4 times weekly. I am also currently weaning off my coffee consumption, and I definitely feel the coffee withdrawal symptoms : migraine, low energy level, bad mood..it’s crazy how when you use it everyday, you don’t notice any effect it had on you. It’s only after I took it off completely, then I notice such significant difference.

The beginning is always the hardest, and I am mastering the art of showing up. I replaced my morning coffee with half cup of orange juice, salted with gelatin, and I do have some tea as replacement (but I’m also very aware of not abusing it) . Regardless of how tired I feel, I dragged my feet to the public pool and let Connie make me swim laps. I still enjoy it, as problems fade away as I dip my head under water.

I shall report back on my coffee abstinence…’till next update.

 

Atomic Habits : Meditation

These days, I really look forward to sitting down and writing on this blog, although I think I lack focus and my blog posts feels rather scattered, but these words, they represent a fragment of my present thoughts.

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Instead of a “tick”, I now use a rating system for my habits bullet journaling.

Progress on meditation 

I have moved up to tracking the quality of certain habits I’m trying to cultivate (such as meditation and reading), instead of just tracking the days I do them because I have been very consistent with them. Just weeks ago, I was struggling with sitting still for 5 minutes, these days, I start everyday with a 20 mins meditation and on days I feel agitated and flustered, I’d often end my day with a short 5-10 minutes meditation as well, even thou I am often interrupted by my lovely toddler Anya.

It feels rather vague, tracking quality instead of quantity with meditation, however, after weeks of experimenting with it, I am confident to say I can now distinguish between a poor session vs a good one. Some days I am simply “not there”, despite forcing myself to sit longer, while some sessions feels short but I am more present and focused.

The benefits I have noticed definitely motivate me to keep the ritual going : less anxiety, better concentration, better anger management, (if you have a toddler like mine, you’d understand) I just feel more level-headed.

Meditations comes in many forms, I particularly enjoy meditating in the car (eyes open, transfixed at one point, in between traffic light). I began enjoying walking and driving without any music or podcasts, I have gotten used to letting my mind wonder (content with being bored) instead of reaching for distraction every minute of the day. Each night, we’d sit in the park and watch Anya play, and we enjoy a brief conversations about our day without the distraction of devices.

I stop thinking about wanting to “fix” myself. I am a constant work in progress, but I am not broken in anyway.

“I like to think the best of me, is still hiding up my sleeves” John Mayer

 

 

 

Prep Journal : 13 weeks out : Me and my canned tunas

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I have put off with writing my prep journal as I’ve been on a “struggle” bus lately. After a brief communication with Twain (my coach) this morning, it was decided that I need to start tracking food right away.

I want this journal to be a very honest account on my journey, by writing down my thoughts and struggles, I am able to self reflect and it brings a sense of mental clarity to me.

I am certainly no stranger to tracking food, with a macro based approach, I relied heavily on tracking to lose weight repetitively in the past. Since it has worked so well, why was I against using it this time around? I assumed I had enough experience to not use it this time around, turns out, it’s harder than I thought.

Fat loss is stressful, mentally and physically. Initially, I thought of tracking as an additional stressor, and the novelty of it, not tracking and still being able to lose weight, that’ll be a great achievement. Kind of idiotic if you think about it, what I hadn’t take into factor is the deadlines of a competition. As days goes by and weight is not moving on the trajectory that we had in mind (0.5kg per week, currently, it’s at 0.3) , it was causing me even more anxiety and stress.

So today’s the day, and I need to pick up my pace.

Aside from that, things have been pretty stagnant, I try to take it meal by meal, day by day, then reflect back on my week. If I have a particularly good day, I try to replicate it the next day. Days are harder during menstruation, thou taking progesterone has eased some of my PMS symptoms ; mood, appetite and cravings seems to fluctuate alot in the days leading up to my cycle. I have instructions to take a “deload” on those days, trainings remains the same with less weight to mitigate some of the fatigue I feel during the period, still, I’ve had some sub-optimal training session.

The other day, I was having a discussion with my husband, we were talking about how others always want to discuss nutrition with me, most of the time, I feel there is simply no way to simplify the topic. My husband then said to me :”You should tell them you bring canned tuna and squid with you when you travel, that’ll amuse them.”

Perhaps I took it the wrong way, maybe he didn’t mean what he said, but I took it as a mockery. I refrained from saying anything, because I knew it would blow up into a huge fight, which often leads to me dragging other topics into the “discussion”.  I let it slip, but my feelings were hurt.

I cannot expect him to understand since he isn’t in the realm of bodybuilding, I cannot take it personally, but I did take a mental note on my heightened sensitivity level, I noted that I am usually not this easily provoked.

I had this written in my notebook, dated 6th of May, 2019

If you are pained by an external thing, It is not this thing that disturbs you, but your own judgement about it, and it is your power to wipe out this judgement now.

If someone succeeds in provoking you, realize that your mind is complicit in the provocation. Which is why it is essential that we do not respond impulsively to impression ; take a moment before reacting, and you will find it easier to maintain control. 

To end my blog post,  I do admit I am a protein snob and I don’t agree with most forms of protein powders, in true meathead fashion, I personally prefer to bring canned tuna and canned squid with me, as I find it easier to hit my protein macros with them, and not to mention, they’re cheap and more satiating than powders.

I know meatheads would agree with me.

 

 

Book Notes : Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport

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Image by rowdykittens.com Who also wrote a fantastic review on the book.

Book notes from Digital Minimalism, written by Cal Newport.

I am forever grateful for this book, it has made me re-evaluate my relationship with digital tools (esp social media) , and many practical tips that I can implement into my daily life.

Book notes from Digital Minimalism

As Socrates explained to Phaedrus in Plato’s famous chariot metaphor, our soul can be understood as a chariot driver struggling to rein two horses, one representing our better nature and the other our baser impulses. When we increasingly cede autonomy to the digital, we energize the latter horse and make the chariot driver’s struggle to steer increasingly difficult – a diminishing of our soul’s authority

In the end, I just accepted the fact that I would miss some events in their lives, but that this was worthwhile for the mental energy it would save me to not be on social media

“I figured I didn’t need to know the answer to everything instantly, ” she told me. She then bought an old fashioned notebook to jot down ideas when she’s bored on the tube.”

Rebecca transformed her daily experience by buying a watch. This might sound trivial to older readers, but to a nineteen-yearold like Rebecca, this was an intentional act. “I estimate that around 75 percent of the time I got sucked down a rabbit hole of un-productivity was due to me checking my phone for the time.

Running is cheaper than therapy.

Solitude is about what’s happening in your brain, not the environment around you. Accordingly, they define it to be a subjective state in which your mind is free from input from other minds.

Conversations enriches the understanding, but solitude is the school of genius

We’re wrong to consider intimate interaction as the sine qua non of human thriving. Solitude can be just as important for both happiness and productivity.

Calmly experiencing separation, he argues, builds your appreciation for interpersonal connections when they do occur.

I am here alone for the first time in week, to take up my “real” life again at last. This is what is strange, that friends, even passionate love, are not my real life unless there is time alone in which to explore and to discover what is happening or has happened Without the interruptions, nourishing and maddening, this life would become arid. Yet, I taste it fully only when I’m alone.

We enter solitude, in which also we lose loneliness.

We are in great haste to construct a magnetic telegraph from Maine to Texas ; but Maine and Texas, it may be, have nothing important to communicate.

Only thoughts reached by walking have value. To underscore his esteem for walking, Nietzsche also notes: “The sedentary life is the very sin against the Holy Spirit.”

The more you use social media to interact with your network, the less time you devote to offline communication.

Where we want to be cautious…is when the sound of a voice or a cup of coffee with a friend is replaced with ‘likes’ on a post.”

Humans are naturally biased toward activities that require less energy in the short term, even if it’s more harmful in the long term-so we end up texting our sibling instead of calling them on the phone, or liking a picture of a friend’s new baby, instead of stopping by for a visit.

Because our primal instinct to connect is so strong, it’s difficult to resist checking a device in the middle of a conversation with a friend or bath time with a child-reducing the quality of the richer interaction right infront of us. Our analog brain cannot easily distinguish between the importance of the person in the room with us and the person who just sent us a new text.

when you spend multiple hours a day compulsively clicking and swiping, there’s much less free time left for slower interactions. And because this compulsive use emits a patina of socialness, it can delude you into thinking that you’re already serving your relationships well, making further action unnecessary.

Smarter use of digital communication tools, not blanket abstention.

Similarly, if you adopt conversation-centric communication, you’ll still likely rely on text-messaging service to simplify information gathering, or to coordinate social events, or to ask quick questions, but you’ll no longer participate in open-ended, ongoing text based conversations throughout your day.

I don’t think we’re meant to keep in touch with so many people.

It’s now easy to fill the gaps between work and caring your family and sleep by pulling out a smartphone or tablet, and numbing yourself with mindless swiping and tapping.

Spending an hour browsing funny Youtube clips might sap your vitality, while-and I am speaking from recent experiences here-using Youtube to teach yourself how to replace a motor in a bathroom ventilation fan can provide the foundation for a satisfying afternoon of tinkering.

You are not quitting anything or losing access to any information, you’re simply being more mindful of when you engage with this part of your leisure life.

To repeat a line from the New Yorker writer George Packer, “Twitter” scares me, not because I am superior to it, but because I don’t think I could handle it. I’m afraid I’d end up letting my son go hungry. ” If you must use these services, however, and you hope to do so without ceding autonomy over your time and attention, it’s crucial to understand this is not a casual decision.

Dropping in to extract value, and then slipping away before the attention traps set by these companies can spring shut.

As many have discovered, the rapid switching between different applications tends to make the human interaction with the computer less productive in terms of the quality and quantity of what is produced.

Dunbar number of 150-a theoretical limit for the number of people human can successfully keep track of in their social circles.

Adopting digital minimalism is not a one time process that completes the day after your digital declutter; it instead requires ongoing adjustments.

Cultivating a life worth living in our current age of alluring devices.

Digital minimalism definitely does not reject the innovations of the internet age, but instead rejects the way so many people engage with these tools.

 

 

Becoming a mother

Every mother’s day is tough for me, not that I resent being a mother (Anya has been particularly difficult today…which made me nearly tear all my hair out) Jokes aside, whenever mother’s day rolls around, I think about my mother alot.

My mother died of cancer when I was merely 4 years old. Once, a family friend told me, how she was still crying for me during those last few days of her life. Over the years, I hear similar stories from different relatives and although I have no recollection of her, it paints a very painful picture in my head. It created an illusion that I was in the room, watching her, crying and trying to reach for me, and I just stood there, watching her die, without any emotion.  ‘Till this day, I carry alot of the emotional traumas from the loss of a parent at young age, which has never healed..the idiocy of some of my actions and behaviour may correlates with that.

My sister took  it the hardest. Being slightly older than me, she remembers her passing vividly. She dropped out of school, repeatedly got herself involved in gangsterism when she was a teenager, constantly running away from home…her journey was tough, but she eventually turned her life around. We never really got along untill I moved away, then our relationship got better. It’s the same with my dad, I’ve learnt that my dad did the best he could as a young widower of 2 daughters.

During my early days of motherhood, I often felt resentful towards my mom. Sounds funny, I know, she didn’t have a choice, but I resented her for not being there for me. I still can’t listen to the song, “世上只有妈妈好” (A very famous Chinese song, Mom is the best in the world.” ) It brought me back to my childhood, where my classmates were making cards for their moms, and I had no mom to give the card to. As a kid, I didn’t want people to know I didn’t have a mom, I often felt embarrassed and shamed, although I had no reason to be.

It is only after I became a mother I realise my mother’s love for me has never left me. I know she would cringe at the way I parent…and disapprove of many things I do, but I know she loves me. I’ve thought about a million times of how if I leave this world, my love for Anya will remain eternally, it’s then I know, she loves me. I don’t have much of her, except a few of her photos, but I have her love.

Happy Mother’s Day, mom. I will eventually meet you someday.