on-going mostly unedited stream of thoughts

on processing books for kindling

Out of four weeks of a month if I am lucky I’m relatively well for two, and sick for the other two. I have tried to incorporate a daily routine for years but failed, because my body doesn’t behave the same way everyday. Only now I am learning to live according to the mini seasons of my body. The last two weeks were rough for me as I struggled with PMS related chronic fatigue, and I am only beginning to get better again.

Trying to write honestly on this public journal is also a constant struggle, especially with what is happening around the world these days. It seems unfair that I am here writing in relative safety while people are out there either dying due to injustice or fighting for it. But I know if I get caught up in activism I won’t be able to survive the grief and fatigue that comes along with it. To survive, I have to carve a little bubble around me for as long as I can. The price to pay is the existential guilt that I carry around with me everyday.

When I feel well enough these days I do this thing where I would “process” the books that have changed my life. I am using Roam Research to input the raw highlights of the books manually, then I’ll try to synthesise some of those highlights into key learning points. I did this for one of the most important books in my life, “A General Theory of Love” recently:

We can expand one of those points and see the supporting highlights referenced from the book:

The ultimate goal is still to import these synthesised learnings into this website’s library, but Roam allows me to process highlights and see/make connections between them a lot quicker. There are a ton of youtube videos on Roam’s features so I will not go into them for now.

I want to remind myself to always be willing to experiment, so in that spirit I quickly made mobile-friendly screen captures of the above and collated them into Instagram stories. It is now pinned as a highlight on my profile if you would like to take a look. In my past life as a designer I was obsessed with tappable stories, and seven years later I guess I still am. Even though I’m just tapping through a bunch of raw screenshots, there is really something about that format versus a lengthy essay-like book review.

I felt very self-conscious posting these on Instagram, because I have this idea that people want to see happy pictures, not summarised learnings on trauma. Imagine being at a party where people are happily talking about what’s beautiful and exciting in their lives, and here I am being a party downer by telling them how deeply a childhood can affect one’s life. There, I just summed up my entire existence.

That self-conscious feeling follows me everywhere I go: on social media where people tweet about their career achievements or activism, and here I am in my corner, publishing about how our psyches can mess up our entire lives. Because I have abandonment issues, no matter where I go or what I do I feel alienated, isolated from what everyone else is doing.

So it has been deeply comforting to me when internet strangers send me messages to tell me that they resonated with what I shared. It is not validation that I seek, but resonance and connection. Sometimes, I would like to feel less alone. I would also like to facilitate the space for others like me to feel less alone.

That’s why I made this website, or why I took the effort to do the very tedious processing of my books. I’m hoping that somewhere out there, someone could save precious time on their self-healing journey if they came across my notes. And I am doing this with the awareness that an effort like this will not be popular or recognised. I know it will just be a handful of people that will find this useful.

Carl Jung once wrote,

“the sole purpose of human existence: to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being”,

and what I’m really trying to do is to kindle a light in my own darkness of being. If along the way the light I’ve kindled for myself happened to light up someone else’s way, that would be enough.

art by launshae

On a metaphysical systemic level, I do personally believe that true sustainable change can only happen when collectively we understand the importance of an individual’s psyche. As long as we keep dismissing people’s pain and our own pain, there will always be vicious cycles of suffering.

I don’t pretend to think that just by sharing a few learnings of books I’ve read I would be doing anything to contribute to the solution, but on a realistic level in this messed up world, even to ease one person’s one moment of suffering – is something I try to take comfort in.