on-going mostly unedited stream of thoughts

more of the same

Pretty late into my run yesterday I went into a meditative-like zone where my breathing was slow and even, my legs were going at a consistent rhythm, and I found myself thinking: I could do more of the same for a very long time. Repetition tends to be boring, boredom itself is boring, until it becomes somewhat transcendent. It is like an immersive emptiness: my typically noisy mind quietens, I stop needing to make an effort to run, and I simply lean into the sensorial experience of running. There is nothing else but me, the ease of my body, and time becoming weightless.

I did not understand what people mean when they say they run for mental health. How can something so self-torturing make you feel better? I thought they meant the physiological benefits that come from running: the hormones. But once I truly got into running I started to understand that it is very soothing and uplifting to experience a seemingly indefatigable body. Outside of running I walk around as though there is a ton of weight on my shoulders. Everything is dark and heavy, my mind and body both feel like a drag. It can be very transformational to experience the opposite of our usual experiences. At a place where I least expect it, I have discovered how it feels like to be tireless.

I ran 8.5km yesterday, outdoing my previous record of 7.7km last week. That run made me fall quite ill, so I thought it would take me a long while to make another distance record attempt. I don’t deal well with my illness episodes and would tend to avoid that particular trigger because of all that associated fear. Once I had an episode triggered by drinking soup from a hot pot, and I stopped eating hot pot – one of my favourite foods ever – for months. 

But my love for running has made me defiant. Perhaps I just want an hour a day when I can feel like a normal person with a normal body. Or a body that can carry me to places instead of breaking down at every tiny thing I do. Once my biometrics returned to typical values after my illness I ran a slow 5km to test waters. And another. Then I decided to make an attempt to stretch my distance to see if I would break again.

That’s the interesting thing experimenting with my health. There are so many factors behind the body’s capacity to achieve homeostasis. Something that was a trigger on a bad day may be okay for another. I lived in fear for a long time avoiding all my triggers and treaded so gingerly I was not actually living. I have to choose between the potential of having more relapses and living lifelessly. I think there are people who can thrive on a muted life and be thankful that there is at least a spectrum of living that can be available to them. Sometimes this is all they/we can get, having to cope with chronic disabling illnesses. Being muted is definitely better than living with pain every moment. Maybe I am not psychologically mature enough yet to thrive on a muted life. I am greedy and I still want more.

I was more mindful of my recovery yesterday. I tried to eat more carefully, and after meals I did some walking in place to aid circulation instead of letting blood pool at unwanted places. It seems counter-intuitive that more walking is better than total rest, but that’s what I’ve discovered after some experimentation (partially inspired by this youtuber who ran the day after his ultra marathon to recover). I did feel a bit dodgy in the evening but somehow some active deep breathing seemed to circumvent it?

I thought it would be interesting to compare oura metrics of the day after: last week my body temp was high and respiratory rate was out of the norm compared to today’s metrics, which is within my typical range.

last week: increased body temp, RHR and respiratory rate
last week
today: everything within typical range

Today my HRV was high enough and stable, whereas last week it went a little berserk dipping really low and going very high. I would interpret it as my parasympathetic nervous system going into overdrive to try to recover.

last week: extreme hrv swings
high hrv is not always a good thing
today: stable hrv
steady hrv

The biggest factor was that last week I ran on day 6 of my cycle, and I was already experiencing some mild symptoms that morning. My bad, I know. But I wonder if it would have made a difference had I tried to be mindful of my recovery? Or is it just impossible to expect my body to manage both the stress of my cycle and running? I guess I would have to wait for my next cycle to find out.

Longer distance running teaches me equanimity. I know 8.5km is puny for seasoned runners but I have never ventured out of 5 in my entire running life until this year, and I was already struggling with 5. So it feels like a profound improvement to be able to simply take one step after another until I hit my targeted distance.

I could keep doing this – more of the same – I found myself thinking repeatedly while I ran. And it wasn’t dreadful to anticipate more of this same, I felt neutral bordering on joyous. How can something so boring become so stabilising, so enlivening?

I wondered how I could translate this to day to day life. I think about the myth of Sisyphus, that Camus implored us to imagine Sisyphus being happy. I think being happy is a huge stretch, but it would be enough to be equanimous: to remain centered and calm regardless of what life throws at us. More of the same, more of the same – whether it is sadness, weight, loss – we go on.

I find life difficult to endure. I guess that is why paradoxically I like things that require endurance. I don’t have endurance, so I aspire towards it. These days when something bad happens I try to invoke the spirit that comes from running, the centeredness that allows me to take step after step regardless of the underlying mental or physical discomfort. 

It is entirely justifiable to have these so-called negative feelings in response to negative events, it is the dwelling that causes extra suffering. I also think it is entirely valid to dwell after profound loss and suffering, but I dwell at everything. And I dwell in the anticipation of potential suffering. 

Life is heavy. But I’m pre-bracing myself for more and more weight. In sports it is important to know when to relax and recover before taking huge amounts of stress. Being tense all the time is detrimental. I can’t live every day fretting and fearful. 

How do I incorporate the mental attitude I have towards running in the rest of my day? I find it very amusing that I have such incongruent attitudes. I would expect the drudgery of my life to influence my running but somehow it turned out opposite. There is an openness and willingness that exists in my running that exists almost nowhere else. Maybe it is the beginner mindset, that the cynicism has not had time to set in and solidify yet. I have not encountered enough disappointments or setbacks to make me feel jaded about running. Everything seems to tire me out, but that one thing that is supposed to tire me out is that one thing that is reinvigorating. 

Can I let life pass through me the way I let the distance under my legs unfold? More of the same, without dread and with subtle anticipation? That the passing of time will become less of a weight but more of a peaceful stillness? That all the narrative will dissipate from my mind and all that is left is a full emptiness?

I don’t really know what exactly it is about the repetitive enduring nature of running that makes going into that zone possible. I seem to be close to grasping it, but it eludes me. It is probably the same element behind the practice of meditation. A secret door that opens up if I’m willing to endure the monotony. 

Maybe to run or meditate requires some conscious control of both the mind and the body and yet paradoxically letting go. There is a conscious attempt to reach some form of harmony and rhythm. But I’m always out of sorts and out of sync in my day to day activities. Always fretting, always frustrated, always impatient, always sad, always dissatisfied. My soul is fragmented all over the place, but during a run I am fully embodied. At every stride I am collecting myself all over again, rinse and repeat. Running accumulates power for me, but the act of living drains it out of me. 

illustration of living draining me vs running enlivening me

How can I live in such a way whereby the act of living itself accumulates life force within me instead of dissipating it? I don’t have answers yet again. These days I feel like I’m a beginner at life, to learn how to live a life that is not conditioned and ingrained into me by the effects of society, a life that is not heavy with the baggage of my past but rather light with the freshness of tomorrow mixed in with the solidity of today. Is this even possible?

to be willing to search

I broke a personal distance record yesterday while running very slowly, though my current “slow” speed would spike my heart rate at least by 10bpm just a few weeks ago. I accomplished 7.7km from last week’s 7km, attempting to add 10% distance every week as advised by experienced runners on the internet. 

I was having a remnant headache from the day before but I ran anyway thinking it could fade along the way. It did fade along the way and I felt pretty good during the run, or I wouldn’t have attempted that distance. To celebrate my small milestone I ordered some pulled pork on a croffle for breakfast – I usually eat low carb but I thought it could replenish some glycogen lost during that run.

My headache imploded into a migraine a couple of hours after my breakfast. I went from enjoying a rare croffle to having nausea so bad that I couldn’t even stomach a few spoonfuls of soup. I really love to eat, so my partner knows I am really sick when I start rejecting food. I spent the day slumped, interspersed with trips to the bathroom wondering if my stomach would choose to empty its contents.

Of course the self-blaming started. I should not have run or eaten that croffle. My traditional chinese physician told me not to run until day 7 of my cycle but it is impossible tell any aspiring runner to take an entire week off running. I started an easy run on day 3 and ran a zone 2 run on day 5, and I thought my body felt well enough to run on day 6 again. 

It is actually impossible to tell what would have happened if I didn’t run. I spent months, years avoiding streneous exercise until my fitness suffered. I have had period cycles when I did nothing and I had still have gotten migraines. They also happened when I did light walking instead. They happened when I went too low carb or ate too much. They happened so much that I blamed myself for all the choices I have made.

I knew this is bound to happen if I wanted to push the limits of my body, even in a reasonable way. Muscle will only grow when they breakdown, mitochondria will only generate if you push them to a certain threshold. In short, there is no aspiring for improved health without some level of discomfort. I don’t want my body to gingerly exist, I want to feel like my body is thriving. I have been weak and sick for my entire life. For once, I want to know what it is like to be strong.

I am typing this as some remnants of my migraine lurks in the shadows. I have no way of telling if it will develop later. But I have had bouts when it just progressively grows worse for days, even disrupting my sleep with extreme pain. I slept reasonably well last night. 

I write about the second arrow buddhist parable often. The first arrow pierces our skin and causes real physical suffering, the second arrow is the suffering generated by the response to the first. I am actually pretty skeptical of buddhist teachings (or any religious teachings) at times because I resent the insinuation that we are capable of choosing our responses when neuroscience seems to point otherwise. This places the entire responsibility on the individual (okay I am digressing into another essay) instead of empathising with the circumstances that shaped that nervous system in the first place. But based on my personal experience we are capable of small nudges…if the conditions are right, and a lot of those conditions do depend on external circumstances that can be out of our control. The key is to recognise where we are at the moment

Another key buddhist teaching (I am no scholar so this is my interpretation) is the acceptance of reality. I also resent this sometimes because can we really throw someone into a concentration camp and ask of them to accept their reality? My personal belief is that both responses are equally valid: it is valid to be unable to accept reality if that reality is unjust, but it is also valid to accept reality if that is what that provides another door that we seek. I think it is valid to hold both responses at the same time.

So, I do rage against my own reality that I am plagued with this never-ending condition, and yet I do have somewhere in me that accepts this reality. This acceptance does confer some inner freedom as even a tiny bit of acceptance alongside the rage will make a difference in how we navigate our inner world. If there is solely rage, only certain doors are open. But if there are other responses alongside that rage, perhaps there can be a wider or different spectrum of doors available.

illustration depicting a wider range of doors if we can encompass polarities of emotions

There is self-pity and self-blame as I suffered my migraine yesterday. But perhaps there is also a newish voice that is emerging: reminding myself that the suffering and the self that I was experiencing is different from before (also it helps to have a kind partner who consistently reminds me of the same). It is easy to believe we are caught in the same old trap – one of the outcomes of chronic trauma – replaying the same tape over and over again deepening the neural connections that reinforce the memory and the suffering. 

This time my symptoms are less severe, and it is possibly triggered by a 7.7km run, not by merely lifting my finger. I wanted to push my limits and my limits are broadened as I have wanted. It would be unrealistic for me to expect zero negative consequences.

have lost so much of myself, but in returned I gained new parts of me. I can be angry at my illness and yet grateful to it at the same time. I think my life would have been on an entirely different trajectory had I not fallen sick, but I still believe I would have been much narrower as a person, because I was a workaholic and nothing could fill me up except work. I think it is valid to grieve my old self, but also anticipate the new parts of me emerging over this process. 

I just wish I can remember all of this when the lights go out in my head and I succumb to the darkness – perhaps intellectually I know all of this during those times, but the darkness was just too overwhelming and paralysing to search for any tiny flickering of lights within me. Or maybe it is okay to allow myself to be fully immersed in my own darkness instead of unhealthy repression. Sometimes it feels almost cleansing in the aftermath. To feel all of it, to acknowledge its existence.

I am not pretending I have the right answers or any. But I am searching. To be willing to search, I think that makes all the difference.

when my body goes rogue

[cw: pain, death] Yesterday I started experiencing pain in my body again. It is difficult not to feel low when it happens. I think chronic pain snowballs into a form of ptsd, where every attack triggers all the trauma and feelings of the previous accumulated experiences. 

The pain I experienced yesterday wasn’t even that bad relatively, but it is also the sort of pain that may trigger the debilitating pain I live in fear of. If I’m lucky it fades overnight – my body has managed to overcome the crisis somehow, if I’m unlucky it starts imploding during my sleep. I have no idea how it would unfold, but I try my best to avoid the latter. But sometimes there is no avoiding: I have learnt that when extreme pain happens it would seem like it was triggered by something minor, but probably at that point it was already accumulating in the background for days if not weeks. The wave has to crash some day.

I started wondering about the point of my existence, and the burden I can be to my partner. I think about all those times I had grand aspirations only to be thwarted by pain. I think about the fact that the last update to the learning network project was 6 long years ago, and I was not able to work on it since then. I am not sure if I have lost interest in it, or that the memory of working intensely triggers painful memories of pain, that each time this sort of intense work has been harmful to me physically, so any desire I have to make something complex has gradually died over the years. I don’t allow myself to have grand ideas anymore, because I know I wouldn’t be able to execute them. People who used to know my working self would know how far is this departure from my former self…I was the person who was always brimming with ideas, always making prototypes, always having some brightness in my eyes as I talk about them. 

That light in my eyes has died a long time ago.

My partner asked: what about the writing, the photography? I know I should feel lucky that I am still able to do some of these things because I know of people who can’t even get out of bed. But am I still allowed to grieve to have lost such a part of myself? I asked her in return how would she feel if she could no longer work on the projects she works on: last year she had a bout of illness which rendered her bed bound for a long while so she had an inkling of what I’ve experienced over the past few years. She had to agree with me that it is entirely reasonable for me to start contemplating my existence. To be able to make things is so much part of her, probably at an even higher intensity than me.

What I am truly grateful for is to have at least one person who is not dismissive of my pain and feelings – that I should be grateful to be simply alive because look at all the people suffering out there. This argument may work on people who actually like living, but I was never really into it in the first place. But I berate myself repeatedly anyway: I should be grateful. But don’t you think it is quite perverse if one can feel better simply by knowing there is someone else who is worse off? Isn’t pain a very personal experience? Does seeing deeper wounds make mine hurt less? Knowing there is immense suffering out there only serves to thin my already precarious relationship with life. But maybe the difference is most people have some will to survive. Mine is like a flickering flame about to go out anytime.

I feel like I am already more than halfway through my lifespan and my wretched relationship with life has not improved. We can only perceive the world through our very own lenses in our minds. Mine has been broken since I was conscious. Is it possible to overcome something so deeply embedded in me? Is living a few good years worth all the physical, emotional and mental pain I’ve endured? 

Someone who is supposed to be close to me asked me recently if my migraines are psychosomatic – that my anxiety is the cause of their emergence. (This is why I am in solidarity with long covid sufferers, it is not enough to suffer, we still get shit like this on a frequent basis.) It is tempting to write a long essay here examining what we think of as psychosomatic and what someone really means when they say that. But maybe I’ll save that for another post. But okay let’s just assume that my migraines are psychosomatic. Do you know what it is like to live in a body with a brain that automatically generates physical pain for us because our nervous system is out of control? It is not just pain, but the sort of pain that makes death seem like the blissful state. It is not as though I can say, hey brain, please stop, please stop making me so anxious that you brain start going into an energetic crisis and melt down into excruciating pain. 

Imagine wearing a mask that fits so tightly that we cannot breathe. Now imagine being unable to remove that mask forever. That’s how it feels like living with my brain. How do you think it feels to be permanently melded with something that seems to be trying to kill me slowly? Am I supposed to feel shame that I have a rogue brain whereas everyone else seems to be in perfect control of theirs (lol)? Is it supposed to make me feel better that my pain doesn’t have a “real” cause? 

[Okay this is where I break to say the brain can’t differentiate mental and physical stress so it’ll flood us with stress hormones anyhow and will cause physical illness. One of the biggest factors of any disease isstress. It doesn’t matter of an actual lion is trying to kill you or your boss is being an asshole. Here’s a book if you would like to read more about this.]

I try to look for the bright spots, to search for beauty in the ordinary. But I am not sure if I do it simply because I have no choice. I have to distract myself with something, anything, or face an unbearable abyss for the rest of my life.

My partner tells me I am not always like this. The version of me that writes an entry like this. I guess if we read my writing long enough, I do oscillate between this and seemingly more positive states. I tell her this version of me is my most authentic self. I wear a mask otherwise, to be socially acceptable, to be less of a burden to my partner, or to even be acceptable to myself. Is this true? I don’t actually know. When I am here, it feels like I’ve always been here. 

I guess I just need to give this part of me a voice sometimes. I tell my partner I am very tired of always trying. She tells me it is okay to stop trying. At least for a few days, to give myself a break. This time I decide to listen to her, so here I am writing a post like this.

my strange relationship with time

I have a strange relationship with time. On one hand, I have time anxiety: the fear that time will pass too quickly and I’ll run out of time. On the other hand, there are times when I am bored, wishing time will pass more quickly to the next eventful event. 

I try to cope with my time anxiety by doing more, filling up my time. But it inevitably leaves me exhausted and frazzled, thinning the relationship with myself. Or sometimes I overdo things and I burn out so I am unable to do anything even though I have copious amounts of time – this exposes my inability to be compassionate with myself as I berate myself for being useless and a time waster.

Being aware of time makes me uncomfortable and anxious. It increases the distance between my self and everything else, because I think too much about time to be fully present. 

posted the other day that knowing how to rest is a rare skill. Rest should be fruitful: we should recover and rejuvenate, coming out of the period feeling refreshed and hopefully inspired. But resting makes me frustrated, because I cannot shake off the feeling that I am wasting time. If only I can fully immerse myself into the emptiness of time and learn to truly decompress, I wouldn’t be stuck in the twilight zone of neither here nor there. I was wasting time by resting, because I didn’t know how to rest. Did it make me feel better or worse off?

In the societies we live in today, I am not unique in my estranged relationship with time. Mandy Brown cites Mary Ruefle making the point that wasting time is not time wasted, and is necessary for creativity:

I return to Mary Ruefle:

John Ashbery, in an interview in the Poetry Miscellany, talks about wasting time: “I waste a lot of time. That’s part of the [creative process]….The problem is, you can’t really use this wasted time. You have to have it wasted. Poetry disequips you for the requirements of life. You can’t use your time.” In other words, wasted time cannot be filled, or changed into another habit; it is a necessary void of fomentation…Gertrude Stein: “It takes a lot of time to be a genius, you have to sit around so much doing nothing, really doing nothing.”… The only purpose of this lecture, this letter, my only intent, goal, object, desire, is to waste time. For there is so little time to waste during a life, what little there is being so precious, that we must waste it, in whatever way we come to waste it, with all our heart.

Source: Out of time by Mandy Brown | link

She also points to the smartphone as the source of our restlessness:

In this way, smartphones consume rest. I mean to defy the usual consumption metaphor—in which we (the users) consume whatever the device makes available. Instead, I think the devices (and their attendant systems and modes, the apps and news feeds and platforms and whatnot) consume usWe are consumed: our rest, our ease, our leisure, our breath—all are eaten up by the flickering and frittering and jittering of inconstant screens.

Source: Out of time by Mandy Brown | link

…and of course I am guilty too of letting my smartphone consume me. I much enjoy doomscrolling to be honest, it takes me away from the sad noise of my mind. Who wouldn’t prefer that cute dog video or that very interesting thing compared to the depressive chatter in the mind? I think there are times when such a diversion is necessary in exchange for sanity, but in the long run I know it is being able to be with my mind that will open the doors I am seeking.

Even teenagers know this:

She lucidly explains how going “Luddite” has helped her with school, sleep, friendship, reading, concentration, and “hanging out with yourself.”

– Logan Lane and the Luddite Club

It is somewhat depressing and yet inspiring when someone less than half my age seems to know how to live better than me (I think there is much to learn from the younger generations, if we’re willing, because they grew up without the boxes that we have). It is ironic because I probably only got to know about this random teenager through doomscrolling, but there is a difference between conscious exploration of the online world, versus letting it crowd our minds without agency. Is it necessary or healthy to fill our minds up with so many people’s thoughts, prejudices, trauma, beliefs, projections, emotions? I ask myself this very often these days.

The concept of time – that it exists independently, and that we can measure it in an absolute sense – is dodgy in the world of quantum physics, according to Carlo Rovelli:

There is no single time: there is a different duration for every trajectory; and time passes at different rhythms according to place and according to speed. It is not directional: the difference between past and future does not exist in the elementary equations of the world; its orientation is merely a contingent aspect that appears when we look at things and neglect the details. In this blurred view, the past of the universe was in a curiously “particular” state. The notion of the “present” does not work: in the vast universe there is nothing that we can reasonably call “present.” The substratum that determines the duration of time is not an independent entity, different from the others that make up the world; it is an aspect of a dynamic field. It jumps, fluctuates, materializes only by interacting, and is not to be found beneath a minimum scale. . . . So, after all this, what is left of time?

Source: The order of time by Carlo Rovelli | link

abstract illustration of time

I find reading “The order of time” very intriguing, because I might as well be reading a book on Buddhist philosophy. It is very Buddhist to state that there is nothing when we try to break down everything:

On closer inspection, in fact, even the things that are most “thinglike” are nothing more than long events. The hardest stone, in the light of what we have learned from chemistry, from physics, from mineralogy, from geology, from psychology, is in reality a complex vibration of quantum fields, a momentary interaction of forces, a process that for a brief moment manages to keep its shape, to hold itself in equilibrium before disintegrating again into dust, a brief chapter in the history of interactions between the elements of the planet, a trace of Neolithic humanity, a weapon used by a gang of kids, an example in a book about time, a metaphor for an ontology, a part of a segmentation of the world that depends more on how our bodies are structured to perceive than on the object of perception—and, gradually, an intricate knot in that cosmic game of mirrors that constitutes reality. The world is not so much made of stones as of fleeting sounds, or of waves moving through the sea.

Source: The order of time by Carlo Rovelli | link

Contrast this with this statement by Matthieu Ricard, probably the most famous monk in the present world:

It quite simply affirms that, if we dig deep enough, there is a difference between the way we see the world and the way it really is, and the way it really is, we’ve discovered, is devoid of intrinsic existence.

Source: The quantum and the lotus by Matthieu Ricard, Trịnh Xuân Thuận | link

They are basically saying the same thing, except Buddha was a genius for intuiting this a couple of thousand years ago. So what does it mean if time and/or matter doesn’t really exist in the way we believe them to be? How does this change my relationship with time? Time and reality may not be very real but how we feel about these concepts have very real implications of how we live life. I think what helps me is that it softens everything for me, that I don’t have to be rigid, because nothing is rigid:

And a human being? Of course it’s not a thing; like the cloud above the mountain, it’s a complex process, where food, information, light, words, and so on enter and exit. . . . A knot of knots in a network of social relations, in a network of chemical processes, in a network of emotions exchanged with its own kind.

Source: The order of time by Carlo Rovelli | link

…and that our mistake is thinking of the world in absolute terms, when it will make more sense if we think of it as the constant changing of events:

The error lies in seeking to understand the world in terms of things rather than events. It lies in ignoring change. The physics and astronomy that will work, from Ptolemy to Galileo, from Newton to Schrödinger, will be mathematical descriptions of precisely how things change, not of how they are. They will be about events, not things. The shapes of atoms will be eventually understood only with solutions to Schrödinger’s equations describing how the electrons in atoms move. Events again, not things.

Source: The order of time by Carlo Rovelli | link

By extension, my mistake is to think of myself as as an independent complete self that is already made: full of flaws, prone to failures, as though it is completely up to me that I am shaped this way, that my relationship with time is self-determined. Just like it is not easy to dictate our own schedules when we first break free of the standard 9-5 regimen, it is not easy to have a personal healthy relationship with time when the world functions on such a rigid notion of time.

I am changing, but I don’t want to be a process. I want myself to be an off-on switch. In the end, the Buddha is right again. It is having unrealistic expectations that causes suffering.

But if we think deeply into the idea that we’re a network of processes, we may learn to expect differently. Because nothing is fixed and solid, there is space and there is potential. What will pass, what is ongoing, and what is next? Nothing stays still. That is the curse and gift of time.

When I am at rest or when I am bored, I mistakenly think that nothing is happening. Something is always happening. The body repairs itself, the subconscious sorts itself out. After all, the best ideas seem to come in the shower. Can I learn to welcome that quiet and emptying instead of labelling it?

How do we have self-compassion in that space between the person we are and the person we wish to become? Frustration too, can be a friend I recognise. I am frustrated because I know there is something off in this moment. But perhaps instead of being mad at the discomfort of this offness, I can examine why. When we leave our feelings as they are they may linger or snowball, but maybe when we try to look underneath those layers, their stranglehold on us may not be as solid as we believe them to be.

I guess I want to have an easy relationship with time. That in my ideal world and with my ideal self, I will not feel the anxiety of time passing because every moment is fruitful. But going back to the idea of impermanence, perhaps this ideal state does not exist because I am always in flux, in the process of changing. What feels fruitful to me today may not satisfy my tomorrows. Something tedious this week may feel restful next. I must be willing to keep engaging, to keep having an evolving relationship with time. And to have a healthier relationship with time, maybe the key is to be capable of relating to myself better.

I seem to always be unhappy with the choices I make, that’s why. It is hard to thrive when one has an antagonistic relationship with one self.

the magical threshold of endurance

When I first set up my mastodon profile I wrote an introduction toot. I didn’t think too much about it, preferring to write whatever that came to my mind feeling true about me at that moment. Part of it said: “recently i’ve gotten into cooking and running – they both require endurance“.

Upon writing it I felt like I’ve touched upon something that greatly resonated within my self. I realised activities that bring me a deep sense of presence and groundedness are those that require a cultivation of endurance. 

It is the enduring of slowness, or rather of things happening rather slowly. I definitely had some form of attention deficit which is a long-running source of frustration for me because I had difficulty waiting for anything. Since life is a lot of waiting, and waiting is a torture, life became a torture. 

Some people deal with this by filling up their mind and time with more and more things so they will never have to experience even a split second of a pause. Isn’t that the attraction of the infinite scroll?

I was like that too, and probably still would be if not for my health. I was also increasingly aware of my mind getting more fatigued and frazzled. Why wouldn’t it be after being bombarded non-stop with information that I mindlessly consumed because I couldn’t bear the thought of facing the starkness of an empty moment?

I discovered the subtle joy of endurance by accident. I picked up both running and cooking for health reasons, not because I wanted to have endurance. Both activities felt like torture at the beginning stages, and I stopped doing them so many times throughout the past decade or so because I didn’t enjoy them at all.

But I had many accidental stepping stones along the way. Doing food delivery, learning to meditate, cycling, etc – things that require the practice of waiting. I never managed to have a regular meditation practice, but every attempt chalked up experience points. We forget that failures contribute to the learning process. There is something magical about the way our skills improve on a subconscious level.

We’re never the same person each and every time we pick up something we’ve previously failed several times. But our minds believe we are, so we tell ourselves: why bother to try again? I guess this is why physical exercise can be so life-changing. The point of exercise above a certain intensity is to fail – failure is what that brings progress. Once we realise and truly learn this, we are able to look forward to failing and not associate it with negative feelings.

This is the most obvious in strength building, but also plainly demonstrated in endurance exercises. As a beginner runner any amount of distance will cause distress and pain, especially if we don’t know how to run. It was unenjoyable for me for a very long time over several attempts, and I believed runners were masochistic. I remember the very painful soreness of my muscles – heck even a 2 hour hike caused my muscles to be sore for days after, that was how unfit I was. Every time we attempt a longer distance it brings forth feelings of failure: fatigue and distress. We may end the run feeling defeated, like wow that took so much out of us, is it even possible to try it again? But without the willingness to endure these feelings and sensations, we will not be able to experience the reward of going the distance.

I thought the point of running is to build up a tolerance to that sort of physical discomfort. I think that is still true to an extent, running does become uncomfortable after a certain mileage regardless of one’s fitness – I am sure it can be quite uncomfortable to run a 100km ultramarathon. But after building a certain level of aerobic fitness there is a magical threshold where running feels effortless, therapeutic and joyful. An experience I would never have had if I didn’t try and try again.

Sometimes after a stretch of joy there will come a period of boredom that comes with monotonous repetitive motion. I look up and I see a stretch of pavement that seems to go on forever. That sight can be daunting: everything seems to pass so slowly, there is still so much distance to cover, my mind is so bored. Then, there is another magical threshold where the slow passing of time becomes a peaceful stillness like I am in another world where I am part of the world and the world is part of me, that same never-ending stretch of pavement invokes feelings of: wow I wish this would never end.

image of a pavement that never seems to end
wow when is this going to end vs i wish this would never end

That’s the thing about activities that require endurance. They will feel tedious and frustrating at the beginning, or they wouldn’t require endurance. There is developing the endurance for the activity itself – i.e. enduring the fatigue of running long distances or the monotonousness of chopping vegetables, and then there is a meta endurance that can be developed to endure the attempt to endure. This is mostly mental, to be able to continue doing something regardless of how we feel about it in that moment, to not give up because we feel frustrated.

My previous experiences taught me that the feelings of frustration are mostly temporary, that the experience will feel radically different once I breached the magical threshold. This sort of meta endurance seeps into other parts of life. Meditation is supposed to instil this in us, but it was learning to run that was the most potent for me. Running longer distances is literally about containing one’s feelings while putting one foot in front of the other repeatedly, there is almost no other skill required – just take one step at a time. Yet being able to put more and more of these simple one-steps together confers very obvious improvements to one’s fitness, which alters the feelings of the experience. Those beginning runs were unbearable, then they became tolerable, and now they are enjoyable. Then there is the data: the gradually lowered heart rate while running at the same pace, being able recover faster from longer and longer distances through monitoring heart-rate variability. The rewards are obvious and easily demonstrated, not an abstraction. Running is one of the most positive feedback loops I have in my life, and the positive outcomes that arise out of it becomes a sustaining reservoir when I attempt other things that require endurance. Instead of physical one-steps at a time, I try to take psychological one-steps at a time in other areas of my life.

Maybe most of us don’t realise this, but we miss out on a lot of life when we are incapable of experiencing time slowly passing. It can feel good when time passes so quickly that we don’t notice it, but that’s not the same as piling our brains and schedule with so much that life becomes a messy blur with no distinct shape or colour.

Being able to sit still during long periods of time passing slowly may not magically make us happy, but being unable to tolerate this during unavoidable circumstances will definitely make us very unhappy. Because of my intolerance to boredom and waiting I was unable to learn a lot of new skills I wanted to, because a lot of skills involves being able to endure going nowhere for large amounts of time and making countless mistakes along the way. I was also unable to acquire certain new experiences because “they seem so boring”. Even the idea of purely listening to music without doing anything else seemed boring. Everything becomes boring once our minds become used to having something grabbing our attention every micro-second. Sooner or later, only tiktok is not boring.

How many of us can sit at a beach and stare into the horizon for hours? This will probably seem like an unattractive proposition to many. But being alone with our selves in the stillness of nature can be a life-altering, enriching experience. It will also make us less afraid of being alone, which has its own positive consequences.

Don’t get me wrong, I am still very easily frustrated and intolerant. But I do notice the differences in my responses to stimuli, or the lack of. I am still not a happy person as I’ve repeatedly asserted in my writing countless times, but there is a new spaciousness that comes with developing my endurance. There is a marked contrast between what I could not tolerate before and now the same experiences bother me a lot less. I also enjoy the thrill of hitting new running distances.

It would have been unimaginable for me to think of myself as a person who likes doing things that require endurance, like how I described myself on mastodon. I guess I am not unique to this phenomenon of wanting to develop more endurance, or else ultramarathons would not exist. There is just something inside me that lights up when I hit a new endurance milestone, whether is it a running distance, or a dish that requires tedious cooking. I would love to learn to be capable of meditating an hour some day, but that’s still light years away.

For now, being able to run 10km will suffice.

why my health is precious

On the outside, I look fine. Even in the worst of my health, I looked athletic, glowing even with a perpetual tan. Just like we can’t tell if someone has diabetes, we can’t tell if someone is dealing with chronic health issues like migraines too. 

Migraines are the first cause of disability for people under 50s. No one would believe me if I tell them I have a disability. During attacks, I cannot move. Even an inch would bring the most piercing of pain. During the worst of times, my migraines would not relent. Even when the pain subsides, I would be left with the most debilitating body ache, fatigue and remnant pain all over my head. I have spent days, weeks, months doing nothing except closing my eyes and hoping that the pain would go away. My eye balls would feel like it was being stabbed with an ice-pick repeatedly. I would not wish a migraine on the worst of my enemies. 

I have been dealing with this for 8 years now, with no sight of full recovery. I have become a radically different person because of my migraines. I plan my entire life around them. I have become a social recluse because I need to protect my energy reserves. I lost the ability to work in my previous profession – not that I liked it much anyway, but it was still traumatic to lose so much of my identity and what people see as my capability. I lost my zest for life, though I didn’t have much of it in the first place. I lost hope. I lost my self. 

On hindsight, I can say that I’m a less unhappy person now because of all that I’ve learnt and done to cope. But the outcome does not ease the suffering endured. Most people do not know what it is like to be truly disabled. Do you know what it is like to curl up in bed for hours and hours like something is stabbing the insides of your head? Do you know what it is like to have so little energy that you can barely feed yourself, much less think of doing anything you wish to do? Do you know what it is like to see people living life while you miss out on all of it? I honestly thought I was better off dead. What is the point of living when every moment is filled with pain? 

After years of crawling slowly back to a semblance of relative health with so many setbacks in between, I am finally able to live like a person. Not like a normal person, but at least like a person. Not just an empty, immobile shell. I can spend some time of the day on exercise, on going out – things that were unavailable to me before. I even completed a six-day bike mechanic class that would have been impossible before. I am not back to where I was prior to these 8 years and probably would never be again, but I am leaps and bounds better. 

But I still can’t do things that normal people can do. My energy levels are uneven and dismal. I am easily exhausted, and exhaustion triggers pain. I spend so much time coping with this illness, that I hardly have any energy to do anything creative, except for writing. Too much screen time may trigger eye pain and migraine. I don’t have the mental stamina to perform long deep bouts of thinking, something I used to do every day as part of my work. 

So no. I don’t wish to get a virus that would set me back years of difficult recovery and potentially leave me in a worse shape than ever. It makes it very challenging for me to understand why people would risk their health this way. I guess I sort of do, because I was once this callous with my health when I was younger and seemed invincible. Unfortunately we do not cherish our health until we have experienced what it is like to lose it.

If people knew: what I gave of my self to continue surviving, the volume of tears I have shed, the hopelessness that has plagued me incessantly, the time I have spent wishing for death, the daily restrictions and limitations I have to imprison myself with, what it is like to have a body that does not respond to pleas, to cease having ambitions because there is no point having them, to be unable to sleep because something is grating painfully inside my head, to exist but not live, to put up with all the remarks people have made over the years because they do not believe I am sick – maybe, just maybe, they would not think it is amusing that I refuse to take off that mask.

Maybe they would not take off their masks too, if they truly understood the risks of catching covid (again). Or maybe they like their odds, because life has never been against them. Or maybe there is an evolutionary mechanism that makes human beings blind to risks, isn’t that how we came so far? Nature is relentless, it does not care about the health of a single individual. It simply wants life to go on, regardless of the numbers sacrificed. Just like our governments, I guess.

I don’t mind being a laughing stock if this is what it takes to preserve my ability to think. It is brutal reading of scientists, academics, people who have to rely on their brains for their work – being unable to form coherent sentences and remember things that used to come so easily to them because of post-covid effects. Effects that may or may not be permanent. Would I want to play that roulette? Regardless of the disabling effects of my migraines I was still able to retain the capacity to think, even throughout all that pain. I can’t lose the only thing I seem to still have – my mind.

And yes, perhaps I would still get infected despite all my attempts, especially because the world has given up and it is becoming more unsafe as countries remove their mask mandates (or any mandate) one by one despite people still dying, hospitals still not coping, people still getting disabled – huge swaths of the population disappearing is better than the economy suffering I suppose, the math has been calculated. 

But at the very least I know I had done everything in my capacity to avoid this seemingly inevitable fate, that I have tried to prolong my state of health for as long as I could, that it is the failure of our species to recognise what is truly valuable that has caused all of this unnecessary suffering – it would not be because I didn’t cherish my health. 

My health is precious, because I know what it is like to lose it, and I am honestly not sure if I can endure losing more of it, especially since life with my health wasn’t very appealing to start with.

Duh, of course health is precious. Anyone’s health is precious, not just mine. But if that was the truth the world would not be in this very state now. We would not think that having a piece of covering on our faces is so antagonistic to our freedoms that we’re willing to lose our health over it.

Yes I know this will be unpopular. I know I will be unpopular. I know the world has “moved on” despite the virus not losing its virulence or its contagiousness nor its potential to wreak havoc on people’s lives. I know I am in an extreme minority still advocating for serious caution.

But this is my writing, my life. If I cannot even bring myself to write my truth, what is the whole point?

Additional reading

why I love running

In 2018 I ran 60 days straight because I hated running, so I needed to depend on streak challenge. I hated running because I didn’t know how to run. Every run was torture, I was already out of breath by the 500m mark and my chest felt quite uncomfortable. I didn’t know back then, but my runs were anaerobic – a state where the body produces a lot of lactic acid and can no longer be supported with oxygen. No wonder I was feeling like hell each and every run.

These days, I have to be convinced thoroughly not to run. I depend on my biometrics to tell me if I should run, so every morning while the apps are loading I silently hope that they would tell me my body is in an okay state to exercise.

I started to like running because I learnt to run really slowly. I started running really slowly because I was trying to run at zone 2, and due to my lack of fitness my zone 2 was really slow. In fact, a brisk walk then could easily send my heart into zone 2. It still felt hard and tiring because I was so unfit, but I enjoyed being capable of enduring.

My health has been terrible since 2015, so I don’t have a positive relationship with my body. I resented it for everything I could not do due to its failure. It was unfair of course: it failed because I had nonchalantly abused it for a very long time.

But thankfully my chronic illnesses didn’t affect my body’s ability to move, and its capacity to learn how to endure. In the early days of trying to exercise I did keep burning out though, because its limits were small and I had no idea how to regulate myself.

Being able to to train my endurance albeit very slowly makes me feel like my body is still capable of improving, that it still holds the potential to become stronger and healthier, despite how violently ill I get sometimes when my migraines attack.

So when I got to the point where I could run effortlessly, it simply felt like a miracle. For so many years my body refused to budge when I tried to get it to heal, but when I run, I can feel able – my body is supporting me in ways I could never have imagined in my previous life.

I have never felt connected to my body, even before I got chronically sick. I have memories of always feeling tired, always hating physical education classes, always avoiding physical activity. I was that person who would walk extra steps to find an escalator instead of using the stairs.

When I was unfit, even walking at a slight incline would quickly render me out of breath. These days I spritely jog up steep inclines without missing a beat. Running is the only time I feel unencumbered by my body, that I belong to my body and it belongs to me. I am not just a mind existing awkwardly in an uncomfortable body.

We can work very hard at a lot of things in life without seeing much improvement. But somehow the body will get conditioned (in most cases, except people with certain health conditions, sadly), even one as weak as mine. I see my improvements get reflected in my biometrics, my running pace, how quickly I recover. Even without the pleasure of running itself, I look forward to seeing my numbers improve. It is nice to not rely on gauging my feelings but to let the data tell the truth.

I used to get knocked out after a bout of running. One run in the morning, and I was useless for the rest of the day. Now my energy reserves seem to be increasing – I don’t want to jinx myself of course. I used to feel absolutely wiped out after a short outing: I would need to rest in bed for hours after. Most people don’t know what it is like to feel disabled. We associate disability with some form of a physical impairment. Outwardly I look golden, people have a hard time believing I am sick. The reality is: I could hardly do anything for years and years. Perhaps that is also a major reason why writing is such a crutch for me. No matter how physically tired I get, I can still move my fingers and type. My migraines would take even that away from me.

I can now last half a day out without severe repercussions. It took me so long, so much work to get to this point. That’s why I’m terrified of getting ill again to lose this all.

Despite all my health shortcomings I still managed to work up to being capable of running 5km every day. The runs are feeling less and less difficult. Apart from the initial warm up phase I hardly feel any difficulty. It feels like a breeze, like I am gliding, like I am made to run, like magic.

Every day I look forward to feeling this sense of aliveness, something that is missing from the rest of my day. But I am hoping this bucket of aliveness I generate during my runs would spill over some day, permeating the rest of my hours with a sort of spiritedness that would return me my capacity to be creative again.

Is that asking for too much for a sick person like me?

to be my self is to be lonely

Loneliness is a frequent theme in my writing. I struggle with it a lot, but not in the way most people do. People seem to need frequent social interactions and a wide social circle, I prefer to spend most of my time either with my partner or simply alone. My loneliness is more of an existential loneliness: I feel alone in this world, as though I don’t relate to most human beings – this is something that is actually made worse with social interaction, because being around people amplifies how out of place I am.

I think that is why I have a love/hate relationship with social media. It has brought me the rare resonance I sought, but often it just makes me feel lonelier. I often wonder about the analog days. In those days we don’t post our views or work or art online, so there is no sense of rejection. Is it worse to have no chance of connection, or to have none among the multitude of potential connections?

I often thought of giving up my existence. Is it worth existing in a world that doesn’t resonate, that I’ll never have a sense of belonging from? I do know I am not the only human being who has felt this way in the course of human history. But it is one thing to intellectually know, and another thing to live with this feeling deeply rooted in my bones. Every day, I feel like I have woken up in the wrong world.

Meeting my partner has made it tremendously better, with my weirdness being accepted and loved, even. Yet there are times I still protrude like a sore thumb juxtaposed against my partner. Even with so much love, I still feel a unfillable deep pit within me. This is not something that can be taken away by another person, or perhaps it can never be taken away.

In order to continue existing, I have to play mind games with myself. I do believe because of the nature of the brain – most of us need dopamine to survive – one has to find something to be engaged with or participate in, even if that something is to practice non-engagement, like a monk. So I convince myself that perhaps it is worth developing my inner self: to see who I can become, what I can learn, how wide and deep my internal world can be.

The irony is, the further I go along this path, the deeper into my self I go, the more I feel like I stick out like a sore thumb. I can understand why there is so much emphasis on sanghas in buddhism, because it is difficult to pursue a path that is almost the opposite of everyone else so having the support of a community is vital. Maybe the most human thing about me is that I still feel immense social pressure, the strange desire to be like everyone else so that I can feel like I belong.

But the point of developing one’s self is that is a very individual experience. Because we’re all individual outcomes of infinite combinations of genes, biology, ancestral history, family narratives, upbringing, individual experiences – we can never truly share the same personal journey. I think most people take societal journeys instead: fulfilling the milestones set by society, in return they get social recognition. One can live a life filled with social recognition to overcome their existential loneliness. But I seem to be unable to do so, even if I tried – I did try, and it brought me close to a total breakdown.

illustration: loneliness of deviating from the social norms

I often wonder why am I so sensitive to this deviation from the inner longings of my self. Why can’t I just be like everyone else? Who is this “self” anyway and why does she seem to have these “preferences”? My self wants to live closer to my inner truth, and will rebel if I seek to be like everyone else. And what the hell is my inner truth, and where does it come from?

Some people have told me that I am very brave for following my own path. In truth I don’t feel like I had a choice. I get physically and mentally sick from the stress of trying to be like everyone else. Why am I this way?

I think there is an existential freedom to be found if one decides to truly pursue this personal journey and accepts the inevitable loneliness that comes with it. Imagine being unencumbered by what people think and say of us – the caveat being that whoever we become is not harmful to others.

Say you really enjoy wearing pyjamas to town. You’re harming no one by wearing pyjamas out, but maybe people will ridicule you or you may feel conspicuous, simply because we’re conditioned to follow social norms. We’re uncomfortable when people don’t conform to these norms, and we also get uncomfortable with ourselves when we want to do something out of the norm. Say one day you decide okay whatever you shall wear pyjamas from now on because life is just too short to care about what people think and you just want to enjoy whatever little bit of life you have left. Wearing pyjamas makes you feel alive. You are uncomfortable at first, but slowly you ignore the laughter, the stares. One day perhaps you may become oblivious to it and simply enjoy wearing pyjamas. Then encouraged by this internal success, you decide to go bald, because you’ve always found the weight of your hair annoying. Slowly, bit by bit, you become more comfortable with what you desire to be and do. You no longer feel like you have to wear a mask, a costume, and put on an act all the time.

Isn’t that an extremely freeing idea?

Apply this to my self, my gender, my gayness, my work, my art, my expressions. There are no brownie points for getting the least amount of ridicule when we leave this world. However to tend to our selves, to be aware of what we need, who we are and live up to it, this is my idea of living. To be alive. Aliveness requires being aligned to our inner truth, at least for me. Being who we are generates harmony, resonance, energy, joy.

Is this sort of thriving worth the social loneliness? I think everybody when they arrive at this juncture, they have to make a choice. Maybe for some social harmony is more important than inner harmony. I just cannot seem to function that way. I wish to thrive, to know what it is like to live life fully embracing my own quirks.

I think there is considerable psychic weight to bear when we disown our selves. This weight could perhaps be alleviated by relationships, if you like them. There is definitely safety in numbers. But not for me. In place of safety, I feel considerable friction when surrounded by people. Nature thrives on diversity, no homogeneity – so it is strange to expect billions of people to like the same things?

I know this intellectually, but I wish to incorporate this into my bones some day. That I can fully accept my self for all the deviations I have made, that being able to live as my self is something worth pursuing, that perhaps I will feel a sense of belonging – to my self.

2023: aspirations

I have always written long-form for previous years’ new year’s posts, but I thought for this year I will adopt the bullet-point format like my year-in-review. Also previously I had focused on the psychological state I wish to cultivate for the year, but I have realised my psychological state hinges heavily on my physical state, so 2023 will continue 2022’s focus on my health and fitness. The rest will be a bonus.

I used to be a snob and thought goal setting for the new year was rubbish – the year markers are arbitrary and everyone is free to set goals every day not just on one day a year, but now I guess I see the value in rituals? I write morning pages everyday as a ritual to clear out my mind and set my aspirations for the day, so it is in line to set my grander aspirations for the year too.

Overall aspiration: improve metabolic health

My overall aspiration for 2023 is still to improve my metabolic health. Over the past year I have learnt that our metabolic health is basically the fundamental building block to the rest of our health. Poor metabolic health leads to poor energy and chronic diseases because of cascading hormonal effects. For me, it manifests as chronic migraines and to a large extent, chronic fatigue and poor recovery. I have improved my aerobic fitness and glucose metabolism for 2022, so for 2023 I would like to:

  • continue zone 2 training regularly
  • run my first 10km
  • incorporate resistance training into my routine

Bonus aspirations

Hopefully improved physical health will lead to improved energy, and that will allow me to expend more energy creatively. The past few years have been difficult for me to generate creative stamina and momentum due to my frequent migraines and energy crashes. Last year my physical energy improved, but I still found my creative stamina lacking. I feel like there is an order of priority in terms of energy allocation:

illustration of energy triangle getting filled bottom up
my energy triangle: it gets filled bottom-up

Nevertheless, I can still aspire:

psychological state

  • I hope to continue getting better at regulating myself. I feel like I still get deeply affected by my moods, innocuous events still trigger me, and I am still not really coping well with being sick. I guess you could say nobody copes well with being sick, but I do think one can be sick and still face the situation with equanimity. I would like to be able to heal well and not suffer the “double arrow” of being sick and then feel frustrated and depressed about being stick.
  • I think one of the greatest skills in life is to be able to switch contexts and psychological states quickly: not holding on to the past or dwelling on things longer than we should, being able to recognise a rut and know how to dig our selves out of it (thought about this when replying to a comment) – I tend to wallow and be really harsh to myself when things go wrong which most of the time is not helpful to the situation, the people involved and myself.
  • the answer to the above according to Buddhism is meditation, but maybe there is something more on top of developing awareness and regulation that comes with regular meditation – being aware of an issue, then knowing how to respond to it. Maybe that is the whole point of teachers, mentors, therapists, coaches assuming we can meet the right ones, but for people who don’t have such opportunities I wonder if we can develop our own frameworks.
  • related to the above I wonder if one can become better at directing ourselves to widening and deepening our soul. By soul I don’t mean it in the woo-woo sense, just the essence that is left after you take away the biology that powers us. That thing that drives our interactions with people, our creative output, our decisions.
  • I would like to have a regular meditation practice, but I think this every year/month/week and it almost never happens. Still good to aspire though?


  • I would like to publish more frequently, not because I think more leads to better outcomes, but rather I would like to capture as much of my self as possible before I run out of time.
  • I would like to set aside time daily for writing instead of always leaving it to the last minute – i.e. every sunday to both write and publish. For some reason this has been challenging for me. I think I am semi-consciously aware of the psychic energy it takes to write and I have been trying to avoid the feeling of being mentally taxed? But I end up being really mentally exhausted every sunday instead. I wrote this post in chunks and it feels better?
  • write more poetry?


  • right now most of the content is reverse-chronological, and then there is the curated section. I would like to work more on collating the content meaningfully into interlinking themes. I’ve mentioned this probably a dozen times before but I could never find the mental space for a proper attempt. Organising content is hard!
  • take my learning seriously and capture more of what I’ve learnt into notes. I still don’t have a note-taking habit, so I consistently get amazed at something new I’ve learnt, and then forget all about it.


  • take more photos and better ones.
  • get better at manual settings.


  • do something unexpected.
  • work on more combinatory projects? Would love to do something involving photography and poetry for example.

It seems like a long list but it is not meant to be a list of things I must get done in a year. It is just setting the direction my current self would like to move into. I would be glad to just be able to run my first 10km because that would mean successfully getting my fitness to a certain level. I’m crossing my fingers that I’ll continue to avoid covid so it wouldn’t set back my aerobic fitness…though I also accept that this is not something that is within my 100% control, especially with the infectiousness of the new variants.

There will be misfortune, I anticipate. I can only hope if it comes I can meet it with as much equanimity as I can muster.

looking back at 2022

I like writing a review post every year so I can have a succinct record of how I spent the year. As usual I am aware of recency bias so I’m not sure how accurate is this recollection. I wrote this post by going through the obvious highlights that popped up spontaneously in my mind, followed by a scan through the year’s writing and photos. I write quite a bit about my health journey with exercise and nutrition, so please do not proceed if these topics make you uncomfortable.

major themes

  • this past year I placed most of my energy and focus on improving my health and fitness. The goal was to improve my mitochondrial health through diet and exercise and hence lessen my migraine symptoms.
  • from looking at my journal entries I seem to be less emotionally tortured than previous years.
  • someone I care about went through a major health scare which gave me a searing reminder of how life is impermanent.
  • still religiously masking, avoiding social interactions in person and dining indoors. At this rate this may be our lifestyle for the foreseeable future. I’ve written about this several times before but I’m already spiritually fatigued from dealing with just a chronic migraine and I have no desire to deal with additional cardiovascular and neurological issues from an infection. We may get infected anyhow, but at least we’ll go down knowing we’ve tried our best.
  • overall I had a monastic-like year with a focus on everyday practical routines which nourished me physically but left me a little lacking spiritually. Kind of ironic, I know.
  • yet in a way we were so stimuli-deprived that each time we went out for a novel experience it truly felt spectacular. Since we were both of a diet for health-related reasons, every opportunity to eat out felt like a rare feast. Perhaps we do need some form of sensory deprivation in cycles.

health, fitness & nutrition

  • started walking a lot more this year, especially walking in place while watching tv
  • 4,256,798 steps (which is a record since I started tracking steps in 2014) vs 2,014,544 last year
    • 9km was probably the record for a morning walk:
fat %
  • I logged my food on Cronometer for most of the year (yes going to Bangkok disrupted this completely) to understand the nutritional breakdown of my food. I was very surprised to learn how challenging it is to have a nutritionally complete meal that consists of the required vitamins and minerals daily. I don’t know about you, but previously I had this belief that vitamins and minerals were like for an optional boost to health – but now I have learnt that they are vital for many processes in our bodies. Without them we are practically functioning at some level of impairment.
  • cooked most of the year due to my partner having histamine issues, so I took the opportunity to cook for myself too – I went through weeks eating nothing else but my own cooking, a first in my life. got much better at cooking, like properly searing a steak (still not great at it).
I can now properly sear a steak
I can now properly sear a steak
photo of gua sha for the first time
gua sha: first time
gua sha: third time
  • had my 3rd vaccination in the beginning of the year, and 4th one in november.


  • first overseas (more like overland) trip in 3 years to Johor Bahru (thanks covid!).
Salahuddin Bakery, Johor Bahru
  • took a plane for the first time (with n95s, nasal sprays and a personal HEPA filter) in 3 years to Bangkok.
Ung Jia Huad, Bangkok


  • still taking a ton of street photography, but still think am not very good at it.
  • …and also taking the occasional portraits for the partner:
one of my favourite portraits of my partner in 2022



  • as mentioned my partner developed histamine issues late last year so this year we had to go through a lot of tending and healing together. Thankfully my obsession for health research paid off (that’s how I deduced she might have histamine issues in the first place, doctors would probably shrug it off as gastrointestinal issues) so she gradually healed with a ton of pacing, nutritional supplementation, and a strict diet stricter than mine, arguably – thankfully she adhered to it willingly.
  • celebrated 79 months as of december
  • she got into sewing so we started wearing couple clothes:

concluding thoughts

Overall I would say I had a very mundane year, but the mundaneness was perhaps necessary as I learnt to nourish my body for the first time. The two trips overseas were definitely a highlight – Singapore has a lot to offer for a very small country but it is just so enlivening to experience different worlds. In my first 2022 post I wrote that I wanted to learn how to self-amuse and have self-joy, I would say I have gotten better at both but I am nowhere near having a spirit which I endeavour to. Maybe I am just a little greedy.

I’ll write more about what I wish to work on in the incoming year for my next post.

I write these every year.