on-going mostly unedited stream of thoughts

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.

my mind is full of webs

I realised when I think of something it doesn’t exist as a single entity. A thought is linked to a million other thoughts, to the past and to the future. I remember too much, relate too much, connect too much, and I project too much. I thought this was “normal” until I met my partner. She doesn’t think much much about the future or the past – she’s a much happier person compared to me.

This is why I get triggered so easily. A single innocuous event like someone interrupting me may cascade into repetitive thoughts of all those times I was unable to speak up for myself, that every word I tried to put in was perceived as a disrespectful act and interrupted by fierce reprimands of how I was “talking back”, or those times when older kids or adults would speak over me either because they were trying to make fun of me or they were dismissive of what I had to say. I felt so unheard, so small, so invisible, so dismissed, so swept over. Even at 41, I still get flooded by feelings of fear, despair, sadness, shame, whenever I think about this giant web of thoughts. Sometimes I don’t actively recall the linked memories, but the feelings arise anyway. Pete Walker calls this “emotional flashbacks“, they are flashbacks of the emotions felt.

illustration: every top is a web
every thought is a web

My depression is an outcome of these potentially infinite replaying webs. Without conscious control one past event dredges out another, taking me further and further away from the present. The feelings and uncomfortable sensations are webbed too, precursors to a potential meltdown when the body nor the mind is able to halt the overwhelming flood of everything: stimuli, thoughts, feelings, sensations – all bouncing off and magnifying each other in the process.

Living in my own mind is like being forced to watch a string of videos over and over again, and I don’t get to choose which. Do you avoid certain genres because it invokes uncomfortable feelings in you? Or that these days some media comes with content warnings because they may be potentially distressing? My mind is like an out of control player attempting to repetitively play the most distressing content to me – except I’m not watching someone else get hurt. I am watching myself.

It is a wonder I remain sane, and perhaps not a wonder I remain chronically sick. The body doesn’t care if the perceived danger is real, like a predator chasing us. Stress is stress, hormones are released even if the cause of my threat is simply the loss of my psychological safety.

Sometimes it has nothing to do with my past. I glance at the date, and a wave of despair washes over me. With a split-second glance I am reminded of the mercilessness of time passing, that people I care about are getting older. Other times there are no obvious triggers. I could be lying in bed and these thoughts suddenly come by and start eating me up. I sigh, hoping to release some of that sadness, but I know that objective reality wouldn’t change even with a thousand sighs.

It is not always bad. These webs are what that fuels this writing, this website. I start with writing a thing and then it explodes to a hundred things. I wouldn’t say it is good either – most of the time I have no idea how the words on this page sound to you. Do I sound like I’m rambling incoherently from a topic to another? It is strange how we can only have a vague idea if we’re making sense based on some consensus of the english language but there is no outright guarantee that you know what I am trying to convey. I get surprised when people read between my lines and tell me things I have never imagined before. I like that, most of the time. Even the most precise attempt at words can have invisible layers to them. 

This is what fuelled my ex-career too: all those experimental design prototypes. It turns out taking a vague idea and turning it` into hundreds of other vague ideas can be a coveted skill. I half-joke. The point is to turn vague ideas into more precise ideas, I think. I am not sure I succeeded. As you can tell from this website, sometimes the webs become a mess when there is no conscious curtailment. I always let myself go, believing one day I’ll find it in myself to prune these webs.

I lived within the prison of these webs for most of the past few decades. I realised I was almost never in the present, entrenched between the painful webs of my past and the delusional webs of the future. If I did this, this, and that, and if this, this and that happened – my life would finally be okay. It turns out they followed me into my future: even when beauty, love, and bliss happened – the past remained like an ever-present quick sand.

I feel the weight of them every day. Sometimes the more of life I live, the worse it becomes, as the webs extend and elongate as I accumulate more experiences. Other times it seems I am getting better at living in the present, but I’m not sure if it is because I am better at distracting myself now.

Meditation teaches us that there are gaps between our thoughts, and we can learn to rest in them. Like these gaps, there are moments in my life when I am fully immersed in the present. They call it the flow state. I am learning to be more aware of the conditions that allows this state to emerge.

But I do not want my webs to be truncated or forgotten. I do not wish to forget, or I wouldn’t have become obsessed with archival. I like noticing and preserving the connections. They become opportunities for learning and becoming, if I manage to detach enough from them.

I just want to have more agency in transversing them: to know when to recall, when to connect, how wide and deep to go. I wish to pause and switch contexts at will, to be the person in charge of the player controls, not helplessly and passively watch when something unwanted is playing. Perhaps it is about being able to experience my thoughts with equanimity, instead of letting them seep into the core of my being chronically poisoning me.

I have a long way to go. To learn how to travel in my own mind and live in my body, instead to change the quality of the relationship between my mind and me. It has been drowning and suffocating me, but I have experienced glimpses of it being a home, refuge and wonderland to me.

contemplating mortality & creative output

These days I’ve been re-examining my relationship to my life, and by extension: my relationships to this website, social media, etc. I know it doesn’t seem that way, but I self-censor a lot. The output on this website is like a small compared to the volume of my thoughts. Somehow I feel like if I publish too regularly I’ll overwhelm people’s feeds etc. This is one of the main reasons why I have a separate notes section, when I could easily fold it under this journal. After all this is a journal, and the point of having a journal is so one can be free to write about their ongoing stream-of-consciousness. But even with a notes section I am still holding back considerably.

I have been working a lot on myself to free myself from this self-censorship. One of the easier things to do is to practice it on my photography, since it carries less psychological weight for some reason. The photography is “fun”, whereas the writing is “serious”. I put those labels myself? So I try to publish a photo on instagram and various other platforms every day. I like this creative routine so far. It provokes me to scroll my photo library and reminisce the moments when I took those photos. I get reminded of the richness of life. To put ourselves in the mood for photography is to open our mind’s eye to the potential richness of life. It is not enough to see, we have to endeavour to open our minds wider to perceive beauty.

Writing is much harder for me. I have to put myself into a semi-mediative state for the words to flow. To somehow translate seemingly complex feelings into sentences that are accessible to other people. We possess different psyches and may end up interpreting the same sentence in different ways. Sometimes that is beautiful, other times I wish I can share the essence of my feelings with you. The act of writing takes more spiritual energy (not spiritual in the woo-woo way, but in the creative spirit way) for me.

I still wish to create more. Life is unpredictable and I don’t know how much life span or freedom to create I have left. I have a thought experiment: what would I do if I only had months to live? I definitely would not be living the way I am now – spending swaths of time in a semi-conscious, semi-numb state. It is not that I chose to be in this state, but it seems to be my response to the absurd chaos of the world right now. Being too aware just makes me hyper anxious. So I focused on the mundaneness of life: chores, cooking, exercise, routines. These are important things and I am grateful for the opportunity to integrate them into my life, but I have neglected my spirit, which I wasn’t even aware of until I was in bangkok.

Again, the journey to find the balance?

I wish to be more experimental in my creative output. I am not sure how, just seeking to open myself up to that space. But I think I let my self get too much in the way – the self-consciousness, the self-censorship.

Yet when I think about the shortness of life, I feel ridiculous about being so self-conscious. At the end of my life, I would like to feel like I’ve tried my best to live, and that includes venturing to the furthest point possible creatively. There is this smaller hope that some of my work may still resonate with future people after I’m gone, but that is not my priority. I wish to know myself as much as possible during my lifetime, and I think having a creative practice is one of the best ways to do so. When we make something we take what is previously unknown in our subconscious and it becomes known in an external form. It is both a mirror and a birthed extension of ourselves. If we’re lucky, someone else may interact with the work and deliver an interpretation we have never contemplated before, and this in turn may enrich us deeper.

But the general fatigue and absurdness of life tires me out and I lose this creative spirit, over and over again. It takes a re-mustering of a will that has been deeply buried and exhausted. Sometimes all it takes is momentum. A regular practice sustains and builds this momentum. I just need to think about how I can incorporate this into my existing life without burning myself out.

I wrote something similar in 2014, but I’ve probably gone through similar repetitive cycles of over the years of whether to write more or less.

stability or aliveness with biometrics

[cw: dieting for nutrition, severe PMS] Last week I wondered what is the price of the short bout of aliveness I had in Bangkok – I thought it would be interesting to document some biometrics and experiences since I have gotten back.

biometric data

Prior to the trip during sleep my average resting heart rate (RHR) was typically in the late 40s and my average heart rate variability would be in the 100s. According to medical research for RHR usually the lower is better, for HRV the higher is better, with caveats.

Both values worsened dramatically during the trip – I included the 3 days prior to the trip to give a snapshot of my baseline, the dates of the trip are highlighted in grey, values that are concerning when compared to my average are highlighted in yellow, and values that are dramatically different are highlighted in red:

screenshot of my google spreadsheet tracking my biometrics
screenshot of my google spreadsheet tracking my biometrics

As the above table demonstrated, my average RHR during sleep increased by 10-20 beats per minute (bpm), which is a huge difference. Typically, an increase of merely 3-5 bpm is already a cause for concern. I was also in my luteal phase, so it does contribute to a slightly higher bpm usually in the 3-5 bpm range.

My waking glucose was also all over the place. What surprised me was that my post-meal glucose seemed to have improved? I didn’t test every meal but most times I tested I was surprised. There were a few meals when my post-meal glucose was disturbing, but they occurred less frequently than I had expected, especially after what I had eaten.

I had no such dramatic upheavals during my last trip to europe in 2019, so it was slightly disturbing. I did however did experience something similar during my birthday week this year. 

post-trip symptoms

Upon returning I had gotten a mild migraine (would rate it 2/10 in context to my personal history of migraines) on the 3rd day. I had expected a lot worse after all the deviation I had gone through. It lasted slightly over 2 days, which I am also thankful for.

I also experienced the body aches I used to experience before I went on my low carb diet. It seems like my body was exhibiting an inflammed state.

My PMS symptoms have also gotten a lot worse. In fact for the past year while on a low carb diet I have not experienced the usual PMS symptoms I had for my entire menstruating life. My moods were less extreme, I had virtually no pain in my breasts and no cramps. My luteal phase occurred in the first half of the trip and I started getting painful breasts again. I don’t mind so much the pain, but I started getting wilder mood swings, including suicidal feelings. 

stress & thresholds

I remain very fascinated with the fact that I should have had a migraine during the trip with all the stress I was going through, but somehow my body waited till I was back. I remember anecdotes of people only getting sick when they stopped to rest – maybe cortisol keeps us going until some threshold is breached?

I am not implying that I could have gone on undertaking that amount of stress and not fall sick until I stopped. I think it was a matter of time that my body would break down and I was severely testing its threshold. My theory is that the longer the body survives the stress, the more chronic damage is happening, the longer it would then take to recover if it is even possible. I have known of people’s bodies suffering irreversible damage – perhaps mine included. When mine broke down sometime in 2015, it took me years to recover from severe dry eyes. The thing we don’t realise is that dry eyes are not just about the eyes: by the time we experience chronic dry eyes there is already a severe chronic imbalance to our homeostasis. How long would it take to correct such an imbalance? The eye specialist declared mine incurable, but I did recover after years of rest.

The body is a somewhat magical neutral system. Its primary purpose is to keep us alive in the short term regardless of long term consequences. So it will pump whatever amount of hormones needed to prevent acute damage, but it is not infallible. The effects of hormones going wildly out of control will cascade, and our body will get overwhelmed at some point.


It took me roughly 8 days after my return to get back to somewhere near my original baseline. For a long while I thought the seemingly worsened metrics were going to be my new baseline. I thought my body would adjust to travelling a couple days into my trip like my previous trips – it would get stressed because of the actual flight travel and jet lag, but not the actual trip itself. 

potential theories

I had first gotten my oura ring in march 2019 and shortly after I went to Okinawa. Back then I was not on a diet nor was I really exercising very regularly. My biometrics during that trip were “great”. Low RHR, high HRV. My chronic health issues were worse though.

It seems like my body has gotten used to a very healthy way of life and it is now not very good at coping with the regular amount of unhealthy: carbs, oxidised vegetable oil, possibly pollution?

We could also argue that the food in both Europe (Italy, Vienna, Slovenia) and Okinawa were a lot less oxidised (deep fried / high heat) – I had not restricted carbs back then – than Bangkok. I would have to go to a destination with a different cooking culture whether it is my body or the food. Probably both.

Prior to the trip I was also restricting my calories (for health benefits), keep tracking of my macros, intermittently fasting for 14-16 hours with 2 meals and zero food in between – during the trip I placed no such restrictions on myself. The latest we’d eaten was 7pm, which isn’t that late in the grand scheme of things, but I usually finish eating by 5pm in my typical routine.

I also regrettably ran for 6 days straight before the trip, and during the trip I averaged about 15k steps, maxing at 22k steps. The weather was also very hot. So my body had zero recovery days.

All of the above are homeostatic stressors.

evaluation of biometrics

Despite the stress I seemed to have put on my body during the trip I felt like overall I had more energy. I am not sure if it is objectively true or the adrenaline. There is an argument that my pre-trip RHR was too low. It is normal for athletes to have low RHR due to exceptional cardio fitness but I wouldn’t call myself an athlete. Due to prolonged carb and calorie restriction my metabolism may have slowed too. Calorie restriction is known to increase longevity – a slower metabolism may not be a bad thing because if everything is less and slower, the chronic damage of ageing may slow down too. On the other extreme end, bodybuilders depend on insulin and growth hormone to build muscle. Yet both hormones are associated with increased cancer risk. So do I want to live longer but feel weaker, or be strong with a robust metabolism but have a potentially short life-span?

The same with glucose and ketones I guess. I think there is a sweet spot the body thrives on, and it is still debatable whether ketosis is beneficial long-term. But I think people who struggle with neurological issues (like me) has less of a choice. I definitely do not want to be dealing with suicidal feelings on a long-term basis. It is one thing to be philosophically against life, another thing to feel like dying all the time.

The current consensus is that in general higher HRV is always better, unless it spikes suddenly. But again, this is usually discussed in context with athletes who go through periods of high stress and high recovery. Low HRV however, is associated with increased mortality risk. Is there a sweet spot too?

I would monitor everything with some healthy skepticism since this is really an emerging field.

stability or aliveness?

So, is this price worth paying for feeling alive in Bangkok? I would say yes. I think it is a calculated tradeoff, and if given the choice again I would still do it. I have given up bits of my health in exchange for spiritedness and inspiration. I thoroughly enjoyed the experiences I had. But I knew this is going to be temporary, or at least I hope.

I think if I don’t return to my usual low carb minimal-vegetable-oil diet I may redevelop a tolerance to them, like before. I am just not sure at what cost. Is having severe PMS, frequent migraines, diabetes, heart disease and cancer worth the tolerance and enjoyment? 

Is having “great” biometrics worth sacrificing the pleasures in life? There are potential costs to eating low carb too: there are people arguing that it affects thyroid function and serotonin production. But we get ketones in return, and they are magical for neurological health.

Do I want the stability of peace or the intensity of aliveness?

I guess it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. I am still learning to find my own sweet spot. Since I’ve returned I’ve stopped actively monitoring my calorie intake and have allowed myself more carbs than pre-trip (I used to avoid even onions lol). But I still generally eat a moderately low carb diet and have gone back to intermittent fasting with no snacking in between. I look forward to incorporating some strength training like I’ve been writing about since forever. The long-term goal is still to improve mitochondrial health and prevent muscle loss so I can have a healthy-enough metabolism. Despite my biometrics I do think my metabolism has improved overall, judging from the lack of the terrible food comas I used to have.

It would be interesting to see how my biometrics would change from this point on though, especially now that I can return to improving my fitness without the calorie restriction. I’m glad to have this deviation so I can be provoked, instead of just steeping myself in a stable routine unquestioningly.