11 November 2004

Call of the hills

My 6 months of allowed 'adjustment period' is coming to an end. And I think it really is. It's finally sunken in that I'm hear to stay. In the heart of this ultra-urban, time-squeezed, smog-choked city of stone I will make my abode. But what has also sunken in, is that I can choose how to live. I will go on whining like everybody else about how bad is traffic and how expensive is food & parking but it doesn't mean I cannot find beauty in this place.

One 'call' I've harkened to, is the call of the hills. All this while I've been looking in the direction of the city, trapped by it. Hating it yet unable to escape it. Running out of it as quickly as I can, yet returning to it again and again. Until I finally tore away and took a look in the other direction... And lo and behold, what do I see? Right in my backyard, are the highlands that makes KL a valley.

The Titwangsa Range descending into its southern tip, yielding its heights right east of the city.

The path from Pandan/Ampang to the foothills of Gunung Nuang is but 22km away. To the Gabai waterfall, 25km. Just 10km up is the lookout point where you can catch the city blanketed under a thick smog just before you leave it behind and ascend into the lush rainforest. I've started mapping out the trails, orchards, rivers and cascades. Bit by bit, I am going where the road leads, and where there is no road.

This journey of discovery has just begun. Many secrets of the forest, many treasures of the wild, remain to be found. Thank God for these pockets of nature I can retreat into every so often - to regain my sanity, restore a vision of beauty, and reinstill solitude within.

I lift up my eyes to the hills - where does my help come from?

10 November 2004

The call of family

In the matter of discovering calls, one voice that resounds clearly is the call to family. I've sacrificed relationships for far too long over the past 12 years of medical studies. Throughout my academic llife, meetings with family and friends had to be planned way ahead of time. Scheduled, fitted in to my diary. Time for hanging out was scarce and rationed.

It's a terrible way to live when time for people have to give way to exams and work. It's a tragedy that most of us have to 'earn' the privilege of having time for others. It's a worse tragedy if even having arrived at a point in life when you HAVE the time you decide to squander it chasing after the next thing, the next rung in the ladder of wealth, fame and power.

It has to end somewhere. It's time to say NO, to STOP the endless spiral and choose people.

Returning to KL has given me and Joan a lot more time with our parents than we've spent in the last 10 years or so. We're making up for all the time lost. Sure, there's the adjustment problems - parents need to revise their chronological assessment of us - we're not the 18yr olds we were when we left home anymore. And we need to adjust too - they are no longer tyrants whose every word is a commandment to be obeyed but beautiful people who need our love and companionship as much as we need their guidance and affirmation of our adulthood.

I look forward to every visit home to either of our parents. And it's not just the lip-smackingly good food our mothers unfailingly whip up. It's just being with them. The moments are precious. I am constantly reminded that we don't have our parents forever, and each day with them is to be treasured. So little food-hunting trips, visits to the park together, and lots of time lounging around at home has been heart-warming and refreshing for us. I wish we had more time!

23 October 2004

Starting over

Moving back to KL has been a difficult experience. It's ALWAYS difficult for me moving from one place to another. I remember coming home to KL in 1997 after graduating, and then to Sibu in 1999, back to KB in 2000, and now full circle back to KL last May.

Every move has been wrought with adjustment woes.

I spend the first 6 months or so hating the place, missing the familiarity of the old, irritated by everyone I come across, and wishing I was someplace else. The food was better, the people were friendlier, and life was a whole lot better 'back then' somehow. (What? The food was better in Kelantan than in KL? Are you kidding?!) OK, OK I know this is totally irrational. I can't explain it, but moving ALWAYS makes me depressed.

I've put on 6kgs since coming back - that's a sure sign of depression for me!

Maybe I have the tendency to anchor too deeply wherever I berth. And being uprooted & translocated leaves me, well, rootless and flailing, grasping for some stability and security. Basically I'm a creature of familiarity and habit. I need a place to crawl home to and take refuge. Believe that the world is essentially ok.

But it's a challenge isn't it? Following the lead of Jesus in Scripture, has always been an adventure of change. Nothing is promised - and certainly not constancy or familiarity - except His presence and guidance. All may change. Everything can go wrong. Everyone can turn against you. But the one thing that should matter most, can never change.

So while I must give myself the time to 'acclimatise' emotionally, I also have a hope. That the same God goes with me and the excitement of proving the goodness of His ways awaits every nervous step forward.

19 February 2004

The Vicious Cycle

Depression is a terrible thing. And I'm learning to read the signs.

First I'll start craving for food I don't need and eating way out of control. Then I look for things to spend money on, crawling through the shopping mall.

Next I oversleep. Before I know it, I can't get out of bed, I can't start work in the morning, I'll overdose on coffee for the kickstart, which makes me more tired and unable to work. And so the vicious cycle continues... till something dangerous or damaging happens. People closest to me suffer the most.

Reading Archibald Hart's 'Unmasking Male Depression' has given me some insight. Before I wouldn't realise I was blue/depressed until I reached my worst. At least now I can stop myself and ask, 'Why am I overeating? Why am I sleeping so much? Am I depressed? What's going on here?' and take a first step towards healing. Nip it in the bud. Deal with the problem before it spirals out of control.

I have a long way to go in learning how to manage stress and emotions. But it's a journey worth taking.

Observing my cycles of depression, a clear pattern emerges. There is always a protracted period of stress/overwork and disregard for planned rest and reflection. Interestingly, procrastinating on work that has been planned also results in the same pit of depression. The rhythm of work and rest cannot be violated. It's true that I can't rest until I've fully worked, nor can I work without having fully rested.

Life can be a joyful balance of both work and rest, the joys of each flowing into each other. What a joy it is to learn this.