Issue #30: Being with 2021
Welcome to our final newsletter of 2021!
We hope you’ve missed us while we were looking into our Selves so we could return to share our new explorations with you. It has been a few months of transition and re-discovering who we are.
Borrowing the words from a wise elder, “The meaning of life is to be awake.” Amidst the ongoing pandemic and its variants, how much of 2021 have we lived? Before rushing into the new year, we each paused to look back on our experience of this year, and how we’ve developed.
Here are our reflections:
Essay // Being with…out an Identity // by Daryl
Essay // Faithfulness // by Rosslyn
Wishing you a gentle entry into 2022, and may you relax into joy and abundance.
Rosslyn & Daryl
ESSAY // by Daryl
Being with…out an Identity
Welcome to our final newsletter of 2021! We didn’t publish our newsletter as consistently as we did last year but that’s because we’re in a transition stage. But as with all transitions, there’s always something to reflect on. Looking back on this year, I realized it was quite a transformative one for me because it’s the year I lost my identity. And yes, that’s a good thing.
A good thing? How so? Isn’t an identity something everyone strives to cultivate? Doesn’t it define us as individuals distinct from others? Indeed, it does. But an identity can also be rigid when it’s fixated on and defined only by certain notions that it limits what I can be and become.
So I used to have a strong sense of my own identity. My boundaries were strong, my image carefully crafted to convey certain messages and principles I held to be true. I knew what I wanted and it bewildered me how so many people don’t have any sense of their desires and/or goals. Surely they must have the slightest sense of where they’re headed right? There I was, feeling all powerful before these pitiful wandering lost souls whose only known desires are their next Starbucks fix.
Then it all came crashing down in 2018. For some inexplicable reason, I lost all my confidence. I clammed up in my graduate courses, and it would take me many moons before I would begin to contribute in class once more. Despite that, I could not recover the verve I used to enjoy so effortlessly. Wracked with fear of appearing silly, I withheld my questions and thoughts. Filled with the what-ifs, I became extremely self-conscious, and the only time I expressed myself without fear was in the privacy of the papers I wrote. That’s the only place where glimpses of my past audacity could resurface.
As if that wasn’t bad enough. The fear insinuated itself into other aspects of my life. I couldn’t wear my thousand-dollar suits with ease; they wore me instead. It was hard living with what felt like an empty chest. Somehow, I couldn’t fill my lungs with air when I breathed, or, I should say instead, when I let air seep into me.
Then Covid happened. Frankly, when the world came to a standstill, it was one of the best things to happen to me. Isolated from everyone, I began to pick up the pieces of my broken self. It was gradual and initially went unnoticed. But the day I told Rosslyn it’s totally fine if she cut my hair, I knew something had changed. I felt the familiar surge of confidence in my body again. I felt…full, substantial, hefty even.
Fast forward to today, on the cusp of 2022. The easygoing laughter is back, I’m cool going out without my carefully coiffured hair, it’s comfortable attending social functions once more. And no longer do I wear my suits for the sake of making a statement. I wear them simply because I like to. To top it all off, I’m also moving into wearing bowties on a regular basis. It doesn’t seem like much but in the past I couldn’t, for the life of me, picture myself wearing a bowtie. Now, I’m really looking forward to wearing the bowties Rosslyn bought as a Christmas gift for me. And they’re not even the stuffy kind either! One of them has llamas on it. Yes. Llamas.
But back to the point of this entire article. What’s it like being with the awareness of a shed identity? It’s difficult to say for sure but I do feel much lighter since I don’t feel the need to portray a particular image. My principles are still intact, they haven’t changed but my relation with them has. Now, it feels as if they will be transmitted through me without me even having to try whereas previously I had to actively convey them. My relationship with my identity was like having a barricade-sign before me; a barricade because it repels all that I don’t agree with; a sign because it announces loudly who I am. Instead of that barricade-sign, I experience myself as an assured pillar planting itself deep into the ground with the knowledge that I am I.
Maybe that’s what having a Self feels like.
Till next time, may you rest in the rootedness of your Self.
ESSAY // by Rosslyn
How does one begin to reflect upon the year? What do I look out for? What do I measure? A year of harvest speaks of outcomes; growth, of process. I’ve received a bursting sack of love and watched my powers develop. Do I visit my calendar to see where my time went or do I visit my photo gallery to see where my attention went? Even the lens through which I review my year informs me more about me than my year.
Faithfulness. The word I chose for this year, entering 2021 with the intention to remain faithful to my Self.
How would a journey of faithfulness be and how did it turn out? Frankly, I didn’t quite know what to expect. It was my first time picking a word of the year. I had set an intention, a silent vow to myself, but did not draw up any action plans to execute it. Because I wasn’t even sure what faithfulness to one’s self would entail. For me, the intention of faithfulness alone kept me returning to myself and my present experience whenever I noticed I had left. And now, 363 days in, I look back with gratitude for what had transpired.
I’ve grown closer to myself. I now sit by and with myself with more willingness and comfort, exploring and meeting various parts of me including some which are still challenging to love. I stood by my side through the tough times as best as I could and approached with curiosity and sincerity the impulse to abandon myself during unbearable moments. This year turned out to be a year of me and myself. Sounds self-absorbed, doesn’t it? I thought so too initially, reacting overly with caution and judgment.
I simply wonder about my own makings. How did I come to be, and who am I becoming, and in the present, who am I? I asked Daryl if I could work towards getting a Ph.D. in Rosslyn. Wouldn’t that be awesome? Could my life’s work be a dissection and exposition of my Self? How can I try to know and see the depths of another if I was unwilling or unable to go the distance myself? Through the exploration of my psyche and the examination of my pathology, maybe I can come to uncover and answer what it means to be human.
My gallery spells “f-e-a-s-t”. Ducks and geese. Alive and kicking. They might not be if the photographs were taken back in Singapore. Snapshots of clouds, fowl, birds, trees, leaves, meadows, lakes, reflections, shadows. My eyes indulge whenever we headed out into nature. We started with parks and lakes, and in recent months, ventured into the woods off the beaten trail. It helps that the ground is dry, and the air, cool.
Here’s the shot of my year.
This jump shot bears significance as it was the first active move I dared to make after losing confidence in my body’s balance and mobility. An encounter with vertigo two weeks prior jolted me awake to my mortality, beckoning me to confront life in a partially incapacitated body. I was afraid to stride or hop or spin. Like a baby learning to walk, I had to feel my feet on the ground before taking my next small step. A wanting sense of safety in my body led to a loss of confidence in my capacity to do, much less perform. Resistance, self-abandonment, grief, and finally acceptance allowed for self-compassion to emerge in support of patient and kind healing. When we are not rejecting or resisting our current experience, we allow for what’s needed to emerge. Faithfulness means getting out of my way in service of Me.
That was also my first conscious experience of bargaining with life. “Please, let me be well enough to have a walk in the park. Please let me well enough to move my pen across my paper.” It mattered not my handwriting was scraggly or my thoughts, sloppy. All I wanted was to be able to write. I’ve stopped asking myself why I write in the way I don’t ask myself why I eat or sleep. That’s what writing is to me. Nature was where I wanted to be; writing, what I wanted to do. I plead for the minimum motility to support me in fulfilling these pure desires of my heart. I plead to live. Ah…the hunger to live. And thank god was I satiated with full recovery and the exquisite taste of life.
Life’s always calling. Faithfulness is being true to what’s calling for me, be it gazing at how light splits the billows or hearing the cardinals’ calls, soaking in love’s embrace or being with the person who sits across me on the screen.
A year of staying loyal and steadfast to myself has brought me new connections in new spaces. (Can you believe it? I’m actually involved in a few communities? It feels magical.) Albeit all the connections are made online thus far, they feel real to my heart. Because they are real. Intimacy with fellow sojourners who shared their vulnerable selves, baring depths and souls have taught me to appreciate intimacy with myself too, enabling me to peel back the layers to contact my dark secrets. I still turned away on some occasions. Then I try again. I look forward to meeting my bare naked self, literally and figuratively, without shunning or hiding or picking faults. Self-absorption is being lost in myself. Self-discovery is being with myself in my experience. Self-knowledge is simply being my Self.
Perhaps this is guiding me to the word(s) I might choose for 2022:
We don’t need to be someone before we can love ourselves. It’s love that makes a nobody somebody. Don’t all living things flourish in love?
May we all be in love.
We sincerely hope you’ve enjoyed our newsletters. We welcome your feedback, drop us a note to share with us how 2021 has been for you, or what topics you’d like us to explore in the new year.
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