5 November Prayer

Dear Heavenly Father,

Please take this cup away from me. I’m not sure if I’m clinging on to it or it is clinging on to me. But I am barely keeping my head out of the water. I feel many things yet I feel nothing. I think but then I can’t remember it. It’s a haze. A stupor. A horrible place. I feel like you don’t see me. It’s dark and damp. It’s like there’s a clog somewhere and nothing’s moving right.

I am also filled with so much anger and rage. It is one that runs deep that I fear has become bitterness and resentment too. I feel like the walls are closing in and I’m all alone. It’s like no one hears me. No one cares enough to and when I try, they shut me up. I have become very reclusive, almost like I have to hide myself but yet I want to break free from this bondage. Is it my sin? Is that what is cloaking me? Is it suffocating me? Father, please help to take it away. Is it my distance from you? Is this what it feels when I am separated from you?

I think it’s pretty bad when my mind starts to think unhealthily. “Maybe alcohol will help, maybe weed.” Or when I fail to even remember you through my distress. What has become of me? Why have I gone so far away? Please draw me back. I don’t know if I have the strength to come back. Don’t leave me. You are the only good thing in my life.

I some times wonder if this is what real depression is like or I’m just wallowing in a lot of self pity. Or I’m angry at those around me and I have no outlet to let it out. Will you hear me?

The sensory overload is overwhelming too. The deafening and constant noise, those who won’t leave me alone and I need so much of it. I feel like I’m going to combust. Perhaps, I should.

My thoughts have become so inward focused that it frightens me. Gone are the days when I would remember your promises over my life, that all will be OK because you are in control. Now, I just think of doom, gloom and hate. O God, deliver me. You know where I am! SAVE ME! Save me.

Please help.

What is life?

I think the world is following the news of Brittany Maynard today. Obviously, it is only for conversational value now since she took her own life over the past weekend.

If I had a terminal illness like she did, and knew my quality of life would deteriorate, would I go to the extent that she did?

Having seen a family member go through cancer treatment, it was not at all pleasant. You see them whither away, a shadow of their former selves and should that be the way? Just so they can live another day? Just because we aren’t meant to take our own lives? And so we should suffer at the hands of evil healthcare that overcharges on medical care? Is that a better option? Are there better options?

I’m writing this with the least bit of empathy but I’m going to try to connect on a more concerned level.

Today’s Our Daily Bread devotion talks of how God keeps us afloat even though we’re going through the darkest of moments. Of course, I’m having difficulty trusting this because you can tell from yesterday’s post that I’m not feeling all that sprightly myself. But we must believe that God will deliver us. He has and He will. Hard to stomach when you feel like you’re scraping the barrel, alone and abandoned. It can be so, so barren. I should know because this is how I feel. Right now. I’m trying to cry out to God but my voice is so soft and weak.

Anyway, the point is, Christians will ask what right do we have to take our own life if God gave it to us? It’s a tad shallow and of course, they are right. But should we be suffering, prolonging the pain because medicines can keep us barely alive? Is that living? Not everybody is going to be positive when they can’t take care of themselves in a dignified way. Why would you want to attract a pity party? Is that healthy? Is that strong?

But yet in that devotional, when we’re in despair and we cry out to God, He hears us. He won’t leave us or forsake us. We should turn to Him and give Him our burdens. I’m such a hypocrite since I’m struggling myself but I know it’s true. It’s just that as a weak human, with the baggage that comes along with life, with the burdens that are heaped upon us by the devil, we shouldn’t take it into our hands but seek God and give it to Him to handle. Fluff, yet true. It’s HARD!

We speak of family and friends and what we want to leave them with. In Brittany’s case, she wants to leave them with only good moments but would that be how they feel? Maybe, maybe not. Grief will take them on a roller coaster ride for sure. FOR SURE. On the other hand, should we burden our family members financially, emotionally and physically when we are incapacitated? Is it all worth it? Perhaps. There’s grief in this too. No one will be spared grief.

I suppose there is hope that we should look at. Should we deny our family members our presence? Is that selfish? It depends on perspective maybe. I’m not in a hopeful or positive frame of mind but in times where I’ve had hope, I knew it felt right.

Perhaps what we feel at peace with is the direction that God has given us.

I can say without a doubt that in my despair, I feel no peace. Today, I felt the onset of a panic attack. Maybe it’s all dependent on how we work it out.

I doubt there is any right or wrong on this side of heaven. Yes, we should have a stand but let’s put ourselves in the shoes of those who have to make such a difficult decision. I think there was a Christian who wrote about this – how she was also terminally ill but chose to live out her remaining days till God decides to take her home. She wrote an open letter to Brittany, I think. I’m right. She did.

As for Brittany, maybe she had worked it all out. She wasn’t afraid of death. We’re all going to die anyway. Yes, God’s timing is how it should ultimately be but would He hold it against us if we decided this one time to make a wrong decision? Would He be banish us because of this decision? How is this decision different from the other bad ones we’ve made but yet He still forgives? Is it because there’s no turning back? Are we really turning our backs against God by making a decision like this?

She is going to die. Sooner than later. She was suffering and the fear of pain and losing control frightened her because that is some times how despair and despondency feels. When it feels like your life is not your own anymore, that you are cornered, that something has taken over and you’re at its beck and call. It feels more powerful than you. And so you choose.

What would you choose?

In my despair I cried out!

“I cried out to the Lord in my great trouble,
and he answered me.
I called to you from the land of the dead,
and Lord, you heard me!
You threw me into the ocean depths,
and I sank down to the heart of the sea.
The mighty waters engulfed me;
I was buried beneath your wild and stormy waves.
Then I said, ‘O Lord, you have driven me from your presence.
Yet I will look once more toward your holy Temple.’
“I sank beneath the waves,
and the waters closed over me.
Seaweed wrapped itself around my head.
I sank down to the very roots of the mountains.
I was imprisoned in the earth,
whose gates lock shut forever.
But you, O Lord my God,
snatched me from the jaws of death!
As my life was slipping away,
I remembered the Lord.
And my earnest prayer went out to you
in your holy Temple.
Those who worship false gods
turn their backs on all God’s mercies.
But I will offer sacrifices to you with songs of praise,
and I will fulfill all my vows.
For my salvation comes from the Lord alone.” – Jonah 2:2-9 [ NLT]

Amen. Thank you, Jesus.

I am guessing this is what we feel when we try to run from God or keep ourselves away from His presence. I should know. I feel just like Jonah and I trust my Lord will deliver me from this dearth that I suffer from.

It is most strange that at the beginning when Jonah cries out and says God hears Him that God should throw Him further into darkness.

“My salvation comes from God alone.” How long have I not said this! How long have I ignored this and tried to save myself. O God, forgive me. Save me.

Note: I sound so insincere but it must be my lack of empathy and hardened heart. May the Lord be gracious upon me and soften my disposition.

When Products Change Your Life

My current role at work is UX -related. I’ve been at it for two months and to be honest, it’s still all very foreign to me. It’s a bit of a wishy-washy kind of thing, in my opinion. UX stands for User Experiences for those who are like me. What does that even mean? I think it’s a fancy and new term for what people have been doing for awhile now.

Basically, how can you improve the way someone uses your product or service? How can you improve the experience one gets from using your product or service? Whether that’s to make it more friendly or they get a pleasant feeling when using it. It turns out that the emotion you try to capture is is very important these days in design or even in telling the story.

So since I’m very green about all of this, I began thinking about products in our everyday lives that have changed the way we behave or experience the world.

iTunes

When it first came out, like all the other music industry know-it-alls, I thought why would anyone want to buy their music and movies online? We’ve got p2p networks and what not. But then you realise then, you can start charting on iTunes and this has almost eclipsed the Billboard charts! iTunes, although proprietary in nature, provides an outlet for people to buy original. I think this has changed the way a user behaves. It provides an online store that’s in your house and has removed the need for physical music and movie stores.

Youtube

When youtube first came out, I thought it was great for online home videos. But then people started uploading media content that was entertainment driven. Actually, in the past I thought, why would I want to stream a video when I can download it and keep it forever? Music companies started using it to get it to count towards airplay and boom, this changed everything. Fans now want to stream the videos as many times as possible because they know it will count. Youtube streams are as important as radio airplay and iTunes sales.

iPad

The iPad for me has turned me into a browser and I don’t consider it as real work when I’m on the iPad ‘cos you can’t do real work on it. When I’m on it, all I do is swipe, swipe, swipe. But even that action of swiping has changed the way we behave with our gadgets. There have been times I’ve caught people trying to swipe their non-touchscreen devices.

iPod

iPods made us a lot more anti-social. I think the Sony walkman half-achieved that but the iPod made it cool and portable and easy. It’s this idea of re-inventing that is the core of UX.

Google
Google’s made us so self-reliant on it that we can’t seem to escape the need to look things up for clarification. Places, people, things. It makes us all feel a little smarter and knowledgeable. Their advertising network has changed the way we view advertising. These days, since I know how much companies might pay to have their ad on a search page, I actually click on it to make them pay. It’s terrible, I know. But that’s not the point. The point is, it’s changed the way we use things. Or how we thought of things before. Has it made our lives better? Maybe, maybe not. I’m sure it has.

I mean, Google even changed the way I blogged in the past because I wanted to appear on search engines and I wanted to be indexed and I wanted to make sure I hit the first page when people did searches. It becomes so calculative after awhile. Yes, I’ll be honest and say I checked my analytics page twice today. It’s just like how Facebook likes are a form of validation and page views emit the same kind of feeling.

But this is the sort of thing UX people look out for. Or so that’s supposed to be the case. Some times, I think things evolve because people see an opportunity or a need. Do we need a dedicated person for it? Who knows. Perhaps, it’s supposed to be the objective one who points certain things out. Who looks at ways to improve the way things work. I don’t know. It’s all so new to me. Some times I find it a farce and I don’t like feeling this way about the work I’m supposed to do, you know? I think some other reasons is because I’m not a designer or an artist. I can’t create anything. I have no skills in that area. I failed art. It looks like that’s really important in UX.

Note: This is a terribly written piece. I’m sorry for that. I had it more thought out in my head. I think the distractions around me can’t get me to think right. You’re going to get a lot more of these before I start writing better.

Restarting the blog

Today, 1 November 2014, I am going to start blogging again after a pretty long hiatus.

I first started blogging rather diligently in 2005 or thereabouts. This was pre-social networks. I learned a great deal and WordPress then was pretty young compared to what it has become. I had quite a fright when I logged in again after such a long time. A little intimidated. I hope this doesn’t scare me into a stupor and I leave my website to languish.

I quit blogging in 2011 or thereabouts and had a lot of false starts before and after. I think the advent of social networks caused a lot of fragmentation in getting the message across. I still find this rather annoying and although I did try unifying my accounts at one stage, where if I tweeted it would post to my blog etc. etc. I didn’t like it. I found it very noisy.

At the same time, I was going through some pretty odd times. I started to close myself up a lot. A lot of things added to this cagey and suspicious me. It wasn’t very healthy but I guess things happen for a reason.

Besides that, I also felt my blog had reached a stage where I had lost the passion to write because I was so caught up with blogging right that I just failed to write. I wanted to get hits to my blog, I wanted to appear in search engines, I wanted to make money and I wanted to do all these other peripherals because some times one can get lost in such things and forget the reason they wrote.

Not only that, at that time, I had used my blog as an outlet for my grief and after awhile, it felt disrespectful to write about anything else. So I just used it to sort out my grief which was really, really helpful. However, I felt at the time I should let my blog go through a season of fallow before I started again and well, I just never started again.

It’s funny how when things are out of sight, they slowly go out of mind. In many ways, when I lost my connection to my blog, I lost a lot of me. I want to regain it somehow. I found that when I wrote my thoughts out, it helped me. It helped me to focus and to sort out the rubbish. I think I became wiser through writing. Or I found myself through my writing.

In a way, I feel like I have lost a lot of me. I feel I’ve become a lot less empathetic. But perhaps that’s the way the world is getting. Like I think these days, the world is going to end sooner than we think because progress doesn’t mean we are becoming better. I think we’re becoming a lot worse, a lot more disconnected and we’re de-sensitised in so many ways.

What will I try to achieve now when I restart this? First and foremost, it will be to write whatever comes to me. Obviously, I may or may not be more transparent although I want to be. Look at this first post. An achievement in itself in talking about my feelings and trying to be upfront. Yes, in a lot of ways, when I used to blog, I found it therapeutic.

These days, I wonder where all my time is. And so hopefully, through blogging, I’ll suddenly discover that I can do a lot more. I am crossing my fingers on this one.

As you can tell, this post is just going to be trying to let out everything. These days, I feel like I store up a lot internally – pent up anger, rage, sadness, happiness, questions, answers, angst, frustrations and it doesn’t go anywhere. It just stays inside me and it’s a bit overwhelming at times. Yes, I do tweet. Yes, I do post on Facebook but it’s not quite the same as blogging. I did try to start a tumblr too but that never went anywhere.

For me, tweeting is easy. It keeps me up-to-date on what’s happening around, like a news aggregator and I love that I can post short thoughts up. Although these days, I’ve noticed since I’ve stopped blogging, that my tweets turn into continuous rambles. I find tweeting has also trained me to be succinct (OK, fine, not so sure about this one). I do post on Facebook occasionally but that’s a really bad place these days. Friends and family you know on there judge you too heavily and assume certain things about you. It’s also a lot more personal for me than Twitter is. Because the audience ‘knows’ me in a way.

I have always wanted to vlog and I’m not sure if I’ll do any of that here in the near future. I mean, it’s always something else to put a video of yourself up on the internet. It’s revealing too much in some ways. But I’ve always been drawn to this idea. I’ve just never moved on from that. I like the idea of Vine because it’s short bursts of video but people get so creative on these other social networks (like Instagram) that you have no idea where or how to begin. At least for me. I’ve never thought of myself as a very visual person to begin with.

I am also going to try not to get caught up with following the trend these days with blogs and the need for pictures or to beautify things. Or the need to insert keywords or to link things or to get up with what is an attractive topic to write just to get more hits. I mean, I may head that way one day but I can’t allow that to happen if I hope to use my blog for certain purposes. Like sorting myself out. Perhaps, you might see a change from this post to the next or perhaps you won’t see anything at all. This may just die out or whatever. But I hope it doesn’t. I need this more than you know it.

One thing that I found out really got me stuck in the past was my need to footnote everything. I mean, it’s important to me that what I shared had some basis or was related to something I had read with some proof somewhere. I found this good but still harrowing. I started having to make sure that all thoughts were cited or something.

Anyway, I have a few ideas for blog posts. I hope I really get them out. Wish me luck.

Signed, sealed, delivered.