i fumble as i muse

Book Review : Shelter by Jung Yun

I finished the book in 3 days during the work week with the spare time I had after office hours. That’s a speedy one, by my standards.. My usual pace is much slower because I take more time to ‘digest’. This book is a quick page flipper. The author, Jung Yun, writes with much clarity which is paired with an intense, fast paced story line.

To summarize, this story is about an Korean American man, Kyung, who has a wife and 4 year old son. He’s estranged from his parents due to an unpleasant childhood attributed mainly by his parents’ dysfunctional marriage. One day, an act of violence befell on Kyung’s parents and he is forced to face the issues which had been deeply rooted in their family dynamics – on top of coping with the recent traumatic event.

Disclaimer: This is unlike a standard Goodreads book review with a comprehensive dissection of the pros and cons, as I am so not a professional critic.

What I Enjoyed

The flow

The story has a comfortable flow – it slows down to emphasize important interactions between the characters – especially between Kyung and his wife, and Kyung and his mother. I personally enjoyed the i nternal monologue that Kyung has. It is also fast paced enough to jump to the next milestone ommiting any overly explanatory inbetweens that you expect in some novels. I like that there is room for you to fill in the gaps of the story with your imagination and you won’t feel like missed out much.

How the story shifts was unexpectably quick. Just like how a person’s mind would switch from one decision to a completely different one.

The shock value

As concise as the writing is, it is also quick to depict in a graphic manner. At some parts, I was definitely thrown off guard.
*Spoiler Alert: Kyung’s mother had ran towards to Kyung’s house, naked, to seek emergency help. What he noticed, on top of her badly bruised body, was a savagery sight that the hair below had been ripped out. Kyung was immediately raged at his father, thinking his father had hit his mother again. However, Kyung was wrong. His parents’ home had been violently intruded by two men.

What actually happened to his mother was clearly narrated afterwards, but not before generating sufficient tension and speculation from the reader.

Relatable character

I don’t know how this felt so relatable seeing as I’m neither a man with family nor have an abusive childhood while growing up. I suppose it is how this man’s thoughts and emotions had been realistically depicted. It is not pretty nor sugar coated. His inner dialogue is raw and jaded with reality. 

Kyung has an internal conflict between loving his wife, appreciating the beauty in her strength – yet at the same time, feeling the novelty had worn out, and criticising internally on how she makes his life difficult. During an argument, thinking to himself : ‘It seems like she does not know when is enough is enough. What more does she want from me’. Ouch.

I found myself empathising with Kyung greatly, accepting his rationalisation – how he attributed his flaws to a bad childhood, and how badly positioned he is. It took me awhile to step out of his inner thought process to see his character for what it is. I’m not sure if he is a great husband, or father, or son. Now that I’ve finished the book, I’m not sure if I would like Kyung if he was real and I were to meet him in person. And this has got to be the magical part of a novel.

My Only Qualm

My personal take on the ending is that it is rather odd, almost not quite believable. Got me wondering if sorry is really enough to make all go away? Everything did click into place, which Kyung would eventually reach a place of forgiveness and peace. However with all the heaviness, it’s going to take time. Almost felt like the story was wrapped up for the sake of it. But i suppose readers get the point. It’s not outrageously ridiculous though, just too hasty for my liking. 

To Conclude

This one is worth the read with primary focus on family dynamics – however it’s not a light one. For me, I’m definitely looking forward for Jung Yun’s next work. This is pretty impressive for a debut. 


New Year’s Resolution for 2017

People are right, aren’t they. New Year’s Day is really just another day, and it is going to be just another year. New year’s resolutions which actually work are almost like unicorns, things that no one ever really witness, right? Most can relate to that jaded feeling, that feeling which also tells you it’s not worth it to head out for the fireworks at some countdown to get trapped in a human traffic jam after. Now that all the New Year’s Eve parties and countdowns are done and dusted, I’m glad that’s over and makes me feel those are just the frosting. The main dish is that, it is a new year nonetheless. 

And that, I still have a spark of inspiration. Inspired enough to set those new year resolutions. As jaded as I am and worn out as I am from 2016, and as much as people laugh at how futile new year resolutions are. 
It’s a close of one year and an opening of a new one, which makes one can’t help but review on what had been done and what to do next. It’s another shot to make it your year. It’s like an energy refill, a reset button, to reengineer another year of your life. 2017 is fresh and new, so why not use it as a chance to see everything with fresh eyes, new perspective. Sometimes, all we need is perspective.

I didn’t set any resolutions for year 2016, it’ll be better to place some milestones for 2017 now. Feels funny not having any milestones to benchmark the completed year against. 

My resolution for this year is simple and attainable. I want to learn at least one new thing every week and jot them down during the weekend. Be it something I have learnt along the way, or something I go out of the way to learn. Of course with the overarching goals of sleeping enough, eating healthier, and spending quality time with loved ones. I know that we all learn something new every other day but that is usually not reflected upon nor are we fully aware. I find that it’s the consciousness of it that inspires.

The reason why I chose this as my resolution is because I got burnt out frequently in 2016. After work, I am usually too tired to do shit. That tiredness usually spills into the weekend. I don’t have much energy to do the things I truly want to do, I just spend the weekend lazily and the work week starts again. It’s quite the vicious cycle.

I realize I am happy when I am growing as a person, when I am learning and feeling inspired. With this resolution for 2017, I am reminded to invest in my personal development. Even if it’s a small step on a tiring week, it still counts. 

I am excited. I want to read more books, research more on how to do things a better way and ideally finding a project or hobby to commit to. Keeping it simple for now, the specifics will come down the road. 

What are you hoping for in 2017?

Chloe’s version of Life Tips 

Note-To-Self / good habits 

Constantly making mental notes is exactly like sticking Post-it notes in your brain. It’s a Note To Self, on what to avoid or do better the next time. Over time, mental notes will evolve into good ol habits. 

It’s completely natural and only human to choose TV over errands. But it’s not as fun when your pet hamster falls sick and dies because you chose to watch TV time and again, not cleaning its house frequently enough. By TV, I meant YouTube. By you, I meant me. And I thought to myself then ‘Oh, godd*mn Shit’. 

Honestly, life is too short to go ‘Oh shit’ over and over again, for the same shit. That shitty moment is what I put on my Post-it and it says ‘Don’t let your laziness kill your pet’. Mental notes are formed from being sufficiently frustrated by the consequence of your own oversight/inexperience/laziness/any other human nature. 

I don’t like calling the bank’s customer service hotline, pleading (not really but feels like it) them not to charge me $70 for late payment. Which is why I now try to pay the bills the moment it arrives. The reality has sinked in that bills will never magically go away if I close my eyes. Especially those unforgiving ones which only grows bigger with interest rates and late charges. 

I have also tried countless times wishing my hunger away those busy mornings when I didn’t have time to grab any food on my  way to work. Why is why I plan my breakfast ahead now. I now have a bowl, and a box of cereal at my work desk as my default/standby breakfast. I’m always starving in the morning and also craving for cereal 24/7 so that works quite well. 

Why is why I now bring 2 tabs of Zyrtec in my bag, in case my nose allergies act up and I really just want to have a good time instead of rubbing my nose angrily. 

Why is why I always Ctrl+S obsessively
(like right now as I’m typing this) 

I could go on and on with this list..

Your personal traits

More of subjective terms – what inspires you and what sucks the life out of you? Like identifying if you are an introvert or extrovert? Left brain or right brain? Embrace the traits that you personally thrive in, instead of trying to fit into an idea. 

I’m still figuring out bits of myself. Like realizing that I’m mostly introverted. For each social event, I will feel relatively spent afterwards and need alone time to recharge, unlike my extroverted friends who never seem to run out of steam. There seems to be some truth in the popular conception that introverts are the nerds, and extroverts are the popular kids. There’s nothing to feel insecure about that because my aim is to be a social butterfly nerd, best of both worlds. 

Also learning to accept that I’m more logical than creative. While I used to study in a design course, I can’t really doodle from scratch. Instead, I am better at sketching an object or a person, detail for detail. It’s challenging for me to create an original idea, but I am better with pushing existing ideas towards an edgier direction. 

Point is, it’s not about the right or wrong. It’s about understanding own elements, like how a fish can swim better than climbing trees. 

Managing heart and mind

To put in tacky terms, emotions are a gift because it’s what makes us human not simply machines. There are happiness and sadness. But too much of any good thing, and bad thing, is not good. That’s for me at least, I’m already quite (an) emotional (wreck) to begin with. Which is why I always believed that it’s better that emotions are under control instead of being freely experienced. I love feeling happy (okay I know, who doesn’t), but it scares me to feel overwhelmingly happy. 

Just like how the heart is commonly personified, emotions are not the most rational. It’s the mind which does the rationalizing and puts things into perspective.

Fire is a good servant but a bad master. Same goes for money, and emotions too.

We are our own worst critic

In some ways, it can be beneficial to be your own worst critic. But don’t forget to also be your own greatest admirer. Sounds a little bipolar..but, life is all about balance. 

There are always things that we wish to change about ourselves. There are also things which we should never change for anyone. Introspect a little and  decide what are your non-negotiable traits. So if anyone comes along with their opinions of you, you won’t be confused. Because there will be people who bitch-gossip to you, about you, pretending they care, and call it ‘constructive feedback’. On the other hand, there are also people who genuinely care and tells you things that you need to hear. …I may have digressed. 

Be kind to yourself because it’s too easy to be harsh. But also keep nudging yourself out of comfort zones. Don’t stagnate, because that is not being kind to yourself either. 

More control than I think I have

The cockroach theory by Sundar Pichai, Google CEO

At a restaurant, a cockroach suddenly flew from somewhere and sat on a lady.

She started screaming out of fear.

With a panic stricken face and trembling voice,she started jumping, with both her hands desperately trying to get rid of the cockroach.

Her reaction was contagious, as everyone in her group also got panicky.

The lady finally managed to push the cockroach away but …it landed on another lady in the group.

Now, it was the turn of the other lady in the group to continue the drama.

The waiter rushed forward to their rescue.

In the relay of throwing, the cockroach next fell upon the waiter.
The waiter stood firm, composed himself and observed the behavior of the cockroach on his shirt.
When he was confident enough, he grabbed it with his fingers and threw it out of the restaurant.

Sipping my coffee and watching the amusement, the antenna of my mind picked up a few thoughts and started wondering, was the cockroach responsible for their histrionic behavior?

If so, then why was the waiter not disturbed?

He handled it near to perfection, without any chaos.

It is not the cockroach, but the inability of the ladies to handle the disturbance caused by the cockroach that disturbed the ladies.

I realized that, it is not the shouting of my father or my boss or my wife that disturbs me, but it’s my inability to handle the disturbances caused by their shouting that disturbs me.

It’s not the traffic jams on the road that disturbs me, but my inability to handle the disturbance caused by the traffic jam that disturbs me.
More than the problem, it’s my reaction to the problem that creates chaos in my life.

Lessons learnt from the story:

I understood, I should not react in life.I should always respond.

The women reacted, whereas the waiter responded.
Reactions are always instinctive whereas responses are always well thought of.

The little wins in life

Maybe it’s because I simply did not choose happiness. I chose to be right, I chose pride, ego, superficial success, the list goes on. I forgot what life is all about as I chose a million and one things that are beside the point of being happy.

I’m starting to see there is a fine line between long term gratification and unnecessary suffering. 

I have a perfectionistic tendancy. I would ‘prefer’ to have things exactly as what I envisioned, with preference being an understatement and more accurately as an obsession. Trying my best has never been good enough, it feels more like a sad consolation for some failure.

‘Good effort’ feels like an insult. 

It needs to be ‘hey, good work’. Right?

When something goes wrong, I ruminate, replaying it over and over, analysing what I could have done to prevent it. I wonder why hadn’t I been more careful, more thoughtful, more well-prepared. Because if I did, it wouldn’t even have happened in the first place. 

When something goes right, it means I have upheld my own expectations, give myself a small pat on the shoulder and move on to the next item on the list. 

Come said next item with something out of place, I go back to runimate once again, and all the feel good emotions vanishes. 

Turns out I beat myself up more than celebrating the little victories in life. Have I been taking myself and my good efforts for granted? 

So silly, but so real. I know, I know, that it’s only human to make mistakes, it’s part of life. It really does take some conscious effort to remember it. 

This post serves as a reminder, for myself or anyone reading, to stop allowing erroneous mindsets from robbing the hard earned happiness we deserve. 

Speaking of little victories..I have a nerdy one to share. 

Last month I visited the library and borrowed some books. 3 to be exact, 1 crime novel and 2 non-fiction on psychology. 2 weeks later, I found myself in a library again as I had some time to kill while my boyfriend had to attend a short weekend course. Instinctively, I browsed the shelves before anything else. Afterall, the fun part of being in a library is picking which book to read, which alternative reality to dive into. But I caught myself feeling restless while browsing, I knew I should finish what I had previously borrowed before borrowing new ones or else it’s pointless to be busy choosing what to read and not actually reading them. 

Hence I decided to read my existing book while waiting in the library instead of searching. I feel quite proud of myself actually, haha. Because I actually committed to those books that I chose 2 weeks ago, instead caving into the thrill of picking up new ones. 

I ended up finishing that crime novel, great read – Sight Unseen by Iris Johansen. It’s a book series of a girl who was blind since birth. Thanks to a reconstructive surgery, she gained her sight on top of her acute observation sense so she had an interesting way of cracking murder cases. Almost like a female Sherlock Holmes version. That was the third book in the series. 

Today, we went to library as my boyfriend needs to get some work done and I could use the chance to focus on reading. I picked up the fourth book of that blind girl series and another book on human cadaver (my book choices are slightly morbid this time). Did not bite off more than what I can chew! Tempted to borrow so so many more and managed to curb the temptation. I’ve successfully battled that common woe of ‘borrow so many but didn’t finish any’. 

As I mentioned, it’s nerdy, you had been warned. 

Writing about writing

Once I manage to write on something, it sort of kicks start a momentum. I believe writing is not so much about the topic, but how a point is being brought across – just like how communication is 55% body language, 38% tone of voice and 7% of actual works spoken. Which means one topic can permutate into many different forms and that also means there’re actually endless things to talk about because it’s not about what you say rather, how you say it. 

And when I tap into my mind to create a post, by vacating all the buzz from the daily grind and focus on expressing my opinions, I feel that I can take the same posture to create more.

But truth is I haven’t really managed to take that spark and reignite a chain of other topics. I’m constantly hitting a writing block and constantly trying to break the ice. I feel like I am always warming up!

So if anyone starts noticing that I’m always either talking about 1. Writing or 2. Life, or 3. Dealing with emotions, yeahhh, am well aware. I think so too. And that’s because when I do write here on the blue moon, it’s mostly triggered by those reasons above. 

I am trying to shift the focus on lighter and more variated topics. Perhaps on certain trending facebook posts such the meme worthy wedding photos? 

Anywho, I’m mentioning this now partly out of my own frustration, how I don’t have the luxury of time to really commit. Another part in defense that I may be seeming like a one-trick pony..

Working on it. :) Till next time, cheers! 

Notes on my iPhone

This year 2016, I started picking up this practice to actually jot down my thoughts whenever I do get that urge/inspiration/whatever you call it..which I am trying hard to learn not be lazy and ignore them like I usually do. 

I pen down those thoughts which have overcrowded my mind, the type which I have encountered enough to know those kind of thoughts don’t just slide away. 
So, the way I do it is writing everything into this one note, created with the basic yet trusty Notes app on my iPhone where I dedicate add-ons here and there throughout the week. I know it is trusty because every single damn note created, will be backed up on iCloud. The first few notes are dated way back to the beginning of time. No one actually cleans up their notes, come on. Just try it for yourself, scroll all the way down and find a random brain fart dated 2014. 

Apparently this is an important consideration factor for me to decide where to imprint my mind process. God knows I have experimented with many other ways – including the very cute 2016 planner which I shelled out $30 for, which is currently collecting dust. And hence, I embark on my frequent private writing. 

Last year I mentioned my struggle on how to properly organize my memory and this really helps. With most of my carthasis done offline, this is why I havent felt a strong urge to write here (excuses haha) 

Here’s a little snippet of it..

1 Mar 2016

Just got off the phone with Jasmine. Going to let my emotions be. If I’m going through this dark valley, so be it. I’m not going to fight it anymore because it has only been counter productive. 

Wow, 1 Mar. It felt like I was done with that phase long ago. That was a mini turning point for me, I was going through quite an unhappy period. Had some strong emotions regarding my workplace, and as work is, it occupies bulk of your day, your week. So inevitably I was really affected and struggled to calibrate myself. I am okay now but the way to get here, I realized, is not by extinguishing all bad thoughts and emotions. I constantly did it for some time and it only made me sadder. It was ironic as I had lamented aloud that I was sad and became even sadder that I was sad, and on and on. The harder I fought against my emotions be it negative or positive, it actually comes back at harder. And it can be very frustrating when what you are doing is creating an exact opposite of what you want to achieve. 

That night, it was comforting to have her on the phone to encourage me that everything will be okay. Forget about labels like ‘clinical depression’ for now, let the emotions past – days do too, and see how it goes. If things doesn’t become better, we will come back to it. But things did become better. 

I have now accepted that some periods of your life are just going to be less sunny. You might feel crappy for awhile and it’s okay. I don’t need to pressure myself into being happy every single day. 

And I could have easily forgotten the significance of what happened if I didn’t jot that down. 

Actually I also have another note called  ‘Adventures of Esmond and me’..kidding, I simply uncreatively put his name as the title. It’s where I document any emotions which are more than ‘neutral gear’. 

Maybe I could do part 2? Stay tuned.