When Words Fail, Let Our Actions Do The Talking

One week of mourning is drawing to a close. I have been drifting in and out of a mixture of emotions the past week, at times more emotional than others. My mind devoured countless of narratives and counter-narratives in the form of articles, forum posts, Facebook posts, that make the landscape of social commentary this week. As an educator in the civil service, we wear our teacher masks and tell our students of this great man and the history he has shaped in the form of our nation. Yet in doing so, we remain intellectually engaged by emotionally detached from the happenings. We all need some time to find words for how we are feeling and thinking. At this point, my mind is still incoherent, and there is little to say, although much has been coming in waves.

I still wonder how this man could evoke such powerful feeling in Singaporeans although we only read about him in our history textbooks and newspaper articles, or seen him on TV. Wouldn’t making him a public icon also render him impersonal and above us?

I think I am most moved by the idea of this man. He stood firm for the visions and beliefs he had in Singapore, arguably, he lived his life for Singapore. It is hard to imagine why someone would do that.

I am also moved by the unity of Singaporeans. Yes there are also negative criticisms that went out of line this week. But in this week, I felt a Singaporean heartbeat. A heartbeat that weakened in grief because a great man who started that heart beating had left us. Whether I was driving on the roads to work or walking in a public place, everyone seemed more resigned, quiet, silent. I hear about kind deeds Singaporeans showed to one another – taking turns to wait in line, distributing drinks, buns and food to those queuing, looking out for one another, practising patience and empathy when paying our respects. I witness how civil servants and NSmen came together to support the same cause – taking 12-hour shifts, putting other priorities and interests on hold for this one purpose, and in our own way, doing our bit to pass on this legacy to the next generation. As educators, we struggled to contain our emotions and transfer our gratefulness and understanding of a shared history to our students in the classroom. Others volunteered to manage the queues, disseminate information, and all these acts driven by gratefulness and appreciation for what Singapore has become, is indeed powerful.

The interview segments that followed the state funeral let the words and actions of a lot of Singaporeans, both young and old, testify to the legacy and influence of Mr Lee. I was pleasantly moved that toddlers and young children, could offer up their own words of thanksgiving and goodwill even though they would only have heard of him through documentaries or their parents. I am heartened that as one nation, we have come together to show our gratefulness for this one man.

In one article, it described us as the politically silent ones who only in his death, are now compelled into action, and given a voice. After watching the state funeral, I am convinced that I need to become less politically-apathetic and stop taking the peace and security in Singapore for granted. I wish we future generations will be able to continue to do justice to this country we call Home.

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Verdict

A few days ago, because of the constant chiding from my mother to take care of my health, I went to see a doctor (who happens also to be an elder from my church) at a Weight Management Clinic.

After spending a few hours at Gleneagles and taking a series of tests (which is a rather novel experience for me, really), it was concluded that I am in the pre-diabetic state with two weight-related problems on the line. After a talk to evaluate the root cause of the issue at hand, it was decided that the primary factor is the irregular eating hours, motivated by my unhealthy lifestyle.

To sum it up, there was no fixed (period of) time for my meals. At times breakfast would be at eight a.m., and at other times, it could be as late as noon – or not at all. At times lunch would be at ten a.m., and at other times, it would be at four in the afternoon. Of course this affected dinner as well. As a result, it is said that my body has no idea how to work with my food intake and is confused because of the constant irregularity of my meal times. On some days, after a long day of near-starvation, S and I would have dinner after work – this often happens at eight, and it would likely be a huge treat to make up for the lack of food in the day.

I think our minds play tricks on us too. I feel hunger pangs at the strangest hours – sometimes at seven a.m., sometimes at eleven, sometimes at two … you get the drift.

I am worried about my health. I certainly do not want to be a position where I helplessly rely on others to care for me in my later years, and desperately turn to insurance claims and medical coverage to support me. That being said, my greatest concern is that it is going to be tough to effect any change in my present lifestyle and dietary habits.

Already as it is, there is barely time to reconfigure life and indulge in some ‘head space’. This new healthy diet the doctor proposes requires a commitment in my food choices and in regularising my eating hours. This requires meticulous thoughtful planning, the self-discipline and inner strength to resist temptations when a scrumptious snack presents itself, the thoughtfulness to the little details – such as the kind of coffee, milk and sugar I should have in the morning.

Sometimes there are no options and no freedom of choice. My canteen serves only 1 type of coffee. By the time I finish my lessons and have time for a break, there are only the remains of the day left at the counter – leftover fried rice, curry chicken, fried patties. I am told that I should pack lunches to school – healthy oats, blended drinks, fruits and nuts, salads, and nutritious home-cooked leftovers from dinner… Yet again, it seems that what this new diet plan requires, is a consistent dedication to sticking with it.

What I can say is that I am grateful. I am grateful that people around me care enough to want to make sure that I am OK. I am grateful that God is giving me a chance to reverse the awful habits I have laboured on my body. I am grateful that as a single, independent woman, I have the financial means to support this diet. Above all, I am grateful for the reminder to take care of our bodies for they are the temple of God.

How Can We Live No Differently?

I met up with an old old friend and sister-in-Christ this evening, only to be asked some really hard questions. I did not need to play ignorant or pretend that my current lifestyle and mental/emotional health is not reflective of my spiritual state. She knew the void that I was struggling with and how I desperately wanted to fix my eyes on something more — something higher than what I could see.

I shared with her my fear that I would still be in the same position, working equally hard, but still as a teacher, years from now. And she asked directly, Why do you need to know how you will advance? That question caught me unexpectedly, and I had no sure answer. Why did it matter so much that I know where I would be headed three years from now? Why did it matter that I ensured I advanced in my career, either on a teaching or leadership track? Things are different for us as Christians, she posited.

She also asked, What is your weakness? For her she confessed it boiled down to two things: Pride, in wanting to be in control, and the Desire for approval from others. I had not thought about it prior to hearing this question in my face. Why was I trying to do so much, what was keeping me from leaning on God?

I think it is a sense of self-pride, of wanting to be in control. I want to know where I am headed, and what I am capable of, and what is in store in the future. I also think it is slothfulness. Rather than spending my time efficiently, I give myself excuses far too easily to watch a movie, enjoy a good meal, or catch up on sleep. I think diligence should not come only in the form of long working hours, but time spent in a focus and driven manner as well.

Having established that, I realised that the way we make life decisions should differ from the way others do, as sound and solid their advice might be. Just like how we check ourselves when we wait for a partner for life, waiting in faith for God’s timeline to unfold in our lives, we should also have patience and godliness as we listen and humbly submit to His Will – even if I have no idea where my current life decisions will take me.

It is truly a time to kick myself awake and start making changes to my life. So how can we live no different from others, when we have the ultimate promise in an eternal living God? How can I struggle with the same jadedness and cynicism towards life and work, how can I claim to be a child of God, when I fight the same inner-demons to do my work with conviction and joy?

It is a troubling and embarrassing testimony of the power to freedom we have in Christ. I need to live a victorious life, and take on my challenges with wisdom and patience and humility. Colleagues may be difficult and challenges may be tough. But if God opens a way and I prayerfully submit to His will, I can only be certain that His good and perfect plan will unfold.

Time for change, hoshao. Time for change and plenty of prayer.