06 Mar

the easy life is not so easy

It’s that time of year again: another batch of friends have left Singapore. Before Christmas three of my wine book club, fully half of it, left to go back to Melbourne. Others left too, at the same time or just after; it’s a great time of year for Australians in particular to go home, the start of the school year. Another family, people I really liked, are leaving at Easter. Maybe there’s even more that I don’t know about yet, because you often don’t get more than a couple of months notice for a work move.

You have to keep on top of people here. If you’re on the sort of casual, I like spending time with you but doesn’t life get crazy schedule that works back home, you might completely miss the news and then poof they’re going. And you have to be happy for them, if you are a good friend, but in your mind you’re clutching at their ankle screeching, “NOOOOOO! How can you LEAVE MEEEEEEEE?”

Amazingly, not many people outside of your immediate family make life decisions based on what you want.

Then you have to start the cycle of making new friends all over again. But what if you meet someone, and they seem great, but then they tell you they’re going midyear? Do you just rub them off the mental blackboard? Oh well, not much point making the effort there. I’ll be honest, I’ve done that before. It’s a good way to protect yourself from the sadness when a friend goes. But it’s also a good way to miss out. Because what if you really get along? Sure, they’ll leave and they could end up anywhere: Italy, Tokyo, Toronto, Ireland, but then you’ll know someone who lives there. It’s really cool knowing people all over the world. And as a fellow expat, who knows what the future holds? You could end up in the same place again.

You have to work at friendships here, really make the effort to keep catching up, which is hard for an introvert like me. But if you don’t, you end up feeling like a Larry No Mates because it’s your birthday and you”d like to go out to dinner but the two people you know are busy. Even an introvert like me hates that.

*

A couple of months ago, I ended up at the doctor’s because my anxiety and depression flared up way more than normal. I was having Bad Thoughts, really bad, of a kind I haven’t had for many years, and it scared the crap out of me. So I went to the doctor and he prescribed antidepressants and gave me a referral to a psychologist, and I’m working on stuff.
I don’t know what caused it. Is it hormonal? I was diagnosed with PMDD in the past, but it’s been fine for ages. There is no Why, or maybe there are a thousand mini-Whys. I had a feeling of isolation, of being useless. I remember thinking I would lift right out of this family with no ill effects. I don’t work, I don’t do housework, the only thing I really do is kid homework and bedtimes, and that’s easily replaced. I figured I could disappear and no one would notice.  Hell, I didn’t even think it was worth going to the doctor. What’s the point? I said to Dave. I’m just going to be wasting his time. What will I even say to him? And again when I got my prescription filled. These are really expensive here. We’ll need to do a cost benefit analysis to see if they’re worth it. Between sanity and not sanity? he asked. No, between me and not-me. It just seemed like too much effort to go to.
But then someone I knew lost a friend to suicide and I saw how it really affected her. I remembered another friend, whose dad committed suicide when she was little and how it still tore her up, and, I couldn’t do that to B. So I went to the doctor, and I cried, and now I take my antidepressants and monitor my moods and try to do things that give me joy like exercise and hobbies and I’m doing ok now, except that I still don’t know why it happened in the first place.

*

The moral of the story is: living here is amazing and wonderful, but it can be lonely too. You have to look after yourself, . Those book club ladies, I didn’t see them that much outside of book club but I liked them, and I liked our catchups, and now there’s a gap in my social life. But the other half of the group are still here, and I also really like them. So I’m going to swallow my shyness, and reach out, to all my friends, not just the ones that are here. This is going to be my challenge for this year, to be better at this.
17 Jan

The state of things

On the 2nd of January 2015, we arrived in Singapore. At the time we said we’d be here for two years, because it seemed as good a guess as any. We had no idea if we would like it here, or if Dave would like his job. Two years is the standard commitment for an expat role (leases and utilities all have two-year contracts) so that’s what we said. Long enough to decide if we like living here, but short enough that it’s not a life sentence if we don’t.

Okay, it’s been two years, so what’s happening?

Well, we’re still here. Singapore is a brilliant place to live, it’s clean and safe and everything just works. Dave is enjoying work (though enjoying is not quite the right word), his career is going well and he wants to keep pursuing it; Bianca is thriving at school and me…well, I like it, I’m happy, although the full answer feels more complicated than that.

We’re not committing to any particular chunk of time. Maybe one year, maybe two, perhaps even longer (though I doubt we’ll make it permanent). I have no idea what will happen in the future, where jobs will take us. All I can say is we’re not ready to leave yet.

I’m trying to sort out work. I took a leave of absence from work and that is nearly up. We’ve been talking about me working from the Singapore office but I’m really not sure how that will go so I need to think about what’s next. I’m nervous about being unemployed for the first time in… well, ever really, I’ve worked for the same place almost my entire adult life. Strictly speaking I don’t need to work here but it’s an insurance policy and takes some of the pressure off Dave. And to be honest it would be very good for my sanity to have more adult contact that doesn’t revolve around schoolyard gossip!

I am looking forward to going back but at the same time there’s a part of me bleating, “but… but… I have so much I want to DO!” Yet for the past however long I haven’t been doing any of it! It’s fair clear now that I cannot make good use of my time on my own! You can probably tell I’ve been in a slump for much of the past year, which I can really only put down to feeling a bit aimless. I need external help to find some direction. It remains to be seen whether just the threat of going back to work is enough to kickstart me again.

So that’s where we are right now: still in Singapore, looking to go back to work, making other changes too. Happy 2017 everyone, I hope it is better for you than 2016 in every possible way.

08 May

Warning: contains whingeing.

I have my cranky pants on today. Next door are doing renovations, and it sounds like they’re using a jackhammer to pull the tiles off the walls in the bathroom, directly on the other side of my wall. This is day two. Yesterday it went on for nearly four hours—maybe longer, I was out in the morning–and it is driving me nuts. I cannot think straight, I’m getting a migraine from the noise. Yesterday I asked one of the workers how long they’d be doing that and he said, “it’s stopped.” Since I could barely hear him over the sound of the jackhammering at that particular moment, that was either a misunderstanding on someone’s part or a clever attempt to confuse me. And they promised that today would be quieter, and it’s not, and that is why I’m sitting in a coffee shop muttering into my latte.

I am very tired. Bianca came into our bed in the night, which always means I sleep very badly on the 4 inches of mattress I’m allowed. Then at five AM she did the old dreaming you’re on the toilet trick and wet our bed. I got her up, cleaned her up and put a towel on our bed, then she climbed back into her own and fell straight back to sleep, the little sod. I lay on my damp towel for a bit before I gave up and went downstairs to do the ironing. I could really do with a nap now but see above re: deafening noise, and also re: in public whereupon it is frowned. Grrr.

I am also cranky about myself, about the way I am failing to get out and appreciate being here. The way I live, I could be anywhere.  This week I have actually achieved stuff, I have scrubbed the kitchen and lounge and given them a good declutter but big deal! We have been here four months already. We are one sixth of the way through and I couldn’t even tell you the best bits about Singapore because I haven’t gone to look.

I’m angry and disappointed. Do you ever play that game with yourself, if I didn’t have to work, I’d do…X? Well I do, and I’m actually living that now. I am so lucky, but I feel like I’m blowing it. Instead of doing all my X’s I’m doing housework (badly), grocery shopping, and lying on the couch sweating from exhaustion after a short outing. And then the tv goes on or the mobile phone games start and it’s shit. It’s really shit. I’m really shit. So what if I’ve finally seen all the old episodes of The Mentalist? That’s NOT what this trip was about!

Forgive me if I’ve already talked about this, but I’m too tired to check. And forgive me for having a rant about the same old same old, woe is me, everything sucks and I can’t change it crap. I am tired, and I am cranky, and I am not nice to myself when that happens.

I’m reading a book at the moment, The Art of Travel, by Alain de Botton, which is essays on the theme of travel, interspersed with discussions of travels of historical explorers and poets etc. It’s interesting, but kind of a hard slog at times and I wouldn’t have chosen it myself (it’s a book club book). ANYWAY,  in the first essay he talks about how the idea of travel, and the picture we draw in our minds of our destination  is always much more idealised than reality, and that reality always disappoints, because it contains all the mundane bits our mind has ignored. So we see a photograph of a hotel on a beach and imagine a perfect idyll, but when we actually get there it smells and there’s a freeway just behind the hotel and of course all the other people getting in your way. I think maybe this trip is like that; I had a vision of me having all the time in the world to take cooking classes and do yoga and meditate and ignored the reality that Bianca’s home from school at three thirty and someone has to wash the clothes and get the food in. But at the same time, I am wasting a lot of time. I was doing better when we were at the serviced apartment, I think when we shipped all our stuff over, my old habits came too.

Oy. I think I need to have an early night, and then to delete all the games on my phone and get on with it. What about you? Have you ever taken an extended leave from your job, or real life, with the idea of fulfilling some dream, and did it work out the way you wanted it to? How did you manage it? Please, tell me I’m not the only one who struggles with this?

24 Feb

welcome to the year of the stupid

Gong xi fat cai! We had a four day long weekend to celebrate lunar new year (I can’t quite get the hang of whether it’s ok to call it Chinese new year here). Of course Dave will tell you every day is a weekend for me. Ha ha ha! He is such a funny man. Thank goat he’s gone back to work today.

Speaking of goats, I am worried this might really be the year of the stupid. Or the stupid goat. My birthdate makes me a metal pig, so you know this is possible. So this is what happened. On Friday night we decided to go down to Chinatown to see the lanterns and the general celebrations. Embrace the culture! See the dragons! Actually, we tried to do it the night before, but just as we were about to leave I realised I couldn’t find my train ticket. So we had to abort. That was the first stupid of the year. But we figured it didn’t really matter, because the celebrations go on for two weeks so we’d still get to see it all.

So anyway, Friday evening we dressed up again, Bianca in her cute little pink Chinese dress, and caught the train to Chinatown. It was busy, with lanterns everywhere, but there was nothing in particular going on. So, we checked on our phones to see where we needed to be. And that’s when the second stupid happened. You see, the celebrations do go on for two weeks… BEFORE lunar new year.

You could say we were in the right place, but the wrong time.

We were stupid tourists.

(But seriously, come on! Shouldn’t you have the party when the big holiday is happening? No? Okay, but shouldn’t you do it anyway for the stupid tourists like us? No? Well shut up.)
So instead I contented myself with taking photos of lanterns and funny signs.

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pretty

I could maybe actually shop here

I could maybe actually shop here

um... no thanks

um… no thanks

Then we sampled the local delicacies at McDonald’s. After that it got dark and all the lights went on and it was just beautiful.

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lights

 

two tigers and a goat

two tigers and a goat

And then we took the train back home.

I think Chinatown should have dragons every day.