AMAL MUSES, JULY 2018
July 24th Article
Living In The Now
By Amal Ghazali
And before I know it, it is now time for another birthday. This time last year I wrote an article called ‘Love In Three Decades’, an essay of my reflections on self-value. And this was fitting at the time, given that I had just completed my era of twenties, a phase that we all know is saturated with so many learning curves about growing up. Personally, it was an important decade for me because it contained so many experiences that allowed me to really figure out who I was and what I truly wanted. For a lot of us, this means stepping outside the boundaries that we were raised in and into a new realm of possibilities, of making our own choices and finally living them.
At the turn of my thirtieth year, I began to look closely at my own aspects of life. This was, in part, triggered by a conversation I had with an older colleague at the office. We started talking about the things we would like to do, and these included the places we would like to travel to, new hobbies we would like to attempt and personal ambitions we would like to achieve. At some point during this chat, he then mentioned that there are so many things in his list that he could probably no longer go for because of his current circumstance. He has kids, so traveling is not exactly a financial nonchalance. One of his knees have given out, so he can no longer go for that Everest Base Camp hike he had always wanted to attempt.
When the conversation ended it brought me to think about this concept of ‘living in the now’. When I was younger, I lived on a day-to-day basis, spending too much time doing things just because everyone else is doing them, and too little time giving some serious thoughts about what I actually wanted out of my life. I had no aspirations at work, I spent my money on expensive things just because other friends were wearing them too, and I didn’t invest a lot of time in figuring out who I really was or how I would like to live my life, sans cultural expectations.
Upon realising that I was then, thirty years old, or in other words, halfway through the lifespan of an average person (although the hope is I can still have all my bodily functions at the age of eighty or ninety), it dawned on me that I really didn’t have that much time left. It felt as though I was twenty just moments ago when in fact, it has been a decade. What that means is if I am not careful, another decade would speed by right under my nose with me still hovering around not doing much, feeling like I have all the time in the world.
I had to take action. I sat down and went on a serious business of enlisting what I wanted to do and how I could achieve them. They weren’t big things. They weren’t supremely ambitious things, like starting a social media empire or wanting to be a billionaire in 5 years. They were dreams, plans and aspirations of mine, big and small, long and short-term. I’ve always had them in my mind, but like I said, I’ve always stalled from actually executing them because I felt like time is at my expense.
And so I spent most of the year trying to realise this list. I began taking ukulele lessons, just because it always seemed so fun to be able to strum a tune with it. I never tried in the past because it didn’t feel like there was any value to that, but what I’ve learned is that not everything has to be monetary-driven. Self-enrichment is about feeling fulfilled, so if it makes you happy, go for it! Even if it means appearing deranged to your neighbours as you roll down the hill while trying to learn how to roller-blade (which was also me, a couple of months ago).
I wanted to travel to many places, but something was always stopping me. I would either be too concerned with how expensive that would be, or if it’s relevant to take that much time off work. But talking to a female friend, a mother of two, finally shifted my position. “Appreciate the time you have now to do whatever you really want to do,” she said. “One day, when you have children and commitments, you’ll never get the luxury of time like this again. And you’ll be very sorry you didn’t use it to its fullest.”
And so I did. I travelled to 6 different countries in 5 months. At times with friends, at times solo. As for work? Let me put it this way; if there is a will, there is a way. Schedule your year so that you can enjoy your time without neglecting your responsibilities. Leverage where you can. Talk to your boss about how you can best deliver your work while also enjoying your personal time.
Do It Now
Two months ago, I decided to sign up for a French language course. I’ve always wanted to learn a new language, and if not now, then when? It was daunting at first, the fact that I was throwing this into the mix of being a full-time geologist, writing a newspaper column, finishing the manuscript of my second book, and maintaining a blog. But the way I see it, if you can’t find time, then make time. You’d be surprised how much space you can create just by cutting down on your TV time, Instagram time, and even mindless gossiping time.
We always find reasons to stall from doing what we would really like to be doing. It’s a form of self-sabotaging. We convince ourselves that we have plenty of time, when the truth is, we know very well that time is fleeting. I haven’t done everything I have on my list, but so far, as a result as pushing myself to start doing some of them, I daresay that my thirtieth year has been one of the best years of my life yet. Perhaps the conclusion of this self-experiment is if you start living the life you want now, instead of waiting for the undefined ‘later’, you’ll feel a bigger sense of fulfilment and contentment over your current life.
July 10th Article
The Group Cleanse
By Amal Ghazali
I really enjoy doing cleanses and detoxes. Alright, let me rephrase that. I don’t necessarily enjoy the elaborate dietary restrictions and the emotional chaos sugar withdrawal causes, but I certainly like the feeling after. It’s the sense of accomplishment from soldiering through a nutritional commitment of no white sugar, no red meat or no dairy (I love my cheese, so this is particularly difficult). It’s the elimination of guilt you’ve gained after eating so much high-cholesterol Raya food over the holidays that could make a cardiologist cry. And most of all, it’s the amazing feeling you get when you manage to see the physical results, like weight loss or clearer skin.
This year is my second year of doing a post-Raya cleanse. Last year was brutal. The sugar withdrawal made me cranky, so much so that I even felt like yelling at my potted plants for no reason. I distinctively remember being in a crowd of colleagues during a ‘Raya’ potluck (because hey, we celebrate it for a month, right?), and while everyone was indulging in all sorts of delicacies, I had to stick to my plate of raw vegetables and hummus dip. It was easily one of the longest weeks of 2017.
So this year, I was better prepared. I scheduled my detox in the window where there was absolutely no Raya party invitations, and to keep me motivated, I decided to invite two other colleagues, Shahul and Wardah, to join me in the challenge. Neither of them have tried it before, so I was excited to see how it would work out for them.
The Challenge Begins
Before we began, I had to first and foremost lay out the rules for them. “No red meat, because we want to be as gentle as possible to our digestive systems,” I said. Plus we’ve eaten enough red meat during Raya to last us for a whole month. This seemed to settle well with the both of them.
“And no processed meat of any form.” They were okay with this too.
“No white carbohydrates.” I saw some worried looks.
“No caffeine either,” I said, and they pondered on this for a while. “How about coffee from the vending machine?” Wardah asked. I thought this was a strange question given that I’ve just said that we were not to have any caffeine in any form whatsoever. “And no processed, white sugar,” I concluded.
“Alright how about Llao Llao frozen yoghurt dessert? I mean, it’s yoghurt, so it’s practically good for you, right?” Shahul asked. I almost gave up.
We all agreed to begin the ‘cleanse’ on the next day. At lunch time, I saw Shahul emerging at the office with some McDonald treats. I asked him why he was indulging in a lot fast food junk today. “Oh, because we’re starting the detox tomorrow. So I’m making the most out of today by eating all these stuff,” he answered.
Surprisingly, the next few days went by like a breeze. Unlike last year when I was eating my raw vegetables on my own at the sad little corner of the office, this time around I looked forward to my lunch breaks. As part of the commitment, we agreed to take turns to make lunches for the group. This way, mealtimes became exciting instead of dreadful, because we were excited to see what each of us can come up with given the list of do’s and don’ts. Eating together and asking each other what we had throughout the day also kept us motivated and reduces the dreadful feeling of being the only person eating zero-carb meals. I suppose in this case, misery really does love company.
The only relapse we had was an occasion where Shahul was caught eating spoonful after spoonful of high-sugar peanut butter (“Why not? I thought you said nuts are really good for us,” he said).
Tips To Have A Successful Cleanse
Earlier in the year, there was an uprising of articles claiming cleanses and detoxes as a complete hoax. Did I agree? Well, it depends on how you approach it, really. Would you contest that eating cleaner diets with less processed food and more plants and greens have no effect on our health whatsoever? Of course not. There are legit research out there that shows eating more vegetables and less processed meat will directly impact our overall health.
What becomes a hoax, however, is if you only eat well during your short detox program but you eat horribly on the rest of the days in the year. It’s all about check and balance, of course. Doing a cleanse is just an opportunity to be extra kind to your body and feed it with more goodness, but for the rest of the time, you’re still responsible for looking after what you consume and having a fairly balanced diet.
And if you’re thinking of trying it out sometime, might I suggest getting a few other family members or friends to join you? I found that it gave me an extra boost to keep going, as doing it alone can sometimes present a challenge in terms of maintaining the motivation. Honesty, even whining together about wanting an ice cream is better than feeling miserable on your own.
Most of all, keep your eye on the prize. What are your objectives of doing one in the first place? If you’re not allergic to gluten, then focus less on having a gluten-free program and pay more attention to having more greens in your diet. If you’re doing a carb-free program, don’t starve yourself. Instead, think of ways on how you can fill yourself up with other alternatives. Doing a detox does not mean you have to be hungry.
As expected, by the end of it we felt great physically and had more energy. I highly recommend it, and if you’re about to embark on one, good luck!