The Year Of Gratitude
By Amal Ghazali
With the emergence of the New Year, I found myself once again packing my bags for yet another adventure. This time, it was West Sumatera, Indonesia, for about a week. It was a rather immediate decision, but I’ve come to learn that the best things in life always seem to unravel during moments of unplanned, random occurrences.
It would almost appear that being there was the perfect breath of fresh air to commemorate the appearance of yet another year. A creature of habit, I always seem to make it a point to make an official list of what I would like to achieve, and plan my whole year around them. A lot of people seem to think that making new year resolutions is such a cliché, but for me it’s a way to form solid aims and goals, or otherwise I would feel like I’m just drifting about while another year passes me by.
West Sumatera is a beautiful place. I spent most of my time around Padang, and there were times when I found myself in small, off-the-grid towns. The kind of low key places you wouldn’t find much information about on Google, with no ‘real’ tourist attractions and hardly any Westerner in sight. Unlike the more popular areas of Indonesia, the small towns were modest, with people living simple lives based on mainly agriculture or farming. No fancy restaurants, no five-star hotels, and not even Grab service in some places.
But let me be the first to tell you about how nice the people are. The locals are even nicer than your usual Asian-nice. The hospitality is great, crime rates are low, and people are so kind and helpful to the point where you begin to wonder if there is a CCTV planted somewhere by the government to monitor everyone’s behaviour. Despite the fact that these people work hard and have a generally tougher life than we do back home, it is easy to tell that they have a higher score of contentment in their day-to-day lives.
First World Problems
If you’ve been meddling with the Internet long enough, you’ll notice that there is a coined term called ‘first world problems’. What this generally mean is the need to assess trivial problems in a manner as though they are life-shattering, when they are not. This is absolutely common, especially among my generation within a privileged lifestyle. Some examples include but may not be restricted to; complaining about low internet speed, whining about being bored with an everyday job that pays well, or taking the comforts of a financially stable life for granted.
Admittedly, I am certainly one of those people who often ponder on these ‘first world problems’. Sometimes, I would come across an unfortunate event, and I would hone in into this specific problem, with little regard to everything else in my life that’s going well. I think about how my house isn’t that nice as the ones I see in interior magazines, when in fact I am so lucky to even have one. I am quick to feel bored with my corporate work, meanwhile forgetting that some people are struggling to make ends meet with minimum wage or hard labour.
My real low point once came when I was having a terrible day and found myself thinking, “nothing right ever happens to me!” How dare I? There I was, in nice clothes, driving my own car, back from a job that has allowed me to travel and live comfortably, while talking to my parents who have always been there for me, and I had seem to not notice any of these great things in my life. I was a prime example of someone with a lot of privileges and very little gratitude.
Act On That Gratitude
It’s easy to say that you’re thankful for the life you’ve had. But it’s not enough to just say you’re grateful. Anyone could do that. To really cultivate the appreciation, action is required. And no other action shows it better than doing something for the benefit of other people. Selflessness is epitome act of gratitude over the blessings you have.
I am not saying we should all start joining a hunger-relief missionary or sign up for UNICEF. But maybe, with the start of the New Year, I could begin with the little things by investing my time for other people, spending more time with family, helping out friends more often, or the occasional local volunteering work. Even charity, as little as giving out a couple of ringgit to the less fortunate, is a great little reminder of how much we have. The comparable value, for example, of how little 5 ringgit means to us versus how significant it is to someone else, is a great opportunity for self-reflection and humility.
And perhaps, with better humility and bigger gratitude, we could all experience yet another year with an improved perspective, and eventually, a more contented life altogether.
So happy, nervous and excited to announce the publication of my second book, TUESDAY!
I began actively writing it about 1.5 years ago, and the best thing was it was written in various places I travelled to during the time. After a series of re-writes (and self-deprecation haha), edits, manuscript-disappearance scare (I lost my thumbdrive containing the book in Italy), it’s such a relief to see it realized as an actual, proper book!
You can purchase your copy at;
Malaysia – All MPH and Kinokuniya, and some selected Popular bookstores
Singapore – All MPH outlets
Other countries/online – visit mphonline.com to purchase
I am so excited for you to read it!
There will be a book launch on Saturday, 19 January 2019, at 2 pm at MPH Mid Valley. I hope to see you there!!
Get Up And Dance
By Amal Ghazali
There was a moment this year. It was a Sunday morning. I had woken up early, and in the morning light I put on my boots and went outside the cottage rental I was staying at, plucked a lemon from its tree and made some hot lemon tea. They say Amalfi lemons are some of the best in the world, and I agree. After that I went to sit at the writing desk by the window that faced the vast, open sea. I sat there and wrote for hours, with the gentle breeze coming through the curtains smelling of the sea, my Italian chocolate handy by the laptop with my hot lemon tea. Down the road, I could see the local farmers working in their olive farm, with rows upon rows of beautiful olive trees growing on the long, beautiful Italian coastline.
The moment came after a few hours of writing. I stopped looking at my laptop, and stared outside at the beautiful view. I was somewhere in Salerno, but I couldn’t even tell you where I was exactly even if I wanted to. There was nothing there except for my cottage, a few other houses, a very angry dog tied to the tree at the edge of the road, a small grocery store, a café with exactly 2 tables and a bus that came by every hour. I was sitting there writing my second book. I realised that because of certain choices I have made in my life, there I was, in a wonderful Italian village doing what I love best. That was very early in 2018.
In the beginning of this year I made a plan to have minimal plans. I remember writing about it in NST in January. 2017 had been a little overwhelming for plenty of reasons, and so I thought that as an experiment, why not try to live through 2018 as spontaneously as possible? What happens if all I do is focus on reconnecting with myself, stop wallowing about the past, pause worrying about the future, throw caution to the wind and live everyday of the year doing whatever I feel like doing? Would days seem any different? Would I enhance the quality of my life?
Analysing The Experiment
The result? I took time off work to travel solo, meet up with friends, and write as much as I’d like in beautiful places. I found myself on a random skiing trip to a place I’ve never even heard of in Prapoutel, France. I had the best sushi of my life in Tokyo with a Japanese dude I have never even met before. I went to see Vikos Gorge in Greece, the second-deepest canyon in the world I had never even knew existed. I ate half my body weight in Italy. I climbed the highest I had ever been; The Ananpurna Base Camp. I was stuck at a lonely café during a rainstorm in Barcelona. I had food poisoning in Santorini and threw up everywhere.
Of course I couldn’t always be traveling. Unlike the characters in Crazy Rich Asians, I have bills and mortgages to pay, an employer with expectations, and a family I’m very close to. But even on the weeks where I was at home, I stayed true to my commitment of trying to live a full, spontaneous lifestyle. In that spirit, I made a choice to finally try out everything I have been meaning to but never got around to because of ‘life reasons’ (and this could include these excuses but not limited to – I’m too busy, I’m too tired to do anything after work, I don’t see the point, I just feel like being lazy and watching Netflix).
So I found myself pounding a punching bag in a kickboxing gym almost every Tuesday after work, a place I’ve always been too intimidated to go. It turns out that not everyone there was a professional fighter after all. I practiced playing the Ukulele every week even though I still sound like an American Idol reject to this day. But it’s so much fun to sing along to, so who cares? I squeezed in 2 hours of French classes every week and can now understand simple directions and expressions, something I never thought I could do. I tried roller blading that ended up to be rather disastrous, but hey, at least I tried. I made conscious efforts to spend more quality time with my family, which allowed me to be more present in my nieces and nephew’s lives, even though they live far away.
Concluding The Results
I’m careful about the advice I take on life. But one of the people I have always admired the most is Oprah Winfrey, a woman I deem to have led a full life, and her advice have always been gold to me. Through one of my readings this year, I came across a book of hers where she said this; when you get the choice to either sit it out or dance, I hope you dance.
And boy did I dance this year. I took that advice personally. And in the end, it really did improve the quality of my life. Instead of waiting for vacations and weekends, every single day counts in giving me pleasure, fulfilment and milestones. Instead of thinking of a million reasons as to why I should do something, I opted to think why not? To a certain extent, I had always seem to shroud myself in the expectations of others on how I should live my life. But the thing is, we are all given different circumstances and different opportunities, so make that choice to stop yearning for what others have, and begin living your own truth.
And that’s the biggest lesson I’ve learned this year. Don’t just sit it out. Get up there and dance. That’s when the magic happens.
Trekking The Himalayas
By Amal Ghazali
By the time I reached Annapurna Base Camp, 4130 meters above sea level with fierce winds, freezing rain and a 2-degree temperature, I had not showered for days. There was a moment when we’ve settled down in the base camp cabins and I was staring outside the window into the misty vast nothingness of alpine highlands, with no heater, internet or a hot shower, that I was shrouded with this strange feeling, like I was just a tiny being in the middle of a large, unknown nowhere.
The whole trek took 7 days, although the days may vary depending on which route you plan to take. I did the necessary preparations, of course – I trained, packed enough medications, bought the right pair of shoes, and even brought some packets of instant Maggi noodles (if you don’t travel with at least a packet, are you even a Malaysian?). But of course, as much as one might prepare for a long-haul hiking trip, there are always bound to be surprises and new lessons along the way. Here I try to share some of them, in hopes that they would help you should you ever plan to go.
Tips I’ve Learned
First and most importantly, the shoes. There is absolutely nothing more outrageously annoying then having to hike everyday for a week for hours on end in wet, soggy shoes. The Base Camp trail receives plenty of rainfall, and if you’re not in waterproof shoes the puddles, streams and pouring showers will get to you. Hiking with wet feet is then just a getaway for blisters, colds and discomforts.
One of the main concerns of hiking in high altitudes is the risk of getting AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness). The symptoms vary from headaches, tummy aches, nausea and in severe cases, death. I took a specific insurance plan to make sure I would be covered financially in case I needed helicopter evacuation due to any possible medical incidents, and on top of that I took prescribed AMS medications as an additional preparation. If you see choppers flying about the trekking region, chances are they are not taking a Paris Hilton out for sight-seeing, but rather, evacuating someone on a medical emergency.
Speaking of Paris Hilton, forget all your vanity luggage. Really. Don’t worry about which shade of lipstick to pack with you, how many foundation tubes to bring or which outfit looks great on Instagram. There will never be such an occasion during the hiking expedition where you’ll need to look fancy. In fact, chances are as the days become colder and you feel more worn out with time, you really wouldn’t care about how you look. And neither does anyone else there. In extreme conditions such as these, be practical and emphasise on comfort, safety and hygiene.
And on the subject of hygiene, remember that Nepal is perhaps not as privileged as your own hometown. Tap water is not safe to drink, and using purifying pills for all drinking water is advisable. Take my advice and bring enough wet wipes for various reasons – you will thank me later. Unlike your last vacation in the Swiss Alps where there’s a warm fireplace and a rug made from Llama fur, the accommodation throughout the hike are very basic. There are no heaters, and the rooms are just a square hole with a simple bed and a blanket. No mirrors either, and this could be a good thing. I didn’t have to watch myself gradually turn into a stinky, un-showered ape form as the days pass by.
It’s also good information to know that the natives in this side of the Himalayas, mainly the Gurung tribe, are devout vegetarians. What it means is that at pretty much every guesthouse, everything on the menu is vegetarian, with the occasional canned tuna. If you’re not used to this, which is basically most of us, best be prepared mentally for this temporary shift in diet. Otherwise, you can also opt to sneak in some packed meat products, which seemed to be the norm with many trekkers.
Gear Up For An Adventure
But above all, aside from all the tips I’ve shared, perhaps the most important preparation is setting your mind to have realistic expectations over the whole experience. Unlike the comforts of your own home, with your favourite coffee shop, your comfy bed and your luxury lifestyle privileges, when exploring the outdoors, Mother Nature is no pampering feat. Sometimes it will be so cold you can barely feel your face. Sometimes you get so tired after hours and hours of hiking up steep terrains that you feel almost demotivated. Sometimes the sunburn is so cruel that no amount of SK2 can immediately fix it.
There will be discomforts, things that don’t go according to plan, and incidents that tests your patience. Furthermore, hiking with other people will also allow you to truly discover how people react in a situation of high tension of exhaustion. You’ll bond, you’ll make new friends, and you will definitely learn a thing or two about yourself.
For me, it was an exhilarating adventure I would never forget. Amidst the adrenaline rush of seeing how beautiful and magnificent the earth is, I was glad to be able to walk the Himalayan ranges, something I had only seen and dreamed about before by watching TV. I was tired, but I discovered how much I’m really capable of physically and mentally. The Himalayan highlands is a vast and lonely place, but through the expedition I made good friends and learned so much about them.
Perhaps this is what I love the most about adventures. They hurl you out of your comfort zones, and this is the only way you will ever explore and learn new things.
Preparing For The Big One
By Amal Ghazali
I just want to first and foremost apologize to my mother for the misleading title – no, I’m not talking about preparing for an upcoming wedding.
I’ve always loved hikes. Born and bred in a small, rural area in Kedah where there we more greens than the concrete jungle, the sight of unperturbed nature brings me the comfort of childhood memories. It’s the sunshine, the dirt, and even the armpit sweat that reminds me of the much more carefree years living in a kampong area. As a geologist, which is basically someone who studies the science of the earth, this only adds up to my whole appreciation of the natural outdoors. There is so much history into why these types of rocks are here or how those lands turned out the way they did.
So as an adult, it only makes sense why my idea of great travel often requires some form of natural exploration, usually in a form of hikes. It’s the best kind of freedom – you put on sensible shoes, carry only your necessities, and off you go for a nice walk that usually ends up with a spectacular view, on top of the world.
Soon, I would be embarking on another big one. It’s one of the Great Himalaya Trails, called the Annapurna Base Camp Trek. I know. I gulp when I think about it too. It was a rather impromptu decision on my part, as a result of my pledge to live as spontaneously as possible this year. It was only after I had officially signed up and paid for the trip that the reality actually sank in. A hike to the Himalayan Base Camp? Really?
Assessing My Own Capability
Here’s the truth: I am not a natural athlete.
Although I enjoy staying active, I don’ have the natural flair of athleticism. When I attend yoga classes I am that average student whose pace is much slower than the rest. I can run, but not with the steady stamina you see on the other runners at the park, who seem to always manage to look poised and stylish while pulling of 10km. Meanwhile you’ll see me pant, grunt, and hold on to my gut whilst dragging my feet. I tried HIIT but after that I was hit with a need to go to the nearest hospital for some drip.
So in the wake of me joining the hiking expedition, I knew I had to buckle up and ensure that I was really prepared for what’s going to come. I have this terrible imagery of me being a liability to the whole group, a picture of me being hauled by the donkey (which is supposed to carry hiking equipment during the trek, not humans) due to exhaustion, or even worse, in need of a helicopter evacuation. I did some research and found that the biggest concern for high elevation hiking such as these is the risk of AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness). Although anyone is at risk to get this, research shows that people with lower fitness levels are more prone to the possibility of it. It was becoming clearer that I had to make sure I was physically prepared for this long-haul trek.
My two biggest challenges for the preparation are time and momentum. I signed up for the trip in June, which left me about four months to train. Like any other working woman in the city, I work a 8 to 5 job, and by 5 I mean 6.30, which means by the end of the day I am tired from working, and all I really want to do is go home, eat dinner and watch House of Cards on Netflix before I go to bed. But it wouldn’t be sufficient to only train on weekends, so there I was, after long days at work, huffing and puffing my way through kickboxing classes, yoga sessions or treadmill runs.
Staying on track with my training was a whole other problem. I needed to go for ‘training hikes’, but who wants to wake up supremely early on weekends and spend them going up the hills and mountains nearby to practice? I needed to eat well to make sure that I was properly feeding my body to pick up more physical demands, but there always seem to be some kind of excuse not to adhere to this – there’s Raya season (and who can say no to the buffet?), there’s Durian season (only once a year, so you have to), there are ‘Mom-is-in-town-so-you-have-to-eat-three-plates-of-rice’ weekends, and the list goes on.
You’re Your Own Enabler
There’s always an excuse to not stick to a health resolution. Even when there is a gruelling, physically-demanding Himalayan hike just over the horizon, like me. For some reason, there always seem to be this distant voice in the back of our minds that fills us with self-doubt and cynicism. I came across online blogs which claimed that training isn’t really necessary for the week-long hike. “I did minimal preparations and I was fine,” one person had said.
I thought about it. Yes, I could indeed choose to not do much about it, and when the time comes I could just ‘wing it’, so to speak. But what happens if I get really sick or tired due to my lack of preparation, and didn’t make it to the top? Of course, even with training one can still get tired or sick, but there is a difference in failing after giving it your best by training and preparing yourself, compared to failing without giving it much of an effort in the first place.
I think that whatever happens in the end, I would have a much better level of gratification if I try my hardest, instead of not even trying at all. Here’s hoping!
You can read the whole article by clicking the link below... enjoy!
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!
A State Of Affair
By Amal Ghazali
Have you seen the film Closer? It’s a film starring Natalie Portman and Julia Roberts, which is basically good enough reason to watch something. I was doing some research for a book and came across this 2014 production. In short, it’s a film about four people having affairs, and how it impacted their lives and the lives of their spouses.
I’m not even sure if I would recommend seeing this movie. It was beautifully crafted, but painful to watch. After I was done I had to eat 2 bowls of ice cream just to pick myself up again. A movie about infidelity wouldn’t have really fazed me a few years ago, but these days the subject seem to be hovering closer within my radar.
Just recently there was a friend who was cheated on by his spouse. It ended their marriage and caused a lot of pain for them and their respective families. And if you’re over the age of 25, I am sure you would’ve at least heard about someone you know in real life who are involved with or have been affected by infidelity.
On one of those days when I found myself engrossed in a conversation with my usual group of girlfriends about cheating husbands, unfaithful wives and all the phone apps that you can download to discreetly monitor where and what your spouse is doing (yes, these apps exist! I was as surprised as you are), I found all these so overwhelming that I watched all 3 Bridget Jones movies just to feel hopeful again.
For someone who is yet to step into the world of lifetime partners and marital commitments, it scared the heck out of me. Anyone with half a brain knows that cheating is awful and hurts the ones we love, and yet despite our mostly practical grasp of that understanding, some of us are still unfaithful. The question is, why do we do it?
There are a lot of reasons as to why. If you read enough books, listen to enough stories, and watch enough movies, you’ll find that the list is endless.
We fell out of love with time, and I fell in love with someone else.
He stopped paying attention to me.
She let herself go.
Once, an acquaintance told me that upon confronting her husband about an affair, he admitted that he was doing it out of boredom.
Like I said, the list of reasons to justify unfaithfulness is varied and colourful.
But to begin with, the definition of cheating itself is subjective. Is exchanging prolonged texts considered cheating? Is emotional dependency on someone else that’s not your spouse considered infidelity? Must it only be physical? To add to the complexity, our lifestyles have changed. Affairs can now be virtual, not only physical. There are about a million different channels on the internet where a person could discreetly carry out shenanigans without suspicion. Facebook. Instagram. Twitter. WeChat. Couchsurfing. Line. The choices are endless.
Eventually, we land on the conversation as to why. Why do people cheat?
Like other human behaviours, if you dig deep enough you’ll find that there is always a simplified reason as to why people behave the way they do, beyond the reasons they would actually tell you.
In a research done by Esther Perel, a renowned psychotherapist specialising in relationships, she found that the reason why someone is unfaithful would almost always boil down to the need to re-invent themselves.
As life with a stable spouse expands into the roles of partners and parents, a lot of people begin to feel that their true ‘selves’ are eclipsed by these responsibilities. With time, stable relationships can also fall into a plateau where things are no longer as exciting as they used to be in the beginning of courtship. Having affairs, it seems, is a way for some people to explore these facets of themselves they feel like they have lost.
Desire also comes into the picture upon analysing these situations. They are not necessarily the conventional aspects of desire we seem to easily associate with infidelity. Rather, it is more to do with self-entitlement. There is a desire to feel adored the way we used to be adored in the early stages of relationships. There is a desire to gain affection and awe elsewhere when we feel as though we are not getting what we deserve in our current relationships. We live in an age where self-fulfilment is deemed priority, and unfortunately some of us will abuse this philosophy through justifying affairs as a way to find these ‘fulfilments’.
Ownership Of Actions
It’s interesting to see that root cause of disloyalty is, for the most part, our own internal turmoil. It’s even more interesting to observe that pretty much all destructive behaviours are eventually a resultant of our inability to address our personal struggles in a healthy way, and less about how others treat us.
It’s always easy to justify infidelity by finding the blame on how the other one treats us. From an outsider’s point of view, I’ve heard this story plot one too many times. But I’ve always wondered if these situations could have been salvaged should we have taken better ownership of our own reactions.
No relationship is perfect, and there will always be a time when we are not necessarily treated the way we expect to be treated by our significant other. There will always be something else that’s more seductive somewhere. There will always be times when the grass seem greener on the other side. But in the end, the determinant of these situations will always be our own selves and our own reactions.
And to quote a line from the movie Closer, “there’s a moment. There’s always a moment – I can do this, I can give into this, or I can resist it”. I happen to think that there is so much truth to this, as the choice for anything in this life is always essentially, our own.
For April 2018, I talked about how I sometimes make up stories of an 'imaginary husband', just so that I would not be judged for being single. In hindsight, that's probably not the best thing to do (by pretending being someone I'm not), so read the whole article at the link below! (or click the picture).
I also wrote about my trip to Japan and what that taught me about eating yourself to a long life.
Click here to read the whole article
I am so honored and thrilled that Dumped was featured in Marie Claire magazine, April 2018 edition!
We talked about all fun things – how the book came about, new-age dating and traveling!
In the interview I mentioned that although I have never tried any ‘organized’ dating (i.e. speed dating, online dating etc), I know people who have done so and met interesting people and had meaningful relationships. By the end of the day, I always have respect for people who are brave enough to go after what they want in life. It’s so much better than sitting around, too scared of taking chances and ending up with a lot of ‘what-if’s.
Have you read ‘Dumped’ yet? What did you think of it? I am excited for you to read my next baby (hopefully soon!)
You can read the whole interview below. Don’t forget to grab a copy of your Marie Claire – there’s a whole section of amazing Malaysia women doing amazing things. I am in awe!