So, I haven’t blogged since that last past about Bali. That’s a gap of more than eight months.
I’ve wondered why. Simple laziness is the tempting and probably substantially correct answer, but I feel there’s more. Maybe part of that is busy-ness, though goodness knows I haven’t been too busy to eat a lot and sleep a lot and read a bit and cruise the Web in near-obsessive, increasingly desperate hunts for pointless utterly pointless sports news. Maybe part of it is the sort of busy-ness that squeezes mental stamina out of you, the sort of mental stamina that then has to be replenished by idly allowing your face to be tanned by the light from your desktop LCD screen over the weekend. Maybe part of it is just lack of inspiration, or the self-perceived version of same (but when is something not self-perceived anyway?). And maybe part of it was the (self-perceived) meaningless-ness of whatever I would have written. Or maybe, the question is the wrong one: I wondered why I haven’t blogged; maybe it’s more apt to ask why I should have.
Hmm. Well. I should have, because I thought I liked to blog. I think I like to blog. It’s troubling that there was that long period of time during which I apparently did not want to blog. *thinking thinking thinking* Blogging is writing, yes? So, maybe I wasn’t writing well at work. Or was writing too much.
(Heh, funny how I came to “work” as a reason for not blogging. But maybe it’s not so funny – “funny” as in “strange” – maybe it’s not so funny, since we work for so much of our lives. If there is a reason I haven’t blogged, it’s probably linked to my work, just based on the universe of reasons in my life it can possibly be linked to.)*
Anyway, while I have not been blogging, I’ve collected some thoughts to blog about. A lot of these surfaced during my various work trips. I was in Brussels earlier this year, and when I came back home and cleared out my suitcase, I found a red-tipped matchstick, nestled amongst my clothes. I don’t smoke, the hotel room I was in was a non-smoking one, there was no sign that anyone had tampered with my suitcase, so it was a complete mystery how a red-tipped matchstick ended up in my suitcase. But maybe what happened was, the lady who cleaned out my room smoked and carried around loose matchsticks and inadvertently dropped one in my open suitcase. Something innocuous and non-esoteric like that. Maybe.
I think it was during the second-leg flight to Santiago. I ran through the in-flight entertainment system’s various contents, and there were two Jason Mraz albums, a studio album and a one with songs he performed “live”. Both had the song “I’m Yours”. I’d of course heard the song several times over the radio by this time, but listening to the “live” version in a artificially closed personal space – with the crowd going wild after the first two notes of guitar twang and Jason Mraz’s free-wheeling slightly raw style – was a more moving, more buoying experience, and something I credit for keeping me sane during that flight. (I then listened to it on repeat nearly the entire way back to Singapore.)
I saw a few sides of Chile. Santiago looked a little unmaintained, but walk-able and open, with wide wide streets. Wine tasting at the Concha y Toro vineyard was an… experience, with the sommelier brandishing his classic sommelier’s nose and the likeably pretentious sommelier’s jargon, and truly in my view enriching our enjoyment of the bottles of red and white on show. Valparaiso looked in many ways like a modern European seaside town, with posh developments all around. We had lunch at a restaurant along the Valparaiso coast, and the appetiser of lightly blanched white fish, clams, crab meat, prawns and squid, fresh from the sea and drizzled with lemon juice, hit the spot!
Long-haul flights offer one time alone, to be introspective. I think that’s the only enjoyable bit about them.**
I spent many hours with my bosses during these work trips. One of them, retiring soon, is a generous, opinionated man who’s been doing his job for longer than I’ve known about Transformers. Recently, back in Singapore, he was in a meeting, at which several briefings had been scheduled for very important and busy people who’d just joined the ministry. The briefings were overrunning, as they do, and near the end of the day, even though it wasn’t his turn, my boss gave his briefing. What he did not know was, there were some colleagues from another department outside the meeting room, who had been waiting and waiting for their turn to brief, and that in fact they had been scheduled ahead of my boss. When it turned out that my boss’s briefing would be the last one these very important and busy personages would be around for that day, the colleagues from this other department were understandably quite upset.
This department is located on the same floor as ours, and, once he’d settled some matters in his office, my boss walked over to this other department to apologise to each and every colleague who had waited for their turn which never came partly because my boss took up some time to do his own briefing. His was the good-natured sort of apology, “sorry about it”, with a smile, unreserved, un-phony.
I gave my boss a hard time about skipping the other department’s turn (well, as hard a time as I could – I know my station in life) – how could you!, I said to him. When I heard about his apology afterwards, I really had to shake my head, in admiration. Will miss him.
The influence I wield over the lives of colleagues that I supervise/manage/lead is unexpectedly heavy. This struck home when a conscientious new (well, sort of new) colleague called me on the phone to tell me, in between choking sobs, that her dad had been diagnosed with cancer and the doctor had given him only six months to live. As I held the phone to my ear and listened to her crying, I could only cast about for something to say, something comforting and decent and supportive and helpful and which did not betray the fact that one of my first thoughts in the mess of things, as I remember it, right alongside “what must she be feeling now?”, was “how about her work?”.
A couple of things I have enjoyed these months, that I’d like to share:
1. Theme song from “Cheers” – Over the years, I think I’ve enjoyed other sitcoms more. But not other theme songs. Poignant and meaningful and true.
2. 戒不了 – I enjoy this Malaysian writer’s little pieces of whimsy and philosophy. (They are in Chinese, which in my opinion can carry boundless nuance in a small space in a way that makes one marvel at the human capacity for creating meaning.) Try these two: http://kitcheah.blogspot.com/2011/09/blog-post.html (title loosely translated as “Only for a little heartbeat”, about why one writes) and http://kitcheah.blogspot.com/2008/05/blog-post.html (“Reason for being happy”, about how one is no longer another’s reason for being happy)
*There have been some changes at work – five new colleagues since March. And more changes to come. Big, scary monster-type ones.
**On one of these flights, I saw a flight attendant who behaved in the same way I’m sure a colleague would have if this colleague had been one. (It’s times like this when I think there may well just be a finite number of types of people in the world.)