Bellaism: Sense of Entitlement

Sense of Responsibility

It’s a common comment that I hear amongst my friends and colleagues lately: they meet people or worse, they work with several who have very high sense of entitlement but very low sense of responsibility.

That’s quite paradoxical, isn’t it?

Sense of entitlement gets a lot of flak because of some people who wrongfully use it.

Entitlement should always come with effort, with the hard work required to deserve it. 

Before the granting of “special rights,” it merits to be more self-aware, realistic and more in tune to others.

Sometimes, we just need that realization: the world does not revolve around you. 

Truth. We all can use a reality check every now and then.

Of birthdays and surviving October

birthday1

Celebrating my birthday in Basque with my favorite tres leches cake

A few days ago, I had lunch with a partner, supposedly to talk about our project. After closing all the nitty-gritty details of our project plan, we ended up talking about life in general.

He told me: “Sometimes, we live life as if it’s an infinity. We assume that we will wake up the next morning.”

It’s not as if I don’t know this nugget of wisdom, as I myself espouse seizing the day and grabbing joy, experiences and opportunities like there’s no tomorrow.

Carpe diem. Always.

But sometimes, life itself gets in the way of living.

October was tough for me. I had to finally admit that I suffered depression, to think that my archetype was not predisposed to that.

Admission was my catharsis. Things got better when I acknowledged it and wrote about it. It helped that I traveled and spent time with friends in Bali. I always knew though that travel and good company, albeit an expensive combination, were perfect antidotes to what I was going through.

It was great to see my friends and celebrate my birthday milestone.

birthday3

My friends and I on the streets of Seminyak in Bali

I also realized that despite what I went through, I have no regrets that I experienced it. Like what I said in a previous blog post, I didn’t even ask for it to be taken away.  I asked the Universe for wisdom and grace, that I may strengthen and build my character because of what I was going through.

At the same time, I held on to the virtue of gratitude. In the same breath that I was cursing my situation, I counted the little things – big and small – that make life worth the fight. It becomes pretty impossible to remain depressed, angry or resentful when you have a grateful heart.

I had an amazing team in the office who knew or sensed what I was going through. Despite them not asking questions, I knew they were looking out for me. Love flowed through. Generous love flowed through.

 

birthday4

My office: decorated by my team for my birthday

birthday5

Some of my CS team members on my birthday

I’m almost out of the woods. My mornings are better. The spring on my steps are back.

In the end, life is always good. It may not be fair, but it will always be good.

Matter of perspective and gratitude.

That thing called funk

I recently blogged about the emotional letdown that I have been going through a week before my birthday. Some of my friends both from Jakarta and Manila have privately reached out to me to check how I was doing.

To those friends: you know who you are. Thank you. 

Although I’m not back 100% just yet, things are getting better. Every day, I’m trying to make an effort to make things better, to feel better. Writing about it was an essential part of the healing and recovery process. First, I had to admit that things were not as rosy as how they seemed to be.

I needed to acknowledge that I was suffering from a form of depression so that I can move on, so to speak.

This whole episode started a few months ago, when I began working an average of 55-60 work hours per week. I felt like a hamster running in circles, with no end in sight, with no gains perceived from whatever I’ve been doing.

Sleep became elusive. Either I had difficulty falling into it or I found myself waking up at 3 or 4 am, not being able to go back to sleep again. I lost my appetite and my usual food cravings where nowhere to be found. If there was one benefit from it, I lost a little bit of the excess weight.

dark clouds above

Image from Pinterest

On most days, I found myself exhausted. Tasks at work that I can do in a jiffy, even with my eyes closed, took longer than usual to finish. I stopped reading my books and it took me hours to peel myself off the couch to do my usual workout routine that I know so well and which I used to look forward to doing.

I lost my joie de vivre. In most parts of the day, it felt like there was a dark cloud hovering above me, following me around wherever I went. This pesky dark cloud did not want to leave me out of its sight.

I started feeling sad for no particular reason, hiding my tears as I locked myself in the bathroom to weep, whimpering as quietly as I can manage so that my husband won’t hear me. I didn’t want him to worry about me and I didn’t want to talk about it.

My friends didn’t know any better, as I never shared what I have been going through. It’s not me to talk about my issues with friends, even with the inner circle.

In the process, I’ve alienated my family and my best friends. They wanted to know what’s going on, but I wanted to shield them from the negativity. I became unresponsive and I shied away from conversations that will lead them to ask what’s been happening.

In a way, I somehow felt guilty getting depressed. I have a great life and for some people, I have nothing else I should be complaining about. My life isn’t perfect but I have a supportive husband, a good job, a happy family life and an amazing circle of friends. Arshad and I are living a good expat life in a market that is replete with opportunities. We can travel and go to places we like, even randomly selecting islands where we can quickly and quietly spend the weekend.

That’s why I never talked about it. To me, it seemed frivolous to complain, to even feel what I’m feeling. It felt like an unfair sense of entitlement, that I had no justifiable reason to get depressed.

An aunt even posted on my Facebook: “April, you are blessed beyond compare.” But in my head, I was asking myself: Am I? If I am, why I am feeling so rotten?

Luckily, some of my friends who have gone through depression have reached out to me privately to tell me that they’ve been through the same thing. Some suffered through it silently, whilst some sought the counsel of friends. Others got professional help.

One of my trusted friends gently told me that I shouldn’t feel obligated to always do everything for everyone, which she felt was what I was trying to do.

She said:

“Even heroes have the right to bleed.”

And that it was okay to acknowledge how I was feeling and my current state of mind.

Denial was a river in Egypt that I had to swim through so that I can finally accept where I am and how I’m feeling so I can properly deal with it. The moment that I started recognizing my depression for what it is and the reasons causing them, the days started to get better.

I forced myself to read my books and deliberately searched for literature that can help me deal with this. I slowly clawed my way out of my misery by picking up my fitness routine again, with the hopes that my endorphin levels will shoot up and give me quick bursts of happiness.

For the close friends who were incessantly badgering me to talk about it (they have the best of intentions for me, God bless them), I made an effort to share with them, albeit in general terms, what has been happening.

The crying bouts became less and less frequent, although I still get melancholic every now and then. Whenever I feel that I’m going to crash again, I take a moment to acknowledge the emotions and deal with them. I realized there was no point in trying to shove it down further. It only made me feel worse.

My productivity started picking up again and I can think more clearly. When I spend time with friends, I genuinely enjoy the company and the conversations. Oh, my appetite came back (darn it!).

As I walked home tonight, I looked up and saw the star-sprinkled sky, which is quite rare these past few nights in Jakarta as it had been raining. I whispered a small prayer of thanks and told myself:

“It will only get better from here.” 

Of fainting spells & epiphanies

I fainted at my dermatologist’s clinic yesterday afternoon. I was about to undergo my usual Saturday facial routine when I felt light-headed. As my vision blurred and things went dark, I held on to the table in front of me and I managed to say, “Hang on, wait. I’m dizzy.”

I passed out.

Before I knew it, my doctor and my attendant were fanning me, I was on the floor and they were asking me to open my mouth and if I can breathe.

My doctor was repeatedly saying: “Miss, miss…are you okay? Can you open your mouth? Miss…miss…”

My first sentence when I got my senses back: “I’m sleepy, I just want to sleep. But I still want to do my facial. Can I still do my facial?”

I’m laughing at myself silly now that I’ve recovered and I recalled the first thing I said when I woke up. I swear. Why do I say these things!

I sent the clinic on a frenzy on what’s supposed to be a relaxing Saturday afternoon.

Not my best moment. Certainly not my most elegant.

In fairness to the clinic, they took care of me so well. I was very impressed with how they handled the situation and how very attentive they were. To my friends in Jakarta, hit me up and I will send you their details. They’re awesome!

But I digress.

While my attendant was lovingly scrubbing my face, massaging my neck and trying to do the best she can to relax me, a flurry of thoughts were running through my head.

“I’ve never fainted in my entire life. What the hell just happened there?” 

It was the combination of long hours, lack of sleep and my sugar levels dropping. In short: exhaustion. I tired myself out.

A day before that, I was in an amusement park in Ancol and the sun was scorching hot. The past 3 months were also crazy in terms of my work hours and trips. In all the weekends of September, I was in and out of several cities and I became a standard fixture in the airport.

Admittedly,  I had longer days because sleep became elusive. There were so many thoughts in my head, so many projects to finish and an eternally long list of to-dos that kept me up because my mind was just racing and I couldn’t shut it off.

I know. I brought this upon myself. Whilst I’m slapping me silly of this ruckus, I also caught myself. See! This is why I’m in this situation to begin with!

I’m too hard on me. 

I want to accomplish a lot of things. If I don’t, I feel like a failure. I feel guilty when I stop and breathe. 

I want to do everything. I want to be everything. 

Because I don’t want to disappoint people. And I don’t want to disappoint me. 

Everything has a price. This has a price and it took its toll on me.

Closing September this way, I realized it was a mild and gentle reminder of what other worse things can happen if I don’t slow down.

At the same time, as much as I am in denial and as much as I feel invincible, the reality is: I’m not.

No matter what age you are, wearing yourself down will have consequences. It’s a good thing mine was just 30-seconds worth of passing out and a day’s worth of embarrassment. It could have been worse.

Today is a Sunday and I’m writing this at 7am. After my usual gym routine, I’m supposed to have champagne brunch in celebration of my second year in Jakarta. I’m supposed to run errands, work on some pending personal projects, answer e-mails and fix my calendar for the entire week.

I’m scrapping my to-do list. Just for today.

Today, I will be on pause.

RnR

I’m gonna take my time, sip my coffee, stare in space, catch up on my reading, go to the spa, sleep.

Me, my sanity, my health and my well-being first.

Buying the eggs and ketchup can wait.

Do what you love. Do it often.

Holstee-Manifesto- coloured.jpg

Five years ago (more or less), someone gave me a printout of The Holstee Manifesto.  I’ve lived by this manifesto even before it became popularized and commoditized, but it did eloquently express how I think passion should be brought to life and how life should be well-lived.

I’ve always been a believer of following one’s dreams. I wear my passion on my sleeves and I wear it proudly.

So despite my work frenzy, I painstakingly allot time and effort to do things I’m passionate about, no matter how inundated I get, courtesy of my 9-9 job.

Passion and purpose are things that we should all live for. I don’t think I will ever stop pursuing mine.

Whatever yours is, it’s never too late to run after it. If you don’t know just yet, perhaps it’s time to figure it out. 🙂

The Indulgence of Slowing Down

Bogor1_wmEarlier last week, I found myself getting slower and slower, albeit not deliberately. After 3 weeks of taking on more to-dos, spending more late nights in the office and way too many business dinner meetings, I noticed that I was no longer performing at my optimal speed. Hard as I try to be “in the zone,” it was becoming a challenge for me to focus. What took an hour’s worth of preparation for presentation slides became two. My already-short attention span became nil. I became restless and unproductive.

It was time to take a break. Slow down. For real.

Here’s the thing: I just got used to doing things on hyperspeed that I feel uncomfortable slowing down.  Worse, I feel guilty slowing down. 

On the first point: whenever I try to take a day off, telling myself that I need to learn “the art of doing nothing,” I end up getting fidgety, restless…and depressed. My hands get clammy and shaky because they’re itching to tap the keyboards of my Macbook to answer emails.

Arshad can attest to this. When I was left at home for a day, barely after lunch, he already got a message from me: “I’m feeling depressed.”

I was hard-wired to have a disciplined routine. I wake up early, I work out everyday and I always have a checklist of my things to do, sub-categorized into projects, both personal and for work. 

When I need to take a break, I feel guilty leaving my to-do list and projects behind. It was as if it was a mortal sin for me to.

I’m aware it’s not healthy to not slow down, to not learn HOW to. I knew I was running myself to the ground and I needed to stop.

Or at least take a pause. And so I did.

With last week’s holiday because of Indonesia’s 72nd Independence Day, I decided to file a day off and take advantage of a longer weekend. I needed to space out and unload my brain as I was draining out.

So off I went to Bogor (which I will blog about soon) to just do some of my favorite things that always get interrupted because of a long to-do list.

Work out. Run. Read. Write. Get a massage. Eat. Sleep. Repeat. 

For 3 days, I did all of those. I didn’t even dare go out of the resort.

I made a dent in my book. I slept a complete 7 hours for 2 consecutive nights. I still wokeBogor2_wm up early to see the sun rise and complete my day’s run. I still peeped at some of my emails (just a peep, promise).

But I deliberately slowed my pace down.

I enjoyed my coffee and my fruit plate for breakfast. I savored the pages of my book. I made time to breathe properly. I sat in a corner and stared at the horizon to just really notice the things around me.

At the end of the second day, I felt completely recharged. My shoulders were not as tight (thanks to the messages as well), I had a clearer perspective and there was lightness in every step that I took.

After 2 days, I had more vivid dreams, a better memory recall and a happier, lighter disposition. Heck, I think I even solved a strategy dilemma that I’m currently grappling with at work while I was on the massage table. If that is not clarity enough, then I don’t know what else to call it.

I literally felt so much better. Lighter. Even happier.

After I went back to Jakarta, I realized that I should give myself more credit and more leeway to take small breaks because it makes me so much more productive.

Bogor4_wmIt’s a healthy pause to save my sanity, my health, my wellness of being.

I also realized that I have a lot of women friends and colleagues like me who just won’t stop, no matter the awareness that it’s counter-intuitive to just trudge ahead.

 

I wrote this because I want it to be a reminder to myself when I’m doing it again- slowly killing my joie’ de vivre for not stopping- that the pause is very much needed and well-deserved. 

At the same time, I want others like me to read this and to know that it’s okay. We deserve the pause. There should be neither guilt nor shame in it.

And after the pause, am I ready to begin again?

You bet.

 

Other articles on on productivity and slowing down to be more productive that I found helpful:

Sometimes, not working is work, too

Five Ways Working More Slowly Can Boost Your Productivity

 

Cosmetics shopping with a conscience

Last week, Sephora just announced that it’s going on sale for as high as 60% off, coinciding with The Great Jakarta Sale.

Sephora The Great Jakarta Sale

At the risk of sounding either preachy or party pooping, I’m using this time to update you on the 2017 list of cruelty-free cosmetics and brands.

2017 cruelty-free brandsTwo years ago, I started cleaning up my toiletry kit, vanity dresser and shower room to get rid of cosmetics, toiletries, bath and body products that are using animals for testing. At the same time, I researched on brands that are organic, vegetarian and those that do not use harmful chemicals.

Personally, I have a bias for the following brands:

  1. The Body Shop –  certified vegetarian and a fair trade supporter, The Body Shop remains to be on top of my list. I used to lead the brand’s marketing division some lightyears ago and until now, I have a strong affiliation with it. I use most of their product lines: face, fragrances, bath and body, essential oils and even candles.
  2. Josie Maran –  I am a fan of Josie Maran! I discovered this brand when I was in the US 3 years ago and I have been using the argan oil and moisturizer ever since. Sadly, Sephora stopped carrying it here in Southeast Asia and I’m still stumped where I can continue to get the products.
  3. Urban Decay – is my favorite when it comes to eye shadow palettes and prep spray. This brand also has a vegan line already with no animal-derived ingredients!
  4. Nyx – is my alternative brand for face powder, eye liner and prep spray when all my other brands are out. Although it started as an alternative for me, their soft matte lip creams, lip creams and whipped lip and cheek souffle are noteworthy.
Bella local brands

Local brands that I recently road-tested: Serambi Botani, Utama Spice and Indoganic

Very recently, I started testing out Indonesian brands and so far, I have not been disappointed. They are reasonably priced, too! I chanced upon Serambi Botani in Grand Indonesia and tested out their face powder-foundation in chocolate shade. I stuck to the face powder ever since.

For body and hair oil, Utama Spice, a Bali-based brand, is a favorite. A lot of their products are coconut-based, which I love. They have consignments in Grand Indonesia for Jakarta-based customers. Their customer service was quite fast in responding, too, which is a definite plus.

For wellness oils, essential oils and wellness sprays, I turn to Indoganic, which I discovered last Christmas. I buy it online from Milamili.

Contrary to popular belief, it’s not expensive to convert to environmental and animal-friendly brands. If you will read my list above, there are cheap drugstore brands and mid-range brands that won’t break the bank. I stick to my mid-range brands because they are easier to maintain and more accessible, too.

So yes, Maybelline, L’Oreal, Revlon, Mac, Bobbi Brown and Kiehl’s are NOT welcome in my vanity kit. You won’t find these brands on my dresser table. I tossed them away a long time ago. For other brands who still mercilessly test on animals, see below.

Companies-That-Do-Test-On-Animals-PETA-new1

This Great Jakarta Sale season, I hope more shoppers will and can shop with a conscience since there are more and more brands accessible to us in the market who are organic, vegan or vegetarian, environment-friendly and cruelty-free.

Happy cosmetics shopping, everyone!

That forever travel partner

I. hate. hearts. Call me killjoy. Fine, call me a party pooper, but I don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day. It’s cheesy, it’s commercialized, its over-rated. I’m probably the Ebenezer Scrooge version for Vday.

I specifically instruct my husband every year that I don’t want to celebrate it. Nor do I want to be part of the revelry. I think he wanted to spite me because he actually proposed on Valentine’s day 4 years ago!

Anyhoo, today though, this year, this is my attempt to celebrate Vday: by giving creds to my forever travel partner.

arshad-in-venice_wm

Arshad in Venice, Italy: horsing around in one of the narrow back alleys

Truth be told, my other half is the one who organizes and plans our trips together. Yes, what a revelation. No matter how OCDC I am, it’s the Mister who plans all our travel routes, hotels, timings, etc. He deserves the acknowledgment for it.

Allow me today to gloat. No humble brags, yes, because I’m proud of it. I’m proud of the person who understands my travel needs and who puts them over and above his. He understands my quirks well enough to know which type of cabin to book for train rides in Europe, what kind of hotel or apartment suits both of us, which museums to go to, what kind of itinerary we should be going for.

the-arshads-in-venice_wm

The Arshads in Venezia

Oh, he knows I hate hiking so that’s definitely out of the agenda.

For a trip to be smooth and fun, it’s nice to have someone who gets you. At the same time, some couples just really get along in terms of pet peeves and preferences while traveling. I’m one of the lucky ones to have found my perfect travel partner.

the-arshads-in-austria_wm

The Arshads in Salzburg, Austria

So to the other half of the As, who is probably the better half of us: Fine. Happy Vday. Thank you for the wonderful journey we’ve had and we will be going through.

I’m lucky to have you.

To my fellow wander Bellas, may you find yours. If you’ve found him, make sure you keep that keeper! And may you have an amazing journey together.  =)