Useless

Fitzeroy Gardens, Melbourne
Fitzeroy Gardens, Melbourne

In times of crisis,
reflecting humans’ lifestyle 
flowers bow their heads.
As we pull, uproot their soul,
they pity us, a lost cause.

I admit

For the last few weeks, I’ve struggled with my reading and writing.

I’d borrow an interesting-sounding book, riled up and motivated after scanning three of a five-line blurb, smiling at positive words that jump out at me, only to set the book down a few pages in, never to pick up again.

Like most of us would, I too blamed the book. It was dull and monotonous. The pacing was off, the print was too small, the page too tattered, or the story unrealistic—

Excessive excuses rained in my brain, as I told myself lie after lie for why I couldn’t get through a book.

As for writing an article, a poem, or a short story—stuff I used to do daily—I got nowhere with them. My mind drew blanks every time I determined to roll up my sleeves and create something worth sharing with my writers’ group. And for every meeting, I’d turn up empty-minded, to sit there and listen to wonderfully strung words, tap-dancing in my head even hours afterward.

It wasn’t the block—reader’s or writer’s.

I was just lazy.

I spent so much of my time volunteering, having fun, chatting with people, laughing, baking banana bread and cookies and muffins for no reason, and whiling away all day doing anything but reading or writing.

In other words, I was avoiding doing what I had to do. Reading and writing, my greatest passions, had become more strenuous than before. It was hard to sit down and focus my mind on one thing. As a result, I began using volunteering (which I enjoy just as much) as an escape mechanism.

The reason: I’m starting to understand the difficulties in writing meaningful work. When I’m in the groove, writing is easy for me. It feels so natural that I get a lot done without feeling tired or worked up. However, I’ve also come to see that it’s not always the case.

Effective word chains don’t always flow from the mind and ebb through the fingers on to the screen. In reality, writing is a draining, time-consuming task. You need to be active and present in the situation. Reading is the same. It demands more energy than thinking about baking or looking up random, irrelevant recipes.

We all go through this phase. It’s not that we’re no longer dedicated or involved, but it’s just that sometimes, even our most innate hobbies and interests can overwhelm us. To run away—or at least trying to—is common. But we should, at some point, admit it to ourselves.

I love writing and reading. But sometimes I don’t want to read or write. I’d want to watch a crappy TV show instead. That doesn’t mean I no longer love writing or reading. It just means there’s temporarily a screw loose in my head. Accepting that allows me to fix it and come back, strong as before.

Of running

When I arrived in Canberra about ten months ago, I was stumped at how much physical activity people did daily. I stood baffled at people huffing and puffing, running regardless of the weather changes—the chilling breeze, the falling leaves, the sweltering heat. Along with them were bikers, dog walkers, pram pushers, and general walkers. Not to mention the pre-teens skateboarding, rollerblading, and scooting away, laughing at their jubilation, sneering at friends falling behind, and a few stopping midway, waiting for their mate to join them.

As someone who does yoga and exercises within the closed comfort of my room, it was new to see everyone else getting out and about, showcasing their muscled arms, toned calves, and rock hard abs. Reservedness is non-existent. With AirPods nestled comfortably in their ears, people seemed to know where they were going and what they wanted to achieve in their workouts. As if they had a goal and an immense motivation to keep at it.

I was motivated, too, of course. I’ve been following my routine for over three years and was quite pleased with myself. Except, watching others made me feel quite small.

As I went about my life, I came upon conversations about the difficulties of running and the incredible power of those who run 10 km every so often. Celebrations and congratulations rained when someone hit a milestone.

I felt intimidated. As if everyone did something noteworthy, and all I ever did was stretch for a while every morning. It soon became unnerving and annoying to be the only one in a discussion whose proudest achievement was often walking 12 km a day.

I’d had enough. So I started running. Without any experience or an official trainer, I took to the street, stamping my way down the footpath. For the first few weeks, I ran three short sprints, of about 200 metres each, on a 4 km route.

Most runners I’d spoken to didn’t enjoy the process. They ran, nevertheless, because they liked the rush afterwards. That was weird to me. When I ran, I enjoyed it—I loved looking around, observing the trees swaying, sidestepping the lines of ants carrying meals on their heads, and smiling at the brave birds flying across my path, so low that they’re on my eye level.

Then I told myself: I’d never stop running because I had to. If I stop running on a particular course, it’d be because I wanted to. That’s how I’d avoid it becoming a chore. For as long as I had fun, I’d wake up wanting to run that day.

It’s been just over two months. And now, I can run longer distances, and even after crossing the 10 km milestone, I keep running. Because I want to.