Thursday, June 23, 2011


I've written a lot of articles about imagination, particularly those that go "encourage your child's imagination because...." But today, I'm going to play a different tune.

Our imagination is a rich source of ideas. For writers, it's a well of stories; for artists, inspiration. "Let your imagination run wild" is a common advice given to people suffering a creative block of a sort, and sure, there's really no harm in that! It can even be fun!

But letting the imagination run wild can have its bad consequences too; it's one way to completely lose your cool or change the way you see things without the benefit of verification. The imagination-run-wild can turn into poison, a potent mix that corrupts the mind and the heart!

No one wants to be poisoned. Be wise and consider all points, hear truths from the source, and never assume anything but the good in people. Here are five thoughts to be wary of and to avoid indulging at the expense of your serenity and peace of mind:

  1. Ideas that scare you. Fears make us worry to no end! What can you do about it? Somebody once said that worrying is like sitting in a rocking chair; you move so much but get nowhere. If something scares you (ex. what your boss will say about the big mess you made, or a pain in your arm that won't go away), do something to take that fear away (like go to the doctor) and then occupy yourself with something totally unrelated. You can only do so much; let others help!
  2. Ideas that make you hate/distrust somebody. So you think this friend hates you because you are KJ or something. It's easy to imagine what people think--but remember that putting words in other people's mouth does not equate to their actually thinking or saying it. Give people a break and assume the best in them.
  3. Ideas that are tinged with envy. It may seem harmless, "I wish I had her car," but more often than not, daydreams that begin this way can corrupt you little by little, and before you realize it, you're wishing "I hope she hits her car on a pole." Scary!
  4. Ideas that make you feel uncomfortable. If you've read not-so-decent books or seen not-so-decent movies, sometimes you find yourself imagining not-so-decent situations! Saying "Gross!" works, as an initial reaction. Then get rid of all those media that trash your sensibilities and waste your time. You need to help yourself build self-mastery; having these things around will only weaken any resolve you've made.
  5. Ideas that discourage you from doing the good. Fears again, but a different kind--these fears prevent you from doing the wise/good/just thing. For example, you catch a friend cheating at a test; find that the restaurant you ate in charged you too little; or put off paying the debt you owe. Sometimes, your imagination creates excuses that "justify" your inaction. Don't listen to it! Do the right thing, no matter how scary, and you'll see that you have the strength when you need it.
Good luck!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

How to be serene

A few tempers have exploded during my treks going home last week, and these tempers from ladies, no less. I suppose we can excuse them; it is the end of the day, we all just want to go home, and why do people keep pushing anyway?

This is why I thought I should come up with a serenity list. Who knows? maybe one of these days I could be the one screaming obscenities while breathing down on somebody's neck for lack of wiggle room (literally and/or figuratively). An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.

1. Stick to the truth. Whether you're talking about someone you know or explaining your own actions, it's always the best to stick to the truth. For one, it prevents you from having to make up one lie after another (because liars learn that they need to make up more lies to cover up their first), and if there's one thing that robs a person of serenity, it's over-thinking the useless things.

2. Think before you speak. This prevents you from getting stuck in the "lie trap" in the first place. If what you're about to say is not the truth because the truth sounds too boring/horrible/atrocious, just remember that anything you blurt out without prudence (without thinking of the consequences) comes out much worse in the end. And the lie trap snaps.

3. Understand where others are coming from. Sometimes, it's not all about you. Somebody loses his temper, or blames your for something, or picks a fight. Before you stress over that, just remember that if you've done everything honestly, properly and well, then you shouldn't worry! Just let the hothead cool off; and don't hit back. Your energy is better spent in productive work. Most of all, remember that you're called to love, esp. those who are most difficult to love.

4. Smile. And freshen up that tired face. Wear a nice shirt. While it's true that serenity comes from within, that's no reason to cultivate a chaotic appearance without. When you look good, you feel better, you treat others better, and you make more people serene, too--which is the ultimate effect of serenity.

5. Remember: It's not all up to you. A lot of us lose our cool when we think everything is up to us. What do you expect? We're only human, and huge responsibilities are daunting. But if you keep in mind that nothing is "all up to you" then you can rest better and worry less (besides, what does worry accomplish?). Your energy, your health, your reason, your resources... aren't they all gifts with which we can get up in the morning and achieve our goals? These things would not be ours to use if they weren't given; they're all up to Someone to give us. So take a few moments each day to thank Him for letting you do what you do. That's the surest way of gaining (and fortifying) serenity.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Rainy day etiquette

It's the season of commuting in the rain again! Get those rain-sturdy shoes out and practice those opening-and-closing-the-stubborn-foldable-umbrella skills, which come especially handy in boarding public vehicles driven by people who expect you to hop in and out Hollywood Action Movie style (albeit sans the background explosions).

While commuting to and from work in the rain gives everyone an excuse to just "get going already" and not care so much about how you get to point B from point A, I'd say it's possible to still be a lady in the worst kind of weather. No, I don't mean we have to be "maarte" or hold our umbrellas with our pinky finger sticking out; I mean that manners are called for in any situation as a sign of sensitivity to the needs of others.

An umbrella, for instance, is one of the most cumbersome contraptions ever invented by man. It helps us get somewhere without getting our head wet (yes, just "head") while constantly threatening to hit somebody in the eye. We all need an umbrella in the rain. We all have the right to use one, but along with that right, we have a responsibility to use it properly. For example, you don't hog the entire sidewalk with the bulk of your umbrella, and you don't walk with one without watching out for the heads (eyes, ears, noses, shoulders) of your co-pedestrians.

Here, some reminders about rainy day etiquette for commuters/pedestrians:

What do you do when there is heavy 2-way foot traffic in the sidewalk while it's raining?
Watch out for the heads and umbrellas of other people! To make things easy, make height your rule of thumb: if the person you are coming towards is shorter than you, raise your umbrella. If taller, lower yours.

What do you do when you're walking out of a building or shelter and into the rain? Let the people ahead of you open their umbrella and walk out first before you open yours and follow. It may seem like this takes longer, but if everyone had the patience to wait the few seconds it takes to do this, walking around becomes more efficient, if not more pleasant. It's also a good way to avoid leaving umbrella prints on the clothes of the person directly ahead, who, just like you, prefers to be dry, too.

What do you do when you board a runaway bus with a wet umbrella? While most conductors like to scream that you should step in first before closing that umbrella, there is no way to do that without getting pulled back out (by the open umbrella) and losing your balance just because bus drivers don't like brakes. No need to risk your life. The trick is to loosen the tautness of the umbrella first while keeping it over your head, then step in the bus, quickly closing the umbrella all the way, and hold on tight to stay balanced, keeping the wet umbrella close to the floor. This way, you don't drip all over the laps of the seated passengers, and if you accidentally wet someone's toes, at least it's the feet, which, in this weather, are probably wet already. If you have a plastic bag, put the wet umbrella in it, to help keep the bus as puddle-free as possible. If you don't, keep the umbrella between your feet when you're seated already so that it doesn't soak other people's pants.

How about a jeep? Because you enter a jeep head-first, you'll have to close the umbrella before boarding. Practice closing the foldable umbrella swiftly so you can close-and-board in one swoosh. (Watch out where you swoosh the umbrella though, someone might be standing close behind you.) Then, keep the umbrella down as you make your way to your seat. Again, a plastic bag to put it in comes in handy.

What do you do when you open the umbrella and find out it's snagged? Close it again, don't step out in the rain, but get out of the way of the foot traffic. Fix the snag first before lining up in the traffic again like a good citizen.

Pedestrians hate rainy days, but just because we don't like it doesn't mean we should go through our commuting route with a frown and ready to elbow everybody. Instead, we can offer up the difficulties for the people we love, and be thankful for the small mercies: that there's a home to get to (with soap and water!), that at least the sun is not too hot, and (if it's in your route) that the MRT platform has a roof. Can you just imagine what would happen if the yet-to-be-discovered football stars that appear at the MRT during rush hour were armed with wet umbrellas?