Viva la Vida or Death is not my Friend

‘Hands’ by Nathan Sawaya. Photo is mine.

More than 2 months since I did my last public introspection. And just like that, the semester’s going to end in a couple of weeks.

Halfway through my semester, all my carefully laid plans went to mess and ruin. No more were the 7plus morning runs, or evening productiveness; gone were extended periods of focus, replaced by a constant procrastination. I wonder, what’s different about the past semester and the previous few? Was it harder? Definitely not. It should have been easier. What happened?

I don’t know. I still don’t. All I know is my arches started aching after the Green Corridor 10km run, and I gave it a break, so I stopped running, and that turned into an excuse to not run for months. Also, the sole of one of my Vibrams was coming out. So I reasoned, I’ll swim in the new Stephen Riady pool instead. And I did. It was fun.

Then on the way back from Aldersgate Methodist Church one Sunday, my bicycle’s tires got caught in between the pavement drop and the grass and I tumbled down, on my side. Till this day, pain will be felt if I rest my elbow a certain way. First thing I did, licked my teeth; all intact. Lay there, and my mind popped out for a drink. Came back, and I those last ten seconds of my life were lost to me. Not conscious, unconscious, or even somewhere in between, but effectively none of them – I was dead. Scariest moment of my life.

Returned, and elbow had a bad scrape. Kind souls along the way – passing runner, Josh on RA duty – and I was okay again, if very shaken. Haven’t felt like getting on my bike again. Stopped pull-ups cause I was afraid of straining the elbow. Maybe it’s just an excuse; I think it’s actually fine. Also stopped swimming – though I started again – cause the water was preventing the elbow wound from healing at first.

You begin a new year feeling so inspired, ready to take on the world, getting stronger day by day, but all it took, were a few setbacks, physical trauma, and there I was, fear set me back, back to a lesser, timider self. I was no Hal Jordan. Or maybe I was – after all, even the man who could overcome great fear had been overcome by fear itself when he was possessed by Parallax. What a misnomer though; Parallax is a visual error; the right name for the fear entity should be Paralysis.

Because that’s what happens to you. And once you feel so physically stuck, it becomes a constriction of the mind, as well. You feel no one is interested in who you are. You undergo phases of trying too hard to be liked, then withdrawing altogether. And either way you become isolated. And the cycle repeats, downwards.

But at some point, you have to grab yourself and scream at the mirror, get out of your misery. One moment, that’s all it takes. Get down to the pool and swim. Stop hating yourself so much you think others hate you too. Because no matter how many times I fall, I’m still breathing, aren’t I? No matter how many things I break, it doesn’t mean I can’t fix myself.

Have gone down on two Saturdays the past few months to volunteer with helping disabled sailors. Do you know sailing is one of the most liberating sports in the world? And I was glad I could help these people who couldn’t walk, who couldn’t talk, to get out there, to feel the wind on their face and the waves beneath their boat. For a few hours of their life, they can forget that they need help to get into a boat, and be free.

Today, I went down to the Stephen Riady pool again. I took two laps down the non-Olympic pool, and emerged breathing heavily. No, I ain’t that weak. And I went back down again, telling myself, Five laps. By my fourth, suddenly I felt like a dolphin, swimming through the water, and my lungs had stopped complaining. They were happy. I was happy.

I felt like Pi‘s uncle in the Piscine Molitor.

I cheated on my bargain with myself, and went for a sixth lap, before finishing with a freestyle lap.


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