A New Year Meltdown

If you have been wondering why I have not been sending you emails or answering to yours in the past few days, it is because my email system has been shut down involuntarily. I am experiencing what I call a New Year Meltdown. Let me briefly elaborate.

I was planning for a quiet evening last Friday ahead of some New Year Eve parties and was beginning to reply to some email backlog when I found that I could neither receive nor send any messages from my Gmail account to which I had migrated about three years ago. I went to my phone and typed some test messages to Su and to myself. Nothing happened; and I began to wonder why: I thought maybe the servers were down, or maybe there was a poor connection somewhere. To cut the long story short, I had used up in these three years the free 15G quota allocated by Gmail to each account. I was never made aware of this quota business. I sought help; but matters got complicated because the phone settings had been such that whatever people sent to my phone – videos and photos – would be uploaded to the Gmail account automatically. On New Year Day, my IT friend changed the settings and made a house call which resulted in some temporary relief: I got back about 3% of the space allocated. I was told it would take 48 hours before the changes could take effect, meaning that I cannot do much through the system in the meantime.

Such are the IT vagaries that a commoner, or a retired person such as me, has to live with these days. Where I am, it seems that these IT giants, for no reasons, have been taking out the user friendly software that I was used to, forcing me to migrate to new systems. In the meantime therefore, I would stay away from my email or do as little work as possible, which is not a bad idea to start a new year. Indeed, I should make it my first New Year resolution.

Talking of New Year resolutions, most people of my age, and even some much younger, would place high on the list keeping healthy and doing less work, whatever work means. But then many would say in the same breath that they would try to keep themselves busy during retirement. I don’t believe there is one formula for all; and I would simply follow what the mind asks and what the body allows me to do.

Following the mind and listening to the body are two rather different things and require coordinated disciplines. The often heard and quoted “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” has its origin from Matthew 26:41 and was said in the context of asking the disciples to keep watch and pray so that they may not enter into temptation. The biblical quote also has a close equivalent in Chinese, but leaning more to describing that the body lacks the strength to carry out what the mind wants to achieve, suggesting that the person lacks the self-awareness or assessment of his skills, capabilities and capacities.

A perfect model requires the body and mind to listen to each other and help each other; and mindfulness practices through meditation would be conducive to stress reduction, character building and self-discipline.

It must be around 2007 when I picked up piano playing as a pastime and a stress reduction device in between my studies at the time. A friend was resuming his guitar playing; and we promised each other loosely that we would hold a concert ten years later. Not long afterwards, my friend hurt his fingers and I met Su, resulting in the concert having to be postponed indefinitely. There must be a moral in this; and one wonders how the body and mind operate in the process.

Closer to the ground, a new year has just started. As one gets by longer, one would discover that each day brings in some anniversaries, or at least some memories; and now Facebook would remind us of them on a daily basis, rightly or wrongly. Friends we met constantly told us that we have been living a rather colourful and eventful life, with partying and travelling, wining and dining, hiking and dancing, and so on. My response has often been that we did not plan our life as such. It simply pans out like that. Indeed, I have tried rather consciously to take life as it is, savoring what life brings, and living for the present moment. It takes a lot of mindfulness and discipline; and I am still learning.

I hope to talk to you again, maybe on issues even closer to the ground.

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