Romance in the Trenches

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I reckon that’s the best way to describe my writing nowadays. Whether it’s at Stoic or Fabrique, I often encourage (or simply just forcefully assign) the younger staff to write. Writing helps one to organise your thoughts, to analyse and think about the ultimate objective of whatever you’re writing. Whatever was not clear at the beginning of your piece, certainly becomes clearer towards the end.  Just as important in life as your thoughts, is your ability to express them lucidly.

As Fabrique progresses with our app, it’s no secret that we’ve also been working on pushing the envelope on the non-profit side as well. And of late, I’ve had to field more existential questions than normal – especially since our last long-term intern left. I’m no stranger to existential questions, as I’ve asked many of the same in my younger days. The ability to switch perspective is an important one, and certainly helps when tackling existential questions or trading for that matter. Quite simply, when approaching such a question i.e. why do we need this? It helps to turn the question on its head and simply ask, why not?  And dispel conventional wisdom. Most of us seem to confuse “Non-Profit” and “Charity” with concepts like “Free of Charge”, “Elderly”, “Orphans”. But most don’t realise that advancement of arts, sports and citizenship are also charitable objectives here in Singapore. And the common thread across businesses, charities or non-profit organisations? Funding. The “Why” matters less than the “Why Not” and the “How the hell do we pull this off”.

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The trouble with existential questions is pretty much the same with relationships.  It’s definitely good to write and to analyse, but it can be paralyzing to overthink. In life, as I’ve often quoted from whomever I heard it from, gut feel or instinct is the result of sub-conscious processing of information by the 90% part of your brain without your 10% being aware. Now, I’m not saying you should be reckless and just follow your primal (probably lustful too) instincts, but it certainly won’t hurt to listen to that inner voice of yours now and then. For instance, when you’re in an emotionally abusive relationship and you tell yourself consciously that you’re not, but your body recoils when physical intimacy is imminent. Something I’ve thought about at great length when one of our returning members talked in hindsight about what was clearly an abusive relationship.

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Why have kids or why do you need kids? Another existential question.  I can’t really answer that question nowadays to be honest. I tell my guys it’s an extinction question, but they just laugh it off. Hard to blame them, after all they’re still kids, and within Stoic, I’m the only one with kids. Much easier to answer the question of whether I love my wife. I was feeling depressed for much of today because for some reason the power tripped over the weekend and all the 32 fishes and crayfish which survived the pandemic with us floated to the surface. Memories of sneaking back to office during circuit breaker to clean the tank and rushing out to buy aerators became just that, memories. And it barely happened 3 days after my home aquarium burst, flooding the living room. Certainly felt like the last straw for me. I was supposed to clean the office tank over the weekend, but got caught up when I visited my fiercely independent 96-year old grandmother only to find her in her flat in need of medical assistance (I won’t describe the state of the flat). She was always razor sharp compared to my parents, but then again both my parents have dementia, though some of the presiding doctors beg to differ. Most people expect dementia patients to be in a drooling-half-conscious-delirious state spouting ludicrous hallucinations. None realise there is a whole bloody spectrum in between, not even some of the geriatric doctors I’ve seen thus far.  The severity of the diagnosis is closely correlated with the quality of time spent with the patient, that’s my take.  Didn’t take my wife or me more than 5 mins to come up with the diagnosis. And most don’t realise, the caregivers are under so much more stress and pressure than the patients themselves, dementia or not.

And that’s why I love my wife. The sheer grit she displays is inhuman.  I see all these Instagram accounts of mothers with 1 (or 2 maybe) kid becoming the role model for other mothers as they prance around their GCB promoting skincare and childcare products talking about how they’ve made it in life juggling the endless problems from 1 kid and a career. And then I look at my wife, this bloody titan next to me 24/7, managing Fabrique, 1 dyslexic/add son with physical meltdowns, 2 monkeys, 2 in-laws with dementia, 1 grandmother-in-law with complex needs, 2 arthritic dogs, 1 chicken, 1 hamster, 3 (previously, now 1) fish tanks, taking a part-time diploma course in counselling, mopping the blood off the floor when she was haemorrhaging from the 3rd pregnancy while waiting for me, dealing remotely with the death of her mother in China during covid, managing plumbers, air-conditioning technicians, electricians for our properties – and I haven’t even covered half the things in the earlier years of our marriage. Sure, I wanted to mope when the office covid-survivor fishes died, but changed my mind when I saw her coming down the hallway armed with tubes ready to climb into the 200 litre fish tank to clean out whatever was left.

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And our members ask me what to look for in a relationship? I pray you don’t encounter what Yingying and I have in life, but I do hope you make sure that the person you sleep next to will still be there for you like my wife has been (fingers still crossed) for me as the two of us struggle to climb out of the trenches of life. Sure, there’s nothing more important than life and death, but don’t forget there’s also a whole lot more to handle in between.