It was a cloudy Saturday, but the weather forecast seemed promising. So, with our rented motorbikes, we drove down to the beach.
Our destination was a beach close to Nusa Dua. A friend told me it was a considerably quiet beach. We followed our Google Map faithfully–but it led us through a truly challenging off-road path. We didn’t give up, though, and thankfully, the sign to the beach showed up before we changed our mind.
The beach has a cave-cliff entrance–resembling the beaches along Uluwatu, and we need to climb down hundreds of stairs to get to the water. Good thing was that we were surrounded by trees along the way, providing us a shelter from the afternoon sun.
The beach was quiet, as promised. The water was crystal clear, calm, and perfect for swimming. The sand underneath my feet was so soft and smooth. Vale was happy to find a huge cave for us to put our stuff and take a nap. It was a perfect spot to lie down on your beach towel and read a good book (I am currently reading Essence and Alchemy: A Natural History of Perfume by Mandy Aftel).
I love the fact that I could still find people from the village fishing here, along with visitors (and a dog!) who came for surfing, swimming, or having a picnic.
There were only a few stalls selling food and drinks at the parking lot (young coconut, instant noodles) but there were none by the beach. And nobody was trying to sell me anything. After experiencing some crowded beach here in Bali, this lovely litlle beach gave me a room to breathe. To just sit still and stare at the sea water lapping at the sand.
PS. Some of the pictures (capturing me by the beach) are courtesy of Daniele Besana.
I’m far from happy working in a cubicle and I feel strangled. I’m in a limbo. There are things I want to do for the future that will make me happier. I just wish I could find the courage inside of me to get out of this limbo, pursue my passion, and roll the dice.
A 3-step listing exercise
There’s an exercise I usually do when I’m rolling in distress, feeling dissatisfied, or struggling with uneasiness.
Here’s the thing: sometimes we don’t really know exactly what caused us this distress, dissatisfaction, or uneasiness. Not knowing, sometimes, lead us to further distress.
Thus, the first step I do at this stage is to list down the probable causes of my distress.
Step 1. Create the HATE list.
When I am in a limbo (to me this means: not really knowing what’s wrong, but at the same time knowing that something is wrong), I take a piece of paper and a pen, then start listing down the things that make me feel unhappy, uncomfortable, or stressed.
Sometimes, this is a short list–and other times, a really long one. I list down everything: things I dislike or even ‘hate’. Things I’ve been worrying about. Things that have been bugging my mind. What stresses me out? What makes me feel dissatisfied and uneasy?
But the idea is not about creating an endless stream-of-consciousness journal.
The idea is simply to create a list:
I hate being trapped in a 9-to-5 routine.
I am worried about my parents’ health.
I am angry at myself because I feel unproductive.
I hate last-minute cancellations.
Step 2. Translate the HATE list into a LOVE list.
When I feel like I have no more things to say, I stop writing and look at my list. There, I can see all the things I hate, I dislike. Things that stress me out, that makes me feel angry, depleted, or unhappy.
But the truth is this: what we hate actually tells us more about what we love.
If you hate injustice, maybe it means you love fairness. If you hate people who lie, maybe it means you love openness and honesty.
So, when we said we hate 9-to-5 routine, for instance, what is it that we actually love?
Maybe hating 9-to-5 routine means we love spontaneity or adventure. For some people, hating 9-to-5 routine means they wish to have more variety in the work they do. For some, this means they simply need a rest, a holiday, a break, the ability to work from anywhere in the world, or a few days in a week to wake up later than usual. For others, this means they would love to have a job that gives them a sense of purpose, or a new challenge.
Although it might seem that we ‘hate’ the same thing, each one may translate to a different kind of love on the opposite side.
Everyone is different. So, the next step is to turn each sentence in our ‘hate’ list into a ‘love’ list.
I hate being trapped in 9-to-5 routine >> I love having the flexibility to work from anywhere in the world
I am worried about my parents’ health >> I love knowing that my parents are healthy
I am angry at myself because I feel unproductive >> I love the feeling when I can finish a personal project
I hate last-minute cancellations >> I love having online meetings because any cancellations won’t waste too much of my time
Notice that the ‘love’ list is the way I translated the ‘hate’ list. You might translate the ‘hate’ list into a different kind of ‘love’ list.
Step 3. Turn the LOVE list into a list of SMALLEST ACTION.
All of us can make plans for the future: if I have this, I can be happier. If I am that, I can be better.
Making future plan is good (I love making plans!) but most of the times, we are also making up excuses along the way. I cannot do it right now because of this and that. I need to get this and that first, only then I can follow through with my plan. We all know how it ends: the plan stays being a plan.
Why? Because the action we need to take is too big. Because the action we need to take is too far away from our current situation, condition, and limitation. So, now, looking at my LOVE list, I ask myself: how can I get more of these things I love into my life, no matter how small, with the situation and condition I am in right now?
I love having the flexibility to work from anywhere in the world. Of course, an ideal action plan could be quitting my job and be a freelancer. But this is big and risky. The smallest action I can do at the moment with my situation and condition would probably >> Work on my passion project for 3 hours this weekend from a place that inspires me. This is something I know I can do, and I can commit to.
I love knowing that my parents are healthy >> Cook only vegetable dishes for Dad tomorrow.
I love the feeling when I can finish a personal project >> Make a 6-line poem and publish it on Facebook tonight.
I love having online meetings because any cancellations won’t waste too much of my time >>Always ask the client to do meeting via Skype or phone call first.
I think you got the idea.
List down the smallest action you can do, immediately. It should be too small to the point that you can’t really make excuses for NOT doing it. If you’re still NOT doing it, make the action even smaller!
How it helps me
In my case, when I started freelancing after leaving my corporate job a few years ago, I was surprised to find myself feeling low and unhappy. It was confusing. Wasn’t this my ideal kind of working condition? To work from anywhere, to work with clients I like, to work on projects I am inspired with? Then, why did I feel distressed?
As I was doing the 3-step exercise, I realized that I was worried because I no longer have a ‘safe’ monthly income. I hated to feel uncertain, unprotected and insecure. I was uneasy with what might happen if I was sick and couldn’t work for a while because I no longer have the health insurance benefit my old company used to provide me with.
I love to feel safe and protected. I love to feel supported. I love to feel at ease.
Some of the smallest actions I chose to do in the following months:
Bought the cheapest health insurance I could afford.
Say the affirmation “I AM SUPPORTED” 15x before bed tonight.
Have no-shopping day once a week so I can save more.
Eat more fruits and vegetables.
Watch a course on meditation on YouTube,
and more small actions follow in the upcoming month.
Buying the cheap health insurance was actually the very first thing I did after making my list. The feeling when I got back home with my insurance policy was amazing. I felt so light and happy as if part of my burden and happiness had been lifted up. Just by doing this simple act, I felt instantly better.
Does this mean I am 100% safe, protected, supported, and at ease? Of course not.
But that feeling of satisfaction when I knew I have done something (no matter how small) to get closer to the kind of life I want to experience, is enough to drastically reduce my distress, worries, and uneasiness.
I wish you could feel that feeling, too.
PS: Feel free to let me know if this exercise works for you, too. You can also email me here if you like to share some of your personal/professional stories 🙂
I was sick all morning the other day, having a headache and throwing up every once and a while.
I curled up in bed, falling in and out of sleep and being miserable. I felt much better when I opened my eyes around noon and felt hungry. Hunger is always a good indication of my health. When I am not hungry, I am somewhat sick.
Since I had been working from deadline to deadline these past few weeks, and my day started out so late already, I decided to have a break. I browsed around to see some relaxing activities to take while recovering from my headache and found one. At 5 pm, the co-working space Outpost in Ubud, Bali, was having a Paint & Sip activity, hosted by Bartega Studio.
It was said to be a social painting kind of event: where you’ll meet people, learn how to paint, and sip wines. I decided to sign up when I saw an available option for people who do not wish to drink wine. With my headache, I didn’t want to take risks!
What is this social painting session actually?
Bartega Studio (their base is in Jakarta) hosts a social painting event because they think it’s something fun to do: you meet people, you talk to each other while you paint, and in some instances, sip wine together.
I, myself, have always found it relaxing and therapeutic to draw, doodle, or play with paint and watercolors. The idea is not to create a masterpiece, but simply to play around, get my hands dirty, and experiment. Sometimes it’s interesting to just let yourself loose, and see what kind of shapes and colors would appear on your blank canvas afterward.
I also notice that when a group of people creates something with their hands, a certain conversation will flow. A spontaneous conversation without any purpose or agenda, without feeling like there’s a certain emptiness to fill. Everyone is busy making something anyway! So, each passing conversation feels very relaxed, random, and… social.
With some music on and some wines sparkling on the table, we started our session that day: to paint a scene from Ubud’s Monkey Forest.
Benson from Bartega Studio guided us on how to create this painting step-by-step. Some ladies also decided to improvise that day, and it was totally okay. Art is a medium of self-expression, isn’t it?
One lady replaced the temple in the scene with a painting of herself.
“Because your body is your temple!” I smiled.
“Indeed! Oh wow, you got it!” she laughed.
We were painting with acrylics that day, but I was treating the acrylic paint the way I treated my watercolor. The result was a very pale and pastel-y end result (that was my painting on the left in the picture below). However, it was a fun experience, and now I learned one or two things about working with acrylics!
Book your private session
Bartega Studio can also help you set up a private social painting session paired with excellent wine selections. Either it’s a birthday party, an office getaway, or simply a gathering where you want to have fun with acrylics, they can organize a session for you.
Going solo? No worries. Check their schedule for another session here.
There are times when painting is not a solitary act. This is one of them!