- Moderately perfect -

28th April '17

When I said in the last blog that I could make a rule that I had to meditate for 20 minutes each day before playing my PS4, I said it as a joke.

But then I thought about it and it kind of made sense.

As I mentioned then, I certainly wasn't feeling myself. I just felt unhealthy, and probably thanks to having a PS4, I'd reached that point in record time, having finished 100km less than a month earlier.

My generally active lifestyle usually protects me from losing my fitness too quickly at times that I'm not exercising enough. With a PS4 though, everything deteriorated far more rapidly. And even more notable than how tiresome my first run after this was, was how inflexible I was feeling having not done any yoga in weeks.

My toes seemed a very long way away.

And so for the second week of the holiday, my morning routine became get up, brush my teeth, and then immediately do a quick ten minutes of yoga.

Nothing challenging or intense, just ten minutes each morning to stretch-out my muscles.

And it was intentionally easy. Were it too unenjoyable then I'm sure I'd quickly lose motivation. But instead, that ten minutes each morning, which I've kept up with almost daily right up until today, made the world of difference. Just using my muscles again, I could see my flexibility improve from one day to the next.

Then I'd have breakfast and make a cup of green tea. But instead of jumping onto the PS4 as I drank it, I would instead do one of the longer guided meditations from my app. These ranged from twenty to forty minutes.

It was such a calm and relaxing way to start each day.

Most days I would then pick up the PlayStation controller, but playing it was far more peaceful after that start to the day.

It also felt a little strange, that a lot of mindfulness focuses on compassion and kindness towards others, and seeing the best in people. But then I'd immediately play a video game where the goal was to kill as many people as possible.

I guess it was a nice yin to my yang.

Of course, the life that I'm able to live in the holidays never carries over into term time, because then work gets in the way. And last Friday, just as I was getting off the train, my wrist vibrated with my new schedule.

The schedule is always sent as an email attachment, so you read the email, and then open the schedule. And to read the email it was all doom and gloom. It was almost written as an apology, especially to the people that'd got split shifts.

Oh fuck, if I've got a split shift, there's no way that I can live a remotely fulfilling life.

And then when I did open the schedule, I kind of had to look around for a minute.

Is this a wind-up? Am I on Candid Camera?

A part of me almost feels bad that with all the pain and suffering in the world, my life is this fucking awesome.

I didn't think that it could be any better than last term, but yet here it was.

Not only did I only have class at 6:45pm on Monday to Thursday again, but I had the same level, level 9, both times.

I've taught level 9 before, so have zero to plan from scratch, and instead of having to browse over two different levels, like I did during the week last term, this term I only have one.

I love my life.

Of course this didn't yet include the weekends, and I hadn't yet met my students, but at this stage... damn.

I can't believe that a job this easy pays me a comfortable living wage.

And speaking of not working very hard, before the holiday I'd asked my boss to confirm that it was 100% that I could take the term off that I'd asked for.

Looking around briefly, he then responded 'Yep, I've got it right here,' pointing to a Post-it note stuck to his computer screen.

So my term off is confirmed, just so long as that Post-it note doesn't get knocked off or blown away?

That's comforting.

I trust him though. So just in case my 6:45pm starts at work get too tiring, I have another eight weeks off to look forward to.

Seriously, how the Hell do I stay employed? No one should be able to work as little as I do and keep their job.

I never thought that I'd say this, but come the end of the holiday, I was actually looking forward to getting back to work.

I'd lost the first week of the holiday to a detox and to Songkran, and then the second week was... uneventful.

I met a friend on one day, but on others people cancelled, so it wasn't the most sociable holiday.

And the problem with having zero obligation each day is that... well it's kind of easy for the days to get away from you.

You wake up late, have breakfast, meditate, do yoga or whatever, then watch TV or play on the PS4 while having a cup of green tea, and before you know it, it's 3pm.

By the time that you've bought food and made and eaten lunch, it's 5 or 6pm and you're like... oh, well I guess that it's too late to really do anything today then.

I wasn't looking forward to going into work itself, but I was looking forward to having something to do at a set time everyday.

At 6:45pm each day I have to teach, and so before that I have to exercise, and before that I have to look over my class, and before that I have to make lunch...

It's harder to let your days get wasted when you have something to do at a set time, and I was looking forward to actually having a routine again.

And when you're looking forward to having work, it's perhaps an indicator that it wasn't the best holiday. Although on the other hand, if you're actually happy to do your job, then perhaps that's an indicator that it was.

I bet that none of the people that went off travelling for two weeks were looking forward to being back at work.

Suckers. Spending all your money on holidays, only to be unhappy when you get back. You should have saved your money and lay in bed staring at the ceiling for your holiday like I did, then you'd be happier.

At 10:30pm last Sunday, the day before term started, I'd turned-off my PS4 after a rather long and frustrating game of Battlefield, and was just making a quick dinner, when there was a very rare knock at the door. Worth noting that I'd been sat on my sofa for the two or three hours prior to this as I was gaming though.

I put on some clothes to answer it, and there was a man in a red t-shirt stood there, and another guy who worked in the building; I could tell by his shirt. I don't know if he spoke any English.

And to begin, the guy in the red t-shirt said something like 'hello, I live in the apartment below you.'

'Ok,' I responded.

From there he complained that 'I can hear footsteps in my apartment.' Basically he was telling me that I'd been walking too loudly.

I didn't respond well to this because... well I have very little patience for people that cause problems where there are none.

You live in an apartment building, you're going to hear other people, it's just the way it is. I hear the person above me walking around too.

If I thought for even a second that I was in the wrong, then I probably wouldn't have reacted angrily, but I don't ever even wear shoes in my apartment, and what little walking I do isn't heavy. Do you expect me to walk on tip-toes?

I actually asked him that.

He then tried to make a demand that I 'walk softly after 6pm everyday.'

How about you fuck off after 6pm everyday mate?

I didn't say that, but I may as well have done.

Had my recent game of Battlefield gone a bit better, then I may have been more composed in my response, but instead I demonstrated to this guy how I walk around my apartment, just to disprove his redundant complaint.

'This is too loud, is it?' I mockingly asked him.

He couldn't really say anything to that, because there's nothing excessive or unreasonable about the way that I walk. I barely make a sound. So kind of at a loss now, he said 'well if I hear your footsteps again, can I come and tell you?'

'Sure,' I responded in a tone of you can do whatever the fuck you want mate, I'm not going to stop walking around my apartment.

I shouldn't have responded in the way that I did; that's not in keeping with a mindful, compassionate mindset. But even so, no matter what mood I'm in, this guy is just a jackass, trying to cause problems where there are none.

I like where I live and I have a good relationship with my landlord; the last thing I want is some idiot jeopardising that because he lives in an apartment building yet expects silence all the time.

Especially a man, may I add, who sits on his balcony smoking, the fumes of which predictably drift up to my balcony, where I have my AC units and any clothes that I'm drying. I wish that I'd thought of that at the time.

But that's a minor inconvenience, and one that I've never acted on because... you've got to make concessions when you live in an apartment.

I would like to think that this is the end of it, but I have a feeling that it won't be. If this moron went to the effort of complaining to the building staff once; and he had to involve them because he had no way of getting up to my floor without them. If he went to the effort of doing that once, then I'm sure that he will again, because I'm not going to stop walking, I can tell you that much.

And if that's genuinely his only complaint... well it should tell you that I'm actually a pretty good person to share a building with.

I rarely play music, I almost never have people over, I never complain, I don't smoke, I don't drink, I don't party, I always go to bed at a reasonable hour, I don't have kids running around and screaming.

I think that a lot of people that live in condos in Bangkok, come from outside this city, like I did. Many Thai people come to Bangkok from the provinces though, and I guess expect the same in their inner-city condo as they'd have in their countryside house.

I can't hear people walking in my country house, so I don't expect to hear it here.

I don't know if that was the case with this guy or not; he might have just been an asshole, because if you're finding something to complain about by the way that I live, I mean... you're just looking for something.

One of the things that the mindfulness book I read over the holiday talks about, is compassion and kindness, and seeing the good in other people.

This is probably the part of it that I'm not very good at.

I can sit there and meditate for 30 minutes without moving a single muscle; in fact I really enjoy doing that. But seeing the good in people?

When I see someone smoking for example, I don't see any good in that person.

Sure, if I know them then I can find things, but if I pass someone smoking on the street, all I can think is that their very existence is making the people around them less healthy. What good things about them is there to focus on?

The only two that I've come up with are one, they'll be dead soon, and two, thank fuck I'm not them.

It's similar here. What good is there to focus on, in a person who's just trying to cause problems.

If you've ever worked in customer service, then you'll know as well as anyone, that of a thousand customers, it only takes one bad one to ruin your day.

I've probably had close to a thousand students in this job, and yet I remember the four or five that I didn't like, more vividly than the 995 that I did.

It only takes one asshole to ruin something great. It takes just one person who wants to cause problems. And in this apartment that I love, it looks like I might have found him. Or rather he just found me.

What good is there for me to see in someone like that?

I also have a genuine curiosity as to what the juristic office in my building thinks of this.

He might be a part of the 1% of people that cause them 99% of their problems, and so when he goes to complain to them that I'm disturbing him, they hold it with absolutely no credence.

On the other hand, it could be the first time that he's ever gone to them with anything, and they blame this on me, because lest we forget, it wasn't too long ago that my building got evacuated in the middle of the night due, at least partly, to a fire alarm being triggered in my room.

I never found out if any other fire alarms were also triggered, or if it was just mine.

But when they came to my room on that night, the first thing they asked me was if I was smoking in my room.

I obviously said no, but I don't know if they believed me. They might blame me for getting the building evacuated in the middle of the night, and now the person below is complaining that I'm making too much noise...

So I'm genuinely curious what they think about it all but... well there's probably no way for me to find out, so fuck it.

Unless I'm remembering it incorrectly, that fire alarm incident also happened on the final day of one of my holidays. I'm going to have to start being careful. The last day of these holidays is like my own private Friday the 13th.

That took us to the start of term though, and I used to work with a guy in China who always exercised a lot. I saw him at the running track sometimes, and at the gym for the one term that I went there. And he always used to tell me that when he didn't exercise, he never gained weight, rather his body just became soft.

My decline in fitness after running 100km in the first 17 days of April was dramatic. I was noticeably less flexible, running was tiresome, and to quote this former colleague, despite not gaining any weight, my body was just soft.

I've never been a person to exercise with restraint. If I do something, then I do it 100%, which is fine except... well if you workout your legs, which have previously gone more or less unused for a month, then they're sore for a week.

And if your legs are sore for a week, then not only can't you run or do yoga for a week, but you struggle to even pick something up off the floor, and walking is painful.

For a week it's hard to smile because every step hurts, and just like when you run too far in Bangkok's midday heat, when you feel like that it's hard to teach good classes.

So this term, for about the first time ever, I was trying to be wary to not push myself too hard, lest I feel like shit.

Of course, you've got to actually exercise hard enough to make a difference, so it's a bit of a tight-rope, but I figured that I'd try to start this term by very slowly easing my way back into fitness, so on this first morning of term... I had a two-minute workout.

You haven't ever heard of a two-minute workout?

Well it's very possible that I invented it.

I had this two-minute workout, then I did ten minutes of yoga, then later I did a 5km run. All amounts perfectly capable for my unfit body.

It was somewhat unintentional, but again having the routine of a start time at work everyday, this theme of moderation then seeped-over into many other aspects of my life.

I was exercising in modest amounts, but nothing so intense as to mean that I couldn't do it again the next day. I was watching TV for maybe one hour per day. I was on my PS4 for less than two hours per day, even playing cruel tricks on myself like having a baked potato for dinner, knowing that for the time it'd take me to cook after getting home from work, I wouldn't then have the time to play on my PS4 before going to bed. And I was working for less than three hours per day.

I'd got the exact schedule that I'd asked for. Other people who were given an identical one couldn't stop complaining about their lack of hours.

I don't get that. Why would you want to work so hard?

I'd actually been looking forward to starting work again, but I think that two or three hours per day is an ideal amount. You feel like you're doing something, you're making enough money, but it's not so much that you're stressed-out and tired of your job. It's not so much that you don't enjoy doing it.

And that exact idea of moderation started being reflected in my work, my exercise, my meditation, my TV, my PS4. I was doing each thing enough to get benefit, but doing no thing so much it was crippling.

I've started this term by finding that perfect balance. In fact last Wednesday was, I believe, the first day apart from the detox, when I didn't use my PS4 once. And it wasn't that I planned it that way, I was just of sound enough mind to think that time could be better spent meditating, exercising, watching TV...

It took 31 years to get here, but for the five days of this term, I've finally been able to approach my life with an attitude of moderation, and I'm feeling far, far more content and relaxed because of it.

This would have been a much better time to knock on my door to try and tell me how to walk.

I feel like I'm sleeping far better than I have done for a long time too, ironically once I've stopped using my sleep analysis app, so I can't actually prove it. But I feel good.

For these first five days of term, I've just managed to do things in perfect moderation, so long may that continue.

It wasn't until this afternoon that I got my weekend schedule, and that was the one remaining unknown.

Yesterday when I went into work, my boss was making the weekend schedule, and fretting about how to keep everyone happy. And there's a class called 'Business conversation' which instead of being taught on Saturday and Sunday, is just taught on Sunday but for four hours.

But it was looking unlikely that every teacher would get the weekend hours that they wanted; student numbers were too low. So instead he asked me if I wanted this business conversation class, meaning that I'd get two days-off per week instead of one.

I try to be a company guy, albeit one that doesn't work very hard, so I left the door open to it if it's what he needed, but 'business conversation'... just saying those two words makes me bored. I'd rather have one day off per week and teach normal people.

My goal each term here is to break-even.

I have no need to save money right now, so I'd rather be happy in my life than work every hour that I can. Although I seem to be the only person with such an attitude, and the only person who requests to work as little as I do.

And well, to break even, what I really need is the two classes in the week that I already had, and then two classes on the weekend. This was now looking unlikely, so I'd braced myself for such a schedule and...

Well I'm never going to complain about being given too few hours. But my weekend schedule is just one class, instead of the two that I need to break even, so this is going to have to be a term of austerity to lessen the impact as much as I can.

It's not the end of the world though, and guess which level my one weekend class is...

Level 9. My life is fucking awesome.

Albeit now poor and awesome, but still awesome. I have nothing new to plan on the weekends either.

I love free time and... wow I have so much free time this term. I can use that free time to learn Thai.

Not really. If God wanted me to learn Thai, he wouldn't have given me a PlayStation. But I have the time to keep up with what I started this term, even on weekends. A perfect amount of work, of exercise, of relaxation.

I've been as happy this week as I have been for a long time. And so even though it might sting financially by the end of the term, I've got nothing to complain about when I can continue with this.

Life is kind of like a never-ending pursuit of happiness. Finding and keeping that perfect balance that makes you smile everyday isn't easy. But at the very least now, I've been given a schedule where I feel that I'm working a perfect amount. I just need the right amount of discipline to have the right amount of everything else. Not too much, and not too little. Everything in perfect moderation.