Inspecting sensory experiences at home + Stay At Home Stories

Objects around me have found home in my headspace, allowing me to ask questions that I never knew existed, or needed asking.

Hope you're well. Almost a year ago, I wrote to you about the art of reframing (and how I got called out for being curt), but nothing would prepare me to frame my greeting to you today. Simply, I hope you're well. Without seeing your face, without being in any way in touch with you, it's hard to take the temperature and communicate that empathy I have for you right now.

But right now, that distance has introduced a new form of communication, just not with a fellow human being. Objects around me have found home in my headspace, allowing me to ask questions that I never knew existed, or needed asking. I've grown fond of examining the sensory experience of everything around me - the hint of smog in the air; the cold & slippery touch of my favourite coffee mug (and the anticipation of coffee right before you sip!); the not-quite hairy microfibers on my yoga mat; and sipping in the smell of dogs after they play in the grass (sometimes tarmac, ew).

This must be the privilege of slow living - my life stretching out into a portrait of Instagram boho living, complete with the hobo textiles to boot.

I’m probably not the only one thinking about what they’ll be doing after the world eases up again. But the whole ‘when this blows over, I’ll…’ is giving me super antsy vibes. My mortality and dreams are tugging at me, requesting for inspection. I suddenly feel old. Not in a mature sort of way, but in a forgotten and dusty way.

I’m thinking about my younger self. This has been a rare opportunity to dive into that teenage psyche again; to feel rebellious, bored, stuck at home. I have a raging urge to create, manifest, introspect, consume, express. Lamentably, I don’t have a sustained source of energy and motivation. Maybe I’m coming from a more resourceful and cushy position now, there’s no actual need to uproot myself and create a personal revolution. But I’m terrified that makes me boring. I want to chase the high and lows with raging hormones, but I want the low-fat zen garden of my late 20s brain.

At work, I am surfing on peaks of productivity. There is an immense belief that I’m doing the right thing one moment, and then immense doomsday vibes the next. I’m struggling to validate the work I’m doing, the mouth I’m feeding. I'm laughing as I think about it, writing this newsletter to you has been a chore, a bore, and then too hard to ignore.

Inspired by Money Diaries from Refinery29, I have a growing curiosity about lockdown life and the objects we interact with daily. In particular, what kind of thoughts & feelings invoke when you’re interacting with said object. What kind of life do you live at home? Do you use a computer all day? What about your phone? Do you have a favourite mug, and why? Do you have pets? Are you still working out? Are you eating well? Did you make sourdough or dalgona coffee? What's happening at home?

By extension, I also want to deliver an honest and authentic answer to a question that has been asked many times over, particularly by loved ones - What are you up to these days? Here's my attempt at that answer. I hope to take you through a day in my life as much as I long for yours in return.

If you're interested in sharing, send in your submission here. I’ll be waiting!

7:00. I wake up. My dogs, Maple & Bowie jump into bed to offer good morning kisses. I haven't been sleeping enough because they wake up so early these days, but I compromise for the sake of morning cuddles with furry friends. I think about what kind of coffee I’ll make today. I settle for cappuccino because I'm still waiting for the pour-over kit to arrive.

7:30. Out of the bed. I head to my reading nook to do some meditation. I set up a 14-minute timer on Waking Up and drop in. Today, there's a noticeable struggle to keep my attention stable, but I'm not discouraged by it. I remind myself of the obvious benefits and how my focus has drastically improved over the course of one week.

8:30. I am ready to make myself a coffee. The kitchen is detached from the bedroom, which means I must walk a small path outside to reach the main house. I'm always grateful for these tiny steps, it means I get to spend time in the sun and let my senses roam between the sound of birds, cicadas, human chatter, and doggy footsteps. Maple and Bowie step out of my bedroom with me. We soak in the sun for a few minutes.

I make my coffee with a trusty old moka pot. I stuff the indestructible vessel with Kintamani coffee then set it on the stovetop for brewing. The coffee I'm brewing originates from the same island I reside on, which is interesting to me because I'm paying attention to locally-sourced goods. Backyard coffee does seem like a real luxury. While the coffee brews, I assemble my milk frother to make a short glass of foamed milk.

I finish off the cappuccino with a classic sprinkle of cocoa powder, then give the kitchen a once-over. If you've seen Fight Club, you may remember the scene where the protagonist (does he have a name?) narrates all the IKEA furniture names from a magazine. I do the same in my head, narrating all the to-dos for each section of the kitchen. I suddenly feel the urge to re-arrange the pantry and to sort out my massive collection of glass food jars by height.

You probably want to hear that I went to town with the kitchen re-organisation project. But today is not the day, so I will myself to walk away and attend to my priorities for the day.

9:00. My work commute is back to my bedroom through the same grassy path, now with coffee in hand. I sit down at my desk with the same clothes I slept in. I have a permanent rotation of T-shirt and cotton shorts.

My desk contains a laptop, external keyboard & mouse, two planners, a desk lamp and a trusty gel pen. I also have a yoga block + book ensemble which props up my laptop for ergonomic reasons. After working haphazardly for years, I finally decided to give my spine the loving care it deserves.

I fill in my morning journal with plans for the day and lovingly jot down the kitchen re-organising ideas from earlier. Past self, I promise you we’ll attend to your ideas at a better time.

I work until noon, making a stop to cook rice for lunch later.

12:30. Lunch time. I heat Japanese curry and niku meat sauce to share with Rick, my boyfriend. We eat both dishes with fresh rice. We make small chatter but otherwise eat in shared silence. He picks up his phone from time to time to reply to chat messages.

13:00. I am back at work until sundown. In between, I jot down pantry and cooking ideas that pop into my head. I also wrestle between focusing at work and giving my dogs attention. I do mental gymnastics every time they cry for attention. Ever since we limited outdoor excursions, they have grown both indoorsy and antsy. I put on soundproof headphones during work, but it's challenging to manage their energy and mine. I pet them in between breaks.

16:00. I receive a bag of groceries delivered at the door. They come from an organic, farm-to-home store I found online. I unload the groceries, thank the driver and return their carrier bag. Back in the kitchen, I inspect my purchases: adzuki beans, coconut sugar, local robusta coffee (craving Vietnamese-style drip coffee), raw cacao powder, crab apples, a loofah and a lavender shampoo bar. Tomorrow, I will make a batch of chocolate chip muffins via homemade applesauce, and a mocha smoothie bowl for breakfast.

What are crab apples? Crab refers to apples that are smaller than your usual apples. They're usually a bit tart but otherwise edible. The manalagi apples I bought are much smaller than the granny smiths I'm used to buying from the supermarket. They are locally (!) sourced from East Java, which is much closer than the US or Australia. Since it's my first time buying these apples, I inspect their smallness and marvel at the red streaks decorating the otherwise green apple. Upon taking a sniff, I fall in love with these apples. They emit a sweet toffee fragrance which I think will be perfect for making applesauce.

17:00. One of my colleagues from another part of the world has just started their day. We exchange niceties and he tells me about how well he has been, despite the lockdown situation. We both feel on top of our game today. I tell him I'm proud of myself for being able to wrap up the day before sundown, it doesn't happen much. I wish the same to him and sign off shortly after.

17:30. I'm done! I unplug my laptop, switch off wireless devices and carry my laptop over to the dressing area of my room. Here, a rectangle of free space invites me to unroll my yoga mat. I feel triumphant as I get ready to be guided through a 30-minute yoga lesson. I long to submerge into a different headspace, and to give my body a daily dose of mobility.

In the past year, I have been thinking more about the importance of physical exercise and the role it plays in regulating my mental health. I have built up a consistent habit of doing yoga three times a week, some times more. Now, this routine is something I look forward to because I enjoy Adriene's voice from Yoga With Adriene, and also because I get to sweat and feel grounded in my body!

Working on the Internet, and being a knowledge worker by extension, comes with its own set of health hazards - like sitting at a desk for too long, or straining your eyes from the blaring lights of laptops & smartphones. Not to mention the information overload on your mental. I think this is why I adhere to a regular yoga and meditation practice. I just treat them as operational safety. I acknowledge that lots of people work in harsher conditions though, and I do my best to sympathise.

18:30. After yoga, I take a shower and today happens to be shampoo day. As I dry my hair, I realise my arms are more tired than usual. This soreness extends to my neck, I feel crunchy all over. Maybe I strained myself during yoga and didn't adhere to 'operational safety' properly. I have an urge to go for a massage but tell myself that's not possible right now. I promise myself to practise yin yoga soon, which is the only way I know how to ‘soothe’ my body right now.

19:00. I fix myself a soba salad with soy dressing to end the day. I make a mental note not to eat green tea soba with sesame oil anymore because they don't go well together. Maybe ponzu sauce? I load the dishwasher with everyone's dirty dishes for the day, then funnel all my new purchases into glass jars. I inevitably season myself with cacao and coffee powder, which is not a terrible combination.

20:30. I conclude the day by completing the evening journal section in my performance planner. I spot speckles of distraction throughout the day (dogs barking for attention, articles enticing me with their headlines), but I try to find gratitude in an otherwise peaceful & enjoyable day.

I rate myself a 5/5 in Clarity, Productivity, Influence & Necessity; a 4/5 in Energy because I struggled to keep up during yoga; a 3/5 in Courage because I would have liked to let Rick know I appreciate eating lunch without our phones.

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What’s In The Lunch Box

I investigated the colours I eat in a day! Pictured here are matcha latte 🍵, berry smoothie bowl 🍓and a yellow sweet potato 🥔

Thank you so much for reading my lunch box. I spend a few hours weekly practising my writing, and lunch box has been a huge indication of progress for me. If you would like to help me move the progress needle, let me know if my writing has resonated with you by clicking on the little heart ♥️ at the bottom!