'tis the season

how was your chinese new year? i seem to be getting that question a lot recently. is it just a customary way of extending greeting, or can they perhaps sense a little difference from within me? a little more detached, a little less mirthful, a lot more stressed.

as we grow older, the festive season is no longer about getting together with your closest relatives, laughing and giggling, receiving red packets, eating delicious food and wearing pretty clothes. it seems to be an endless list of chores, one after another, check boxes to tick before the 15 days of the lunar new year is over. in fact, the seemingly endless things to do starts before the end of the year, stretching all the way until the 15 days of the lunar new year is up. one duty after another, stacked up on ends into one high tottering tower of tension. today is the 5th day, and i still have more than a handful of things sitting prettily on the list.

meeting old friends and busy relatives should have been gratifying but everybody wants to talk, nobody wants to listen. the little games they played should have been fun but they were all so engrossed with materialism. the rich aunty who was not satisfied with a RM200 lucky draw. the guards and cleaners who rotated work station every 15 minutes so that they can get more red packets. the captain whose service was unabashedly motivated by a red packet. where does the spirit of the chinese new year fit into all these?

but isn't it the same every year? this endless list of customary things to do. this eternal greed. this shallowness. this isn't the first year, and barring any unfortunate events happening to me for the next 365 days, this will not be the last year. why is this the new year of discontent? why does the ugliness that escaped the pandora's box seem especially glaring to me and ruffles my feathers so? even as i sit on my wicker chair, swinging right and left, with the chirping of the birds and the din of the traffic intertwined, i don't have the answer to my questions still. perhaps this is what i needed. an escape. a sanctuary to hide for a little while and immerse in my thoughts, a shelter to introspect and reinvigorate, away from everybody, away from all the demands and expectation. perhaps i am weary.

chinese new year wasn't all bad. there were the friends who showed sincerity and enthusiasm. the sweet man who bought lunch because it was his first time meeting me. the nice couple who was heartfelt. the old friend who was modest. the relatives who came from afar to say hello once a year. the husband's friend who tried to make me feel less awkward. the dear friend who wished me better late than never. the kindest in-laws. and the lovely friend who asked me how my chinese new year was.