WITH A 1% CHANCE, DOES LIFE DESERVE TO LIVE?

In the past 20 months, the world or most of it; has seen, witnessed, experienced the ravage, savage and damage caused by a common enemy – the Covid-19 coronavirus. Mostly everyone has in one way or another been impacted by this virus. I said mostly everyone, not everyone. There were those who were in the right places or industries at the right time. They made money, some made obscene amounts. That is ok… I guess.

At the height of the pandemic, from what we hear and gather from various media reports (I don’t know if the information in these reports were verified); hospitals were overloaded with patients. Yet they were understaffed. News was floating around that medical personnel were instructed to not focus on those they believe were not going to recover, to let them go (gentler way of stating the obvious). I don’t know what the numbers were, if there were any.

The point I am getting at is when people are very ill, they depend on someone else to make the right decisions for them. All their lives they have been independent, when they become too sick; they have to make these adjustments. Now, due to the severity of the illness they have, they may not be able to speak. But, I believe, they are fully aware and know what is going on.

Immediate families or extended family members are the ones who usually take care of these ill people. They agree to take on the responsibility – a caring and noble gesture. They see to everything that needs to be done, right down to daily care. On top of that, they have their own jobs and families to take care of.

Over time, it can become a strain on these family caregivers. The person or persons in their care that are dependent on them, become a burden. The decisions the caretakers make, may be compromised. For example:

An elderly man is going for a medical procedure in relation with his prostrate health issue. This person, in his 80s; has a weak heart, diabetes and other health issues. The hospital has informed his family that after the procedure; it may lead to another medical procedure.

This second procedure is necessary for his health position to improve. The risk here is that after this second procedure, he may become brain dead or slip into a vegetative state.

The question here is: Should he do the second procedure?

I think he should. Even if he has a 1% chance of recovering to a normal life. Yes, There is a 99% chance he may become even a bigger “burden” if he does not recover. A decision has to be made for this second approval after that first procedure. That decision is usually a family member. A tough decision but it has to made.

If they decide “yes” for the second procedure; the person has 1% or more of a chance of surviving and recovering. That person deserves that right.

Decisions to make things easier for the caregiver should be the last alternative.

The odds of becoming a vegetable is high. But at least they tried all options available to them..

Compared with if they make a decision not to do the second procedure, he could soon die.

I think people should not be made to feel that they are a burden to others.

I am in no way, judging anyone. I understand that each person is different. Each caregiver, bless their hearts for even volunteering to look after the sickly people who are in need; have immediate family and work priorities; too.

When faced with a decision between a hard rock and the deep blue sea; pray for guidance in making the right decision.

Dedicated to the voiceless

THE PHOTO

Siblings’ photo: Standing Left to Right; Shirley, Nigel, Malcolm, Uma, myself, Jeannie, Mabel, Terence, Ashley
Seated Left to Right: Ray, Jen, Laura, Sarah

They (not sure who “they” are) say a picture paints a thousand words.

This has to be amongst the best pictures of me, my family, my siblings and their families. It would have been perfect if Alana was in it. I think she was abroad at that time. I love this picture for its clarity and detail. I can’t remember exactly when this picture was taken. It could have been 2015, 2016 or 2017 Christmas.

Seated Left to Right: Raymond Arnold. Former national squash coach, national squash player, now squash coach extraordinaire. Always ready for a good laugh. He is game for anything and loves food. Who doesn’t? Was married to my late sister, Jennifer.

Next seated is Jennifer (Jen). I always used to say that no camera could escape Jen. Jen always insisted on many photographs be taken, especially with family. Hence, the photo above. She was also the family instigator / organiser of many of family gatherings. This picture was taken at Christmas time at The Curve shopping centre in Petaling Jaya. We were there because Jen thought it a great idea that we siblings and our families meet at a mall like this for light shopping and dinner at least once every Christmas. We always had fun at these once a year at the mall Christmas affairs with the family.

Jen was richly talented with her art. She brightened the world with her paintings and murals on many different objects and surfaces.

One of Jen’s paintings / creations. The picture is so vibrant, the colours and detail are exquisite.

Jen also worked extensively on troll beads, fusing beautiful colours on them. She spent long hours working up ideas as art.

Seated next to Jennifer (back to “Jennifer” instead of “Jen” for me. I grew up with “Jennifer” in my life, so I am more comfortable with her full name, though she went into “Jen” mode.) is our (Jeannie’s and my) daughter, Laura. She is the youngest in the Atkinson clan.

Laura, Jeannie and me

Laura is currently abroad, furthering her tertiary education. While in Malaysia; if she was not at studies, she was training and swimming in championships throughout the country.

Laura was a state swimmer, representing Selangor. She was amongst the top 3 swimmers in Malaysia for the 100m and 50m Breaststroke events in the girls’ age group. Now, she represents her university and its swim team in these events and others, too. Just won the 100yd (yard) Breaststroke at Caroll University (Millikin University meet with Caroll University – 7th November, 2021).

Now, sitting on Laura’s left in the picture is (Chef) Sarah Atkinson. Besides being an artist in food presentation; the meals that she prepares leaves her guests wanting for more; seconds, third helpings. Literally! She is a chef at a foreign high commission. Sarah is the daughter of Nigel and Shirley.

Standing, at the back, from left: Shirley, was married to my late brother, Nigel. Shirley is operations chief at a freight forwarding logistics company. She is the most sought after person by her shipping line agencies and clients; pretty much on call 24×7.

Then, after Shirley in the picture; comes Nigel. Nigel is the in the middle of the five of us siblings : Jennifer, Alan, Nigel, Terence and Malcolm.

Nigel ran a temp-maid cleaning agency, providing the services of maids to clean your home, or small office or building. He had a good rapport with his clients, which were from Subang Jaya, Petaling Jaya and Shah Alam. (3) He obliged some people who were staying out of these areas.

From young, Nigel had this fastidious trait about him: everything had to be clean and in place at all times. There was never a time that anything out of place, even by one millimetre; would get past him. Always having a joke or two, or three at hand to share, he would be the livewire of a party. he loved to sing, too. He was generous, even with the little he had.

Malcolm is next in the picture. He is the youngest in the family but that never stopped him from doing and achieving what he wanted. Known by many as “the singing pastor”; his music and his personality has drawn many, many people to the good news.

Malcolm is up to date on news of his favourite marvel action heroes. He has a pretty good collection of marvel comics, a collection which he started from the time he was in school.

Much of his time now is spent recording and producing music that he sings solo, and with others, too. He wants the end result of production to be the way he has envisaged the songs to be.

Uma, Malcolm’s wife; has a penchant for cooking. She loves cooking. she has all sorts of cooking utensils and gadgets that bring out the already deliciousness in the food she serves. Dinners at their home usually has a wide spread of Indian or western cuisine or a combination of both.

While at hers and Malcolm’s home yesterday she taught us a lesson which I heard for the first time and think it as interesting. If you are eating an Indian meal and use your hands instead of the usual cutlery; you pick up the food with your fingers, making sure the food does not touch the palm of your hand.

Continuing with the siblings photo. I am next after Uma and don’t need any introduction. 😄😉

Jeannie is standing next to me, more like in front of me. She hardly needs any introduction. She is in business development in the food services industry. Always on the lookout for new food items and brands.

Jeannie is also a batik influencer. Batik designs and materials have evolved since it became popular many years ago. Jeannie has an interest in the different types of batik and has produced several ladies’ jackets and tops that have gone to several parts of the world. If you see a lady in the U.S., Australia or Japan in a beautiful batik jacket; it may most likely be one of Jeannie’s creations.

Mabel is next. Terence’s wife; she makes fancy design cakes. She is artistic and thus produces these beautifully designed cakes. When there’s a party in her house; cups will be plastic with your names written on them so that there won’t be an unnecessary waste of cups. She is organised.

Terence, Mabel’s husband; happens to be my brother, not my “second brother” or my cousin’s cousin. Wait a minute – my cousin’s cousin? We’re onto something here. 😁

Terence, who is also the “Uncle Al” (4) of our generation; has been with international schools for many years now. He spends a lot of time with his hobby – hydroponic (5) vegetables. He is about to turn 60 in a few days time. Happy Birthday, Terence (in advance). Welcome to the “60s is the new thirties” club.

Ashley is the last but not least in this picture. Younger daughter of Terence and Mabel; she is a teacher by profession. She started a new handicraft business fairly recently, promoting all the handicraft she makes. She is a very talented singer.

This photo of my siblings and myself and our families, has that warm and Christmas-y atmosphere about it. Will be treasured. Christmas is just around the corner.

Every time I re-visit a picture, it tells me the same story, but from a different point of view. As I get on in years, the same picture becomes more vibrant. – Good memories. Many smiles. Everlasting.

They say a picture paints a thousand words. Well, I think it does more than that. Definitely more than a thousand words – this essay is over 1,300 words.

NOTE:

  1. Jennifer passed away in March 2019.
  2. Nigel passed away in August 2021.
  3. Subang Jaya, Shah Alam and Petaling Jaya are cities in Selangor, Malaysia.
  4. “Uncle Al” – his mannerisms, way of talking and expressing himself is like dad’s brother, Uncle Al.
  5. Hydroponics is a type of horticulture and a subset of hydroculture which involves in growing plants (usually crops) without soil, by using mineral nutrient solutions in an aqueous solvent… Hydroponics offers many advantages notably a decrease in water usage in agriculture. https://en.m.wikipedia.org

PRESENTLY, IN THE PRESENT TIME

Time waits for no man.

What just happened?

January 1st 2021 was just upon us not too long ago and now it has vanished in thin air.

Your time organized

The end of Q3 is in a few days.

On reflection, where did the almost 9 months go? We have the same 86,400 seconds or 1,440 minutes or 24 hours in each day as anyone else has. Can we account as to how we spent our time during these last 9 months?

Malaysia for one, was under Emergency lock-down with the hopes of curbing the spread of Covid-19. During these periods of “confined-to-our-homes” and restrictive movement, how have we spent our time?

We are so caught up in getting things of the planned future done for fear of not accomplishing them when time passes us by. I am guilty of that. I set out staring at this new year, 2021; with a few new resolutions of which I can only remember one of hand, that is to write 100 articles or essays with a minimum 500 words. As it is, I am behind schedule with 53 articles more to go. I don’t want to make excuses that I have all my other day-to-day, weekly and monthly activities to attend, to; too.

Your time, complicated, but organized

More importantly, is how we use our time to do the things we want to do. We may find ourselves caught up doing things that are unplanned for. Some of these unplanned for activities could be eating away or stealing our time.

Time-stealers” have to be identified. What is the meaning of time stealer? A time stealer is something that doesn’t need to be done at all.

Common time stealers include:

  • Procrastination – serves no purpose but only to delay the work or outcome
  • Unexpected interruptions
  • Unscheduled meetings
  • Called up by others
  • Cancelled task to react to something going wrong
  • Forced to take work home (most of us are working from home now due to the Covid-19 pandemic) or answer calls out of hours
  • A cluttered and disorganized workspace
  • Looking for tools or information to do the job / make a decision
  • Emails received that need responding to after work hours
  • Television
  • Constantly having to refer to our smartphones, even if have not received any notifications

There is another group that hogs on to your time. These are the time wasters. A time waster is one that eventually needs a response, but only when the time is right. Some common time wasters include

  • Social media distraction
  • Constantly checking your emails
  • Lack of prioritization
  • Procrastination
  • Unproductive meetings
  • Watercooler conversations, coffee break or teh tarik at the mamak (3) during working time. The mamak restaurants were usually full before the Covid-19 outbreak.
  • Constantly having to refer to our smartphones

For me, writing these 100 articles is a challenge I took on. I aim to fulfil this challenge. If I don’t, it is going to be more challenging next year. I will penalise the short fall with by carrying forward the shortfall (hopefully none) and add 60% to work on next year. I am working hard to complete it this year as I plan to write a book of between 100,000 to 130,000 words in 2022.

There are many who like to reminisce on “the good old days”; me included. But not enough time is spent living in the present. Not forgetting, we have to live in the present; too.

The future that we chase; that is our dreams, our goals, our ambitions; arrives at our doorstep of life, but for a fleeting moment. Then it becomes our past. Many of us hardly ever notice that “we have arrived at our destination” and rarely get off that train, bus or “vehicle of destined future”; as we have the “next goal to catch”. This was the future that we had planned for, well for many of us. But we don’t recognize it, or take enough time to enjoy this future that is our now, our present.

Is time stressing us?

Then, there are the few who actually get off the vehicle of destined future when they arrive at their destination. “Now what?”, they ask themselves. Their planned destination does not have enough momentum to keep them going for the rest of their lives. Some get into depression because they have fallen from what they have perceived as the highest point in their life to an all time low.

This leads us to the question, “How do we learn to balance our time? To aim and chase for our dreams and goals, to be able to handle them when we achieve them (some could take many years); and then, move on from there.

Isn’t time the most important asset that we have?

We have to learn to add and incorporate the essence of “peace of mind”, happiness and rest into this asset.

“All aboard!” The train, bus or “vehicle of destined future” is departing the station. Next stop….?

Are we at peace with time, in tune with it? Is it fulfilling? Happy?

NOTE:

  1. Time stealers, http://www.emerge.uk.com
  2. Time wasters, https://biz30.timedoctor.com/time-wasters/
  3. Mamak usually refers to an Indian-Muslim restaurant or stall; serving various non-alcoholic drinks, simple fast-prepared food like roti canai and all its variety, Maggi Mee goreng “pedas”; to name a few. Their pricing is very cheap. For example: 2 roti canai and a kopi besar ( more coffee, served in a glass – no it is not an Americano 😉 )

Story time Part 1: Pocket Too Deep, Hand Too Short.

It is about that time of the year when many of us would have forgotten some, if not all of the new year’s resolutions (new year’s what?) that we made, if we made any. My new additional resolution is to write 100 500-word minimum articles in 2021. This is my 4th. I am behind schedule. The late motivational speaker, Englishman Peter West said, “having a goal without a plan is wishful thinking.” He can’t be further from the truth. Peter was a no-nonsense, tell-it-as-he-sees-it guy, who used to frequent Malaysia in the 1990s, encouraging thousands of people in the salesforce to make use of the potential they had in them.

Some of the more common resolutions are 1. Be punctual. Some of the highty-flighty, tembak besar (or is it besar tembak?) bigshots think it is fashionable to be late. This year, 2021 in particular; new year’s resolutions seem mute, distant, not talked about. In a country like Malaysia; we have what is known as “Malaysian time”. To be fair, the rail services in Italy had a standard practice – “being late”. When I was in Italy some years ago; I used to commute by train to most parts of the country. First of all, their railway stations like Rome and Florence, were a nightmare, even in the day; with about 200 departure/arrival platforms each. One of the first messages that you hear over all the trains’ P.A. system is, “Good evening. We apologise that we are late”. And this is regardless what time of the day it is. I love Italy and its people. Well, all except for that one lady who pickpocketed me of 750 euros on the train from Rome to Florence. 2. Getting down to a regular exercise programme. Intentions are admirable – to lose those couple of kilos (for many, losing 10kg would be far better); tone ’em muscles (this is causing my belly to look bigger than it should 🙂 ) and to keep fit and have a healthy routine. By January 1st; the Asics/Nike/Adidas shoes, t-shirts, shorts/skirts, sweatbands, fitness tracking devices are ready. Then, everyone is out working on their various exercise programmes. By the end of two weeks; the blazing hot sun, the rain, the humidity, oh yes and the MCO, PMCO, RMCO, and all the other COs due to the Covid-19….no need to say….”lah”. The best is to exercise according to one’s schedule, level of fitness, etc. Not to others’ expectations. 3. To be financially free. This is one that gets side-tracked and waylaid almost from the very beginning with special offers, super easy payments, attractive ads and the list goes on. Buying a motor vehicle seems so attractive now, due to the special waiver of government sales tax. Buying a smartphone comes bundled with so many goodies, just short of the kitchen sink…sometimes you may wonder….would it not be better to lower the price of the new phone instead of throwing in the kitchen sink as part of the package? You notice how the free power-bank is suddenly worth RM250? What about buying a house? We all love a discount, a massive discount will seal the deal. Now, you can buy a property for free….no, really….free….that is 0% deposit or down-payment for property under construction. In reality, the deposit, down payment and interest income from the deposit and down-payment lost by the developers will be charged to your instalment repayment.

I would like to focus on wanting to be financially free. What does it mean to be “financially free?” Financial freedom usually means having enough savings. financial investments, and cash on hand to afford the kind of life we desire for ourselves and families (Sevilla). There are many views on what financially freedom is. Here, I am not talking about being financially independent which in a nut shell means earning more than your expenditure or spending less than you earn. Being financially free to me is about having peace of mind from all forms of debt. I am talking about not being chastised to loans and not having to work to earn an income to pay the loans off. My mother has this principle, “Live within your means”. Don’t take loans. “The rich lords it over the poor, the borrower is the lender’s slave”. – Proverbs 22:7 (RSV CE)

There are a few exceptions. You most probably would need to take a loan to purchase the house you live in, and one or two cars. These purchases should be moderate according to your household income. It should not be to the point of struggling to make ends meet (your peace of mind is compromised). You might face a “catch 22” situation. You will need a good credit score to take a loan. And you can’t get a credit score without taking a loan.

As your income grows, you will find yourself “needing” more things to make living more comfortable for you and your family. And the advertisements – they are the answer to one’s prayers – the advertisers. These adverts seems to have every solution to the problems you never know you had. Many of you may have heard of this story: a shoe manufacturer sent a salesman to a remote country to sell their shoes. He saw the people there going about their everyday lives barefoot. He returned back to the shoe manufacturer with his findings: “Everyone goes around barefooted; there are no prospects of selling shoes here”. The shoe manufacturer decided to send another salesman there. He, too; saw that people went about their daily lives barefooted. He sent a message back to the shoe manufacturer : “Everyone goes around barefooted, send 1,000 pairs of shoes”. Could it be that the people there did not need shoes, that they chose to live closer to nature?

Some years back, I received a congratulatory note from a luxury German car marque after having purchased one of their models. The way the advertised standard message was put across to me, their valued customer; “You have arrived” with a hint that it was due to their brand that I had attained that level of success. Though it was not necessary for me to reply that message, I did. ” It is because I have attained this level of financial success; I chose your product; that you have arrived because of my choice and should feel honoured; not the other way around.” Needless to say, no response from them. So much for being a valued customer.

The clothes you wear, watches, shoes, restaurants you dine, club memberships….the list goes on. After you’ve acquired these things, then you need to upgrade to keep up with the Joneses so that you don’t feel inferior or intimidated by the “lesser” things you have. The solutions and answers to all the questions you never knew you had to begin with. The easy credit from financial intuitions and credit cards help you acquire these “assets” which deplete in value the moment it changes hands from the sellers to you. The German car marque (which I talked about earlier) invited me to the launch of their latest mid-size large model not too long after I got my car from them. Keep in mind when they first sold me the car, they said, “car for Life”. I asked, “Whose life?” I test drove this large mid-range model in their model line up. I put forward a proposition to the senior sales manager, “If I buy this car for RM470,000, drive it out of your showroom and park it overnight in your front vehicle parking lot which is part of your compound; come back the next morning and offer to sell it back to you for RM30,000 less than what I paid for; will you take it?”. He said the company couldn’t. An “asset” with a RM30,000 drop in value is not accepted back by the people that sold it in the very first place, after 1 day! 15 years ago, my daughter was with me when I was buying a new cell phone (handphone). When I bought the handphone, she said, “Daddy, now that man is rich.” I asked her what she meant by that. She said, “You gave him your money.” I said, “Yes, but I have got a new handphone.” She said, “but that man has got your money!” She was 5 years old at that time.

Coming back to the idea of having peace of mind. In most cases, before long, you probably would have raked up loans, credit card and other expenses which would create a new meaning for “work”. You work in order to earn the money to pay off the huge debt you now regret you have. “The borrower is the lender’s slave.” –(Proverbs 22:7) We are consumed by debt. We cannot and should not fault the many advertisements that we are bombarded with on a daily basis. I welcome them as the provide a multitude of choices for anything that we may be looking for – be it realty, motor vehicles, clothes right down to simple things like groceries. Then, we are able to make an informed decision on our purchases. But and it is a big “but”; we have to be responsible shoppers. Buy what we need, not what we want. We have to learn not to be compulsive shoppers. It is unfortunate that many people are caught in the debt trap when it becomes stifling.

The key is to have peace of mind. While many may fall in this seemingly spiraling bottomless pit debt trap; not all is lost. The first step is to identify that we have a problem. The next step is how do we want to address this problem. This will be answered in Story Time Part Two: I Want To Break Free!

We had this old family friend from Penang where when it came to paying for a meal or drinks; his hands would go in his pockets but was slow to take them out. He found it difficult to reach for his money because his pockets were too deep but his hands were too short. Yes, he is wealthy.

*****

In this article, I may not have/did not attempt too much on being grammatically correct. This article may be disconnected with its title. It is intended to provoke the thinking process of critics of this article, not so much the content, but the way it was written. In 2020, it was vogue and fashionable for men to wear dresses, skirts and what-have-yous. If that was ok, then writing articles the way we’ve known all this while; is set to change, too.

Sevilla, Jovia. “What is Financial Freedom?”, MoneyFit

Proverbs 22:7 (RSV CE), quoted in “Navigating Your Finances God’s Way”, Catholic Edition, Compass Catholic Ministries