Thursday, October 21, 2021

Between A Rock And A Hard Place (MY Eng #29)

This is part of a running series about English idioms - less about language, more about life itself. Previously, we covered 'missing the woods for the trees', 'the elephant in the room', 'practising what you preach', blowing hot and cold', 'no smoke without fire', 'one swallow does not make a summer', 'apples and oranges', 'cut to the chase', 'leave no stone unturned', 'that's the way the cookie crumbles', 'can't have your cake and eat it too', 'old is gold', 'putting the cart before the horse', 'mountain out of a molehill', 'pot calling the kettle black', 'bite the bullet', 'go the extra mile', 'silence is golden', 'the devil is in the details', 'sink or swim', 'once bitten twice shy', 'don't count your chickens before they hatch', 'don't put all your eggs into one basket', 'chicken and egg', 'walking on eggshells', 'flogging a dead horse', 'better late than never' and 'storm in a teacup'.

Life is complicated. There's no short of drama. The worst kind of problem are the ones that have two options open, neither of which is the perfect solution.

Take Option A, and you'll close the main door but leave the backdoor open. And vice versa.

Yes, there are no easy solutions in life. Do something and risk making matters worse. Do nothing and you're also screwed. Life can be really cruel.


* * *

No one fancies winding up in such a tough spot. But that's just how life goes. We can't avoid being trapped between a rock and a hard place.

Let's start with school, since that's where all of us have gone through before. Should we focus on studies and churning out good grades? Or should we spread our time and energy over extra-curricular activities to pick up on practical skills? Yes, your teachers, seniors and wise gurus will all say that same old word: balance.

Easier said than done. There is only 24 hours in a day. And the same people will preach on how it's important to get enough sleep and rest. Minus time for meals, household chores, and relaxation. And it's healthy to have hobbies too. Ultimately, something's got to give. Limited time calls for sacrifices.

Work is worse. Especially when you're at the bottom of the food chain. There's your line manager, and an array of other middle managers. Sometimes, you may be bugged by some nosy senior from some other department. And your big boss is just too busy with their own deadlines and appointments to keep track of every minion's workload and schedule.

This is the key reason for burnout. Excessive stress. Mental health damage. In this digital era, work flows even quicker than before. Your mobile phone keeps pinging from urgent notifications 24/7. One senior is an early riser and starts working at 6am. Another senior had been chasing you until 2am. Despite what everyone says about getting enough rest, their very actions prevent you from practising what they're preaching.

* * *

So which do we choose? The rock? Or the hard place?

Sometimes, we choose wisely. Other times, we choose wrongly. The point is not to get too worked out over making wrong choices or being forced into making choices against our will.

Life is full of difficult choices. Instead of dreading this aspect of life, embrace it fully. The more choices we make, the better we get in choosing.

Doesn't matter whether we land on a rock or a hard place. Just do the best that you can, with what you have, where you are.


Monday, October 11, 2021

Storm In A Teacup (MY Eng #28)

This is part of a running series about English idioms - less about language, more about life itself. Previously, we covered 'missing the woods for the trees', 'the elephant in the room', 'practising what you preach', blowing hot and cold', 'no smoke without fire', 'one swallow does not make a summer', 'apples and oranges', 'cut to the chase', 'leave no stone unturned', 'that's the way the cookie crumbles', 'can't have your cake and eat it too', 'old is gold', 'putting the cart before the horse', 'mountain out of a molehill', 'pot calling the kettle black', 'bite the bullet', 'go the extra mile', 'silence is golden', 'the devil is in the details', 'sink or swim', 'once bitten twice shy', 'don't count your chickens before they hatch', 'don't put all your eggs into one basket', 'chicken and egg', 'walking on eggshells', 'flogging a dead horse' and 'better late than never'.

One of upsides of the pandemic is remote working. And one of the upsides of remote working is virtual meeting.

You know the type. The person who can't resist raising a hand at every meeting. The person with an endless list of grievances.

Are they really aggrieved, or do they just crave for attention? Regardless, they put the rest of us through an arduous extra-time. Worst still, some of us may be dragged into a new task that really can wait, or isn't really worth the effort resolving.

The good thing about virtual meetings is that it's easier to zone out without anyone noticing, and excuse oneself because of a back-to-back appointment or a wail from the baby crib. And over the last few months, Zoom fatigue has made us all more conscious about time and able to run meetings more efficiently.

* * *

It's a phenomenon that happens to the best of us. Sometimes unconsciously. Perhaps I'm guilty myself, on several ocassions. We all have the tendency to stir a storm in a teacup.

It's human nature to freak out and overreact. Who doesn't enjoy a little drama in their lives? It's only natural to exaggerate our trivial tragedies, to draw great sympathies.

To those who know me well, I'm not the sort who go around bitching about every bad day at work. Even if I'm in hot soup because someone screwed up badly, I'll just quietly get right to fixing the problem. How does whining and complaining help to get the job done? It doesn't.

There's nothing wrong stirring a storm in one's own teacup. Problem is, the same people enjoy serving storm in other people's teacup.

* * *

Remote working has left me with a sense of solitude and serenity. Even though I'm busier than ever with work. And that's partly because remote working helps to drown out the noise and bustle of trouble-makers.

Hopefully, the pandemic has made us more introspective about how we treat other people on a daily basis. Life is complicated as it is. No reason to stir drama in other people's lives without good reason. No reason to kick up a storm in anyone's teacup - starting with your own.

Friday, October 1, 2021

Better Late Than Never (MY Eng #27)

This is part of a running series about English idioms - less about language, more about life itself. Previously, we covered 'missing the woods for the trees', 'the elephant in the room', 'practising what you preach', blowing hot and cold', 'no smoke without fire', 'one swallow does not make a summer', 'apples and oranges', 'cut to the chase', 'leave no stone unturned', 'that's the way the cookie crumbles', 'can't have your cake and eat it too', 'old is gold', 'putting the cart before the horse', 'mountain out of a molehill', 'pot calling the kettle black', 'bite the bullet', 'go the extra mile', 'silence is golden', 'the devil is in the details', 'sink or swim', 'once bitten twice shy', 'don't count your chickens before they hatch', 'don't put all your eggs into one basket', 'chicken and egg', 'walking on eggshells' and 'flogging a dead horse'.

Okay, this one is crystal clear. Straight as an arrow. Make no bones about it. Ain't no beating rounnd the bush this time. Let's cut to the chase.

Gotcha! Now, I can sense your confusion. Five idioms in quick succession is an overkill. Too many cooks spoil the broth, eh?

Maybe one day, I'll write an entire article just by using idioms, and nothing else. That's quite a challenge. Maybe once I've build up a larger stash. But that day just has to wait, for now.


* * *

Anyway, no prizes for guessing the idiom of the day. Better late than never means exactly as it what says. Better get your task done or attend an appointment as promised, even if you're way past the deadline.

Of course, this sometimes doesn't work well in practice. Depends on the length of delay, and the importance of the occasion. No one will bat an eyelid if you're late for your brother-in-law's second cousin's half-sister's wedding. If you overslept on the day on your own wedding, then maybe your lateness is a symptom of a bigger problem which questions the whole point of attendance...

These days, I'm swamped by work, sudden and urgent. No problem. I enjoy the adrenaline rush. Keeps me on my toes. Polish the rust away. Reassures me that I've still got "it".

But even for someone whose favourite mantra is "sleep is for the weak", these past few days have been truly gruelling. Don't worry. I'm still alive and kicking ass. I've not fallen off the wayside. Yes, I've STILL GOT "IT"!
* * *

Still, I do feel bad for missing an appointment and breaking a promise or two. Sorry, folks. Everyone drops the ball, every now and then.

Nevertheless, better late than never, eh? Better be half there than missing in action altogether. My mind may wander, but my heart's always at the right place...

Okay, I think I'm starting to ramble random words, so it's best to the draw the line here, for now. Better safe than sorry. Better to burn out than to fade away...