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Dear friends,

I still think about Ellen every other day. It's been one and a half years since she died and still every other day she would pop into my head, and I'd be caught afresh by the revelation that she's gone. Or was she ever here, I'd wonder. I still wonder. Death is so baffling and mysterious. 

After she died, one of her friends wrote about their days together. She shared about how Ellen was always very caring and kind. In fact, she said Ellen was always kinder than necessary. That really stuck in my head.

Kinder than necessary.

I am learning, in her memory, to be kinder than necessary. I am coming to see how easily the world can descend into a very scary and dark place without the soothing balm of random kindness, kindness that comes with no price tag attached. I think back on all those times when I received kindness when I needed it and how it saved me in ways I still cannot understand today. As I grow older I also finally understand why people who have suffered can give more -- they know the depths suffering can bring us to, and they don't want us to go there. They love us as they love themselves. That's empathy and how it's born.

To be kinder than necessary. Where do we even start?

We start from here and now. I'm not the best person to write about being kind. I do not think of myself as being the kindest person in the room. I have been unkind and detached. I have hurt people. I have excuses for so many of the things I did. I don't think I'm a bad person, but I haven't always been kind or kinder than necessary. But I have the desire to learn.

Here and now we can be kind and kinder than necesary. In big and small ways. If we are alert to the world we will know what is required of us to give. But I remind myself constantly that kindness must never be contrived or done for the sake of show. It must done with a willing heart (otherwise it is not kindness but obligation) and within the limits of what we're capable of giving. And as we give to others, we must remember to give to ourselves as well. If we fail to be kind to ourselves, there is very little chance we can be genuinely kind to others.

Kindness is the one pure force in the world that, when done from the heart, cannot ever be tainted and that will continue to bear fruit far away from where we are and in ways we cannot imagine.

I'd love to hear what you guys think about this topic. We need to work together to make this world a better place, one small, almost invisible, kind act at a time. We can all be kinder than necessary if we choose to be. Then we might have a chance of waking up tomorrow to a better world.

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Anyway, thank you for still being here. And hello and thank you to the new subscribers who have come on board. We're now almost 500 people strong. Unbelievable right? As for those who don't feel like being here anymore, feel free to unsubscribe. I'm in the midst of culling and decreasing my information input too, so I know how you feel. No hard feelings. Really!

It's been awhile since we last connected so I hope you don't mind the length of this month's newsletter.

Here's some news. I'm on a sabbatical and taking a short break from my photography work. You can read more about what and how and why here.

Also, my blog is back, because I'm nostalgic for the old internet and I want a place where I can deposit my thoughts, but in a more random, haphazard and real-time manner than the newsletter. I'm also in the mood to reclaim my independence from social networks like Instagram and Facebook. The shape of this newsletter might evolve in the coming months now that I have a blog, or it might not. Let's see where this goes. But for now you can find me almost daily here. If you are blogging too, send me the link to your blog, I'd love to check it out!

Then I want to ask -- where are you in life right now? Have you had the chance to sit back and think about this question? Do you have enough silence and solitude in your life to allow yourself to do that? Are you happy? Anxious? Sad? How are you feeling these days? Does the path you're on feel right? I hope if things don't feel right, that you can give yourself the space to recalibrate. Rest if you need. Hide if you need. Take care of yourself first if you need. You can give yourself the permission to do it.

Lastly, if you'd like to give, check out DEBRA, an organisation that works on improving the quality of life for all people living with Epidermolysis Bullosa, a rare genetic connective tissue disorder whose most prominent symptom is extremely fragile skin that blisters and tears from minor friction or trauma. It's a terrifying and painful disease that has no treatment nor cure at the moment and can only be managed over a lifetime. Please check it out and give if you're moved to.

A little closer to home, you can also donate blood. Only 1.87% of Singaporeans donated their blood in 2019, but on average 325 units of blood are needed every day to save lives. To put things in perspective, we give about 1 unit of blood each time we donate.

Alright, it's time to end this long and naggy issue. I'll see you next issue. Take care. I love you. Reply to this newsletter to connect if you want!

 

Some inspiring things

1. We don't buy things with money, we buy them with hours from our life. Always a good reminder.

2. Finished reading The Power of Kindness. Was not expecting to like this book so much. A very good supplement to my kinder than necessary journey.

3. Roam is like a stripped-down Evernote but smarter and more intuitive. It has a tiny learning curve but I really really like it (using it daily now for almost all my writing, brainstorming and note-taking).

4. Unpretentious design philosophy. I love it.

5. Currently watching "Altered Carbon". So noir, so Bladerunner. Delicious sci-fi TV. Season one better than season two apparently. I'm still at one. I'm always so slow at TV-watching.

6. A cherished home. Earthly. Real. At one with the elements.

7. The calligraphy of Thich Nhat Hanh.

8. Quote to think about: "When you eat, eat, When you sit, sit. Simply do, with no intentions in your mind. Do not plan. Do no speculate. Do not wonder. Do with all your heart and realise the simplicity of the sacred present moment." (I can't remember where I saw this quote from. Note to self -- always note down the source!)


About

I'm Rebecca Toh. I write on​ rebeccatoh.co.

I am a 
photographer who works around the world shooting for clients such as The New York Times, Facebook, Monocle, Conde Nast Traveler, etc (if you like my work you might even want to hire me!)

I am also half of the LITO Podcast.

This is where I am and what I'm doing now.
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