Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Overnight, very
Whitely, discreetly,
Very quietly

Our toes, our noses
Take hold on the loam,
Acquire the air.

Nobody sees us,
Stops us, betrays us;
The small grains make room.

Soft fists insist on
Heaving the needles,
The leafy bedding,

Even the paving.
Our hammers, our rams,
Earless and eyeless,

Perfectly voiceless,
Widen the crannies,
Shoulder through holes. We

Diet on water,
On crumbs of shadow,
Bland-mannered, asking

Little or nothing.
So many of us!
So many of us!

We are shelves, we are
Tables, we are meek,
We are edible,

Nudgers and shovers
In spite of ourselves.
Our kind multiplies:

We shall by morning
Inherit the earth.
Our foot’s in the door.

By Sylvia Plath (1932 - 1963)


One of the thing I like about poetry is that it is highly adaptable. Regardless of the poem's intended meaning, the reader is free to associate it with his/her own experiences. I am not referring to poems that fail to communicate to its readers, because interpretation is quite different from association.

To illustrate my point, whenever I read the poem “Mushrooms” by Sylvia Plath, it never fails to remind me of pimples. I can clearly visualize them as pea-sized aliens landing on my nose and with their chipmunk voice demanding to see the leader of the new-found land. To save my face, literally, I declare an all-out war and start popping them like nobody’s business. To my horror, they start spreading across my face; filling up any available pores and to this day, the battle rages on.

I suspect one of the reasons for this weird association is because I first read this poem when I was a teenager, and lines like “The small grains make room”, “Shoulder through holes.”, “So many of us!”, etc doesn’t help either.

Some of you might associate the word “mushroom” with food, while others might associate it with something naughty. The process can be quite spontaneous. Ask someone to complete the statement “Mouse eat …” and most likely they will tell you “cheese”. Followed by “Goat eat …” and “grass” will comes to mind. Now ask him/she “Cow drink …” and most people will tell you “milk”.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Are You Feeling Burnt Out?

Recently I attended an event “Keep The Fire Burning: A Symposium For Professional Caregivers” organized by Institute of Mental Health (IMH). It was also a joint celebration of the 2nd Social Workers’ Day and IMH’s 80th Anniversary. The event involved group discussions and presentations by IMH’s Psychologist and Medical Social Worker (MSW). Overall it was a fruitful day, especially the presentation “Keeping The Temperature In Check: Balancing Your Multi-Faceted Professional Role In Mental Health” by Senior MSW Mr. Terence Yow.

Throughout the presentation, I have a strange feeling that it was prepared with me in mind. Let’s see what are the signs that indicate that you are feeling burnt out.

1) Frequently stressed and exhausted.
[Let’s see, more white hairs, dozing off during meetings, etc. Ticked.]

2) Dreading to go to work.
[Used to reach my office at 8.30 am sharp, then 8.45 am, 9 am, 9.15 am ... you get the picture. Ticked.]

3) Thinking about career change.
[Have been updating my resume on a monthly basis. Ticked.]

4) Neglecting other parts of life i.e. family, friends, hobbies …
[I’ve closed my online poetry forum recently. And when was the last time I have coffee with my friends? 2007? Ticked.]

5) No time to catch your breath at work.
[Catch a breath at work? More like catching a cold. Ticked.]

6) Losing sight why you chose this job/career.
[Under the heading "Occupation" I have started to declare myself as an "Applications Processing Machine". Beep beep. Ticked.]

7) No time to develop interests and hobbies.
[Unless you consider writing social reports as a hobby. Ticked]

8) Often feeling exhausted.
[Please refer to the 1st point. Ticked.]

9) Spending more and more time at work.
[Let’s see, although officially my working hours are from Monday to Friday, 8.30 am to 6 pm. I usually leave office at 7 – 8 pm and spend most of the Saturdays back in the office working. Never trust that HR guy during the interview. Ticked.]

10) Often bringing work home.
[Ha Ha, better than bringing woman home right? Just kidding dear, er dear? Darling? Honey? Ticked]

Okay, it is official. I am burnt out. Time to register myself as a missing person.