Post lockdown. Are you meeting friends yet?

: on struggling with how to live life with the presence of COVID-19 virus, battling the inner critic, 1 comic, 1 sketch and 2 new poems from my 30-day drawing challenge.

HopeMail #122 | HopeMail is a newsletter about life lessons I’ve learnt or reflected upon recently. Plus my drawing, the occasional comic and poem. If a friend shared this with you, and you'd like to subscribe, c'mon in.

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Hi there,

Last week, someone asked in a Zoom gathering, “What do you wanna do that you can’t do now, but you might possibly be able to do by end of this year?” 

The 20 odd of us gave answers that all pointed to one theme—the simple joys of life. 

There were zero wishes to conquer the world or other sophisticated stuff we usually hear pre-pandemic.

Most of us said we want to go see our families living in other states. Interstate travel in Malaysia is currently a no-go as I’m writing this. 

Some said they just want to get out of the house, go to a beach, or have a staycation. Anywhere within the country’s travel boundaries. Anywhere. (We still can’t travel out from the country unless it’s for study purposes, or unless if we have direct family members living overseas.)

For me, my answer was, I want to be able to meet some of my friends over a meal. I haven’t seen any friends, face to face, for five months. 

In 2021 up till now, I met less than six friends in person; unable to hug one. 

So, when the government opened up “our world” to people who are fully vaccinated, I was like “Yay! But then, how?” 

Friends in my circle asked each other, who has dined out? All of them said they are going to wait, it’s too risky, it’s not safe, the number of cases are still high. 

I kept quiet. Observing. 

I kept quiet because I don’t want to receive comments. Because we dined out a day after we were allowed to. It was delicious. Meals that don’t come in tiffin carriers or plastic containers.

I kept quiet because I don’t want to justify and explain that we are still being careful. We dined out in less crowded places with al-fresco seating areas. We kept our masks on before and after the meal, and we don’t linger like how we used to do, pre-COVID. 

I kept quiet because I’m also struggling to juggle between “so, are we going to hide at home forever now?” and “what if we got infected, would it be our fault because we went out?”

I kept quiet because I’m shouting this question in my head—“how are we going to live our life now moving forward?!”

How do we live a virus-in-the-air, masks wearing, crowd avoiding, touch abstaining, fear reminding life?

My answer is—I don’t know. From the tiredness of my heart of the situation, keeping some normalcy amid everything that’s not, I don’t know how to live this term called “the new normal”. 

I yearn to meet friends. Granted as it is, my friends' count is already on the lower side. Social media friends, not counted. 

But when I heard some of my friends commenting how others are trying to invite them out, and how they are resisting, I just don’t want to be that person—being passively rejected.

So, I kept quiet too. Again, observing. 

Unsure which friend would see my invitation as a hand reaching out to connect. And not—as a threat.

I know all I gotta do is ask. If my friends are uncomfortable meeting up, then that’s that. Nothing I can control. 

I know it’s not personal, of course. Still. 

Maybe our profile status should start stating “ok to meet friends” or “not ok to meet friends”. That might be the trick to stop the guessing game. 

Care to meet for a meal or drink?1

What I’m drawing | 30-day daily drawing challenge

Battling the inner critic! 🤺 

On the lighter side, just wanna share that I've started on a 30-day daily drawing challenge. And I’m proud of myself for getting closer to the two weeks mark! 

Believe it or not, I’m terrible when it comes to daily drawing. Either I'm stuck with not knowing what to draw, I can't accept unfinished work, or my inner critic kept telling me the drawing sucks. That inner critic often is not loud—but it’s brutal. 

I observe my thoughts when I draw. When the monkey is not taunting me, and I'm in the flow, my heart is just filled with happiness even with a rough sketch.

So, I’m intentionally training my mental muscle by keeping to a daily sketch routine. 

Then, let’s see if the monkey will get quieter. Or if I can tune out the monkey and keep drawing anyway.

On day 1/30, here’s what I did to overcome that pesky monkey voice stopping me from drawing—

I got started. 

and she if and but,
how and what.
Then, she looked at
her blank sketchbook.
“I’ll just draw myself, stuck in a rut.”
And that’s how—
her day one of thirty days of

The inner critic came to taunt me whenever I draw (ok, even when I write. Though the writing inner critic has lessened over the years). On day 8/30, I sketched the milk froth of a cup of latte. Then, the cup was drawn lopsided. The monkey voice came. 

Crumbs! Crummy crumbs!
"Your sketch looked like it came from the dump,”
said the monkey, turning down its thumb. 👎
“It’s ok,” I said.
“I’ll draw and draw AND DRAW—
your monkey mouth, I will shut
and—I will overcome.”

And that’s how by using art—words and drawing—I shut the monkey. No swords nor fist fight needed. Who knew drawing can be such psychological gymnastics?

note: make art; not war. Yes, please.

Does anyone have a similar experience with your inner critic? And is there anyone on a 30-day challenge of some sort?

Leave a comment

If you want to read it again, links to…

HopeMail #121 I almost launched a book this Christmas. I wrote about ditching ideas that don’t serve your why, a new haiku (poem), new drawings. And I did want to launch my book.

HopeMail #118 It’s ok not wanting to do anything for now. On creating white space, recognising the different rhythms in our life, a great article link on reducing Zoom fatigue, two questions on finding peace.

That’s all for now, folks. Thanks for reading! If you liked this week’s piece, or my writing and drawing, you can support my work by leaving a donation.

Take care!

💖 Melinda


“Meant to feel whimsical, nonchalant even. It’s not an actual invitation. Unless, of course, you want to…um, do you want to? It’s ok if you are not comfortable. I’m uncomfortable too, but I’m willing to push beyond it, just figuring out how to live this new way of life now, y’know? Anyway, ya, as I’ve said, the question is meant to be whimsical.” 

So, this might be how I’d ask friends out in real life now, I guess.