I’ve been learning so much lately. I’ve always had so many questions about myself, people, and life. I dared not hope to find any more wisdom/answers on this trip than I have from my explorations at home, but somehow, I have. I’m seeing that what I once thought were ideas rooted in my strength were actually formed around my inner weaknesses. I see now that what I thought were deep insights were sometimes just reflections of my own limitations*. I’m not sure exactly what’s bringing this flood of insight lately; maybe it’s that I’ve had time and space in my brain to pursue these thoughts; maybe it’s the culmination of my travel experiences; maybe it’s the effect of meditating more regularly; maybe it’s just getting older. Whatever it is, I’m thankful. Meditation is much easier for me with a mantra, and lately I’ve used these two:
“I’m here, I’m open, I’m ready; what wisdom do you have for me, world?”
“I am the warmth of the sun.”
The latter is about how I relate to others: I want to radiate my love, my warmth, my energy with others. Even though I struggle with that, I’m learning that I succeed more than I’ve realized**. And the more I meditate on it, and practice it, the easier it happens. I know that I am Love, and I know that others are Love, and I know that we can all sense that in one another. It’s so interesting that these spiritual, cosmic ideas are now as obvious to me as gravity. I see spirit, Love, magic everywhere!
*Mainly about independence, and being alone. I over-emphasized how important it is to be ok on one’s own, to rely on oneself, to have a deep and profound relationship with oneself, to genuinely appreciate and enjoy time alone, in one’s own company. As important as these things are, these ideas came from my weakness. I was struggling with my relationships with people: with how people made me feel, with how they challenged my ideas, my life, my values, my self-worth; how they made me feel unappreciated, invalid, weird, and excluded. And also how they rarely meet my expectations. So instead of finding a way to deal with it, instead of releasing my expectations of others, instead of validating myself, finding strength and peace from within, instead of washing their insults off of me and thriving despite them – I retreated. And I thought I found “strength” in my cowardly retreat. Now I see that I need to learn how to cultivate that inner peace despite my surroundings. I really do want to be the warmth of the sun. The sun doesn’t retreat when she goes without praise, when she’s ignored, or unappreciated, or taken for granted; she’s ever present, and always bountiful with her loving warm light. I want to be exactly like that: an endless supply of love and warmth, despite surrounding situations. I want to be the friend that’s always happy to see someone, even if I’m hurt that I haven’t heard from them in a while, or if they misunderstand me, or if they’ve hurt me. We are all guilty of that, so I’m letting my judgement of my own and others’ failures go.
**I strive to be positive, open, loving, and nonjudgmental, but at times that is hard for me. During the temazcal, there was a couple next to me being a little lovey-dovey. As I’ve been so focused on independence for the last few years, it bothered me a little. I kept thinking that they should be able to enjoy this experience on their own, and that they can’t be as introspective if they’re focused on one another. But I countered that judgemental thought with another: maybe they are having a different experience together, but I’m sure it’s wonderful and valuable all the same. At the end of the temazcal, the woman told me that she could “really feel my love” during the ceremony. I was amazed that during my inner turmoil/inquietude, my love was still radiating. It was one of the kindest thing anyone has ever said to me, and it came at a time in which I needed to hear it. When I shared this anecdote with George, he said, “your love may be uncommented upon, but it does not go unnoticed.” I feel as if each time I struggle or feel insecure, I receive the most wonderful compliments. The Universe provides.
INTERVIEWER: Can you describe the events of that morning?
TOMOYASU: I left home with my daughter, Masako. She was on her way to work. I was going to see a friend. An air-raid warning was issued. I told Masako I was going home. She said, “I’m going to the office.” I did chores and waited for the warning to be lifted.
I folded the bedding. I rearranged the closet. I cleaned the windows with a wet rag. There was a flash. My first thought was that it was the flash from a camera. That sounds so ridiculous now. It pierced my eyes. My mind went blank. The glass from the windows was shattering all around me. It sounded like when my mother used to hush me to be quiet.
When I became conscious again, I realized I wasn’t standing. I had been thrown into a different room. The rag was still in my hand, but it was no longer wet. My only thought was to find my daughter. I looked outside the window and saw one of my neighbors standing almost naked. His skin was peeling off all over his body. It was hanging from his fingertips. I asked him what had happened. He was too exhausted to reply. He was looking in every direction, I can only assume for his family. I thought, I must go. I must go and find Masako.
I put my shoes on and took my air-raid hood with me. I made my way to the train station. So many people were marching toward me, away from the city. I smelled something similar to grilled squid. I must have been in shock, because the people looked like squid washing up on the shore.
I saw a young girl coming toward me. Her skin was melting down her. It was like wax. She was muttering, “Mother. Water. Mother. Water.” I thought she might be Masako. But she wasn’t. I didn’t give her any water. I am sorry that I didn’t. But I was trying to find my Masako.
I ran all the way to Hiroshima Station. It was full of people. Some of them were dead. Many of them were lying on the ground. They were calling for their mothers and asking for water. I went to Tokiwa Bridge. I had to cross the bridge to get to my daughter’s office.
INTERVIEWER: Did you see the mushroom cloud?
TOMOYASU: I didn’t see the mushroom cloud. I was trying to find Masako.
INTERVIEWER: But the cloud spread over the city?
TOMOYASU: I was trying to find her. They told me I couldn’t go beyond the bridge. I thought she might be back home, so I turned around. I was at the Nikitsu Shrine when the black rain started falling from the sky. I wondered what it was.
INTERVIEWER: Can you describe the black rain?
TOMOYASU: I waited for her in the house. I opened the windows, even though there was no glass. I stayed awake all night waiting. But she didn’t come back. About 6:30 the next morning, Mr. Ishido came around. His daughter was working at the same office as my daughter. He called out asking for Masako’s house. I ran outside. I called, “It’s here, over here!” Mr. Ishido came up to me. He said, “Quick! Get some clothes and go for her. She is at the bank of the Ota River.”
I ran as fast as I could. Faster than I was able to run. When I reached the Tokiwa Bridge, there were soldiers lying on the ground. Around Hiroshima Station, I saw more people lying dead. There were more on the morning of the seventh than on the sixth. When I reached the riverbank, I couldn’t tell who was who. I kept looking for Masako. I heard someone crying, “Mother!” I recognized her voice. I found her in horrible condition. And she still appears in my dreams that way. She said, “It took you so long.”
I apologized to her. I told her, “I came as fast as I could.”
It was just the two of us. I didn’t know what to do. I was not a nurse. There were maggots in her wounds and a sticky yellow liquid. I tried to clean her up. But her skin was peeling off. The maggots were coming out all over. I couldn’t wipe them off, or I would wipe off her skin and muscle. I had to pick them out. She asked me what I was doing. I told her, “Oh, Masako. It’s nothing.” She nodded. Nine hours later, she died.
INTERVIEWER: You were holding her in your arms all that time?
TOMOYASU: Yes, I held her in my arms. She said, “I don’t want to die.” I told her, “You’re not going to die.” She said, “I promise I won’t die before we get home.” But she was in pain and she kept crying, “Mother.”
INTERVIEWER: It must be hard to talk about these things.
TOMOYASU: When I heard that your organization was recording testimonies, I knew I had to come. She died in my arms, saying, “I don’t want to die.” That is what death is like. It doesn’t matter what uniforms the soldiers are wearing. It doesn’t matter what uniforms the soldiers are wearing. It doesn’t matter how good the weapons are. I thought if everyone could see what I saw, we would never have war anymore.
Excerpt from “Extremely Loud, Incredibly Close,” by Jonathan Safran Foer, pages 187-189.
“Prayer for Protection” from Unity:
The light of the cosmos surrounds us.
The love of the cosmos enfolds us.
The power of the cosmos protects us.
The presence of the cosmos watches over us.
Wherever we are the cosmos is.
May all beings be well and safe, may they be at ease.
Whatever living beings there may be,
Whether moving or standing still, without exception,
Whether large, great, middling, or small, whether tiny or substantial,
Whether seen or unseen,
Whether living near or far,
Born or unborn;
May all beings be happy.
Let none deceive or despise another anywhere. Let none wish harm to another, in anger or in hate.
- I make plans, but I remain flexible and open to the surprises that life has in store for me. I try to say “yes” as often as possible.
- I cultivate patience, and by doing so I also cultivate self-confidence.
- I welcome the opportunity to step outside of my comfort zone, and I do not let myself be guided by fear.
- I love myself unconditionally, because it’s essential to my happiness. I love the person that I am, and I do not need other people’s approval to love myself fully.
- I’m going to drink water, eat fruit and vegetables, walk, take the stairs, exercise. Today I’m giving love to my body.
- I give everywhere I go, even if only a smile, a compliment, or my full attention. Listening is the best gift I can give to those around me.
- I try to be impeccable with my word, and to speak only to spread positivity It’s counterproductive to my happiness to speak against myself or against others.
I want honesty, openness, vulnerability. I want to be direct. I want to ask for what I want. I want to share how I feel. I want to know how you feel. I want to ask all the questions, even the hard questions that challenge my prejudices, my opinions, and the idea I have of who I am. I want you to ask the questions that linger on your tongue for fear of offending me, or getting hurt. I want to be REAL with people. I want to talk about pain and fear and dreams and hopes. I want to hear about your hard times, and what you learned from them. I want to be with you through your lows as well as your highs. I don’t want to hide under a social media mask that only shows the pretty, cool, impressive, successful parts of life. I want to value the less palatable experiences just as much, for I’ve learned that they have the potential to bring so much grace, patience, and understanding of people and the world at large. They offer a rare opportunity for true, deep connection between people. I have suffered alone too many times, and I know far too many people who have suffered alone as well. As Alan Watts said, “Just as manure fertilizes the plants, so the contemplation of death, and the acceptance of death is very highly generative of creating life. You get wonderful things out of that.”
I’ve failed a lot on my quest for more authentic relationships, and I’ve lost a couple of friends along the way. But I’m not giving up.
I’m boy crazy. I thought it was just because I was 16 in an all-girls high school. In college, I blamed it on the fact that 75% of the students were male. But now? Nope. I totally own it. I’m boy crazy, and I’m ok with that. I’m thinking recently that it’s more that I’m love-crazy. Boys suck, love rocks, don’t ya know?
So once I got back from my trip and settled into an apartment, I jumped into the world of online dating. My friends taught me the ways of tinder, and helped me choose some profile pics. Suddenly I’m flirting constantly, and my calendar’s full. At first it was super fun! I love meeting people, and it turned into a good way to check out all the cool bars/restaurants/coffee shops in my new neighborhood. Some of the dates were awkward (this one guy couldn’t shut up about how much of an introvert he was). Most of my dates were ok: good conversation, polite, intelligent, no deal-breakers or red flags. So when they asked for a second date, I’d say “yes”.
But you know? I wasn’t genuinely interested in any of them. What a waste of time. I don’t want an ok date; I want to love madly. Just like the song!
So yea, I’ve scaled way back on the dating*. It’s confusing. I’ve don’t even want a relationship at the moment. I don’t want to get all caught up in someone, and I don’t want to give so much of myself to someone else. So what have I been doing? I’ve been focusing on bettering myself. Per Derek Sivers**:
Raise standards. Say no to anything less than great.
Every person that doesn’t rejeuvenate me and make me feel better, say no. Blacklist them. Banned. Not allowed in, not even for a minute. No explanation needed. No compromise. No favors. Done. Gone.
More fountains, less drains.
Every thing I’m doing that isn’t good for me. Every thing I’m eating or drinking that isn’t making me more healthy. Stop. Say no.
This even means saying no to half-ass conversations that are not whole-hearted and unconflicted. People that are “fine” and I “kill time” with, but don’t actually love and actively enjoy? Nope. Not good enough.
Doing this gave me a huge feeling of self-worth. Setting the bar really high for something to take my time.
It means more empty time, but that leaves room for POSSIBILITY!
Empty time has the POTENTIAL to be filled with nourishing and awesome new actions and people, whereas filling it with half-ass things and people kills all that potential and possibility.
It’s more than just dating. I’ve been evaluating EVERYTHING and seeing what value is added to my life. My friends, my habits, my possessions, my opinions, my character, my job, and how I spend my time have ALL been under scrutiny lately. I love that I am the most important person in my life; it’s a rare and precious privilege, and I’ve been embracing that even more lately. In trying to make the most of it, I’ve edited and eliminated a lot. I’ve also been adding choice things, like a daily practice of yoga and meditation. I’ve spent more time with Eric, Sara, Emmie and Lynn – dynamic, inspiring, empathetic people that I don’t see often enough. I’m drowning myself in art. My Netflix habit has been replaced with a TED talks addiction. And I’m generally focusing on the process of things (cooking, cleaning, exercising) more than the results (food, clean home, feeling fit).
Life is fucking finite, people. Don’t waste your time. Don’t waste your resources.
Because the more I put in, the more I get out.
*I also realized that this is the longest I’ve been truly single since high school! And it’s only been 8 months! Damn! It’s weird to think about, because even though I’m still getting used to being single in some ways (I’ve never gone stag to a wedding), in other ways it feels so familiar (endless, endless questions).
Song is “Love You Madly,” by Cake.
I wonder how common this frustration is. Everyone always tells everyone, “you’ll be ok.” But that’s not always true. Some people have mental breakdowns, or are chronically depressed. Some people die young, and others live long painful lives from the inside of a hospital room. Some people lose their homes, and their faith in humanity along with it. Some people commit suicide, and others stay bitter their whole lives. That’s not “ok”.
‘Do you think any good can come from your father’s death?’
‘Do I think any good can come from my father’s death?’
‘Yes. Do you think any good can come from your father’s death?’
I kicked over my chair, threw his papers across the floor, and hollered, ‘No! Of course not, you fucking asshole!’
That was what I wanted to do. Instead I just shrugged my shoulders.
My dad says that sadness is a perspective, and I can change my perspective. But that’s only partially true, I think. Everything is a matter of perspective, but I lost something I cared about, something I gave my all to, something I thought was great (even if it wasn’t), and that is sad. I don’t want a different way of seeing it. I just want to grieve, feel the pain, express the pain, acknowledge the pain. Yes, I want to feel better about it, but forcing a change of perspective would be choking on a lie. It’s a delusion. A man that’s blinded may find a way to live beautifully, but it doesn’t change the fact that he lost the gift sight. Other wonderful things may come with that loss, but the loss is still very real. I’d rather work through the painful loss and acknowledge it than deny or mitigate it.
Pain demands to be felt.
(The Fault in our Stars)
Think about it: war veterans, rape survivors, people that were abused as children… they find it incredibly difficult to live fully until they face what happened to them, admit it, and share it with someone. Pain demands to be felt. That’s what we do when we “vent” our daily frustrations with our friends/family. Expressing our irritation with a dreary commute or a rude coworker allows us to let go of it. It brings to mind the idea of “dancing it out”. Lame Grey’s Anatomy reference, but the idea is true. Meredith & Christina “dance it out” when their personal and professional lives are so f*cked up that they don’t know what to do about it:
People always say that when one door closes another opens, and while that’s true, it doesn’t erase the pain of what was lost. I could say that if T and I didn’t break up, I wouldn’t have planned to be abroad for so long, and I wouldn’t have had time to visit the Maldives and fall in Love. That’s true. But it’s also true and sad that the love I shared with T ended. I like this perspective. It’s not blindly positive, but balanced and real. Just like when Uncle Sharif died, and I couldn’t stop crying on the day we visited his grave; I kept saying “I’m ok, I’m ok,” through my tears. I was ok. It hurts, and it’s hard, and it hurts you Dad to see me struggle. But it’s ok. Most days aren’t painful. But even when I’m hurting, I am ok. I am ok and hurt.
The video above is from the movie Garden State in which Andrew Largeman reconciles with his estranged father when he returns home for his mother’s funeral. As a child, he accidentally caused his mother’s paralysis when he pushes her and she falls (on the open dishwasher door – the latch he refers to). Here he chooses to stop numbing his pain through psych meds, and experience life as it is.
“Crash Into Me (Part 1)” Grey’s Anatomy. ABC. KABC, Seattle. 22 Nov 2007. Television.
Foer, Jonathan Safran. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. Boston, Mass.: Houghton Mifflin, 2005. 205. Print.
The Fault In Our Stars. Dir. Josh Boone . Perf. Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort. Temple Hill Entertainment, 2014. Film.
Seeing how far I can walk with my eyes closed.
Sitting in direct sunlight.
Long, slow kisses.
The way it feels to sand wood.
Talking to strangers.
Searching for complete understanding.
Working towards complete empathy.
Gaining greater understanding after repeated exposure. (in terms of art, books, films)
Reuniting with old friends.
Believing in magic.
My dirty, stripped keds.
Eight-month old babies.
Sitting in my emotions. Not too much though.
People that realize that dancing’s not about looking cool or sexy, but expressing how you feel.
Being honest with ones’ sexuality.
Sucking on dark chocolate.
Crying in public.
Watching friends and lovers look at each other: their smiles, and how their eyes linger.
Black and white patterns.
Music that makes you feel like you’re inside of it; like it’s not just one sense that’s tickled, but rather your entire body is enveloped in it, like slipping into a bath, or pulling the covers up in bed.
Believing that everything has a meaning.
Exercise that’s not exercise, but rather having fun interacting with the world: swimming, walking, biking, hiking, dancing, dancing, dancing.
Laying on my belly on the ground, arms outstretched, hugging the earth with my entire body.
When my brain thinks too fast.
Really long songs.
That my eyes see better than any camera. This means photographs are disappointing, but that just brings your attention back to the majesty of life.
Not needing things.
Falling, in every possible meaning of the word.
The mindset of farmers and scuba divers.
Listening to the same song or album throughout the entire flight experience: from taking the train to the airport, through security, boarding, taxi, liftoff, landing, all the way until the moment you see your love greeting you in the arrivals area..
Intuition. Looking up.
As much has this has hurt (
past tense!? not quite) I’m doing so much better this time. Mostly. I crack sometimes, still. And I’m still sensitive to stress. My tolerance and patience is short lately, because I’m already emotionally burdened. I can handle the work stress, I can handle the moving stress, and the vacation-planning stress (1st world problem alert, but yea, this does exist). I cannot handle the sister-stress, or the friend stress.
I honestly don’t remember what it was like when Josh and I broke up. There’s a mental blank there. I remember bonding with Flora, Tracy, Emily, and Elsie shortly after it happened. I remember taking my time with telling my family. I remember Armstead visiting every weekend, and going dancing constantly with Kevin. Maybe that was it; I surrounded myself with new friends and danced it out. With him there was nothing to figure out, nothing to think about, no unanswered questions. We had held on long enough that by the time we broke up, I had truly accepted that we didn’t work well together. So it was simply a matter of picking myself up and moving on. There was no ruminating, no analyzing, no moving backwards. Just dancing and having fun.
With Jesse all I remember is intense pain. And my mom showing up for me, catching me like a knight in shining armour. She really proved herself to me, in a way that had never even occurred to me. There were a lot of questions, a lot of unnerving thoughts, a lot, a lot of hurt.
This time it’s been… unsteady. It was really hard until I decided to side with myself, validate my own feelings, and move on. Since then I’ve been mostly good. Infusing good habits in my daily life. Surrounding myself with new friends (why is it that each breakup brings a surge to my social life?). Not so much dancing this time, but lots of time in parks, lots of time in the sun. Distracting myself in good ways. So good, I wonder how much of a facade it is. But it’s not. It’s hard some days, and I’ve had moments like this (skip to 1:45), and the additional stress of life can be weighty sometimes. But yes, good.
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