Speak of infinities–
Breathe in new life,
Take it in deep.
In the midst of mystery.
Speak of infinities–
Breathe in new life,
Take it in deep.
In the midst of mystery.
When I have something to say, more often than not, my blog is where I turn (if it makes it even there). The disposable nature of the medium gives me freedom to say what I want without becoming to attached to it. Most of the time I don’t pore over my entries for hours. I merely spit out whatever has been brewing within me and then publish it immediately. Call it laziness, impatience, fear of failure/success, or all of the above. I think that in spite of all that, there is a freedom in the release of my writing into cyberspace without any intention of getting published or even trying to build a readership.
At some point in my journey as a writer, I determined to (a) be purposefully abstract and inaccessible in the name of art & lofty ideals and, really, to avoid conflict and (b) to let the world and myself know unequivocally that I could take it or leave it when it came to writing. In some ways the latter was very liberating because it allowed me to discover who I was apart from being a writer. However, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to live in such a dichotomous way where there is me and then then the writer in me. There is only me, and that me happens to love writing very much as a means of connecting and sharing with the world the nuggets of truth she comes across in life.
In truth, I can take it or leave it when it comes to being recognized or praised as a writer, but I can’t take it or leave it when it comes to simply writing as an expression of my soul.
I think it’s not unlike what David Henry Hwang shared with me when I interviewed him via email: “While it is certainly possible that there may come a point when no one is interested in my writing, I could always do it for my own satisfaction and self-exploration, which is my most important purpose anyway.”
I have also come to the realization that, as spoken word poet Shane Koyczan so eloquently put it, “This is my voice. there are many like it, but this one is mine.” I am not any better or worse than anyone else, but the simple fact is that I am the only me there is and the only one capable of contributing to the world in the way I was made to. I cannot just sit back, not participate in life, and expect someone else to do it for me. Because it won’t happen.
I do not want to be at odds with myself, so here goes nothing (or something!).
I still remember the shock I felt when I first saw that episode of “Portlandia” where they spoofed the phenomenon of marketing gifts/novelty items by “putting a bird on it.” How did they know?! I had always told friends that I was in love with the idea of birds but hated actual birds. I mean, how could you not love theoretical birds? They make them look all cute, and isn’t there a part of all of us that longs to fly freely like a bird? Perhaps that is why designers have taken to “putting a bird on it.” A bird on a notebook or a mug or a t-shirt is cute and unoffensive and mildly inspiring, even. It’s all good, until a real bird comes into the picture, freaking everyone out and messing things up. I mean, ask my brother how freaked out we were when a bird made its way down our chimney and sent us running to lock ourselves in a room.
Sometimes it seems like everywhere I turn I see the longing within the hearts of men for the kind of freedom that birds possess. It’s what makes everything with a bird on it immediately seem appealing and, I imagine, what causes people to engage in activities like skydiving and bungee jumping. I recall how my experience of parasailing was the closest I ever felt to flying and how surreal it was to find myself alongside the birds with seemingly nothing to hold me back or bring me down. Not to cheese things up too much, but it felt like the wind was beneath my wings. It seemed as though nothing was impossible.
I always knew I wanted to be free, but I never knew what that meant until I was faced with the potential of it. My idea of freedom was the bird on the teapot, not the bird that messed everything up. I think that 99% of the time, even those who profess to stand for or desire freedom are deathly afraid of it. We would rather have the bird we can pay 10 bucks for than the one that requires all of us. We want freedom on our own terms–a freedom we can control, which is not freedom at all.
Ironically, true freedom comes at a cost. Part of that cost is the faulty belief systems and expectations and baggage that we have allowed to enslave us. We cling so closely to this grid that seems to hold our lives together, giving us a semblance of security and control. Until a freakin bird comes in to mess things up, that is. Ha. Birds were not meant to be confined by grids and systems, and they will make a big hoopla until they are freed.
I feel as though I am standing once again on the cusp of a greater freedom than I ever knew. I can feel the potential of it welling up inside, and I stand here, willing to embrace that freedom and the responsibility that comes along with it.
There is something magical about gardening. It’s a joy I discovered early in life. Saturday afternoons planting flowers in the front yard with my mom; picking lemons, guavas, and countless other fruits in my grandparents’ sprawling backyard; and harvesting radishes from my very own plot of land in elementary school are fond memories and reminders of a simpler way that’s been lost to me.
On a whim, I decided to purchase a basil plant (along with a small rose plant) at Trader Joe’s, simply because a box of basil cost nearly as much as the plant. I didn’t have high hopes for either of the plants, as I assumed I would not have the patience to properly tend them. I even left both of the plants with some friends less than I week after I acquired them. Sure enough, neither of the plants did very well while I was gone. The roses dried up, and the basil leaves began to wilt.
I had to prune all of the rose buds, and I saturated the basil plant’s soil with water. The latter did not take long to recover, and soon I had healthy leaves again! In fact, I had more basil than I knew what to do with. I made some pizza, some basil and cucumber-infused water, some lasagna, etc. I read that if you snipped the leaves they would grow back, but I was skeptical. The snipped ends started turning black, and I wondered if I should start rationing the precious, fragrant leaves. But I figured that if that was the end of things, at least I had gotten a good run out of the first batch.
“O ye of little faith!” To my delight, within the next couple weeks, tiny basil leaves began to form where the previous ones had been snipped. This may be a “duh!” moment for many, but for me it was a small miracle. It didn’t hit me fully until I checked in on my little guy the other day and saw a full, verdant plant proudly announcing its life in full force. Sure, there were some leaves that had been gnawed by pesky insects, but you couldn’t even tell where the previous leaves had been snipped because the places where death had once taken place had been overtaken by life in abundance.
“The twenties are when we turn what Frank O’Hara called ‘sharp corners.’”
Somehow that line from Nathan Heller’s The New Yorker piece on the new old phenomenon of twentysomethings and the self-conscious existences we lead & write about struck a chord. Cue ironic blog entry.
I agree with Heller’s assertion that each person has her own version of the twenties and that perspective on these years is a function of many factors, not the least of which is how far removed one is from them.
My own early-twenties experience birthed a lot of dreams and ideals, most of which were not (or have not yet been) realized in the form in which I imagined them. Without much hesitation, I would say that the same is true for many of the passionate souls I surrounded myself with at the time.
Many of my own dreams suffered through what felt like long, hard deaths in my post-college years. But somehow, the seeds of some of those dreams survived and have begun to be reborn in ways I never could have imagined. Less glamorous but more beautiful.
I’ve made some choices in my life that have caused arched eyebrows and awe-filled comments like, “I could never do that.” But the reality is that (a) I’m not that radical/special and (b) you could if you really wanted to. Honestly, I just got tired of living a life in which my reality was so far removed from my “theory.” So I took (a) risk(s), started to close the gap. Started to w a l k by faith, not by sight. Never fancied myself to be a risk-taker, but hey, sometimes desperation drives you beyond what you think you are capable of.
I was just telling a thirtysomething friend the other day about how I’ve passed the days of boundless idealism but have not yet reached the age of [perceived] cemented realities. At 27 (28 in less than a month!), I am right at the age where the friends I grew up with or went to school with are in the midst of making or walking out some major life decisions. Some have recently been wed, while others are finishing grad/professional school. But I have yet to see the results of those choices in their lives.
That same friend and I recently took a trip to visit one of her college friends. And it struck me, after spending a day with this extremely attractive family in their shiny, modern (yet sterile) house that could probably feed a village in Africa for a year…that, whether or not we realize it at the time, each of these major life decisions (and, really, the sum total of a lifetime of decisions) determines the course and destination of our lives.
Sometimes, as Asian Americans, our paths seem very narrow (not the good kind), and our choices seem few. Go to college. Get a stable job with room for advancement. Buy a house in a good school district. Have kids. etc. etc. It’s a familiar path, so it feels safe. Take this path, and arrive at this destination.
But do we ever stop to think if this is the path that will lead to the destination that we truly desire? Because, before we know it, we may be disillusioned 50-year-olds wondering where all the years went. The “golden years” of freedom, when the world was before us, before we saw the consequences of the choices we would make.
Call me crazy, but I do believe that, whether you are 23 or 63, the world is still before you. The myth of these golden years and a crippling addiction to whatever version of the American dream we possess has bound us for too long.
Heller talks about the “sliding” effect, whereby people who have been together or lived together for so long forego the difficult choice of breaking up in favor of simply sliding into marriage, “without ever fully facing the very real question of whether you actually want to spend the rest of your life with this person.”
But the reality, with marriage or anything else in life, is that if you don’t choose one thing you are choosing another. Even choosing nothing is choosing something.
What is that thing about inertia? An object in motion stays in motion unless acted on by an outside force? For me, I couldn’t get away from that outside force–the nagging feeling that there was something more, that someone wanted to fulfill a dream I never even knew I had.
There is no adventure that does not require risk. And here I stand, feeling once again the beckoning towards an unknown territory that I know will require ruthless trust. I do not know what lies ahead, but I have hope that it is a place of blue skies and green pastures. So, by faith, I choose to abandon all that I thought I knew and take the hand of my Beloved–the one he holds out so patiently, the one that feels strangely unfamiliar. I don’t want to keep him waiting any longer.
Ready to dance
First day back at boxing in months. I had just finished a good round of hitting the bag or the mitts. I crouched in Asian smoker stance with my back against the wall, panting and watching the boys spar. “Bam, bam, bam!” The satisfying sound of their gloves making contact filled my senses.
I glanced down at my outstretched fingers and chuckled at the sight of chipped pale pink nail polish on long nails & fingers (one crooked from a sad rope-swing-over-river attempt) with a hint of marker residue left over from school, shoddily wrapped with the bright yellow cloth that protects boxers’ hands under their gloves.
What a combination and How the heck did I end up here? were the thoughts that crossed my mind. From the girl who hated public speaking and dreaded teaching, felt guilty about getting manicures/pedicures, always doubted herself and hated taking risks, and always gave up so easily–especially when it came to physical activity–to…this, here, now.
“Wanna go another round?” asked the coach.
“Sure, why not?” I replied.
Ha. Learning to walk in true beauty and true strength by surrendering to the perfect love that casts out fear.
“Claudia said, ‘But, Mrs. Frankweiler, you should want to learn one new thing every day. We did even at the museum.’
“‘No,’ I answered. ‘I don’t agree with that. I think you should learn, of course, and some days you must learn a great deal. But you should also have days when you allow what is already in you to swell up inside of you until it touches everything. And you can feel it inside you. If you never take time out to let that happen, then you just accumulate facts, and they begin to rattle around inside of you. You can make noise with them, but never really feel anything with them. It’s hollow.’”
-From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler