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soul-level sighs of satisfaction

Yesterday mid-morning, my three-year-old son and I went to meet up with some friends at a family event in Newport Beach. Littler J, who usually naps in the early afternoon, was so beat that he ended up falling asleep ten minutes into our drive.

By the time he’d finished napping, our friends were on their way home. The event was nevertheless a joy. It was full of small, sweet moments, individual and collective.

Individually, I especially enjoyed watching Littler eat his pizza. First, he strips off the cheese. After he’s eaten all the cheese, he plants his face directly in the center of the triangle and begins gnawing down. As if watching him savor a piece of pizza in this way weren’t adorable enough, this inefficiency leaves him with a greasy orange beard that makes me giggle. Read more…

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full and messy life

This morning, I’m thinking about a recent conversation with a friend.

In our current world, where companies and governments alike designate “citizens”  mere “consumers,” meaningfully different only in what and how they consume, people are told they are “brands” and to behave in ways that build their brands.

What kind of life is that?

I don’t want to be perfect. I refuse to limit my life to pursuit of brand-building, instead of being fully immersed in something raw, real, messy, and wonder-full. Life.

Why? The way I see it, trying to live someone else’s (whose?!) idea of a perfect, perfectly branded life is a recipe for late-life sorrow at halfway connections with people, little life-changing learning from important mistakes, countless adventures missed.

While I’d usually rather leave aphorisms than take them, I’d boil this pursuit of a full and messy life down thusly:

If you’re always careful,
you’re barely living.

better than the plan

I arrived early for yoga;
the teacher never showed,
so I:

sat pondside with another student
and did basic exercises
for a few minutes

went for a stroll
along dusty trails,
enjoying the crunching of
fallen leaves under squirrel paws
and the flickers of gray on brown
as lizards ran for cover

wondered what
a palm tree
was doing
there

settled under webs
of interlocking branches,
read from a book by
a now-favorite
author

en route back to
my car, reflected how that hour
hadn’t gone at all
as planned, but
how it was
probably
even
better
than
the plan

Categories: Reflections Tags: , , ,

cherishing now (and trees)

My childhood home stood on a corner. In addition to having a small lawn at its front, it had one outside the backyard fence along its left side. My mom once planted several small trees there.

A few years after she planted them, she happened to talk to a man who worked with trees. He said that one of the trees should be cut down, pointing to some kind of dark mark inside a gash and saying the tree was already dead. It looked very much alive to my mom, who argued there must be something she could do to save it.

Nope, he affirmed. It’s already dead. It just looks like it’s still alive because it takes a while to for results of death to be evident to the human eye.

My mom, whose mental illness was itself becoming more evident by the day, thought her neighbors had done it–whatever “it” was. They’d hurt the tree to hurt her.

I simply thought it was interesting.

A few months back, I walked across a courtyard and pondered grim political news I’d just read. I looked up at a tree nearest my destination and thought, This is an illusion. Read more…

the lost year

Sorting through old paperwork last month, I found a letter I’d received after being rear-ended. My eyes drifted toward the date. Was it January that I was rear-ended, or maybe February?

I was stunned to find that the accident had happened in September. That would have been when my oldest son was newly back to school, which I should have remembered.

Why didn’t I remember? Because I barely even noticed his school year.

I was learning about the world–about politics and history, and how colonialism didn’t disappear so much as change form; unwittingly, I’d participated. 

I was horrified, outraged, heartbroken, and more to discover virtually everything I’d ever believed was wrong. I lost myself in trying to understand all the mistakes I’d made, and how lives have been lost due to the misunderstanding of even the best-intentioned people.

I lost sight of my sons, my husband, my friends, and all manner of things that have traditionally brought me joy. I simply stopped seeing them.

That’s what that bill’s date revealed to me: how much I’d lost in a year of favoring my learning over my love.

A week or two ago, my older son curled up with me on the couch. We talked about school and all was as ordinary as if I hadn’t lost a year of such moments. I took a moment to thank God that such wrongdoings can be rectified, and commit to ensuring I never again lose so much as a month, let alone an entire year. (Sometimes, emergencies may necessitate a week or two away.)

Last night, I watched my two little boys hop-race around the house. I laughed and told them I love to watch them play.

I turned to my husband and asked, “I gave up this for a year, for Twitter?”

“Uh-huh,” he confirmed, giving me his well honed bet-you’re-sorry look.

I’m glad he was so patient, and that my sons felt my love even when I was only barely present. But these are gifts to cherish, not squander, and I mean to cherish them. 

Books can fill me with knowledge, but only such knowledge as is useless without love.

hidden people

“Wait, what?” I asked myself, rereading three words I’d just read. I confirmed they were exactly as I read them: “The West agrees.”

I was flabbergasted. Was this phrase really printed in a newspaper? Even for an editorial, this reflected an astonishing lack of nuance.

Who exactly is “the West”?

The western region of a country? If so, then which country? Which regions? Which neighborhoods? Which associations from those neighborhoods? Which portions of “the West” disagree with this position? Why aren’t they permitted to be enveloped in the blanket term “the West”?

If a collection of countries, which countries, exactly? Which portions of those countries’ populations? Day laborers or politicians, caretakers or corporate executives? If there’s no way of determining democratic consensus, why do some opinion-holders get to be “the West” while others get to be, what? Those not well enough informed? If someone’s determined there’s “the West” and “those not well enough informed to be ‘the West,'” who is that? Why do they get to make that decision? Who agrees with them? Who disagrees?

English nouns like “[the] West” aggregate things in ways that narrow listeners’ field of focus. The aggregation conceals important information: Specific people and the specific actions they take. Read more…

anthropologist

I studied anthropology in college.

For all I studied, I’m prone to forget what it means to be an anthropologist.

When I lived in Japan, I was keenly aware of how my students and colleagues monitored each other’s appearance, attire, and behavior. As a foreigner, I was exempt from being called “piggy” or mocked for not eating natto* with everyone else.

I was glad to be American. Back in America, we were way too concerned with our own lives to constantly worry about what others were doing unobtrusively with theirs. We Americans didn’t have to worry about social controls the way Japanese people did.

LOL.

Read more…

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