Tag Archives: Life

Life philosophical-izations

Sometimes I get this feeling, that Life, this mysterious silent “force” has this innate wisdom, that it is, in its range of subtle hints to blatant vivid methods, is teaching me something- helping me to realize a truth from a variety of perspectives so that I slowly absorb this truth or lesson. And then once I “catch on” to this Life and its doings, I cannot help but marvel at the mind-expanding beauty of this truth or lesson, and am immediately filled with this overwhelming gratitude.

I refer to this experience as a “Theme”…and so since the start of this year, I feel like I am going through a theme on self-realization, meditation, visualization, and experiencing each moment with intention and observation. These are a lot of words I know, but I am having a difficult time trying to capture what I mean with one word…but I suppose I could attempt to describe it using what I consider traditional Buddhist thought. And I also am self-conscious that these phrases I may use to describe this theme sound a bit “new-agey” (whatever that honestly really means anyway)– but my feelings are earnest in this and sincere.

The importance of appreciating each moment and savoring the intangible treasures and miracles really of life including the relationships we have with one another, nature itself surrounding us, to amazing meals made with never tasted before fresh ingredients– Looking back I have learned this “theme” of appreciation, gratitude of every simple thing through a variety of methods–From the past 15 years of traveling, the food, the connections with people there, despite them being from an entirely different culture, the take away is awe in humanity and the beauty of how we are all connected. This is a theme that I am familiar with and realized early on – when I read those seemingly cliche quotes I feel this immediate “yeah I totally get what they mean!”

But now, recently I feel like I am embarking on another level of depth on this theme. As if I have up until now just skimmed the surface. Like looking at a beautiful sports car and admiring it from the outside…but now I am in the driver’s seat, and feeling the raw power and taut steering– Bringing a whole other depth and level to my understanding of the sports car.

And taking this idea of Connection further, recently I have dived deeper into exploring this. We started watching some inspiring documentaries and Ted Talks (thats what happens when you no longer have cable and only have Netflix, you start exploring 😉 They make you take a step back and think of your life/world differently or through another perspective. I’ll have to look up the names to share but some of the main interesting themes were on Connection and Energy–And describing and learning about this on a scientific level, (which appeals to my hubbie and I, since we are very curious with scientific backgrounds).

We learned that there is basically a whole field in physical science dedicated to this–Quantum Physics. Here was a science attempting to describe the seemingly undescribable. What made this science so interesting was that it explored the “why” of things, whereas all other sciences explain only “how” and tied also broadly to spirituality, energy visualization – the power of one’s perspective on the actual outcome or reality.

One of most powerful recent discoveries was about your body’s endocrinology and stress- It was shown how you think about a situation can affect whether you experience the negative effects of stress (cortisol release- high blood pressure etc.) or the positive experience from stress (release of another hormone that actually stimulates a “learning” in your brain neuron connections. For so long people write off “thinking positively” as just a nice fluffy thing–but now as we learn more about our body and the truly impactful power of our mind/thoughts, we see that there is actual scientific support why it is practically beneficial to think positive.

Thus, it is not blind, naive optimism, where you just hastily brush any negative feelings under a rug. But instead it is embracing the situation good AND bad, with loving acceptance and a determination to make the most of what you have. Easier said than done at times of course, but it is always something nice to aspire towards and to remind oneself when stuck in a rut or dealing with a difficult situation. 🙂

 

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Ugly ah-MER-uh-kin

Every year, I attend a lovely dermatology conference in NYC–It is my favorite one to attend (great intimate meeting, compelling content, down-to-earth derms etc.)–but a huge part of why I so enjoy it, is because it is located in the heart of NYC. Cliche as it sounds, New York makes one feel more “alive”–or at least it does for me. Since it is filled with such a broad and beautiful spectrum of humanity, walking (which is my favorite activity there–at once meditative and stimulating to the senses) allows you to become immersed in it all. Also, being there by myself, it allows me to focus on observation–just soaking in the environment–and hence I think it feels a bit meditative.

So it was during an evening where I had the luxury of enjoying dinner all to myself, that I found the Japanese izakaya-ish restaurant, Sakagura.  (i will write a separate review next ;), and was also able to observe an interesting interaction that has led me to the topic of this post: “Ugly American.”  “Ugly American” is a phrase that my husband and I coined after traveling internationally and from unfortunately observing poor behavior from our brethren (not saying that only us Americans are guilty of this, but we happened to be the most frequent nationality exhibiting this behavior).

Seeing that Sakagura opened at 6:00pm, and that it tended to get crowded (reservations difficult etc.), I decided to mozy on over early. From the Yelp tips, it sounded like it might be a bit hard to find, located in the basement of a business (vacant?) building–hence why I made sure I arrived early as well. Upon arriving however, it was actually quite easy to find, with a doorman and with signs guiding you along the few turns and down the narrow stairs of the building.

I wander down the stairway and come upon the Sakagura entrance door with the closed sign still showing. Since I was about ten minutes early I decided to take a seat on a nearby bench. While scrolling on my phone, the elevator doors open and two very classically American ladies step out.  “Oh! They aren’t open yet! They say when making reservations to be exactly on time, but here they’re not even open yet!,” Lady #1 indignantly exclaims in a shrill voice. (In my mind’s response, I think “well thats because it is not 6:00pm yet, and it clearly says they open at 6…”)

I look up and notice there is also an older Asian gentleman with them (I later find out he just happened to show up at the same time as they did–and was not apart of their group). Lady #1 continues, including the man in the conversation, going on and on about how very difficult it is to find this place! (Again in my mind’s response, I think, “not really–there are clear signs directing you from the sidewalk all the way down here—the previous Yelp reviewers did not have that, and hence for them, it would have been an accurate statement to say it was hard to find).

Upon closer observation, I notice the man’s demeanor–he has this quiet and resentful countenance–I could sense his disdain towards these women, which thus made me realize that he was not apart of their party.

Lady #2 imperious that they are not yet open (the closed sign is still on the door, and again, it is not yet 6:00pm), barges open the door to the restaurant, and from where I sit, I hear their conversation. Lady #2 informs the staff that they have a reservation at 6:00pm, to which the staff politely responds, “It is not quite 6 yet, please wait…”—Lady #2 snaps “yes it is”—(and Lady #1 mutters “actually no it isn’t, we still have 4 minutes.”) Lady #2, unsuccessful, returns back out to the foyer and huffs “what poor customer service! They don’t know how to treat customers.”

Witnessing all of this, the Asian man, asks “how did you find this place” (read: how did your kind of ignorant, rude, oblivious and disrespectful people find this place??) Ever oblivious, Lady #1 cheerfully responds, that she found this place on the internet. To which the man responds with subtle contempt, “Ah, because of that it is now more popular. It is not as good as it was before–it used to only be Japanese workers and the customers were only Asian,” he pauses here, and pointedly gazes at her and Lady #2, but ever clueless, both ladies continue to complain shrilly about how hard it is to find this place, and how shockingly poor their customer service is, instead of just shutting up and patiently waiting for their originally agreed upon reservation time, and the already-established restaurant opening time: 6:00pm (i.e. not 5:53, 5:56 etc.).

Thus, observing this brief interaction and conversation of people, it brought to my mind the phrase “ugly American.” There is the obvious ugly which the women represented, and there is the more subtle and elitist ugly, which the man represented.

So a moment here on what I mean by “ugly ah-MER-uh-kin”…because indeed, I myself am an American. But what puts the ugly in front and the accent in “ah-MER-uh-kin”?

Specifically “ugly” embodies the following: It is this attitude of entitlement; it is the lack of regard for another person’s time, space, cultural differences–it is the blunt, callous imposition, the forceful “well I want it my way, or this is how it should be, and how dare you (other country, place, culture), not fit into the narrow box of my expectation;” it is the absolute lack of awareness or care, to acknowledge–to RESPECT another way of life, another way of thinking, another -period.

Indeed, the “ugly” in “ugly american”, is the choice to see and understand other things only through the narrow pinhole view of one’s own ethnocentric perspective.

So here, these ladies represented what I have seen countless other times in other countries during my travels, the cringe-inducing loud, lack of respect, entitled attitudes of mah fellow ugly ah-MER-uh-kins. When approaching a new and unfamiliar situation (i.e. seeing the closed sign, when it was definitely not yet 6), instead of respecting that hey they are entitled to be still closed since that is what their business hours state, they instead think NO all others must bend to my will, I get what I want, and I want it NOW…not later! Hmm come to think of it, very much like a spoiled little child.

And of course, the “ah-MER-uh-kin” accent aspect is merely poking stereotypical fun at an accent where one might typically find such pinhole perspectives.

On the other end of the spectrum there is the subtle and elitist “ugly American” represented by the Asian man. His language was dripping with derision and self-superiority (or maybe he sounded that way simply in response to his disgust with the woman’s rude behavior, which I could understand). But the real issue with him was his exclusionary statement (only all-Asian clientele at an Asian restaurant–and any “mixing of races” makes it bad), showing a lack of openness, a lack of respect for those that just really don’t know (although she was justifiably utterly annoying).

Openness & Respect–I think that is really what it comes down to, and what would help with both types of Ugly. Because Lord knows when traveling to somewhere totally different, one is bound to make a cultural blunder and indeed there are things that are so far out of one’s comfort level it is hard to have a good attitude all the time—But if one retains their basic respect, instead of relying on entitlement, then I think it’d help them act in a more gracious manner when faced with “not getting their way.”

So for the ladies, perhaps a little level-headed respect towards punctual people conducting business. If they want to open exactly at 6pm, you shouldn’t hate. And no, that isn’t them being rude or having poor customer service–it is about you not being patient and wanting them to bend their rules just to suit you.

For the man, representative of extreme “purists” or elitists that only 1 kind of ethnicity should be allowed to eat this food or experience this or that–be more open and respectful that they are curious enough to want to learn something new and try something different.

 

On Writing (random blurbing)

I imagine words as an amorphous mass, that are shaped and created, volumes curving swelling into a novel. How to shape this and create a unique theme of thought connecting ideas and painting existences into light. How interesting it would be to write of people, of characters and to create what one might imagine another to behave, what they would say…how they would react? But isn’t this character just a fruit of your own mind? What seeds from your life experiences did this character come from?

I imagine my xanga postings still exist somewhere. They contain my passionately learned philosophies on life–eyes blinking, opening on their own, in the wide vast world. Uncovering the mentally pre-disposed, pre-assumed, pre-formed, constraints that external entities, society mainly, put into place–a cage around my head. Unlocking the cage, removing it, throwing it down, cursing its hold or former hold, on my views of happiness, of living a fulfilled and grateful and appreciative life full of amusement and joy about the simple things—the important things. The true valued things. A steep learning curve that was…21 to 25…in just four years…the number of years that high school took place..that college took place…and hence this, my very own graduate school. I have a PhD in life…the philosophy of life…I’ve learnt it well, on my own, and I defy those crumbling conventions that once seemed as strong as steel beams, stone pillars upholding the falsity of mankind. Alas no, not mankind per say –that just sounded better hehe.

 

On the Fence

I am currently straddling the fence.

On one side, lies the wide flowing river of “norm” and “expectation” and “fitting in.” The other side is a difficult, white water river rapid with challenging boulders to float above and navigate around. The description of this latter side doesn’t quite do it justice however–for the difficulty or challenge comes from external forces–forces that do not matter if the internal strength is true and fulfilled.

Okay yes this is very esoteric writing…what do these sides represent? Well, to put it simply: To have or to not have kids.

I assume now, upon re-reading the above “sides of the fence” you can easily guess which side represents what. But for clarification purposes, I shall define– The wide flowing river represents To Have Kids, whereas the other river represents to Not Have Kids.

I think many people have preconceived notions of one or the other decision. And furthermore, many people feel very passionately about one or the other and have ideas as to what either decision says about that person.

But at the end of the day, as with assumptions about which religion is really the true one (whose God is the best etc.) and which career path one should really take to be successful, and which diet one should really follow to be healthy, or how one should really spend their paycheck, and in which order one should reach their life milestones (school, career, date, married, house, kids…)– At the end of the day, it all comes down to that person. Afterall, they are the ones who are actually going to live their life right?

Now to my own perspective. Growing up,  having kids was a fuzzie notion that yeah sure would probably happen sometime in the future. I get along fantastically with kids–as I tend to share their same goofy child-like perspective of the world. However, growing up, I never felt the, how do I describe, burning desire to coddle, hold, take-care of babies. I did not play with dolls and baby dolls pretending they were my own as I would imagine maybe most girls do/did? And so (now I am self-analyzing) also not having to babysit growing up, nor be surrounded by cousins younger than me etc—I suppose I was never exposed as much to kiddies.

So now, after having passed the classic life milestones (wide flowing river) of building a great career, finding my fuzziebear soul mate, getting married, buying a home—I am now faced with the next “Great Expectation”: having kids.

I realize, that in this day and age, and culture too—I have the freedom, and perhaps some people may think, the luxury to actually think about the decision, this awesome, huge, incredible decision of “yes lets do this!” or “maybe its not for us”–bringing another person, life, brain, individual into this world.

And I went through a period of time where i was more on the white water river side, of not having kids, as a rebellion to the overwhelming societal expectation of “of course you’ll have kids.” I rebelled against those who would presume, protelyze that you HAVE to have kids otherwise: a) you are selfish b) you will not be happy nor have a fulfilling life c) you are committing a sin by not doing God’s purpose–and the list of assumptions, stereotypes goes on and on and on. In order for me to feel at peace during this period of time, I felt the need to analyze and respond to each of these accusations so easily hurled by random people–people who don’t know you yet feel the strange arrogant need to tell you how to live your life.

SO firstly–the selfish thing. Ahh this was a great epiphany for me. SO selfish is defined as doing something for your SELF, cuz YOU want to do it, and it makes YOU happy and it is all about you you you you you hence, SELF–ish. Well, if deciding , respecting the huge decision of having kids and thinking about it and then deciding well its not for me—IS in fact being selfish then…well so be it! I have the right to make a choice about my life.

But wait…oh judgmental person, sooo….you HAVING kids…did you not choose to do so? Were you having kids because you were doing it for….your parents? For society (definitely not doing the earthy favors, with the whole increasing carbon footprint stuff)? Thus are you really saying that having kids was something you DID NOT want, but you did it out of obligation, a martyr for the sake of human kind and thus, you are unhappy, and just slaving away under societal / cultural obligations? Noo I think not. I think you wanted to have the child. I think you are happy being a parent. And oh no! Choosing something to make you happy–based on the definition upon which you yourself judged me, YOU TOO are selfish! (Bet they don’t see that coming)

So then what? Well how about we just learn to respect other ways of life? Of respecting that hey, what makes one person happy, may not make another person happy and therefore you don’t need to waste everyone’s time judging and telling them how to live their life. Its almost like by telling someone else you HAVE to do this–otherwise you won’t be happy—it sounds desperate—as if they are trying to justify their own life by preaching others to following in their footsteps.

To me, this whole judging assuming stuff reminds me of –well Terrorists. Yes, terrorists. See, they kill people because they believe that their religion is the one true and right thing. Rather than respecting the beauty of diversity and other ways of life and thinking, they believe very narrow-mindedly that only their way is the right way. So people who judge harshly on those who decide not to have kids as “oh they’re selfish or you’ll never find true fulfillment” are the same as Terrorists. HAhah –yes an extreme silly example but–if you ponder it, it is true–it all roots from non-tolerance, ignorant narrow-mindedness, and a lack of respect/appreciation for diversity and other ways of thought and i think, a small root of it comes from human pettyness.

I think people who bluntly say “Oh you’ll change your mind” or are incredulous to your hesitation of whether or not to have kids—are just unaware. They cannot imagine a life any other way, and I get that.  I am all for the fact that hey, kids to YOU are the most amazing fulfilling thing in your life—and I am happy for you, thrilled! But please respect that your life decision was for YOUR life, and not necessarily applicable to every other person- so there is no need to negatively judge.

And also, please do not get offended, or take it personally as an insult to YOUR life decision to have kids, if I express that I am not sure. Cuz you know what? It has nothing to do with YOU —(insert selfish?) it has everything to do with me and the life I am going to have to live.

So after going through this period of time, I have mellowed out a bit, and am open-minded absolutely to the possibility of wanting kids in the future. Indeed it would be a great adventure for my husband and I (we’re luckily on the same page) and that would be how we would dive into the decision—A next great life adventure! But never ever out of obligation or as a result of cowing down to the external societal pressures.

We both are at peace with our lives and are truly fulfilled and happy and grateful for all aspects of our lives. Ironically it is because of this warm fuzzie gratefulness/fulfillment that we feel every day,  that is what makes us hesitant to make a huge change like having kids.

Well, only time will tell 🙂 but one thing is certain—To continue to just appreciate each day and the important simple things in life —and if it happens, it happens…if not , then no worries.

Lost in Translation

Communication–ahhh, indeed one of the most important, essential key things to all successful relationships.

So I’m not sure if this is purely a generational thing or if it is a cultural thing, a gender thing…or perhaps a blend of all three. But recently with Fwet having gone through this and drawing on my own experience, I was inspired to blab about this topic.

Specifically, communication between parents –and as their children on the outside observing, maybe since we’re born in America, so we’re more expressive, in touch with our emotions (vs. I would assume in Asia, reticence is more the norm–OR perhaps speaking to the gender thing, guys tend to not be able to express themselves as easily–and women may tend to over assume the meaning behind a seemingly simple statement or action and get really upset (i’m totally stereotyping here–please forgive me heh) OR speaking to the generational thing–perhaps back in the day it was not as common or maybe communication in relationships was not as “evolved” as it is today? (I am not sure if I’m accurate here, but I think nowadays the importance of communication in relationships seems to be much more, or at least the awareness of it, vs. back in the days?)

Anyways so I remember when I was living at home after college, I found myself quite often as the mediator or “translator” between my parents when they’d have silly arguments (easily seen as silly from an outside observer–because its like duhh your communication sucks! 😉  And I’d often say “Hey dad, I understand you mean well but its the TONE that you’re saying it that makes mom feel like you’re being blah blah blah”  and then to my mom, “Hey ma, you need to understand that dad means well and to not react so quickly–Because at the end of the day you guys both love each other and that is the important start point to remember or keep in mind. (which on a side note was a bit awkward talking about love mushy stuff with my parents—Heh, growing up in a first generation Asian family, culturally love is shown through actions or different ways vs. actually saying those 3 words all the time)

But it was a funny feeling—being the “kid” all your life, and having that “parent vs. kid” dynamic where you’re always being advised, told what to do, then in this position, the kid is being the “wise adviser”–and I feel like compared to my parents generation (and/or culture?), these communication things are not easy or obvious to them—vs. I feel like (of course I know best right? 😉 more knowledgable and comfortable with the open communication concept.

Also, it is easy to write off your parents’ habits as “ohh they’re getting older and are probably just set in their ways and couldn’t change”–but you’d be surprised, with a few straight-up “wise” words of guidance from the fruit of their loins (sorry haha love that analogy ahem) they take it in…and actually are able to open up and change (albeit baby steps;)

So recently Fwet’s parents – same thing –and I shared with him how, you know, sometimes you have to be the wiser adviser (ooo that rhymes) and help mediate and basically translate for each parent to help them reach a better understanding. And it worked! 🙂

I wonder then, is this concept of being openly communicative in relationships, sharing feelings etc–a modern thing?

 

Life…the surfaces and depths

Wow that sounds like a pretty profound title no? —the surfaces and depths of life! Well, the reason why I thought of this title, the inspiration, actually occurred when looking on my iphone Pandora for a station for Chopin. (On a side note, I took classical piano for 10 years or so and it was not until AFTER I had stopped -or towards the end- going to college for more “practical pursuits” over piano performance-not that I was even good enough for that though- it was then that I really matured and was able to fully and truly appreciate the beauty of music. Playing it, the expression, the infinite nuances you could pour into a note…a phrase..and it would be your unique expression of a piece written hundreds of years ago. Written hundreds of years ago, yet the melodies still speak and capture one’s emotions and thoughts…I suppose that would define art–good music–the intangible combination of notes and spaces that can inexplicably resonate in one’s being.

Anyways, so back to my original topic..the surfaces haha and the depths of life–so hearing Chopin’s first chords, it elicited an emotion…and then I thought about how wow…everything in life really does have its own depth, music, Chopin being an example. Starting from the top level, tis an appreciation of classical music as a whole. Then the Romantic era…then Chopin, then his music, then this piece, then this particular chord—to appreciate those details requires an understanding of the the music, and a depth of knowledge –and hence…I became struck by life as a whole. How it is so awesome really, that there is such complexity in all topics–from the best ways to pick a tomato, or from how to hit a baseball the furthest, to which method of extraction is best for TGF-beta…all of these things touch on topics that require a DEPTH of knowledge…and truly, it is infinite –there is always something to grow and learn more about. Isn’t that awesome that Life has built that into itself? So we never grow bored? It certainly didn’t have to…we could just eat sleep and poop and procreate and thats that; human species continues. But its odd that there is more…

Then philosophically, I think there are those that choose or unknowingly choose not to delve deeper into any topic…to remain on the surface of Life floating…and then I think to myself, so that metaphor of an airhead really has a deeper and more profound accurate description than I’d initially though…

So my purpose of pointing this perhaps “duh” concept out? I suppose just thankfulness (I do get random bouts of this as I step back and look at my life, Life in general and other things…I see it in a different foreign perspective…and I think that sometimes helps me to fully grasp and appreciate what is around me.)

Hence…life indeed should be about absorbing or diving into the depths as much as one is interested and as much as one can.  Life is like a big sea …most people float on the surface…and just stay there…some take excursions and snorkel on the subsurface..and still others take diving excursions down to trenches etc…takes more time–but one is rewarded with more diverse sights and knowledge 🙂