Good morning! In Japan, it’s already a new year. I am challenging myself this year to use language more: writing, speaking, reading, and actively listening.
2020 was quite the rollercoaster for everyone, and I think 2021 will present us with even more opportunities for growth. I will continue working on self-improvement, especially in building overall stability. I hope you will also continue your journeys.
I have chosen two kanji for this year: 言語 (language) and 自由 (freedom). They aptly represent my overall goal for this year. How about you? What words or kanji have you chosen for this year?
This weeks words were chosen to reflect the holidays of this particular time of the year as well as th after effects of recent events. Choose your path wisely, but never flinch from the freedom of the flow.
Check out my post Friday Fiction with Ronovan Writes Prompt Challenge Holiday Special for a bit of flash fiction fun. You might could link the flash fiction, the Haiku, and even the Décima Poetry Challenge to make one big piece. Yes, tthe Décima Poetry Challenge will be as close as I can get to working with the other two challenges, but also open to interpretaion for non-holiday efforts.
NOW ONWARD AND WRITE YOU TYPING TEMPEST OF SYLLABIC STROPHE!
A new Seasonal Badgebelow.
Check out the COMMENTS for entries this week, and come back throughout the week to see more links to poems as they come in.
December 1999, Berlin. It’s too cold, dark, and lonely. The high rise buildings of Potsdamer Platz have trapped me in their wind tunnel. My eyes tear up from the bitterness and spite of an early winter. My body isn’t built for this, I think, shoving my hands deeper into the pockets of a winter coat that wasn’t designed for this type of winter. I’m too far away from everything and everyone, yet not far away enough…perhaps never far away enough. Do you know this feeling? A life lived at arm’s length?
Berlin felt monochrome, then, as a I stood alone, the only dark face amidst a swirl of the curious, the fearful, the indifferent, and the obvious skinheads. My darkness, penchant for wearing men’s clothing, dreadlocks, all marked me for what I was and am: a foreigner in a sometimes unwelcoming space. Let’s go back.
December 1994, Florida. I’m sixteen and in the 11th grade. It’s a curious time, to say the least. I listen to Metallica and play guitar with my friend, Danny. I dress in all black, wear combat boots, and have a girlfriend, who’s a grade behind me. I’m nicknamed “Oreo,” by some Black students for not complying with unspoken racial expectations. You see, to them, I don’t sound or act Jamaican enough. I’m not sitting with the other Black kids in the cafeteria. I’m outside playing guitar, singing, figuring out my sexuality, and trying to wrap my mind around receiving phone calls threatening me that I’ll be raped. I’m busy trying to find a way out, to go somewhere, where there are people like me.
Back then, whatever I was, it threatened others: a foreigner in a sometimes unwelcoming space. Of course, to me, I was just living or trying to. Let’s fast-forward.
December 2020, northeastern Japan. It’s nighttime. The frost on my window reminds me that I won’t want to leave the warmth of my bed in the early morning to exercise. I’m listening to 30 Seconds to Mars’ “The Kill (Bury Me),” although I’m more of a metalcore fan these days. Also, I am alone. It’s my first Christmas Eve alone in many years. However, I don’t feel lonely, just reflective and a little tired.
The one rule I’ve learned living as a perpetual foreigner is: conform or depart.
Being all of who I am, the queerness, the not-enough-Blackness, the tattoo- and rock-loving, social activist, etc., can create a challenge in remaining in any space that demands homogeneity. Inevitably, whatever image others have created of me for me will be shattered as I fail to adequately fit their mold.
The sameness of life in Japan seems to be a part of the air. Everyone appears to breathe in the same experiences, thoughts, and feelings. There is an expectation to simply understand and not question the circumstances of life. You are expected to know and respond to the unstated feelings and needs of others. This is “場の空気を読む” (ba no kuuki wo yomu). This is high-context living. Additionally, for those who bear the title sensei/teacher, there is the expectation to be role-models 24/7.
As one of the most visible types of foreigners (read: Black female) in Japan, I have learned the importance of becoming less visible through adaptation of certain cultural norms, removing my headscarf, hiding my tattoos and sexuality, silencing my voice, and eventually my thoughts. Even writing this post feels problematic because it isn’t seemingly extolling the positive aspects of living in Japan.
Certainly, I wouldn’t trade this experience. Still, conform or depart can be a hard rule to live by, especially when seeking stability. Living invisibly and silently won’t do either, especially when seeking holistic self-acceptance and self-healing. Thus, another path must be found to move forward, fostering the dialectic of being exactly who I am and respecting where I am.
The other day a younger friend said, “D, I wonder why your life has been filled with so many challenges.” We’ve known each other for almost four years. It’s a fair statement. It’s true, my life, over the past five years and longer, has seen its share of ups and downs.
Still, I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Who I am now is a far better person than who I have ever been. And the person I am crafting myself to be will better than who I am now. This is the process of choosing personal growth above all else.
Challenges can be presented or self-generated. However they present themselves in my life, my goal is to face them and learn from them. Since 2015, I have been confronting the special challenges of my mother’s aging process. It is a delicate and difficult situation for her as well as her children. It is a part of the human experience. As we become elderly, the likelihood of our needing support from those around us increases. Typically, we look to our children, who are likely middle-aged (around ages 40 to 60). I am 42. My sisters are 48, have children and are experiencing being in the sandwich generation, having to provide care to their children and parents. With the pandemic, the situation has only become more stressful for them.
Back to my younger friend, who, in her twenties, has yet to but will likely experience the challenges that come with parents aging. Our conversation took place just three days ago. Since then, I’ve spent time pondering about the other challenges I have faced since we met: issues related to fibromyalgia, dealing with seasonal affective disorder, working through likely C-PTSD, rebuilding financial stability after being mostly unemployed for 6 years, and choosing to be in a romantic relationships that included narcissistic abuse.
Those last two points were completely self-generated. So, I’d like to address them.
Yes, I am dealing with the fallout from a 10-year-old decision to leave my position as a full-time employee, move to Italy, and become a full-time student. There are many reasons why I made the decisions, some relating to health, some relating to relationships, and some relating to fear. I do not regret it.
Looking back, would I have made the same decision? Yes. However, I would have gone about the process differently. Thus, I gladly accept the responsibility of rebuilding my professional life and financial wellbeing, and I am enjoying the process of doing so…even if the path is not always easy or clear.
For all the knowledge I have related to psychology, it is true that I have not always chosen relationships that promoted mental and emotional wellbeing. I admit that I have not had clear and healthy personal boundaries. It is easy to find an answer as to why by looking at my childhood. However, my goal is to look forward. I know my past fairly well. I’ve spent decades unraveling it. So, the work now is setting boundaries within self and with others. The challenge for me is learning that I don’t have to deal with abusive behavior just because I am used to it. I can walk away from it. It’s taken me a while to get to this point, but the most important part is: I am here now.
I’ve been hibernating for several years, silently listening to the passing time. I’ve been busy rebuilding my inner strength and outer resources. I am not where I aiming to be. I am, however, much farther along the path than when my younger friend met me.
So, to my younger friend, thank you for your question and concern. Your question positively provoked me to this craft this response.
My life of so many challenges is one that leads me to continue my self-exploration and healing. It would be and will be great when there are fewer. For now, I gladly face each that life presents.
Hitachinaka. I’ve spent the past two weeks in a bit of a fog. Physically, I have been a bit drained. And mentally, I am over winter…well, at least, this winter.
Still, I have been keeping busy learning new things about myself and living in Japan.
Spring is almost here. Lately, I’ve been reflecting on the (almost) three years that I have been living in Japan. I’ve been wondering about the person I have become as a result of conforming to Japanese cultural norms.
I have become even quieter, preferring silence to talking. I enjoy nature even more than before. And I am less forthcoming with my opinions and more likely to go with the flow.
I’ve learned to compartmentalize even more. My personal life is shared in slivers. And, from what I have experienced, I perceive this approach as the norm here.
I’m still learning the art of keeping conversations light–which is no mean feat for someone who enjoys delving into and understanding the psychology of others. By the way, the weather is actually quite lovely this afternoon.
I’m learning to read the air (場の空気を読む, ba no kuuki wo yomu), to be more KY. That is, I am working hard to better understand (from a Japanese cultural perspective) the situations in which I find myself and to know what is the expected behavior (again, from a Japanese cultural perspective) in those situations.
Of course, the major challenge is my temporarily linguistic limitation. At the moment, my Japanese language abilities are basic and must be improved. That leads me to the next thing that I’m learning.
I’m learning Japanese. And while my initial thoughts were that I only needed to learn enough to survive while living here. I have come to the self-understanding that, regardless of how long I live here, I do wish to embrace all that I can of Japanese culture to the best of my abilities.
Reading, writing, speaking (formally and informally), and listening comprehension, beyond a basic level, are all essential.
Yes, here, I will, most likely, always be an outsider. That is the nature of what it means to be a foreigner living in Japan. However, that doesn’t mean that I can’t create a space for Japanese culture inside me.
So, now, I’m off to study Japanese (今、私は日本語を勉強しましう). Wish me well! And, as always, thanks for reading.
Hitachinaka. It’s another lovely spring-like winter day. It was also the continuation of hair day–if you don’t know what I mean, check out this post about wash weekend day for natural hair by NaturallyCurly.com.
I finally finished rebraiding my hair around 10:30 a.m., just in time to make an 11:00 a.m. knitting time at Starbucks with a friend…except I am crocheting today. Strangely enough, although I am a little sleep deprived from dealing with my hair, I am feeling pretty energized and managed to get a few rows completed while we were together.
Still, my hair-washing-blanket-making day isn’t my reason for writing today.
I enjoyed and related to the documentary on many levels. And I would recommend it to anyone who has experienced or is experiencing narcissistic abuse. It features the story of three people (two women and one man) who have experienced abusive relationships with people who may have exhibited grandiose narcissistic traits moreso than vulnerable narcissistic traits.
Of course, I use the word may because the documentary implies rather than overtly states that these people displaying abusive behaviours were grandiose narcissists. Although the documentary, in its entirety, was informative and truly inspiring, I was most interested in the latter part.
Towards the end of the video, the interviewees discussed why they were attracted to the people who were abusive to them. The women both reported that they grew up in homes were there was, at least, one narcissistic parent.
From my understanding, for both women it was their mothers. The man reported that he did not grow up in an abusive household, which rendered him naïve as he had always been a trusting person…now, he is less so.
Some years ago, I encountered a person who opened my eyes to the reality of narcissism…and narcissistic abuse. Although I understood, diagnostically, the traits of narcissism, I had never encountered the reality of it until the moment I allowed that person in my life…or so I thought.
To say that that person tried their best to destroy my self-esteem would be accurate. However, I have no intention of discussing the details here as my experience fits the recognised pattern of narcissistic abuse.
For a long time, after that experience, I often felt anger towards that person and myself. Over the past five years, however, I have worked to understand, not only that relationship, but all of my relationships…and the root cause for my having chosen and accepted that person into my life.
It led me back to…
Childhood. It may seem cliché that the root of many of our issues lie in our past, specifically, to the time when we had no control over our lives. Of course, whether you focus on the past, present, or future, in my opinion, the most important thing is working towards self-acceptance while improving self and finding resolution for past issues within self.
Without going into details, I can say that I learned that, for the majority of my life, I have been surrounded by people who have displayed both grandiose and vulnerable narcissistic traits. I was raised in a highly narcissistic, and thus toxic, environment.
Being the product of such a family system was the reason I decided to become a mental health counselor…because I wanted to fix whatever was broken in my own family. I wanted to save my parents who could never see their children as anything but extensions of themselves, trophies to be displayed…or garbage to be discarded. I wanted to save my older sisters who were suffering from internalizing the abuse and addiction they witnessed and suffered.
Little did I realize that that goal I made for myself at the age of twelve would lead me to exhibiting codependent traits and trying to save the many narcissistically inclined people I attracted into my life.
More importantly, it lead me to this point of learning that…
the only person that I can save is myself…
Coincidentally, or perhaps not, the year that I met that person was also when I woke up, through therapy, to fact that I had chosen a career not for myself but in response to my family. I had forgotten about that promise I made at age twelve. All I believed was that I was good at understanding others and longed to help young people, especially girls, overcome trauma.
That revelation shook me to the core. Fully waking up to the idea that the career I had chosen might not be what I truly wanted to have was devastating.
It took almost seven years of self-healing to understand that I still would have chosen a field in which I could help others to learn about themselves and the world. Also, I am glad I chose psychology, more specifically, expressive therapy, as it helped me to create the me I am now.
What I thought was a short-term abusive experience with someone who displayed narcissistic traits turned into a journey of self-healing through confronting myself and my past. It isn’t a journey that I would recommend to take alone. Finding a competent therapist whose therapeutic approach matches your needs is key, in my opinion.
Well, this has been quite the long post. If you read this far, thank you. Also, if you haven’t, thank you for reading some of it. If you are my sibling, thank you and I love you–the journey continues, so let’s always do the best that we can in each moment of our lives. If you are my parent, I love you as you are and thank you for whatever you could and did do that ultimately benefited me.
I was hopeful to participate in this year’s marathon. However, I find myself sitting at one my local Starbucks, spending time with friends and working on a rather fast-growing crochet project. To be honest, it feels good to be inside, warm and dry. It’s bleak weather outside.
To be honest, I am disappointed that I wasn’t able to run this year. Of course, there is a reason. There always is when we don’t achieve our set goals.
Sometimes, the reason is in our control: something we didn’t do or did do. Sometimes, it’s out of our control: something we couldn’t do.
In the end, the result is the same, a goal left unaccomplished or partially so.
It’s easy to get bogged down in what we haven’t done, couldn’t do, or should have done. However, what’s the point of doing that? What’s the benefit of getting caught up in the lost yesterdays?
Today is what we have. And whatever we choose and are able to do today is what will inform our tomorrow, and thus our future selves.
We get hung up on promises we make to others and, especially, to ourselves. We feel defeated when we cannot or have not fulfilled those promises or met some conscious or unconscious expectations by some specified deadline (whether internally or externally defined).
Again, what’s the point? Why wrap ourselves up in the worry of who or how we cannot yet be or what we cannot yet do?
Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that we don’t need to be mindful and make efforts to accomplishing our goals, fulfilling our promises, or meeting expectations.
I am saying that whatever happened, whatever we have or haven’t done, whoever we couldn’tbe is yesterday’s news.
Focus on today. Let today be your guide for what you do and who you will be tomorrow. Because, in the end of it all, all that each one of us has is…
today, this moment, this hour, this minute, this second.
We aren’t guaranteed time. However, if we are still existing, then we can always do our best to do and be the best that we can in each moment. The last moment is gone. Now is what you have.
Let that knowledge guide you toward your bliss.
Thanks for reading. And thanks to M. Beddingfield for allowing me to use the above photos.