Every couple of months, I find myself standing on top of a mountain somewhere in Japan. Each step upwards feels like torture…and an accomplishment. I look toward my fellow climbers in awe, at their speed and the seeming ease with which they climb. Of course, I don’t know what their experiences are–they could be suffering as much as I am. The climbing could be a testimony for each one of us that we are alive and still trying.
Recently, I’ve been reflecting on the past decade of my life. At this moment in 2008, I was planning a wedding and preparing for a future that certainly isn’t the one I’m living now. By this time in 2009, I was dreaming of living in the house that I would eventually call home before the year’s end. In 2010, I had lost 80 pounds, was trying to save my dying marriage, and by Thanksgiving, was mourning the death of my beloved pet.
The end of March 2011 found me preparing for my third visit to Rome, trying to figure out how to live life as a single and mostly jobless person. I was still dreaming–this time, of living in Rome. By 2012, I was a full-time undergraduate, living, studying and working in Rome. The following 4 years were marked by a series of avoidable and unavoidable events, all of which left me pretty broken but with a good deal of insight.
By the end of March 2016, I had been living in the U.S. full-time for 6 months. I had gained back half the weight that I’d lost, was in the throes of a serious depression, and living in a highly psychologically toxic environment. Something had to give–I had fallen to my lowest point.
When you’re at the bottom, seeing or even imagining the top can be difficult.
Keisoku Mountain, Japan, March 2018
I couldn’t see up or even imagine what life could be like beyond what I was experiencing at that time. However, I knew that there had to be some other kind of life for me.
Where I was, how I was, who I was, and what I was doing…was not my final destination.
I didn’t know if I could ever be happy. I didn’t know where I could go or even what I would be capable of doing. I just knew that I no longer wanted to be a participant in prolonging my circumstances.
I had to take a step forward and upward, even the smallest one. And so I did.
On Friday, March 17, 2017, I began a new journey. I boarded a flight to Japan, a country I’d never been to before. I didn’t speak the language and knew very little about the culture. Still, I knew that I had to take the chance, to give myself the opportunity to change, to begin climbing out of the deepest hole that I’d ever stumbled into.
When you’re climbing a mountain, you have to use both your hands and feet.
Now, it’s Friday, March 30, 2018, and I’m sitting in a Starbucks somewhere north of Tokyo. My partner is working on her laptop, and I’m listening to The War on Drug’s “Pain.” I haven’t reached the top of my mountain. Still, I am no longer at the very bottom. It’s a start, and that’s always the hardest part when you’re climbing–at least, for me. There are times when it feels like I can’t catch my breath, like my feet won’t take another step, like my hands won’t support me as I reach upwards. Still, I try.
That’s what I’ve learned over the past decade. All you can do is try and never give up. Every problem is a mountain. Tackling each one means getting to the top. Getting there, however, means looking ahead, taking each step carefully, being prepared to use whatever means necessary to secure yourself…and definitely having those who care about you by your side.
Just a heads-up about a new essay writing competition. It started back in July, but it does not close until the end of December! Not only are there cash prizes (listed below), but contest winners will also be given the opportunity to author blogs on the ExpertAssignmentHelp.com website. Below are some of the details of which I have been informed. Please, visit the website for complete information about the competition and how to enter.
Name: Essay Writing Competition 2017
Task: Write essay in fluent English and with depth on the topic
Another grey summer day in Japan and life continues on. I wake up to a wall of clouds outside my window, the sounds of money being earned with each passing car, and the hazy whispers of my partner. It’s barely 6 AM.
I consider 24 hours earlier: I was standing in her apartment, face unwashed, clothes disheveled, emergency backpack straddling one shoulder, and wondering if this was our last moment together–North Korea had launched a missile towards the north of Japan.
A few months earlier, I arrived in Japan with a baseline plan of refocusing myself, laying the groundwork for accomplishing future goals, surviving earthquakes, and embracing the unknown.
I am moving forward with writing, with loving, with being loved, with enjoying the simplest aspects of life while appreciating how complex life can be. For now, I’ll return to daily blogging, sharing my thoughts about life in Japan, how I’m managing my fibromyalgia, and whatever else that comes my way.
I don’t know where in the world you are, but where I am
90 degrees (Fahrenheit),
and boring as all heck.
I’m trying to console myself because my Words with Friends-designated laptop is in the remote hands of some person very far away in some office belonging to Microsoft, who is trying to fix my operating system.
It’s no good, this.
I’ve not had much else but peanut butter and ginger ale today, and I keep thinking I should eat something, but my laptop being remotely controlled is keeping me fixed to one spot.
Life ought not to be this boring:
watching a “Downloading installation file: Feel free to keep using your PC.”
Twirl-twirl-circularly moving dotted thingy…
I’m at 15% complete with an
Estimated time: 2 hr 27 min 12 sec
2 hr 25 min 7 sec
away from being able to move from this spot.
Every now and again, I pretend to be “with it” (do people still use with it?) and “slide” the “buttons” the phone my mom made me get because she was embarrassed by my Verizon flip-phone from 2013. Now, I’m Boost Mobilin’ and tweetin’ (not really).
19% complete and
I’m wondering if using my other laptop means that I’m having an affair.
At 24%, I feel almost a quarter way decent about my position in life,
sitting on a bed,
sweat collecting to drip,
my wanderlust has taken control of my mind and prompting my feet to move.
A young friend of mine sent her passport renewal paperwork yesterday. While that, in itself, is interesting, what interested me most was she said afterwards: “I wish I could move that quickly about everything that I want to accomplish.”
And, indeed, she had moved quickly. In fact, it took her only a day, from the time we first spoke about renewing her passport, to complete the paperwork, acquire the $100 renewal fee, and to mail it all.
You see, she wants to travel. Her desire to travel to accomplish what can be seen as a rather tedious task.
Although travel is appealing in many ways, it was not the key factor in her choosing to act quickly. The key factor was her desire. Her feeling of wanting something caused her to take the steps towards achieving it. It’s a no-brainer, right?
Well, maybe not.
Many of us live our lives doing what we believe is expected of us and never question why we are doing what we do. As we get older, we begin to cast aside dreams, disregard opportunities for change and play into the notion that whatever we are, that is what we were meant to be. In essence, we lose our desire for living outside the confines of societal and familial expectations. Whatever curiosity and passion we held in our childhood, adolescence and young adulthood become seemingly spent, used up by the rationality of being a grown-up. Then we spend our time lecturing those who are younger on how not to end up like us, but to make sure that they live within societal norms while giving up on fantasies (a.k.a dreams).
Of course, this is not applicable to everyone. However, a good number of us seem to operate in this manner. We seem to work to cancel out possibilities of younger people living extraordinary lives.
“I wish I could move that quickly about everything that I want to accomplish.” In this one statement, my friend revealed that
1) there are things she wants to accomplish, but has little motivation so to do, and
2) when there is something she really wants to do, she accomplishes it quickly.
Well, the answer to her problem becomes simple: she must figure out the things she really wants to do in her life, rather than trying to accomplish what she believes she should.
Knowing what you really want out of life, what you are truly passionate about (even if it is challenging or lacks impressive financial rewards), what moves you to positive action (not reaction), what moves you to constantly evolve can only lead you to live a life full of meaning.
So, what was my response to my young friend’s statement? “Well, just do as you did with your passport.”
Acknowledge what you want,
Research the steps you need to take to accomplish it, and
Take the first step, and then the second, and the third, etc., until you get to where you want to go.
I believe that we are all trying to find a place in the world, one in which we are recognized not only for what we do but for who we are, have been and are trying to become. It saddens me that some spend their time reducing the totality of themselves or others to perceived accomplishments (or lack thereof), rather than appreciating the totality of the experiences that encompasses and informs individuality.
We are given names when we are born. They are important.
However, as we grow older, we learn that for our names to retain meaning we must add to letters to them: BA, MA, MS, PhD, PsyD, ED, MD, JD, etc. For those letters to have meaning, we must license and/or certify them. We bury ourselves in debt and play the Russian roulette-styled game of one-upmanship, risking our self-esteem, just to prove one point: our existence is meaningful.
Our existence does not boil down to answering: what school or what job or what house or what car or, even worse, who we know.
That we have the privilege of and are aware of our existence gives our names meaning enough. Even without names, we are still enough.
Can someone explain to me how one song can undo a good decade of indifference to the rock scene?? Yes, I’m really going to talk about music in this post. Sort of.
First, let me be quite clear: I’ve been listening to this one song on repeat for a good 24 hours. Yes, I’ve got it bad for a song, bad enough to write this post, and equally bad enough that I’ve even been revisiting my adolescent self with new eyes, seeing her with more compassion, and relating to her distress and internalized rage.
It’s music therapy…rock-style.
To say that these past 14 months have been a roller coaster ride would be an understatement: I’ve moved approximately 6 times, graduated from university, resigned from a job, had family emergencies on an international level, gained twenty pounds, watched my health deteriorate further, and entered into a pretty severe depression (that I’m only coming to fully acknowledge now).
It’s been a long and ridiculously heavy period.
My life’s been the kind of heaviness that is embodied in the driving guitar riffs and heavy drumbeats of the song “I Am Machine” by Canadian rock band Three Days Grace, from their fifth album Human that was apparently released in March 2015 (the song was released in late 2014). I had heard the song play on the radio station WJRR a few times over the past month and had abstractly connected with the sound of it. Yesterday, however, was the first time I really listened to the lyrics.
And, oh boy, the lyrics…
In the first verse, lead singer Matt Walst (who also fronts the Canadian rock band My Darkest Days) sings:
Here’s to being human All the pain and suffering There’s beauty in the bleeding At least you feel something
I wish I knew what it was like To care enough to carry on I wish I knew what it was like To find a place where I belong, but…
Listening to and reading these lyrics hit me hard, but I didn’t quite understand why until I listened to the chorus, in which he sings:
I am machine I never sleep I keep my eyes wide open I am machine A part of me Wishes I could just feel something
I am machine I never sleep Until I fix what’s broken I am machine A part of me Wishes I could just feel something
I shan’t post the remaining lyrics. You can find them on Google Play. I think the first verse and chorus are satisfactory for illustrating what opened my eyes to a truth that I’ve been ignoring for some time:
I am machine…
I hadn’t realized that I had stuffed down and shutdown whatever emotions I felt threatened the little stability I was managing to maintain. Of course, the emotions have become somaticized: weighing down my body, and taking away even what little precious sleep I used to manage to get. I think the lyrics “I never sleep, I keep my eyes wide open” and “I never sleep until I fix what’s broken” sum up the situation quite clearly.
Yes, some part of me broke last year to the point where it has become quite numb, cold to the outside world, empty and devoid of life. It’s the part of me that is telling me quite clearly that it “wishes I could just feel something.”
You see, at some point, the things I had been experiencing were filled with too much “pain and suffering”–truly much more than I could handle–and as a result I shutdown through repression and intellectualization. They are two self-defense mechanisms (among others) I know well and have employed since childhood. One would think given my education and profession that I would have found better methods of coping–and I do have better methods, and I did employ those first. However, it’s when we run of the best tricks in our bag that we engage our last resort: our oldest tricks, the maladaptive ones, that ensured self-preservation in the face of our gravest moments in childhood while sabotaging our adult selves.
Back to the song.
The second half of the first verse expresses the thoughts (however dark) that have gone through my mind throughout this period: “I wish I knew what it was like to care enough to carry on” and “I wish I knew what it was like to find a place where I belong.” Quite dark stuff, right?
I felt myself entering into a void, trapped between nothingness and more nothingness, emptied of all feelings, thoughts, and sense of purpose. Yes, it was that harsh. It still is.
Of course, now that I realize where I have been and am, I can do something about it. I can mourn my losses: friends, home and purpose I found living in Rome. It’s the place where I learned to smile, learned to hug, learned that I had people who would be there to support me whenever I felt broken and in tears. I guess, you could say that I had found and felt my most “human” self there.
It’s a sad revelation, but a necessary one. Still, enough words for one post .:)
If you like rock, then watch the official video for “I Am Machine” below.
It’s that time of the year. You know, the one where people revel in debauchery all day on Tuesday and on Wednesday morning cross themselves with ash and promise to give up all manner of depraved behaviour…or, at the very least, chocolate. Yes, it’s Lent, the designated time for fasting and prayer for Catholics and other Christians as well.
During this period (the next 44 days), observers are expected to abstain from meat and alcohol, eat one meal (and two snacks) per day and, perhaps the most well-known aspect, give up some form of sinful behaviour. So, being Roman Catholic, I’ve decided to observe it this year.
It should be easy. After all, I’m vegetarian, don’t drink, need to lose a few pounds, have already completed the seven deadly sins, and recently returned my black debauchery card.
I’m ready to go…but I still need to give something up, right? Of course, I do.
So, I’ve decided to give up giving up my dreams.
It won’t be easy pursuing them whole-heartedly for the next 44 days, but that’s why there is prayer.
Wish me luck!
For those who don’t know Lent is, you can read more about it here.