01 July 2013

Humbled

“It’s humbling, to become the very thing you once mocked.” ~ Gillian Flynn, Gone Girl
When I was much younger, I used to be impressed with myself.

By the age of thirty, I managed to buy and own two houses, a nice, brand new car, and I had money in the bank.  I was young, single, and carefree, and I spent much of my spare time traveling to Europe on a whim.  It was not unusual for me to decide on a Thursday evening that I would spend the weekend in London, Rome, or Paris, and I was proud of the fact that I could do so whenever the urge hit me.

If I became tired of a car, I would give my car away to younger relatives, and buy whatever new car struck my fancy.

Fast forward to the present.  

After the tragic loss of the death of my sister, a destructive and unhappy marriage, several unaccomplished goals, single parenthood, and thirteen years later, my life is much different.

These days, I rent a one bedroom apartment with my six-year old daughter in an apartment building above a corner grocery store and deli shop.  I don't own a car and have to walk or rely on public transportation.  I have some savings in the bank, but not enough to comfortably spend on lavish material whims.  I worry about the stability of my job and my future earning potential in an ever-downsizing legal field.

Thirteen years ago, I never would have thought I would be in the financial situation where I am now.  I used to think very little of the people who were in situations similar to my own now, and I remember thinking, "Geez, what the hell did they do to get to where they are now?"  I would shake my head and think to myself, "That will never be me."

I thought about this the other day when I got excited about buying my friend's 2000 Honda Accord.  It is a thirteen year old four door sedan with chipping paint.  There is a dent in the front driver-side bumper.  But it still runs well and the air conditioning works.  It has leather interior and a CD player.  

She is practically giving the car away to me by selling it to me at a fraction of what the car is worth.

And I am ecstatic beyond words.  

I will finally have a car again after being without one for so long.

In another lifetime of mine, I would never have looked twice at this car.  I would have thought that I was too good for this car.

Funny how life works.  

07 May 2013

Ticking

“Try to imagine a life without timekeeping. You probably can’t. You know the month, the year, the day of the week. There is a clock on your wall or the dashboard of your car. You have a schedule, a calendar, a time for dinner or a movie. Yet all around you, timekeeping is ignored. Birds are not late. A dog does not check its watch. Deer do not fret over passing birthdays.  Man alone measures time. Man alone chimes the hour. And, because of this, man alone suffers a paralyzing fear that no other creature endures. A fear of time running out.” ~ Mitch Albom, The Time Keeper
My 42nd year of life crept on me a few weeks ago.  As was my wish, there was no fanfare and no bright lights.  But the people who mean the most to me celebrated my life by surrounding me with their love and warmth.

It was all that I wanted.

***

It's difficult to not assess our life without thinking about the years and time that pass us.  When I met with old friends from my kung fu school a few weeks ago, I was made aware of the fact that it had been nearly a decade since we all had trained together formally.  When I realized that my birthday had come and gone, I could not ignore the fact that I am aging and that the time for certain events in my life might be coming to an end soon.  And when I received the news from my friend C that her mom unexpectedly passed away in her sleep, I had to face the realization that the last time I had seen her mother was when she attended my own sister's funeral in 2000.  It had been thirteen years since I had seen her, and this past Friday, I saw her again for the last time, at her funeral.

Whether we acknowledge it or not, the clock keeps ticking.  Man may be the only creature that keeps time, but nature does as well.  That is why there are changes in the seasons -- Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter.  The seasons represent the time for rebirth, growth, death and rest.  Nature may not keep a clock, but it still knows that there is a time, and a season for everything.

09 April 2013

Photograph Yourself

“I was looking at the photographs and I started thinking that there was a time when these weren't memories.” ~ Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower
I was chatting with my friend A the other day.  We met in 2001.  He was a tourist that had been visiting DC, the city where I was living at that time, and we met at the airport on my return trip from Europe.  We became instantaneous friends, and although he lives in another country, we had managed to stay in touch all these years.  He had stayed in DC for about a week during his stay in 2001, and I had spent some time with him, showing him around the city and introducing him to my friends.  

Since that time, we had not seen each other again.  When we spoke the other day, we realized that it has now been twelve years since we've seen each other.

I had asked him if he had kept any photos from when he was here.

"No," he said.  "I'm not a big fan of photos, especially of myself."

I was never really a big fan of photos of myself either.  At least, I was not, until just recently.

During a recent visit to my brother's new house in DC, he showed me a box of old pictures that he had found during his move.  They were boxes of my old belongings -- mostly my old journals and photos from an era long gone.


I found this photo, along with many others from when I was much younger.  I might have been seventeen in this photo.  It's not a particularly flattering photo of myself, but when I came across it, I was immediately transported to a time and place that I can barely even remember now.  I looked through all the other photos, and sadly realized that there were blocks of time from my life that were missing.  I later determined that for most of my 20s, I failed to photograph myself and my life.  In fact, it was not until I was nearly 30 that I developed a love for pictures, and it was the death of my sister that actually had pushed me to even start.  I remember too that my Mom had once told me that "you will never look as good as you do now, as time and age eventually will get to you.  So document yourself as you are now.  You will regret it if you do not."

So now, I take photos of everything, and even have myself photographed whenever I can -- even if I have pimples on my face, or even if I am having a bad hair day, because in twenty years time, none of that will matter.  I will look back on the photos that I take today, and someday, I will say, "Look at me when I was younger" and I will have proof that once upon a time, I actually was young and beautiful.

7 April 2013

17 March 2013

Believe

“You need to believe in things that aren't true. How else can they become?” ~ Terry Pratchett, Hogfather
G carries around this máti -- an amulet that GP gave to her to ward off evil spirits.  She believes in its power.  She sleeps next to it at night and during the day, she straps it onto the backpack that she takes to school.  One night, she thought she lost her máti.  She was beside herself.

She cried to me, “Now I’m going to get nightmares because I don’t have my máti!”

I asked her one day why she loves her máti so much.  Her answer was simple.  "Because I sleep better when I have it.  I don't have nightmares anymore.  And it also protects me during the day."  

Her belief in it gives her peace of mind.  I envy her belief, for my trust in anything is scarce.  I believe more in setting a low bar so as to not be disappointed.  Often times when I have believed in something, it failed me.

As a child, I used to wear a cross around my neck.  For me, it symbolized that my belief in Jesus would save my eternal soul. Somewhere along the way, I stopped wearing it, probably because I stopped believing in its power to save me.  If it couldn't protect me from all the hurt that I was experiencing in this life, how could I trust in its power to save me in an after-life that was not even guaranteed?

I want to go back to believing in something again.  I want to remember what it's like to feel safe and secure.  I want to go to bed with a strong belief that things will be fine when I wake up in the morning.  Mostly I just want to know that everything's going to be alright.

06 March 2013

Plant


“Plant seeds of happiness, hope, success, and love; it will all come back to you in abundance. This is the law of nature.” ~ Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free

 
photo by ♥N | 23 Feb 2013

After spending the weekend at GP's place, I came home on Sunday and found my tulip plant had started to wilt and dry.  The leaves had started to discolor, and the tulip flowers had become weak and flaky.

It had missed me.

It also reminded me of the saying that the grass is greener on the side that we water.

I need to plant more positive seeds.  My garden of happiness is withering and fading.

It's time to pull out the weeds, and let life's flowers bloom.

21 February 2013

Making Choices


“It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” ~ J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Have you ever felt as though you are in a crossroads in your life, and you have to decide the road to take next, and you're unsure as to which way to go?

Taking one path could lead to a series of life-changing events, taking another path could lead to irreparable damage, and remaining stagnant may not even be an option at this point, no matter how much you may want it to be so.

Why do things even have to change? Why can't things, people, situations just stay the same?

I know that our lives are the sum of all the choices we have made in our past, good and bad. I have already paid a hefty price for all the poor choices that I made during my younger years, and now that I am older, and sadly, not much wiser, I am hesitant to make choices of any kind that could alter the course of my future.

I have been living happily in my little world for the last year and a half, and I am not ready for things to change, progress, or move on. I am not yet ready for the bubble to burst.

Please, God, show me a sign. 

10 February 2013

Secrets

“Keep your secrets. Keep your silence. It is a better gift than truth.” ~ Anne Rice, The Queen of the Damned 
"But secrets have their own weight, and it can be a very heavy one.” ~ Cassandra Clare, Clockwork Angel

photo by ♥N | 10 Feb 2013
 
I was putting away G's toys the other night when I came across this.  It's a little notebook.  I started to open it, but she yelled, "No!  Don't read it!  It's my private diary!  Don't read it, ok?  It's secret."

What is the history of a secret?  From my perspective, secrets are born from fear -- fear that the information could cause rejection, embarrassment, pain, or negative judgment.

How early does fear appear in our minds?  G is five, but yet she already knows or feels that whatever information she has written down in her private diary could result in some negative outcome if I were to read her words, otherwise she would not have cared if I opened her diary or not.

I didn't start writing in a diary until I was ten.  Of course, my diary contained my childish desires.  I wrote of the boy who I liked, about the toys that I wanted or about the secret goals that I had.  I hid my diary from my parents because I was afraid of their reaction.  I was afraid of feeling embarrassed if they knew about my little girl crushes, or if I would be punished if they read an entry about how I hated them on particular occasions.

I think it was those secret thoughts that prompted me to start a diary.  Maybe, as humans, we are not meant to keep secrets.  Maybe secrets are a burden, and while fear may keep us from spreading the secrets, the weight of that burden still needs to be lifted from us.  And that is why we keep diaries.  Because we have to tell someone, even if it just the paper on which we write.

07 February 2013

Old & Afraid

“When you're young, you always feel that life hasn't yet begun -- that "life" is always scheduled to begin next week, next month, next year, after the holidays -- whenever. But then suddenly you're old and the scheduled life didn't arrive. You find yourself asking, 'Well then, exactly what was it I was having -- that interlude -- the scrambly madness -- all that time I had before?” ~ Douglas Coupland, Life After God
My daughter is turning 6 in March. She is beyond excited. This morning she asked me how many days until her birthday.

“Twenty-one days, “ I answered.

“21?!?” she exclaimed. “That’s too long!”

It’s funny how when we are young, we cannot wait to get older. “When I turn      , I’ll finally be able to do                     !”

But then a shift happens. Suddenly, we want time to stop. For me, it happened when I was 29. I remember crying for two weeks before my 30th birthday. At that time, I felt as if life was all downhill from there. I knew then that my body would never be as nimble, flexible or as pliant as it once was when I was a mere 25 year old girl. I realized that I would have to start competing in the “senior division” at the Kung Fu tournaments. I also figured out that my knees had turned into a fairly accurate weather predictor. I knew from the amount of pain and pressure I would feel in my knees on any given day if precipitation was to be expected.

I became more aware of the passage of time, and how once lost, we can never get it back.

I spent most of my 20s, 8 years to be exact, loving and pining for a guy, my first love, who had left me when I was 25 and had never looked back.

I spent my 30s stuck in a loveless marriage to a man who did not deserve not even one day of my life.

And here I am now, in my early 40s, and feeling no confidence in myself or trust in my judgments. And unlike my daughter, I am not looking forward to my next birthday. In fact, instead of looking forward to the future, I would much prefer to go back in time. Back to a time when I could not wait for the future, rather than being fearful of and dreading it as I do now.

I am afraid that I will squander my 40s. I am afraid that I will wake up when I am in my 50s and realize that I still don't know what I want out of life.

I am afraid that the issues that do not seem so important to me now, will be of paramount importance in the future, and at a time when I will no longer be able to do anything about it.

Basically, I feel old and afraid. And it's the scariest feeling in the world.

01 Feb 2013

29 January 2013

Mr. Van Kirk

“... There are places I'll remember
All my life though some have changed
Some forever not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places have their moments
With lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I've loved them all ...”
 
~ John Lennon, Real Love: The Drawings for Sean
I met him in 1989.  Twenty-four years ago.  I remember walking into his classroom and seeing him at the front of the room.  He was dressed casually, with black jeans and sneakers.  I thought he was a bit young to be a "professor."  He had a military look about him.  Later he would reveal that he had served in the military as a naval aviator.

I remember him because he had a hand in shaping a part of who I have become.  My parents were the one who had instilled in me a love for reading, but he was the one who had inspired me to write.  Write anything.  Just write.  One of our exercises in his creative writing class was to write a daily journal entry.  He was never judgmental about what we wrote.  He merely wanted us to get into the habit of writing, about anything, and to let our creatve juices flowing.  At first, my journal entries were boring.  I wrote just enough to complete the exercise, and it was always without any thought.  But as time went on, I started to think.  I started to really care about what I was writing.  I started to pay attention to the words I was using and how I was using them. 

I worked hard on the papers I submitted to him.  I waited anxiously for his comments about my writing.  He was always inspiring and never critical.  He encouraged, rather than discouraged.  I have never forgotten him, and much of how I write is because of him.

Thank you, Mr. Van Kirk.  You have been an inspiration.


26 January 2013

Unfinished

“Human life is but a series of footnotes to a vast obscure unfinished masterpiece.” ~ Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita
I stumbled upon an inspirational blog entry that made me ponder about my life.  Rose Marie writes in her blog that she is an "unfinished woman."

This resonates so well with how I view myself and my life.  I have never felt complete or fulfilled.  I have always felt as though there was still so much I have to do, see, create, and love.  There has always been a sort of hole in my soul that I yearn to fill, and slowly, over the years, I fill that emptiness with the things I experience, the places that I see, and the people that I love.

But I know that I am not yet close to being done or "finished."  There is a lingering feeling that I need more.  There is a hunger to taste more fruit, to smell more flowers, to listen to more music, to read more books, to travel to more and different places, to meet more people, and to give more love to those who are already in my life.

Knowing that I am still "unfinished" motivates me to get up and do whatever it takes to get me closer to becoming "finished."  The truth is, we don't ever want to be "finished," because being so means that there is nothing left to look forward to doing.  I would much rather just live my life knowing that I am a work in progress, and I will continue to strive to improving myself in all areas of my life.

In essence, I want to continue being "unfinished" and to embrace all those things in life that will help to complete and fulfill me. 

photo by ♥N | 23 July 2012