self-gratitude & body gratitude

BLOG, body image, Essays and Letters, LOVE

There was a time I was troubled by my inability to feel gratitude towards some people who were supporting me in huge ways, and perceived it as a dysfunction on my part. When I eventually accepted it as a reasonable result of those people also being the biggest source of my pain, any gratitude I tried to muster towards other things and people still felt superficial.

Then someone introduced me to the idea and importance of saying thank you to ourselves. I thanked myself for resilience, courage, patience, and for trying. It felt nice.

Lately I read about how trauma affects the body and the brain. I was brought to my knees realizing just how much our body and brain are infinitely more intelligent and complex than all my conscious thoughts and analyzing and problem-solving skills put together.

Over and over our body and brain go to work automatically, without conscious mental instruction on our part, to protect us, help us survive, and keep us alive. I think about every time the knife slips when I chop carrots and it hits the nail of a finger. I don’t tell my hands to move out of the way. They save themselves during 99.9% of my chopping accidents before I know it. Or when oil splatters from a hot pan and hits a quarter-inch away from my eye but never actually in my eye. Or like the other day I stumbled over a rock. By the time I registered that I was falling, my body had caught me. I was back in one piece and steadied by the time my thought was over. Instinct.

Too often we resent and punish our bodies for their shape, sensations, feelings, moods and emotions, and we forget the immense intelligence and power of our instincts and intuition. Neuroses, sudden flood of tears and even illnesses are often part of the body’s way of trying to regulate or remedy itself.

So, deepest thanks to you, my body. I’m so lucky to have possession and experience of this healthy, exquisite biological machine.

i reclaimed my body!

BEING A MOM, LOVE

I am a tower on which my child stands. I am her favorite mattress. I have a pair of bio-cranes that lift and lower the world’s most precious cargo. I’m an elevator with up buttons on my feet, apparently, for my child to step on. My legs make a slide and I’m one of those swing rides from the carnivals.

The reins of my body used to hang as I wait to see what people would like or expect me to do.

Now the reins rest in my hands. (No, not my toddler’s hands, though it might look that way!)

The idea that I might eat certain things, go certain places, not go certain places, do things, not do things, or have sex to keep someone else happy hits me now as betrayal to my body.

Sometimes I stand back and let the animal roam, in order to watch and learn its language.

i can imagine too

BLOG, LOVE

I used to zip my lips to pretend I agree with the surprise. I don’t suffer from anxiety or depression, but I know what it’s like to appear to “have it all” and still rot on the inside, feeling completely lost and meaningless. In the past when I read about those who took their life, I’d wonder how far, or close, I am from their footsteps.

Whether the issue is mental illness or not, the expectation that the smart, capable, wealthy or privileged among us can figure their life out on their own is a blindfold and a no-entry sign we put up to our suffering loved ones. Over time that expectation can seem to say “Stop whining. You don’t even have a reason to be miserable”.

you are both

LOVE, POEMS

No more believe in your light than your darkness.
You are both.

You cannot be the flower that’s turned towards the sun
without being the roots that fumble underground.

In the lonely bed or on the bathroom floor,
watch out for a calm that comes naturally
as day follows night.

short story: once upon an anger

LOVE, relationships, SHORT STORIES

Foreword:
In February I visited the Big Island of Hawaii and was awestruck by the volcanoes and lava fields. A few weeks ago I spent a few days reinventing the story of Pele, the Hawaiian goddess of fire and volcano, as an exercise to reinterpret my story and relationship with my mother-in-law. When I finished writing, I was told the Kilauea volcano, legendary home to Pele, had been erupting that whole week!

 

Once Upon an Anger

When Pele became her family, Namaka lost her home as she knew it. Pele, young goddess of fire who was unaware of her own power, flung a spark that landed on Namaka’s face. Namaka, goddess of water, was the older, most powerful, most respected and feared in the family. Insulted, she almost drowned Pele in her fury.

That was how Pele too lost her home, the one she dreamed of having.

The rest of the family coaxed Pele to calm down and learn from her mistake. Alone, wounded and hopeless, it seemed that if Pele was to live happily at all, there was only one way: Namaka’s way. Strong-willed and guilt-ridden Pele took a bucket of the ocean and poured it over her head. Whenever she felt feisty, she’d drench herself with another bucket.

But it didn’t work for long. Pele started to notice smoke escaping her nostrils. She felt lava behind her eyes. She feared what might happen if she opened her mouth.

One day finally Pele slipped. She gave her true opinion on something. If this was a happy and a healthy family, she should be allowed to express herself too. Namaka, though kind and generous in her ways, could not stand being challenged. When Pele’s little flame snaked its way towards her, she met it with a wave. Not a gentle wave of her hand, but an ocean’s wave. Pele shook in her anger and burst into flame. She pushed right up against Namaka’s water wall. Namaka sweated in Pele’s heat. Pele pulled away, frightened by her own uncontrollable temper.

Pele ran to a small cliff. She stood there, shaking. How odd for the world to seem so quiet while on the inside she burned like a planet on fire. The rocks began to melt under her feet. Lava trickled down the cliff like the blood from her forehead. She closed her eyes to go inside. She had tried so hard to kill her fire, and now she was more powerful than she knew. She didn’t know that every effort to put out her fire was energy that fed her fire. All the anger, hurt and self-denial was energy that fed her fire.

For the first time ever, Pele was glad that she still had the fire in her. She had never felt safer and freer to learn that nobody, least of all herself, had the power to extinguish her.

Instead of returning to her family, Pele walked. When she came upon a clearing, she melted the ground into a large crater and climbed in. Family can come as they wish. She can go to them as she wishes. But this will be her home within the home. Inside the Kilauea volcano, Pele can be as powerful as she wants.

trust

LOVE, POEMS

“I feel like after a certain age, probably at least 30, every single one of us could write a memoir with the title Not What I Had Planned.” – Elizabeth (Liz) Gilbert said in this interview. It’s so true! And I have arrived at that certain age. Out with the old to trust in the unknown.

missing out on fun?

BEING A MOM, LOVE

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We took Liliu to the Seattle Gymnastics Academy for indoor free play. The first thing she said the next morning was: we are going to the trampoline place again (she doesn’t know how to ask a question yet so it’s a statement).

To me it was a fun hour and something I’ll mention on Monday as chit chat. But for her, it must be such an amazing experience that the first thing she knows in the morning, is that she wants to do it again.

When was the last time I got up and knew what I wanted to do? When was the last time I got up and knew I wanted to do something fun? I’m not sure I know what fun is for me! Reading is fun. Writing or sewing are a type of “fun labor”. When was the last time I got up and asked, or decided, or even thought to, do something fun?

No. As an adult holding down a job, as a mom, you sacrifice that thought. You sacrifice what you want to do, to accommodate what your kid and your family, want to do. You give up noticing what you think is fun. You give up asking for what is fun for you (unless you know it will also be fun for someone else in the family). Because you knew the cost all too well: if you really wanted to do something that’s fun for you, simple as watching TV or reading a book, the wanting makes you impatient and snap at your child. The child cannot control their desire, expression or temper. And you don’t want to rush them to that. So in order to be fully available, present and patient for your child, you sacrifice your desire of fun, even your attention on what would be fun for you. You brush it off like the crumbs your toddler left on your sweater.

But these are crumbs back to yourself. We may only get crumbs and tiny pockets of time, but they are important. Without the crumbs, we go too far and lose sight of who we are, and then we don’t know how to be with ourselves any more. And we get hungry. Those crumbs keep us alive.

 

brave enough to cry

BEING A MOM, LOVE

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I’m so grateful for this Facebook Page, Calmer Choice, for sharing this image! See the full post and their discussion here!

I’ve definitely heard enough of “Don’t cry, it’s okay”, or “Don’t cry now you’re a big girl/boy, aren’t you?” in my life that sometimes it’s what comes up in my mind when dealing with my upset child. I hear those voices, they almost come out. 😢And I’ll hold on to another second of silence to think about how to be empathic. 💪🏻I deeply believe in emotional intelligence. The things I say and do when she’s upset now will become the things she says and do to herself as she grows up.🧐