Thursday, March 24, 2011

My (Al)Chemical Romance or All That Glitters Is Not Gold (Yet)

For those of you are are not as educated in the esoteric arts, alchemy was the study of elements- dedicated to trying to perfect things to their purest state.  A common example would be (for you Harry Potter fans), the Philosopher's stone-believed to to able to purify poisons, turn lead to gold, etc, etc. It was, to be succinct, some some powerful mojo.  Now, why should any of that be important to you? Well, recently while reading Eat, Pray, Love (another story from a traveler afar-amazing how travel turns everyone into a philosopher isn't it?), I started reflecting on the idea of a soul mate, the one person who is our soul's other half- who know us like no other, so "they" say- (and you know we hate the ubiquitous "they"-damned autocrats). Anyway, "they" say this soul is out there, waiting for every one of us.  And I believe it's true..but I also believe thanks in part to EPL that they are to be avoided at all costs. Okay, maybe not really, but Elizabeth Gilbert, author of EPL put forth an idea that I'd not really considered before- that soul mates are not people we're supposed to be with forever-they are not the  person you marry who makes you whole (you're already whole and if you marry someone who is your "other half" that means they're really you and God knows you don't need to marry yourself-though some people try.) Your soul mate is not a prize to be won, but more like a phase to go through. They're a scourge, a whip which forces you to be a better person.  I believe I have met my soul mate many times, in many bodies and will again, because I am far from being the completed person I want to be.  My two halves haven't met so far- my alchemical "wedding" hasn't happened yet or maybe it has and is still happening even now, again and again. I certainly have felt somewhat "challenged" lately.  But my journey from the mud into perfect form, my transmutation, if you will, has been informed by so many people in my life-all of whom held a mirror to my better side, while scourging my baser nature- my selfishness, and fears.  The touch me briefly, but powerful-siblings, parents, friends and lovers.  Dear reader, you have all of them  to blame for who I am today and who I'm still becoming...and I love them and you, for it. That's right, you wonderful mofo b******s, thank you for making me better every day (and yes, I's aware that perfected human beings probably don't call their loved ones mofos- you're still working on me, remember? >=)  
The idea of changing lead to gold, of purifying the human soul, is an age old one-prefaced by the idea that change is possible and necessary, to bring about closeness between human beings, to help us create or recreate a unity of spirit, a place of belonging for which we all long.  Like the image of the lotus flower rising from the mud, the symbolism of turning lead into gold is understandable to all- we all want to overcome our frailties, our impurities, and weaknesses and be transmuted into something valued and love.  We none of us are there yet, me most of all-but still and all,  the evolution continues.

Through love the devil becomes an angel. Through love stones become soft as butter. Through love grief is like delight. Through love demons become the servants of God. (Quote by - Mevlana Rumi) 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

You Got The Love -Aishiteru Wa Nippon 愛してるわ にっぽん

Okay, so I don't mean to be inappropriate but this morning the ongoing FUBAR situation that is the news from Japan finally just made me...pop. (too soon? yeah, probably still too soon.) But really, although I no longer live there, really only lived there for a short while, Japan was a place where I learned a lot of things about myself and the thought of what is going on there is really gut clenching.  As far as I know MY friends are safe, but so many others are not, and I've begun to feel what I think a lot people who care about the world feel- completely useless, helpless to help except by donations by text. (Which by the way, I DO encourage if you can.) I feel guilty somehow that I'm not in the trenches, that I'm not in Japan in the wind and the rain. And because I'm selfish, some part of me wonders how they're feeling- almost wishing I could feel it, like a parasite- because those people are living life, and feeling pain, but because they're people (not just Japanese with their reputations for endurance but people) they will rebuild, because this is what we do. So, yes, selfishly I would like to feel, personally, a little of their resolve. Yesterday, I got to take a hot  shower, and eat and go to work- telling stories to little kids...and I'll do it again today.  While I was reminded in emails from my Japanese co-workers that the students I left behind are supposed to graduate in April, (and while I sent  my congratulations) I have no idea if they really will. The Japanese are a stoic people but how do you get the rhythms of a normal life going again in the literal wake of a tsunami, an earthquake, and our worst nightmare, a nuclear scare? Will there be cherry blossoms this spring, and a Closing ceremony? If there is, more important, where will my kids go? I lived on an island which fortunately appears to have been unaffected (by the weather at least), but an entire generation of students will be traumatized by these events- will change their life paths because of them. Many of them dreamed of leaving the island at graduation, some going to college, some going to Tokyo to work where they would have conversations with gai-jin and maybe use some of the English I taught them.  If they ever get to Tokyo now, it will be nothing like their dreams. I feel very much a foreigner now, so far apart from a place that was for a while my home, where I had moments of peace, and which, if I ever visit again in memory or reality, will never be the same.  The cherry blossom season should be starting soon for this year, but  all I can see are images of snow in Akita, falling over  bent over oba-chans (grandmothers) already inspecting their damaged homes and lives to see where the rebuilding will begin.  I can't be there because my life is here.  I can't be everywhere in the world where there is hurt and hunger right now. All I can give is money, and time in thought. All I can send is love and prayers.  I hope it will be enough. It will have to be enough.

I am only one, but I am one.  I cannot do everything, but I can do something.  And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.  ~Edward Everett Hale

to donate money to the American Red Cross for victims of the Japan tsunami and earthquake, visit

Or, text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Karma chameleon or DIY: The Mouse That Roared

“A little rudeness and disrespect can elevate a meaningless interaction to a battle of wills and add drama to an otherwise dull day.”
 Bill Watterson

You can’t go through life without acknowledging yourself.   Brave words, wise words from the gurus at TLC’s What Not To Wear.  But why is it that when you acknowledge yourself,  it’s like a signal for everyone  else to get in your grill for not  acknowledging them?!! Case in point- I was raised to not interrupt adults when they’re speaking, and to always greet people as they come in the door. But in the past few weeks, I have had people (usually older women) walk away from me while I was speaking to them – who then complained that I didn’t greet them the next time  I saw them.  And when I decided not to put in the extra effort for no return, all of a sudden the eye rolls and the skin teeth came out. ( If you don’t know what that means, ask a black friend- carefully. If you are black and don’t know, find a little old black lady- they know everything.)  While being polite gets you a fair distance, it appears that telling the rules to f*** off gets you only disdain from the other people who also don’t follow the rules.  How is it that the rudest people  get to appoint themselves the masters of ceremony and etiquette? Who decided that they get to put themselves at the top of the ladder?   Aaargh! When do I get to tell the world to take a hike,  like  say, every celebrity or rockstar –and be applauded for my initiative, my nonchalance to the slights, the slings and arrows that life seems intent on throwing at me.    I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. My affability has gotten me in trouble in the past- probably because it's  more like passive aggressiveness.    When people demand respect from you it’s usually because they don’t respect themselves.  How often have you had to apologize for what someone else called your thoughtlessness  and later thought, was I really that insensitive? And  sometimes, we really are. But sometimes, the sharks in the water simply smell blood and they come a running –(yes, I know sharks don’t run- mixed metaphor, people!) I have seriously gotten to the point when I have to ask if this is karma- if maybe this is this how I seem to others and I’m simply looking in the mirror. If so, I need a makeover stat. But maybe, it’s not me- and maybe I simply need to prepare myself for the offensive and being considered offensive when I don’t respond with the alacrity others seem to feel they deserve.   How often do you feel attacked because of what someone else felt, which in reality had nothing really to do with you?  One of my pet peeves is people who demand respect without giving it – not in return, but first. Showing respect is not a you show me yours and maybe I’ll show you mine proposition. It’s a statement about who you are and who you want others to see you as.  I’ve determined that I no longer want to see myself as a doormat- and that I owe no acclamations or explanations to anyone. I know who I am, how I was brought up and where I’m taking myself in the future.  If you have issues or you step in my road, don’t be surprised if I politely, but firmly, brush you aside. 

Respect commands itself and it can neither be given nor withheld when it is due.


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