Saturday, April 25, 2015

A Nice, Warm, Sunny Day

"Please let tomorrow be a nice, warm, sunny day. In Jesus's name we pray, Amen."

That's how I ended every prayer, every night when I was a child. And almost every day turned out to be a "nice, warm, sunny" one, so I thought God must have been real. At some point, I got suspicious, so from time to time, I purposely skipped that part (and felt guilty about it because I wasn't doing the world the favor of asking for good weather); and for the most part, each of those days still turned out to be exactly the way I otherwise prayed. Down the road, I wised up and realized that in Southern California, the bulk of the year consists of "nice, warm, sunny days."

This anecdote does not represent my shift away from prayer. It's just something that crossed my mind earlier while hoping for good running weather for tomorrow's La Jolla Half Marathon. We have to be at the shuttle to get to Del Mar by 5:30 a.m. yet I am still awake, attending to my urge to write.

Running has been quite the challenge lately, both mentally and physically, what with bad knees--and sometimes ankles--and then simple laziness. But the end of every run, from the sweat to the soreness, feels fantastic. I'm starting to believe that, with the recent improvement of my knee conditions (knock on wood), I can continue to run half marathons as long as I properly care for my knees in between each stint. I think. I sure hope. On the other hand, a small, strange, perverse part of me frequently tells me that I should not be going out to run or work out because I don't deserve to feel the endorphin-induced high because I haven't found a full-time job. On the other hand, a tiny, complacent yet caring, part of me doesn't want to have to leave my six students for a full-time job... Per usual, my mind is befuddled with contradicting thoughts that typically end up in mental stalemate and physical inaction.

Thankfully, though, I've been receiving a great deal of support from MC and a few others lately, and that encouragement really helps to remove me from the state of stalemate and inaction, because as I have previously written, we have near complete control over our own lives. Most of the actions that we take or leave are by choice, uninfluenced by any greater power that cannot be overcome or overreached. We can very easily choose to do the better thing, the right thing, to take one path over another, to pave additional paths... And often, whatever we end up doing but don't like, we try to think up excuses to justify the dissatisfaction. Meanwhile, we could more effectively be seeking alternatives to increase overall contentment.

But that brings me the topic of the next best thing. At what point are we to stop actively seeking and pursuing the next best thing? Unless complacent and content, don't we all want the best for ourselves? But then while doing that, aren't we being unfair to those who deserve more than just a sliver of our attention and effort?

Just some food for thought... I should catch those quickly fleeting four hours of sleep now before the half marathon.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Life and Lemons, revisited

Original "Life and Lemons" post (February '13)
Follow-up "Lemons" post (March '13)

Now, what happens when there are no more lemons, when you're standing in the middle of the hill and nothing is tumbling from the top, while everything at the bottom has gone bad?

You could stay put and await another harvest, as I suggested in the conclusion of the original post; or you could walk on over to another hill, pick another fruit, and move on. In the latter case, you must still heed limits and satisfaction, and pick wisely.

But let's address the concern that must be looming in your mind: what if lemons start rolling down that first hill like no tomorrow once you get to this other one? If there are limes rolling down this hill but you've never made lime-ade, what do you do? You could, of course, return to the comfort of sunflower yellow lemons and follow the originally prescribed methods. Alternatively, you have discovered another hill which presents you with plentiful new opportunities: you can explore the new territory of spring grass green limes, and you may enjoy it more if eye-wincing sourness is your scene. Note, however, that you cannot be on both hills at once. It's one or the other, lemonade or lime-ade, yellow or green (notwithstanding the semi-ripe lemons and the aging limes, which one wouldn't use for optimal juicing and consumption anyway).

Although you want to quench your thirst, you must again pick carefully and distinguish the good from the okay, the better from the good. It's a delicate process, really, one that requires dedication. Certainly, you could always just go for whatever passes you by in order to get the job done and hydrate, but you risk losing all of the better, best lemons or limes to the bottom of the hill. Wouldn't it be more effective to apply patience and pick out the prime?

Now let's suppose you could move up and down the hill instead of just transferring between hills. If you're stuck with nothing, what would behoove you more: trekking uphill to reach the entire range of options, or strolling downhill to reach the leftovers?

Lemons--and limes, too, now--are quite the complicated fruits, wouldn't you say so?

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Lessons and Doings

  1. Timing is everything. The best and most perfect things can happen, but even the wrong day of the week can demolish all of that. It doesn't necessarily mean that the happiness from said best and perfect occurrences will be sucked away, but it does mean that plans won't be, well, as planned. And you just have to be okay with that and accept that if the timing is right, things will fall back into place, and perhaps the level of happiness will even be magnified. In the meantime, explore and do what you love.
  2. Do what you love. I've heard so many times that if you do what you love, you never have to work a day in your life. I'd like to confirm the semi-truth of that statement. I've been unemployed for the first time since high school for the past two months, and have never been more content with my life. Granted, when I see the disparities between my W-2s and my bank statements, my heart does a free-fall--a plummet, actually--into an abyss of disbelief. And then I get over it, because I have had the time to do all of the things I enjoy that I never gave myself the opportunity to, between a full-time course load and two part-time jobs during school and then the direct transition into a full-time job right afterward. In fact, I enjoy it so much that I have begun to delude myself into thinking that I don't even need a real job...
  3. But on the same note as No. 2, I recently picked up tutoring. I used to work primarily with elementary school students with P. WILD, and then worked briefly with high school students at Uni High, but had never directly tutored high school student in English, geometry, and PSAT. The math aspect of everything is still rather frightening, but being able to teach the subject I love--English--is purely enlightening. I used to think that the best moments during teaching were the ones of "Ah!" from a sudden understanding of a topic. But lately, I have realized that the transition from quietness to openness in communication makes a world of difference, as well. Knowing that a student understands and can execute something means a lot, of course, but then watching them transition from a silent shrug to an active discussion over the course of a few tutoring sessions is immensely encouraging. I love it, and I love all my kids, no mater what grade and what age.
  4. Puppies are wonderful. My family recently got a German shepherd puppy, and I fell in love all over again. She is absolutely adorable, and the love--I can't say it's unconditional--we get from her and the opportunity for us to love her back is amazing. Until a few years ago, I was deathly afraid of dogs of all sizes. And now I have a difficult time leaving Avery for a few hours. Also, I now understand why couples get a dog together before having kids. In some ways, it's harder to care for a dog, which is something else I didn't expect. She pees and poops anywhere she pleases! At least that can be contained for a baby... Relatively. 
  5. There is therapy to be found in the arts and humanities: literature, music, photography... It's endless. I suppose this goes back to No. 2, which is to do the things you love. I've been reading more, and of course have been analyzing the heck out of every passage, being the English major I am, and using that to explain the novel and its intricacies to my student. And again, it's wonderful when he not only understands my explanations, but also contributes insight to them. In addition, music is blissful. I regret having stopped practicing piano in high school, but it isn't impossible to pick back up. I'm starting to relearn my favorite piece, Moonlight Sonata by Beethoven, and despite the many moments of discordance, my soul just feels right when I finally strike the right chords together. 
  6. On a similar note as No. 5, friends are also therapeutic. And they're free! Except when they're busy. "Refreshing" is the best description I can provide with regards to suddenly opening yourself up in availability--in time and emotion--to the people who care about you. And on that note, it's so nice to know that people care about you, because sometimes you get stuck thinking that you care too much for others and don't see the reciprocation, subsequently landing in what eventually becomes a bitter view of the world. And who needs that? (We do, however, need realist perspectives, so don't become overly optimistic now, y'all.)
  7. And then there are those that can't forgive and forget. Sometimes, that's perfectly understandable. Other times, it's not, so do everything in your own power to relieve yourself of whatever guilt or blame remains, and let it go. The other party can choose to move on or stay put, but don't let that hinder you from forming other relationships or embarking on other adventures. 
  8. It is what it is. I've discussed before that so many of our surroundings and our actions and reactions are within our reach and control, but for all that isn't, we simply have to accept. Things are the way they are, and it's generally easier to go with the flow and not make a ruckus out of an already peaceful situation.
  9. A peaceful mind leads to contentedness. For the past few weeks, my mind had been befuddled and bewildered with all-over-the-place anxiety. But approximately 36 hours ago, I somehow came to peace with everything that's gone down, and I am simply content right now. A peaceful mind also provides the clarity with which I was able to finally write here again. However, a sleepy mind refuses to reread and proofread the entire post, and will now click "publish" and go to bed.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Separation Anxiety

A few years ago, I diagnosed myself with "separation anxiety." Granted, it was one of those half-joking moments of admission. With that said, it was also one of those half-serious moments of confession. Admittedly, I probably never had a clinical case of separation anxiety, but I did know that I had always had trouble letting go of things because the idea of separation simply did not sit well with me. To delve further into my subconscious, my separation anxiety is likely due to the great ease at which I emotionally attach myself to the things and people nearby. Of equally reasonable consideration, it is also likely to due to some degree of narcissism in that I do not want, post-separation, for the other person to let go of--and worse--forget me (I mean, really. I'm me!) even though letting go is precisely the purpose, if not definition, of separation.

Between platonic, romantic, and professional relationships, I often ended up in debates with myself. One part of my mind would say, "You gotta just up and leave." Another would counter, "But you have it so good. And how would (insert name here) feel?" Still another would add, "Yeah, it's been so long already. Might as well stay put." Then reality would intrude and declare, "Exactly. It's been so long already. Here's a chance--time to move on." And on most occasions, I would just stay put and leave things exactly the way they had been, albeit the nudging urge that I might be more content otherwise. I think it fair to infer that I feared deviating from established comfort zones and habits, and subsequently feared heading toward unexplored territory and openness. On a smaller scale, I know that I also worried how others involved would feel and what they would think; parallel to that was the fear of my disappointing them and thereby disappointing myself. Alongside those various fears was also the deep concern that separation wouldn't necessarily lead to something good or better or anything at all--the potential to leave behind something that was perfectly good and better and everything altogether.

And of course, separation and transition come hand in hand. Despite my half-joking exclamations of separation anxiety, I always dealt with transition periods relatively well. That isn't to say that I never had moments of doubt or grief (take that word with a grain of salt--or pepper, whatever you're into), but the initial anxiety almost never prolonged itself. And that would, understandably, lead one to highly question my self-diagnosis, however jokingly or seriously I may have presented it.

Regardless, I mention transitions because the last few months have been nothing short of them. And I have been speaking of separation anxiety in the past tense because I noticed just today how much easier it has been for me to separate myself from the aforementioned established comfort zones and habits surrounding familiar people and situations. Although still uncertain about future prospects and analytic of opportunity costs, I implement and accept separation with more ease and poise than I used to, and I suspect that is primarily due to a statement I have been hearing increasingly frequently: You gotta do you. To each his own, no hard feelings; no hard feelings, to each his own. In whichever order, I have finally come to learn that separation is a necessary part of life, and there is no need to be particularly anxious about it, because it happens to everybody, and therefore people are, for the most part, understanding about it. Separation is necessary also because that is the point where you reflect on what you have learned from the past experience, and look forward to what you will learn from the next one.

And with that, I shall separate myself from this long overdue post and move on to a daily essential: sleep. Good night, all.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Song-Induced Ramble

Don't make plans, 'cause that's just hoping
Don't make promises, 'cause they get broken
Let's just take it one day at a time
And live our lives
'Cause hearts fall harder from higher places
Love gets lost in expectations
Let's just take it one day at a time
And live our lives
'Cause all I've ever known
Is being in the moment
Suddenly you're here with me
I want to say forever
But I know it's better
If we don't say a thing

I heard this song a short while ago on Pandora's Jason Reeves station, and since then have put it on repeat. I wish I could say that I do exactly what the lyrics prescribe, but I often can't help but end up wanting to--or at least talking about--make plans and promises. Don't get me wrong--I love the whole one day at a time thing, but eventually, one has to make plans, methinks. Without the expectation of a future or any expectations at all, it's hard to do so many things, because you never know whether the time and effort you invest now will yield anything fruitful. Arguably, such expectations are the very factor that inhibits the pure enjoyment of each day. While love--among other things--gets lost in expectations, I can't help but establish them and maybe even, perversely enough, hope that my heart falls harder from higher places (and rebounds, of course), because that means I will have given myself the opportunity to try new heights, to trust new people. Sometimes, I think that "taking it one day at a time" is an excuse to be lazy and to keep things simple so as to avoid thinking about the future or making a commitment. Other times, I acknowledge that that truly is all one can say with regards to the future. You never know what will suddenly come up, and what will suddenly change. Scarily enough, people themselves can change just as suddenly--seemingly, anyway. I suppose, then, that taking it one day at a time is a sort of precaution which aims to prevent disappointment or hurt. In that sense, doesn't it seem like walking on eggshells, knowing that there are certain limits to what you can do one day because you don't want that to lead to an expectation or promise? So what then?

The only lyric that I wholeheartedly agree with is:
I want to say forever
But I know it's better
If we don't say a thing

Frankly, until a moment ago, I thought I had long since resolved all commitment issues, but the fact that I can't say--much less promise--forever to anyone about anything led me to reconsider that. Or perhaps I can't be blamed for that, because forever, despite being only three syllables and seven letters, is an enormous word which comes with all the more enormous expectations.

Saturday, April 19, 2014


At one point, I was eager--frantic, really--to replace every memory and every memento with someone and something else, so that I would forget. But lately, I find that I no longer want to replace. Rather, I want to just add to every past memory and memento, in a stratified manner, with most recent on top but less recent still ever present. It isn't necessarily that I'm not willing to let go--it simply is that I don't want to forget anymore. Yes, stratification will be my (temporarily) solution.

Let's go back to replacements. Fortunately, many things are easily replaceable. And it's amazing that, because of that, you can so quickly achieve satisfaction. But of course alongside that are the abstract matters, feelings, and people that aren't immediately--if at all--replaceable. What then? Is there a difference between replacement and substitution? If the connotation of "substitution" is that of impermanence or instability, then a substitution for an abstract matter, feeling, or person just won't do. But then, who's to say that a replacement will do much more good than a substitution? Perhaps you don't think them dissimilar.

It's also astonishing what opportunities come about when you are most unsuspecting. And when you have multiple opportunities, you have to seriously consider what it is you truly want to do and invest in, and think about the time frame and people surrounding it, then decide what you want to surround yourself with.