Monday, January 28, 2013

Volunteering

After some serious consideration I've decided that I do want to have kids. Whether it's going to happen with a lover in a committed relationship, a platonic friend or on my own as a single mother by choice is secondary. I live for experiences. To go through life without kids, especially as a woman, would only seem half fulfilled. I've always believed that if you want something then you are responsible to make it happen. I can't control every detail in my life but I can start preparing myself for my future role as a mother.

Life is always becoming increasingly mores stressful and demanding for those who constantly strives for more. There are no limit on what we can do to advance in our careers or how much we can expand our minds and push our bodies. We can't seem to give enough our loved ones, our community and ourselves. But to do all those things we must have a clear mind and strong body. Anything less than that would only slow us down.

What I need is not only to bring balance to my mind and body now but also to develop a powerful toolbox to face future challenges with confidence and efficacy. Sakyong Mipham mentioned in his book Running with the Mind of Meditation that "we need to exercise both our body and our mind. The nature of the body is form and substance. The nature of the mind is consciousness  Because the body and mind are different by nature, what benefits them is different in nature as well. The body benefits from movement, and the mind benefit from stillness. when we give our mind and body what benefits them. a natural harmony and balance takes place. With this unified approach, we are happy, healthy, and wise."

I'm not obsessed with attaining perfection, success or material wealth. However, I have noticed that I am completely addicted to the sensation of deciding on something and making it happen. It's not about setting goals or devising steps to achieve it. It's a simple matter of holding myself accountable. The events are either dos or don'ts like visiting Rose in Germany, applying to law school or running a half marathon. There might be steps in the middle but I never get caught up in some fancy 12-step program. There is a reason why people say always keep your eyes on the prize. To focus on the steps in between only distance you from where you are to where you want to be. All I know is that once I decide on doing something I do it. 

What I've decided now is to run a half marathon at end of April. Distance running has always been difficult for me. The only way to overcome it is through continuous repetition until my body adapts to it. I want to be one of those recreational runners you see in the park on Saturday mornings. I joined a running club and am working to increase my mileage each week. It's a struggle but I know the reward will make it all worthwhile. One day soon I'm going to add running to my toolbox as my physical therapy for a strong heart and body. I want to know that when my mind is overburdened my body will carry me through. 

As for my mind, I going to start practice meditation. I now have a small library of books on zen meditation. I signed up for a zen retreat in March with Karen Maezen Miller, the author of my new favorite book Momma Zen. Someday I will have the ability to bring my mind to stillness in the midst of chaos. I will make mindful decisions with self-assurance. I will accept life as it presents itself to me and I will accept and let go with grace.

And for the more practical side of being a mother, I will spend two evenings each week to work with kids from newborn to 6 years old at the Crisis Nursery. I've worked a few different jobs in my life but never have I felt more inadequate. The night when I turned in my paperwork I saw a little boy with the most beautiful big eyes. He was there for his first birthday. My heart melted. I wanted to stay there and hold him. I have a feeling this is going to be the most difficult job ever. Tonight I watched a video on the nursery's childcare philosophy: to promote confidence and competency through validation and support. Bingo! That's what I've been saying my whole life! The key is to acknowledge and respond appropriately to the child's action and emotion. For example, when a child cries because her parent is leaving instead of saying "don't cry, you're fine" we should respond with "I see you're sad. It's hard to say goodbye. I'm going to sit here and listen to you." God, can I have one of these volunteers to come mother me??? 

I wish my own mother could go take a volunteer class. Any communication with her tends to send me into deep depression. She has a negative response to everything I say. Tonight I told her I'm training for a half marathon, she said, don't run too hard, you should stop if you're tired. I told her I'm eating much less meat now to lower my cholesterol. She said, oh, no you must eat some meat. Every time I tell her I am miserable here she tells me I can't be sad! My cousin's grandmother recently passed away, she told her to stop crying! What's with people's difficulty to deal with real emotions? I say face it, experience it. This is why we are here. Cry when you're sad. Eat when you're hungry. Rest when you're tired. Sometimes It IS that easy. 

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Moments

Married people with kids never seem to have a difficult time recalling the happiest moments of their lives. Not having reached those milestones (without counting the false starts and early terminations), the two most memorable and joyous moments in my life thus far are the moment Dr. G walked into the greenroom after my senior recital and having cafe con leche with Rose at confiteria giratoria on top of Cerro Otto in Bariloche.

It's true that we have a tendency to glorify the past. The good old days, we like to call them. However much proclivity is magnified by the lens of time, those moments have always been my greatest treasures. They are that much more real because I have two witnesses who remain as two of my staunchest supporters until this day. I've always considered myself extraordinarily fortunate. To somehow cross paths with Nick and Rose in this big wide and chaotic universe is perhaps the most fortunate events of them all. Together they have inspired so much beauty in my life.

I've been thinking of those moments more now than ever before. It's not a matter of escaping the present or living in the past but rather a way to remind myself of the substances that makes this life worthy of living. My life is about to change. I don't know exactly where, when or how or whether it's for the better or worse. All I know is that like all things in this temporal world, my life is about to change. Quite moments like this, sitting in front of the fireplace with soft music and warm coffee, feels like the calm before the storm.

One by one, options slowly present themselves in front of me. All are viable but none seem to tickle my fancy. When I was younger, I longed to move to a big city like every other restless souls in search of excitement. Even after my worldly adventures, when all other American cities have fallen to the wayside of disenchantment, the Big Apple still held a special place in my heart. Rose and I have long agreed that everyone should live in the City once in their lives to truly live. For a while I thought perhaps this would be my year. Instead of feeling ecstatic at the prospect of finally moving to the City like I've always imagined, I felt nothing on my trip to NYC last weekend. I was disenthralled.

And now, bit by bit I'm starting to realize that it's not a matter of moving or choosing schools. After all this soul searching and reflection, no other desire even remotely compares to the feeling I had about guitar towards the end of my high school years. The determination and clarity to pursue music was a high like nothing else in life. You can amass wealth, power or fame but there is no better sensation than to be completely engrossed in the pursuit of something personal with absolute conviction. In religious terms they call it blind faith. I would have done it if someone told me I would live a life of poverty, misery, loneliness or whatever other adversarial consequences there may be. There was nothing anyone can say or do to stop me. When you have found the greatest love, nothing else mattered.

I have never felt anything so viscerally before or since those days at Eastman. One of the greatest lessons Petar taught me when I studied with him in high school was, regardless of right or wrong. to always perform with conviction. I believe the same principle applies to life. There is no joy or success in doing something half-assedly. What is not done with conviction is not worthy of doing at all. I'm in search of my next greatest love, if it is possible for such thing to exist.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Remember?


Disappointed by my trip to NYC I wondered what it would take for me to get excited about moving there. So I looked up the concert calender at Juilliard. Music still triggered a strong emotional response in me. I want to be near it. I want to be surrounded by it. At one point I wanted desperately to be part of it. The appearance of Jordi Savall on the calender nearly brought tears to my eyes. Still, Nick's text message was what breached the levee of my tears. I cried uncontrollably as if I have just lost the greatest love of my life. 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Quartet


I went to see the movie A Late Quartet on New Year’s Day in my PJs. It was the closest thing to a musical experience I can get in this wasteland. The movie brought back sounds I used to hear when I was a young aspiring musician. Images of NYC stirred up the forgotten and at times forgone desire to live in a true urban environment. I fantasized about living at Sagamore and walking to Eastman in evenings for world class concerts. I’d introduce my kids to everyone in the studio and have him/her grow up around musicians with unparalleled virtuosity. After school program would consists of doing homework and sitting in on all kinds of rehearsals.

Chinese parents get together for lunch every day to discuss the future of their sons and daughters, the curve setters at the ivy leagues. The discussions typically evolve around education and marriage, the two most important life events for a young adult. One day one of the moms asked me what I thought was a good field of study for future employment. I loathe such question as such parental interference has a way of sucking the creativity and exuberance out of life. But to respond in good spirit without compromising my own principles I said, what is important is not which field he/she chooses to pursue but rather to be fully committed to perform at the highest stratum of whichever field that is chosen. There are successful and mediocre people in every specialization. To be successful is to be brilliant and to outperform everyone else regardless of the field.

Someday I want to install the concept in my kids that if they feel strongly about something then they have the obligation to themselves to pursue it to the fullest extent. If you want it then you’ve got to work to get it. I want to have the wisdom and ability to support them even if they decide on fields that are unfamiliar to me or counter to my own interests. After all, it’s never about what field they choose but rather how much they are willing to dedicate their lives to it. Until then, we will have lots of music in our lives. 

Jeff Weiner, the CEO of LinkedIn, was asked who his mentors were and this was his reply, “my dad has I think taught me the value of trusting your instinct, trusting your gut. Growing up, he reinforced in me this idea that you can do anything you set your mind to. When you’re a kid it is an easy thing to take for granted. It kind of sound like, ‘eat your vegetables.’ When you get older you realize how fortunate you are to have someone in your life that’s constantly reinforcing that.”

http://www.bizjournals.com/sanjose/news/2013/01/03/linkedin-jeff-weiner-the-man.html?page=2

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Chamana List

A coworker is moving here for TX. I compiled a list of my favorite local spots for her. I always complain about the lack of dinning options around here. When thinking about I could actually come up with a dozen reputable eateries in town. Just goes to show that things are never as good or as bad as we think they are. Enjoy.


Restaurants (not in any particular order):
·         Escobar – Best food and service in town, also has a great brunch menu (best egg benedict!).
·         Milo – Same owner as Escobar. Quality food and service. Pretty quiet most of the time.
·         Black Dog – Best BBQ place in the region. Yelp Review
·         Seven Saints – Good food, bad desserts. Can be a bit noisy on nights/weekends. I like the goat cheese salad here.
·         Farrens – Best burger
·         Café Kopi – Nice café in downtown Champaign.
·         Pekara Bakery – Lovely bakery with café. Desserts are always tasty!
·         Le Peep – Good place for breakfast
·         Maize – Small place on Green & 1st with best tacos (I’m addicted to this place)!
·         Golden Port – 505 S Neil St. Best Chinese food in town. Great for takeout (closed on Tuesdays).
·         Xinh Xinh Café – 114 North Vine St. Quick fix for Vietnamese food.
·         Nitaya Thai – 134 West Church St. Acceptable Thai food for Champaign.  
·         Vinny’s – Best pizza in town (good thin crest). Menu

Natural Food Stores:
·         Common Ground Food Co-Op – Recently expanded. Great variety of natural/organic products. Definitely try the soups!
·         Strawberry Field – Smaller natural food store with bakery/dessert counter! All the desserts are delicious and most of them are vegan! They have some tables inside and outside for a quick snack. Live music on Sunday mornings.

Other Spots:
·         Art Theater – Only place around here (that I know of) to see independent and foreign films. Neat little place.
·         Krannert Art Museum – Neat place to visit. Sometimes they have good live performances.
·         We have a very lively farmers market on Saturdays from spring to fall.
·         I buy my meats from Triple S Farm. It’s a local farm that supplies free range beef, chicken and eggs. They also have great sausages and bacon! All members enjoy a 10% discount from retail price. Let me know if you’re interested. J

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

An Urban Experience


Rose had just returned to Dusseldorf after spending the holidays with her family in Utah. I needed to talk so we chatted for an hour. I have been feeling incredibly depressed and lonely but I feel guilty whining to her for the same reason one would feel bad complaining about running a 5K to someone who had just finished a marathon. In some ways we’re the same and in many ways we are different. Maybe I’m not as strong and independent as I thought.

I told Rose about my visit to Chicago for the fourteenth time this past weekend. There were tender moments but overall the trip left me feeling sad. I thought Brett might have been different this time with his friend visiting from Costa Rica. But not only was he once again trapped in a pot and alcohol induced world of apathy, his friend Chris made me realize that loneliness is an endemic problem. The only reason Chris was visiting Chicago in the middle of the winter for the second year around was because he has no friends of his own to hang out with on New Year’s in Costa Rica. From what I could tell he wasn’t having much fun with Brett. I don’t think Brett was having much fun with Brett.  

I let myself out of the door on Sunday. Brett never seems comfortable asking me to leave. I just get a very distinct feeling of being uninvited to stay. I feel disappointed every time I walk out of his door. Disappointed with the visit. Disappointed with him. Disappointed with myself. Disappointed at the disparity between the world that exists in my imagination and the one that I live in. And every time I try to cheer myself up by having a little indulgence, usually in the form of a nice meal or a shopping trip to the outlet. I have made quite a few Yelp check-ins this way. This time I decided on a nearby Cuban place.

I was in the mood for a little stroll in the city. I liked seeing my reflection the shop windows, tall boots, Lucky jeans, bright red wool coat with big black military buttons. I felt beautiful as the cold breeze pushed back the wavy hair I had ironed out in the morning. Surely anyone would have been lucky to walk with me but I had no one to walk with. The Cuban restaurant was more like a small café. I tried to order choripan but they were out of chorizo. Then I thought, I’m at a Cuban place, let go of Buenos Aires. I got a roasted pork sandwich, black bean soup and café con leche. I found a seat by the window overlooking Congress Ave. The hostel is next door. The sight of a group of young travelers with large backpacks brought a smile to my face. For a few minutes I felt as if I too was a traveler in the windy city. The food arrived as I warm up to the lively Cuban music. Everything was delicious but nothing was more satisfying than the novelty feeling of being on the road. It was the only way I could justify the visit. And that, as Rose had perfectly coined, was an urban experience. 


Rose had always said that everyone should live in New York City once at some point in their lives. I tend to agree with her. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Years Blue


It has been the most depressing and isolated holiday season so far in my life. There was no merrymaking, no celebration, no one to kiss when the clock struck midnight and not even anyone to call. The only good thing with having a mental breakdown the night before New Year’s Eve is that I had a chance to get out the worst of the tears. There was no surprise when this evening came. I knew I’d be miserable. I got some groceries, made dinner, sat in front of the fireplace and let Frasier ease my mind. Later in the evening Jody called to check up on me. We chatted for over an hour. It was one of those easy conversations, nothing profound, controversial or overly emotionally engaging.  It was just two people shooting the breeze to pass time like it was any other day in the year. I needed that. Afterwards I made myself a mixed batch of antidepressants and vitamins. It was enough to put me to sleep before the dreadful midnight celebration.

I have always believed that I am a hopeful, positive and resilient person. I trusted in my ability to be focused and determined to change my circumstances and achieve whatever goals I have set for myself. But it’s hard to constantly hold onto all those beliefs after two full years of extreme loneliness. I find myself slipping in and out of depression constantly. Two steps forward one step back. I am making the best of it. But sometime the best is just not enough. And with time comes permanence.

Unfortunately a new calendar does not get rid of all our old baggage. What seemed as temporary are here to stay. Whatever regrets we had continue to hunt us. Whatever quarrels that are unsettled continue to divide us. Whatever insufficiencies we hold within us and obstacles that are ahead of us continue to delay us from reaching our potential. One thing at a time I tell myself. It all takes time. I’ll be turning 30 this year. It’s insignificant in the larger scheme of things but a small milestone nevertheless. I have done a lot. There is still a lot to do. We all get one pass to the amusement park and I’m not ready to checkout until I have been on every ride.

I don’t have a New Year’s resolution. All I know is that I can’t continue on this downward spiral much longer. Things either have to drastically change or I have to somehow slip into completely oblivion. Brett smokes pot and watches sports to occupy his mind. Frank uses daydreaming as a coping method. Matt escapes to the movies. I occasionally find comfort in writing but I need something more substantial, involved and meaningful. Idleness is kryptonite to an overactive mind. I need a distraction, an obsession and an inspiration because subsistence is just not a worthy cause.

Soon I’ll be starting in the running club, volunteer at the nursery and maybe even freelance at an evening job. I’m not convinced that any one of those is much beyond occupation of my time and energy but I’ve got to start somewhere. As nice as it is to be cooped up inside in front of the fireplace with my cats, I need human interaction. It didn’t seem obvious to me before but for much of my life I thought I was ok being a lone but in reality I interacting for a living.

I had thought very seriously about having kids for the last couple of months. I know I want to have kids. Two to be exact, so that when I leave there won’t just be one of them left on this planet like I will be once my parents are no longer here. I’m ok with moving ahead without waiting for prince charming. I don’t know anyone I’d want to have kids with yet I’m uncomfortable with conceiving through anonymous donor insemination. I thought I was ok with not having the perfect happy ever after story but today I realized to move forward also requires me to accept I will not have the perfect conception story. Every possible way to conceive outside of a loving marriage has pluses and minuses. If I can’t settle on a method I will end up with nothing. I will not have the perfect pregnancy. There will be no one around to share my joy. No one to listen to my belly or feel the baby kick. There might not be anyone to hold my hand during labor. No one for an adult conversation after a full day and full night of baby caring. I’m lonely now and there is a whole lot of loneliness ahead. One must accept to move forward. I must practice accepting a little more each day.