#GivingTuesday

“True compassion does not come from wanting to help out those less fortunate than ourselves but from realizing our kinship with all beings.”― Pema Chödrön,

My birthday is coming up in a few days. This year, I wanted to do something nice for someone other than me. In anticipation of my birthday and  #GivingTuesday, as well as Facebook waiving its fee for transaction and the Gates matching funds, I decided to set up a fundraiser for International Rescue Committee on Facebook a few days back.  I have no affiliation to the charity other than seeing its name coming up again and again as a source of  help for refugees, from Syria to Myanmar (Rohingya)  or  to those resettling in the U.S.  I wanted to make sure I select a “good” charity so I looked up the IRC on Charity Navigator which gave them 4 stars and a score over 90 out of 100.  They have been vetted for their accomplishment and found to be an effective organization.  

I am not a refugee nor have I ever known how it is not to have a safe place to call home.  My home has never been torched to the ground, my body never been abused by someone who aims to humiliate and violate me. I had never been undocumented for my existence or documented for the terrible condition I live in. I do not know how to wake up to the sound of gun fires or ashes of my loved ones falling on my hair. I have not experienced terror or hunger beyond imagination. I have not carried  tiny body of a child across a rough terrain for days not knowing if or when we would be rescued.

I have been lucky thus far in life. This is not to say I would never experience any hardship of enormity.  Any one of us could become that “others”  whom were abused, violated, mistreated, turned away in time of needs.

I have indeed grown up in a country  ruled by an authoritarian regime. I do know how to fear those who hold and yield power. I do know how to cower and appease those who hold the mighty guns. I do know how to feel powerless, how to know in my bones my feelings are insignificant, my voice silenced, I as a person irrelevant.

You don’t have to grow up in an unfortunate place or lost your place in the society in order to imagine how to lose everything you have.  Surely, you have lost or misplaced a beloved item, such as a wallet, or something of value that you treasured. You might have even experienced how it is not to have hope at one time or another in your life time.  Most of us could easily remember a person or persons who have come through for us in our hour of need. It could be as small of a deed as a door being opened so that we could walk in carrying heavy loads.   We all have experienced someone letting us cut in line. For the lucky group of us, we have received precious gifts either in money, material items, time, attention or love generously given to us by family, friends or stranger alike.

Once on Facebook, I shared a news story of Rohingya refugees who are currently living in horrific condition in the refugee camp at the Bangladesh border. The article speaks of malnourished children and adults who seemed to have been suffering for a long time. Their bodies are a testament of their chronic suffering.  One of my friends messaged me the next day, saying that this story is not true, and that people just wanted to lobby for money.

This makes me think of  a quote by Brene Brown.  She said that sometimes we cannot walk in other people’s shoes because we would always see through the filter of our lens, but we could choose to believe those who have experienced hardship.   How does a child fake malnutrition?  How do little girls fake the evidence of rape?  Regardless of how the people got to the camp, the facts are irrefutable. They are people with families just like yours and mine.  And all of them are living in conditions that a human should not live in.

At the age of “fake news”, it is all too easy to dismiss those who are not like us, who we cannot imagine being like us. It is difficult not to be a skeptic. I’ve been a skeptic all of my life. I still am to this day. However, there is a difference between being a skeptic and a cynic. When credible evidence blows up in our face, we must believe it.  We might not be able to imagine how it is to live like those who have lost everything they ever had,  but we could choose to believe their experiences.  This I believe is the first step in creating a better world.

Happy Giving.

 

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Fifty and I

Fifty and I am
trapped
in this life I’d cultivated.
Careful, if you’re not so careful

years add to fifty and still feel chained
to the ground
wings clipped
by own teeth, shearing one
feather at a time
until bones exposed
through the thin skin.

Fifty and I am
grateful 
for this life and you
who play a part in this cultivation of
being me
Fifty and I want to learn-

Still a child growing up
slowly to find her fingers
capable of d
oing
so many new things. 
Fifty and I can’t find
my voice
lost it somewhere in the thirties.

Fifty and I tread in this house
like a pair of burglars
afraid

of being heard & seen
breaking fragile things.
This human  fraying
at the seams, threaded too loose
for a set of wings.

 

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Starting the rainy weekend with DNA

 

It’s been raining off and on today. Temperature is a cool 69 F. Fall has started here with leaves in transition from green to gold and rust.  I’ve been working all this afternoon, the nature of my job of late has required that I be tied to a laptop to launch some processes when a string of emails are sent signaling they are ready to be launched.  As such, I have been working a portion of the weekends for the past 4 weeks. Both of my kids are now at college, what else am I going to do with my life anyway, right? Wrong. I could think of many things I would want to do during my weekends but paychecks are great things. Being tied to menial but much necessary tasks in the workflow also makes me less sentimental and lamenting about being an empty nester.  The state of my busyness also makes me think of something else: if a person or a group of people are required to do things on a regular basis and on demand, this busyness robs them of idleness, or creative juices. If you are running a country in an authoritarian regime, you better make sure your underlings are required to perform certain tasks at regular interval of time (like Desmond from LOST) and no rebellion will take place because the whole system seems to depend on you pushing the buttons.

Not to say I am in a vault pressing a button every 108 seconds like Desmond Hume of Lost did so that the island would not be in peril. I am not in a vault. My room does have lots of windows. And I see sun peeking through the rain clouds. I see a cat sleeping on the floor after pestering me to pet her and not being successful.

And I am playing this Kpop song (DNA by BTS) and thinking of a day on Stanford campus where I watched my daughter dance this song and being filmed to make this very video. Life isn’t that bad. Being required to press a button that move things along the workflow or stabilize a fantasy island is a necessary task especially if it triggers a perspective I can reflect on.

Now watch my kid dance her heart out.  The song title is called DNA. And oh, I work with DNA so this is doubly fitting.

 

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There’s no need to go outside.
Be melting snow.
Wash yourself of yourself.
A white flower grows in quietness.
Let your tongue become that flower.  – Rumi

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“Every day I walk out into the world
to be dazzled, then to be reflective.” – Mary Oliver

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Wednesday Poem: The Dream

The Dream

by DAVID SOLWAY

I dreamed that you had ceased to love me—
not that you had come from other beds
back to mine, or gone from mine to others,
just that something in your heart had stopped.

I willed myself awake to find you still
beside me. It was just a dream, I thought,
yet when I turned to kiss you, in your eyes
I saw that you had ceased to love me.

I willed myself awake a second time
to find myself alone, as I have been
these many months, but did not know if it
was terror or relief I felt, and whether

dreams unfold the past or make the future
plain. I dreamed that you had ceased to love me,
and know when I see nothing in your eyes
I can’t dream myself awake a third time.

 

from https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/1997/12/the-dream/377024/

David Solway’s poems are amazing. You can read some of his work here: https://www.theatlantic.com/feed/author/david-solway/

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Rumi for broken hearts and lost souls

Mevlâna Jalâluddîn Rumi translated by Coleman Barks
Be Melting Snow

Totally conscious, and apropos of nothing, you come to see me.
Is someone here? I ask.
The moon. The full moon is inside your house.
My friends and I go running out into the street.
I’m in here, comes a voice from the house, but we aren’t listening.
We’re looking up at the sky.
My pet nightingale sobs like a drunk in the garden.
Ringdoves scatter with small cries, Where, Where.
It’s midnight. The whole neighborhood is up and out
in the street thinking, The cat burglar has come back.
The actual thief is there too, saying out loud,
Yes, the cat burglar is somewhere in this crowd.
No one pays attention.
Lo, I am with you always means when you look for God,
God is in the look of your eyes,
in the thought of looking, nearer to you than your self,
or things that have happened to you
There’s no need to go outside.
Be melting snow.
Wash yourself of yourself.
A white flower grows in quietness.
Let your tongue become that flower.

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Monday

I wish I had let myself be happier. – The Top Five Regrets of The Dying.

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I’ve never felt so alone, which by the way, is utterly a false belief. Perhaps that’s what the thought of having an empty nest does to one’s mind.  Lately at times I just can’t get connected to life.  I switch off before life switches me off as if distancing from connection would spare me from heart breaks. Maybe some of you are familiar with this sense of disconnection. Maybe some of you can’t relate to that. I keep thinking about the top five regrets of the dying: one of which is “I wish I had let myself be happier.” It seems like a simple thing to do. Let yourself be happier. Then why haven’t I done that exactly?

Yesterday at the end of 90 minutes yoga by the beautiful poolside, in the middle of the crowd, I wept, not unlike a child who finally found a way home. It was beautiful and terribly pathetic. While I was holding the final pose, with my body aching, my heart tender and open, I saw myself for who I am for once in my life.  I heard voices of rejection, (what I deemed as ) disapprovals, arguments, looks of disappointments, disdain and indifference, and felt all the heart aches, all the heart-melts, all the little and big things I do to gain approval, to gain acceptance, to gain compliments and validations. I saw  the little ugly terrified child-self who kept trying in all the wrong ways, and all the feet that stepped over her back. I saw the angry hateful witch-self who lashes out at people who love her just because she can.

Ever since my yoga-by-the-pool moment, I can sense the filter I put over my own eyes, my tainted perspectives.  For every rejection or refusal of my wishes by strangers or family, one thing is clear.  Everyone is doing his or her best, fighting his or her own demons while striving for own sense of peace and worth.  It is okay if there is no validation of my perspectives or my existence. It’s okay if suddenly I find myself alone and the whole world against me. It’s okay because I have gotten this far in life with love and support of many people.  It was then that I remembered my parent’s love. How pure. How dependable. How un-vanishing. It was then that I realized I did not have to try so fucking hard all the time to be accepted. It is absolutely okay to breathe, to let go, to lose control, to be whoever I am supposed to be, to remember my values, to stand up for my beliefs, to do things that align with my values and not because I feel I need to prove to be adequate.

Today has been extremely difficult for me, even after waking up with this thought. I faced a difficult challenge today.  And I reacted instead of responding. I threw away all the life lessons I had gained because I was afraid of not being worthy. But I am home now. I am safe with people who would not hurt me (not intentionally anyway). After all, all love has the potential of inflicting pain. I know I did not handle this day in the manner of a stoic but I am breathing now.  Tomorrow when I rise up, I am sure I will mess up again, but hopefully I would do so with a little more bravery, more kindness, more awareness, and with more determination to be happier, and be more okay with life.

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Tuesday Mood: Don’t Wanna Cry

Something fun today. My daughter and her dance team Eclipse (kpop dance group)  recently released their latest cover video seen here. I am so proud of their creativity and perseverance to always outdo themselves.  Also, dancing on the beach, how cool is that, eh?

 

 

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Perspectives

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I’ve been thinking a lot about perspectives lately maybe because my son has just graduated from High School and would soon be leaving home. With this leaving, for the first time in the last twenty years, I would be completely without a dependent child living at home. I would have to wake up, not to tread over to a room to make sure my child get up in time for school, or in the evening, not to holler that dinner is in fact ready but to quietly sit down and eat my own meal.

It used to be that there were two children at home, and then one left, and now the other is about to leave. It used to be that I would either go up the stairs, stand in between two bedrooms and say, “Time to eat” to get my teenagers to leave their rooms. It used to be that I could look up in the rearview mirror and steal glances at two faces I cherish more than anything else in the world. It used to be that my backseat was occupied by two crying toddlers/infants, then noisy singers and hummers, then sullen teenagers or young adults laughing (or staring with annoyance) at their mother’s foolish attempts to engage with them.

There are a lot of “It used to be” in my vocabulary these days.  You can’t avoid this sentimentality if you are a parent, no matter how much you force yourself to look forward to the road instead of glancing back. The future is scary. The future is exciting. The future is kind of lonely, and loads of anxiety producing. Of course, the future now also gives room for my own activities such as yoga at 6 pm, or poetry workshop that goes until 9:30 pm without worrying about hurrying home.

The other day I was thinking about how much sitting around I do in the car, having to commute one hour each way to work. Since I’ve been working for 20 plus years, that is a lot of moments lost in the car. Just when I started to feel sorry for myself, I remember the wonderful High School both my son and daughter have gone to, where something like 26% of the graduating class (The Class of 2017) scored higher than 30 in ACT, and 13 Commended Students and 12 Finalists qualified for the National Merit Scholarship Program. My son being one of the finalists. This is the school where teachers care about the students, and an emphasis is placed on academics as well as athletics.  Oh yes, the best thing is that this school that has given great educational foundations for both of my kids is a public school.  This is the school my kids could go to because we live here in this town.

So, then, my twenty plus years of lost moments in the car with NPR (in my earlier commuting days) and podcasts such as Tim Ferriss Show, The Good Life Project, and Tara Brach these days are not really lost moments, are they? I have raised two great kids who are empathetic, intelligent and open-minded, (who can hum to the tune of “All Things Considered” at the age of four from over exposure to NPR)  and who at the moment are pursuing higher education: my daughter is currently finishing up her second year in Stanford University, and my son is heading to The Ohio State University in the fall. Besides, have I not learned so much from listening to the mentioned sources? How else could I have known about morning rituals, meditations, radical acceptance, stoicism, refugee crisis, immigrants striving for survival and what a good life means to me?

Considering all of that, what am I lamenting about? What am I really tensing against? The future is unknown, as it always is. Hindsight is so clear as it always has been. I have always placed an importance on education and character while raising my kids. Now, here I am, about to let both of them go out on their own. Already my daughter has been on her own for two years, making decisions, good or bad; and striving and trying to establish her own identity. I rarely hear from her during the school year, which I used to take personally as if I had failed as a mother to connect to a child. Recently, I have been looking at her independence, and her desire to be fiercely free of intrusion from parents, as proof that she is an adult now. She will be okay without me. Isn’t that what all parents want? That their child could stand on their own to brave the world. Imagine having a kid who constantly texts the parents for validation, assurance and approval. Then, I’ll have something to worry about.

So all of this writing and thinking is the roundabout way to assure myself that everything will be as everything should be. Good, bad, pretty or ugly, that is what present moment brings, and this reality is nothing new. Whatever this brief span of life brings, this is what I live in, like it or not. I don’t need to make it anything else. I don’t need to stand from the outside and look in. I don’t need to be anxious about. I am already in. So be in this wholeheartedly.  That’s the new perspective.  Here’s what I have found to be working for me these last few weeks: take a walk outside (2-3 miles each day, or aim for over 4 miles on a good day), take in the view of the trees and each blade of grass, each petal of yellow wild flowers, each inhalation of the scent of nature. Look at the green on the side of the road, the turtle crossing the road, the “Share the road” sign which I love because I think about all the things we are sharing on this road: the dogs barking from the windows of the passing cars, the joggers whose sweat pour from their foreheads, the older couples walking hand in hand, the hummingbird fluttering about, the kids on their scooters  rolling downhill effortlessly. And after all of that, even if I try not to, I can’t help but feel my mind shift from worries to celebration.

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