Friday Flight



The gusty winds above San Francisco airport were perhaps a bit too eager to embrace the plane.  We were tossed around  like little pennies inside a washer on a spin cycle set at highest level. The pilot had warned us that the winds would be strong but oh man, I didn’t expect to be that turbulent.  Lots of moans and groans filled the plane as it  swayed from side to side. The feeling of groundlessness shook everyone. I could sense my thoughts quickly ascending  to “This could be the end of it all”.

I closed my eyes, because there was nothing else I could really do. I had been listening to Tara Brach’s meditation podcast during the last twenty minutes.  I let it play on.  Slow out breath. Long deep in breath. Continuing with the inflow and outflow, long and deep.  I let her gentle voice guide my breath. The plane rumbled loudly as if it were a beast in pain.  My head snapped back with the sudden thrust of the plane. No pause between, Tara Brach continued. Be aware of the quality of presence right here. The presence here in this flight for me was terrifying but I let my aliveness of my body be my focal point. Relax, open attention. If something strong arises, strong physical sensation, emotion, sound, letting what arises be right in the center.  Whatever strong, let it be there. Notice how it feels, and the sensations in the body…

I came to San Francisco to see my daughter who is attending Stanford University. She is my first born, my only daughter, my sun, my moon and my star, my used-to-be total Universe. Now, at  twenty years old, almost finishing up her third year in University, she is in fact on the verge of fully grown adulthood. Within a few weeks, she will leave for Japan where she will stay there for six months. She has never left the country on her own before. So this will be another first of many things for her, and yes, for me.

It was very difficult for me when she left my home in St. Louis and started her journey in California three years ago. I was a tiger mama, who helicoptered every aspect of my children’s childhood. Her leaving home was a much needed journey for me too, to find my own self, to see my own fears, to be a witness to my own mistakes.  When both of my kids left home, I suddenly found myself with ample time to reflect on things. It was as if  I flew to thirty thousand feet and saw the true scope and nature of my very humanly flawed journey as a parent and as a human who hasn’t quite figured out almost anything yet.

How many times a day, I try to take control of moments with my own narratives?  True, trying to make sense of a situation and taking control is a much needed coping mechanism of being human. Or else we would all lose our minds and courage to face every day. But still, there is a point when we control too much with our thoughts and actions and forget to let go and let things be what or who they are.  Because ultimately, nothing, not one cell in our own body or not one action or thought in others or indeed nature itself is not within our control. Nor it should be.

It was excruciating to be so honest with myself. To own up to my mistakes.  In spite of me, or because of me, or maybe because of a little of both, my daughter is fiercely independent, and most importantly, a happy and content young adult.

It was fitting to be reminded that I had no ability to harness the wind that tossed our plane like a chew toy. Things we wrestle to take control will wriggle away from our grasping fingers. And we will be grateful years later, to be freed of this need to dominate the scene.  We try to take charge of situations because we are anxious of the uncertain outcomes.  In the end, if we are always positioning to be the one in charge, the one who makes decisions, the ones in control,  it is our anxiety, our resistance to reality, that wins. Every day there will be new events, new challenges, new trials and tests that will come our way.  If we are reacting out of fear, and not responding with clarity, our actions and decisions are not optimal, and many times, in fact, disastrous. The very act of reactivity feeds our fears.

So during the descent to SFO, I took deep breaths after deep breaths as the bile rose in my throat. I listened to the sounds of other passengers voicing their discomfort and fears.  I listened to the squeaks of the metal bird which had seemed so strong four hours ago, and now suddenly became a flimsy little wiry thing being steered left and right by unseen force of nature. I listened to my gut churning with fear. I allowed my grunts to escape from my lips. Most of all, I let things be.

Next thing I knew, one wheel touched the ground, the plane tilted, and then the second wheel scraped the ground. And so we landed, ungracefully and yet, my heart was full of grace.









Posted in daughter, essay, family, Friday Futuring, life, mindfulness, motherhood, post of the day, prose, writing | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What if Wednesday

“When I’m quiet, that’s when the truth emerges.” – Louise Gluck

What if I take each day as it comes, without agenda, without expectation that it will deliver something good, something fun, something to win over, something to “show for?  What if each day is just a day, a day that I pass through, breathe in the air, exhaling out what is not needed, seeing objects as they come into my view, and letting them leave when their time is up?

What if I stop searching for something, a feeling, a knowing, a certainty, anything that soothes and imparts an imprint in my body and mind? As I sit here quietly by myself, I realize that is what I do every day. I search. I subconsciously grade a day as if it were in need of a test of worthiness. Yes, it was a great day. No, the day was a total loss. Yes, I win the day.  No this day brings me down, etc etc etc.


A day is just a day.  I am not even awake all of 24 hours. On average, I sleep fitfully for about 6 hours give or take each night.  That leaves me with 18 hours of awake time during which I do truly look for a cerebral kick  even without knowing. Even reading a poem for example. When at the end of the poem, I go away with “I got it” or “That line was awesome”, my hungry stimulant seeking neurons will stop searching for another kick, at least for a while.

I admit it. I am a pleasure seeking junkie. Not in the way of doing drugs or drinking or sex or anything like that. Just in mundanity of every day life. Some thing needs to sparkle a little; it needs to impart some form of celebration in my brain, or I feel glum or let down. Is it because these days when on the internet everyone else is doing something amazing, at least on appearance? Is this why I feel  I need some form of highlight reel every day?  That is utterly a ridiculous way to live.  Our ancestors certainly never expected their days to have instagram-like moments.  If they don’t get eaten by a sabertooth tiger, they probably considered it a win.

So, since today is designated by me as “What if” Wednesday, I think as an experiment, I should treat tomorrow without any agenda. It will be just a day. Not for me to set expectations on. Just let the day be.


Posted in essay, happiness, life, post of the day, writing | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Reframe: one more tool for your tool kit


“Of course I wake up finally
thinking, how wonderful to be who I am,
made out of earth and water,
my own thoughts, my own fingerprints–
all that glorious, temporary stuff.”

Hello world. I hope Sunday is treating you well. The weekend is coming to an end, and I find myself in an aligned place. As we all know, everything is an illusion, including me and you so who knows how long this harmony is going to last.  Thinking of transiency, I am reminded of a quote I heard this week:  “Happiness is a sensation.” I believe the quote originated from the writer Fran Lebowitz. At first, I was not sure what to make of this claim. To me, happiness is a condition but then I wonder if I have been conditioned to think that way. Conditioned by upbringing or society, I suppose. But assume for a moment that happiness is a sensation, which in many ways it truly is, then just like being cold or hot or pain or tingling, we would expect the feeling of joy to be temporary. There will be no added disappointment when we no longer feel “happy”. This to me was quite a revolutionary concept. Haven’t I always let the feeling of disappointment creep in whenever I feel my temporary state of being happy disappeared? “We used to be so happy,” “Whatever happened to that feeling of being euphorically in love?” “Those are the good old days.” All the lamenting we do when we realize our transient pleasurable moments are gone would not pop in our minds. Being happy is a sensation and therefore, it will not last, just like any sensory stimulus we are subjected to.

This leads to another thought today. Framing. How we frame and re-frame our thoughts and perception alter our interpretation of the world and our lives as we try to make sense of things by telling stories. I do this quite often, i.e., story-telling which feels true but not the truth. And that gets me into trouble with a lot of my relationships and friendships as well as stirring up troubling thoughts.

Then I discovered this tool: Asking a better question to self.

First I state this as a fact: “There are far bigger and more interesting issues/questions/themes to explore or to solve than this particular vexing issue that is keeping me up at night.” The minute I state this to myself, the whole universe full of colors open up to me. The sun is brighter, the sky bluer, the birds sing choruses, flowers bare their marvelous bodies to the wind. I can immediately think of 1,2,3,4, many numerous things that I rather be doing, pondering, tackling, tinkering, solving or learning than the little tiny stress-evoking thoughts that I have been unable to let go.

Like for examples,  “Are my children safe?” “Are they doing well?” “Was the boss unhappy with me?” “Was the email I just read implying something nasty about me?” or “OMG I can’t believe I wrote that email”, “Are they going take me for a fool?” or classic “Holy crap, there is a huge typo or grammatical error in the email/blog post I just sent/published.”

All of these trivial issues that linger on my mind, which usually amount to nothing, (because ultimately, no one, including myself, really truly cares) will instantly become uninteresting the minute I say to myself, “I know for a fact there are much more interesting things to solve or learn or do in the world than worrying about X,Y,Z.  What would I rather be solving, creating, doing if I am not obsessing over this?”

I am much happier, calmer, centered, aligned when I zoom out my lens and find the real problems I can solve. Or at the very least, reframing help me get into more engaging liberating hobbies such as writing poetry; I can ponder about one word all day long and won’t get me down.  Heck, there is legitimacy in analyzing words which seems almost silly in other fields but necessary in this craft.  I couldn’t agree more with Oscar Wilde who said,  I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again. Similar scenario in  visualizing data– I can spend two hours debating on which graph tells the story better and no one would call me crazy.

So you see, by asking myself this question my overly analytic mind is finally finding real issues that beg/need to be analyzed instead of keeping me small in a self-made cell. For once, I don’t feel a bit defensive, when someone says to me “You’re overthinking this.”

Posted in happiness, life, Mary Oliver, post of the day, prose | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The “R” word: Rohingya Refugees



– Louis Gluck


“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.” – Elie Wiesel

We never used to believe the military. We were born afraid within the walls that spied on us. Even a rumor of a whisper of dissent could make us disappear into thin air. We knew this. We accepted this. For over fifty years, we are made aware of the power of those who control us in Burma. We saw students imprisoned, gunned down, beaten to death, in 1988 uprising. We saw Buddhist monks stripped of their robes, tortured and thrown in prison in 2007.  If on rare occasions, someone dared to say out loud how restricted our lives were, how imprisoned our minds were, we admired her bravery, believed her and held her courage as our beacon toward freedom.  What was learned with our first breath has to be shed by hard work, and bravery.

My father used to say that he would not live to see the day Burma was set free. True, it would be over two decades after his death before Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy became officially recognized as elected leaders of Burma. Even then, they were not given a free rein to legislate or to govern. To this day, Burma remains besieged under the military and the now behind-the-scene-pulling-strings generals who continue to grasp onto their ruling power. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is constitutionally barred from the presidency, and had to resort to creating a State Counselor position to be part of the legislating body. Regardless of any future election outcome, 25% of the parliamentary seats are always reserved for the military. Still, as I write this in 2018, because of the outcome of 2015 election, the country is now freer; freeer to trade, freer to speak, freer to think. Except one more problem.

Last night, I was on the phone with my friend’s daughter for about thirty minutes. Long after the conversation ended, my mind remained ablaze for half of the night.  I had agreed to talk to her on the subject of the Rohingya refugees as she was gathering facts and opinions for a discussion to be held at her University. If you are unfamiliar with the Rohingyas, please Google, and you will see page after page of atrocities committed against this group of “Stateless” people, who in fact had lived within the borders of Burma for decades if not centuries, but  never been recognized as citizens.

The influx and efflux of population between countries are bound to happen when the borders are porous and border patrols non-existent as it is between Burma and Bangladesh.  The tension between this minority Muslim group and the majority Burmese Buddhist population has long existed, due in part to the country being under a military regime for decades which effectively encouraged discrimination against non-Burmese and non-Buddhists. The general despised anyone who was not Burmese or Buddhist. They were not allowed to get higher education of their choices, or allowed to own property. Our minds were inundated with propanganda against the non-citizen, minority religious groups.

Even after the democratic movement semi-prevailed by having Daw Aung San Suu Kyi as the elected state counselor, the shadow of military and its indoctrination linger in this country.  When a handful of Rohingyas attacked a few police outposts last year, the military and the Buddhist locals retaliated disproportionately to the point of what the world now termed as “ethnic cleansing”. Over 600,000 Rohingyas have streamed into the neighboring country, ending up in crowded refugees camps.

As a Burmese, I , along with the whole country full of people, adore and worship Daw Aung Sann Suu Kyi who has shown us the way out of our hell hole “Burmese Way to Socialism”. The economic and press freedom are finally starting to bloom in the country. Foreign investments are pouring in. If you ever visit Yangon, the former capital and the city that never pauses, you know what I am referring to. Every minute new buildings are going up, next to the crumbling dilapidated old ones. Don’t blink, or you will miss yet another shining upscale mall being constructed. And the city is ripe with opportunities, unlike the dooms day of socialism. From high schoolers to street peddlers, they all carry cell phones and conduct business. In general, compared to General Ne Win’s regime, people dress better, appear to live better, and hope better. At the same time, if you take a taxi to venture out to the outskirt of Yangon, you still see people living by the side of the streets in make-shift “homes” constructed of a few bamboo poles, worn-plastic tarp as walls and roofs. Next to the road, in front of their homes, they sell used tires, cook in the back rooms, sleep in the spare spaces, shit behind the shelters in barely covered toilets. Those are the Burmese you don’t see over the looming billboards of Yangon. Here, in this space, every day, someone out there is hoping she/he will make a buck to stretch another day. He/she does not have time to care about some Muslims group in the western part of the country being hacked to death and buried in a mass grave by the military.

What about then, I  wonder, what about the middle class and upper income people who can drive the latest models of cars and not having to worry about what to eat for the day? They too appear not to care or even admit the possibility of an atrocity committed by the same aggressive and tyrannical military.

If we Burmese believed that we as the majority of population, were repressed for five decades at the hands of the same merciless rulers, why would we now not believe the suffering of a minority group? Could this sentiment have been changed if Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, from the beginning of this conflict, expressed her support for equality and the need for justice? Would we the Burmese demand for justice and equality for all, if she had instructed, similar to the way her speeches had inspired us to fight for democracy?

Instead, from my perspective, not until recently, she never clearly addressed directly to the people of Burma, and to the people of Rakhine and to Rohingyas,  or set  an example of good will, or the need for us to get along or to warn us that if we fight amongst ourselves, we would lose our hard-earned semi-freedom. Or even if she did, I never heard of it. Then, most people would not have either. It made no impact on people’s long-held animosity toward the Rohingyas.

I have gotten into heated debates and fierce arguments over this issue.  Even the most giving, the most generous and kind-hearted Burmese who practice the true Buddhism, i.e., to love all beings and to treat each other with kindness, would get angry, agitated, and defensive when I say we must treat the minority as our own.

The responses have been most disheartening, such as,  “They are not refugees, because they don’t belong in Burma.” or that “They are not Rohingyas Muslims. They are Bengalis, not Burmese. Therefore they have no rights or claims inside the country.” “If a guest is behaving badly, he must be forced to leave the house,” or “Don’t believe the stories. They are all fake news” even as the satellite images showed burned villages and malnourished children and rape-victims  showed up in refugee camps.

I am not denying that  a handful of Rohingyan people caused damage and loss of life when they attacked the security outposts.  But how can 1 million people, be ALL terrorists? The claim that 600,000 people burned their own villages and left their belongings so that they could move into a refugee camp is more than ludicrous. It is criminal.

History is full of stories of how the powerful suppressed the powerless while countries full of good generous people turned blind eyes toward injustice. The abusers have always tried to strip identities of their victims as a way to dehumanize and deny their existence. When we are called a number and not by our name, when we are forced to sit at the back of the bus, when we are denied of a word that describes our identity and our level of suffering, when we are made to be “the other”, we are stripped of our humanity and our belonging to society.

It pains me to see the headlines screaming “ethnic cleaning” in Burma. Not my beloved Burma, the country ranked as one of the most generous. But when the hard truth hits us in our faces, we must reckon with the reality. This is the only way we can become who we aspire to be, to reveal our true Buddha nature. Everyone, regardless of whom they are born to, must be welcomed and treated as equal. We must make long journeys and walk in their sooted shoes if that is what it takes.







Posted in aung san suu kyi, burma, post of the day | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Happiness is a decision

“Sometimes I really believe it, that I am going to
save my life

a little.”

– Mary Oliver


Thursday thought is short, simple and sweet.

Sometimes, you need to get out of your head, and get into your body.

I’ve been thinking about a lot of things today, mainly about “call and response” or “action and reaction.” I often think of a quote I read from Viktor E. Frankl.  He said, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” Despite knowing this, implementing this space to grow is  a very difficult thing for me.  This mind of mine likes to magnify every bit of unsettling discoveries, and inspect them bit by bit under a microscope in the hope of understanding.  But what ends up happening is that instead of “A-ha moments”, I get myopia. I lose sight of the big picture.

For example, for reasons I don’t want to go into, I tend to seek immediate gratification and immediate validation on every effort I put in. It is vain. It is immature. It is shallow and all the other terrible labels I can think of. If I don’t get immediate gratification, I either lash out, or go into self-blaming and depression. I admit and recognize this, much to my pain. Tara Brach always quotes Buddha, who said, we should not shoot second arrows. Meaning, if you ever got shot by an arrow which in this case could be a mistake you made or some blame you take, would you then shoot yourself another arrow by self-blaming and judgement? For me, when I try to avoid this second arrow, I would then go into an analytical mode, trying to understand my own actions and would come up with some explanation or rationalization which may be false but feel true. It is my coping mechanism.  I do this over and over again.  Today I realize I need to stop doing this because it is not working.

When I do something stupid to get attention, or validation or recognition, a pat on my back, and I realize it, I need to stop judging myself, or stop analyzing things to death. Just simply notice it with kindness. And then move on. But how? How does one stop life-long bad habits?

Here’s one way. Get out of my head. Do a scan of my body after noticing my need for love and acceptance. Where in my body is tense, where in my body is soft and tender, where in my body feels the weight of this world, where it feels gravity, where it feels light. When I do this, to my surprise, I can let go of my previous grip on whatever it is that is bothering me. Whatever it is that has been forcing me to stay small will loosen.

Here’s another hack to get out of my mind: move my body. Meaning, get to the gym. Like right now.  Get some cardio. Feel the endorphins kick in. See the world in a zoomed out lens. I can then laugh at my trivial problems.

“I actually think happiness is the absence of suffering. It comes from peace. That comes from being careful about desire, judgment, and reaction.” Naval Ravikant



Posted in happiness, post of the day | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Saturday Introspection


best self

Today I am pondering about the notion of “the best version”. The best version of me, the best version of you, the best version of being human, etc etc etc. That’s the new saying I keep hearing, and I find myself repeating and adopting this new stance. When I was young, the slogan of choice (at least in my part of the world) was to be the best. Now, I am hearing more of, well, not the best but how about to be your best. Which makes me wonder, what is my best version?  Do I even know? Does anyone?

When I say, I want to give the best of me, I hear, there is an “escape clause” built in. The door is cracked slightly for slacking. In other words,  for people like me who don’t think highly of themselves or lack confidence in self, I am making room to slack off.  This way, I could very well default to, “Hey that was my best version at the time”. There is already an air of resignation for failure.  I know, I know, I can’t very well promise to be “the best” because there are always tons of people who are better than at whatever I do. They will write better, they will think better, they will act better, they are better.  So at least prepare to give myself a break, right?

Except, there is one thought that has been on my mind ever since the last time I thought, “hey, wouldn’t be great if I can be better than my best self?”  What if I don’t know my own capacity at all because I haven’t fully tested it?

Think of human history for instance. I honestly doubt we would be taking flights into the sky or diving under the water if certain people thought “let’s be our best human selves.” We weren’t meant to fly but we now are. We weren’t meant to see the bottom of the ocean, but we are. We weren’t meant to communicate through a completely wireless medium but we are. Not one of those pioneers and visionaries held themselves back by being their best selves. They broke molds and expectations. They narrate their own realities. True, a lot of people died trying to make unreal become real. A lot of people went down in flames literally and metaphorically. A lot of people never saw their inventions and imaginations come to life.

But damn. Aren’t we so lucky to have these nutters who attempted the impossibles? Every step of someone’s failure paves way for another one to build upon. Last week, I  declared right here in this blog that I am genetically incapable of becoming a fitness goddess because I am a five feet tall middle age midget who have not had a role model to look up to. Shouldn’t my time be better served  planning for retirement and not beginning new adventures like body building or poetry writing? Or am I just wearing the labels society put on me? The labels I put on myself are my self-limiting thoughts.

What sort of thoughts that have held us back because we can’t imagine ourselves beyond our beliefs about who we are supposed to be? Quiet the voice that shushes us with “Who do you think you are?”

We don’t know what we won’t become if we never try.  As Soman Chainani said in this interview with Tim Ferriss:  “Jump. Commit. Let your body do the work. Fly”

We are more than what we think we can offer. We are more than our best selves.



Posted in essay, post of the day | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

I take selfies


Let’s face it. I am not young. My face isn’t young. My body isn’t getting younger. If I sit for a while, my legs hurt, my knees stiffen. I need glasses to read my phone which is a bitch when I am driving because I have no idea what the words are saying. When I text by dictation to Siri, she almost always misunderstands me because of my accent, which I didn’t even know as “thick” but evidently it is. When I don’t exercise, I gain a belly that looks like a wrinkled cantaloupe if there’s such a thing. I don’t eat much but my metabolism has gone downhill along with my estrogen. Which really pisses me off.

I don’t remember the last time I sleep soundly.  Slightest amount of worries keep me up. Smallest sound jerks me awake. If it’s too warm, or too cold, I toss and turn. I used to take sleep for granted. Now it is my most precious commodity like water in a desert. I have watched the clock move hour by hour all night, and felt despair weighed me down.  Most mornings, my face looks saggy-sad, with swollen bags under my eyes. If not for BB creams and concealers, I’d look downright meth-scary.

To combat this, I take control of the situation.  I drag my aging ass to the gym. I hired a trainer. I watched Youtube videos. I follow fitness girls on Instagram. To my surprise. I find that I actually like working out if it’s not cardio intensive. Lifting weights makes me feel like a badass because I’ve always been that skinny kid on the beach whose got sand kicked in the eyes by bulky bullies. But then when I go to work out at the gym, I first have to overcome the feeling of inadequacy. While other women looks like goddesses with their lululemoned-asses and Victoria Secrets’ boobs, I look one part pubescent child, one part Mulan’s grandmother, one part puppy-cute mainly due to my small size. I am like the asian Harvey Dent/Two-Face: one minute I am passable, the next, cringe-worthy. Even my mother once said, “Sometimes, you’re pretty but other times, you can be quite ugly.” Ouch. Truth hurts.

Since the new year began, I’ve been good about going to the gym and working as hard as I can. Maybe to prove to myself, I can and am capable of improving my body and mind. Or that I am capable of sticking to a goal and seeing it to through. Whatever the motivation is, I’ll take it. It’s doing wonders for my spirit. The control freak in me likes that I am doing something, anything about this inevitable part of life called getting older.

I won’t lie though. When I go to the gym and see perfect girls doing their perfect workouts, it makes me envious, depressed and motivated at the same time. I am quie aware that I am genetically incapable of  becoming the “bubble butt workout girl” no matter how much I try. I could only be the best version of this me. Which is what I am really after, but dang, wouldn’t it be great if I can be more than the best me?

Like I said, I am one part vinegar, one part sugar, one part salt and fluffy flour. You cannot put me in one box and call me “negative” or a “downer”. While I feel deflated about the shape I am in, and how even my ultimate potential of my “best self’ may never amount to much, I am at the same time determined to work as much as I can to see how far I could go, or push my body and mind. The very thing that makes me sad makes me happy.  Does that make sense? No?

It’s similar to this: the same people who piss me off to no end are the same people I would die for. It’s called Family.  You would know what I am talking about if you have a close-knit big mouthed big hearted but incredibly amazing family.

Someone called me old and I will show him how “old” can squat more than her bodyweight and deadlift one and a half time her body weight, proving any challenger wrong. Call me old and I will show you my aging ugliness, proving you right because inside that bench presser is a small skinny imperfect child. She will agree with you that she is weak even when she kicks your ass. Does that make sense?

I am complicated. As we all are. We are upside down, up and down, creatures. We are old outside and young inside. At any age, we are also made of  youthful skin and hardened hearts, wrinkled bodied with starstruck eyes.

Have the lens of your camera face you. You’ll see all of the above and none of the above. A mixture of mismatches: heart, soul, body, mind, intentions, misteps, will power and indomitable spirit. All is beauty even if you call it ugly.


Posted in body, essay, life, post of the day, shittyfirstdrafts | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Friday Futuring

Listen. Are you breathing just a little and calling it a life? – Mary Oliver


I don’t know about you, but maybe because we are at the onset of a new year, or maybe because I just turned a big birthday,  I have been looking back at my life (as they say hindsight is 20/20) as well as looking ahead (visibility is poor here).  I came to a conclusion that I am at the start of a journey, even at this age.  When I say the start of a journey, I don’t mean the beginning of adult life or the beginning of a career or a job etc. I do mean the beginning of another journey: the journey of my second life, my unlived life.

Most of you are already aware that in August of 2017, my youngest went away to the University, and with that, my new life begins as an individual who no longer has anyone depending on her to solve minor problems, or take care of things, or chat about silly things.  There is no longer, “How is your day?”  or “What was lunch at school?” for me to ask. There is no more of “Have you done your homework?” for me to nag about. There is no girl smiling or scowling at my silly jokes, or no boy making fun of my appearance or giving me surprise hugs. When I get up in the morning, I no longer make my way to the rooms down the hall to rouse the teens out of their beds. I don’t have to yell at anyone because they are running late, or laugh with pleasure because they say or do something clever and witty.  The house is quiet except for the sound of the television or the meow of a cat who keeps insisting she needs to be let outside in the cold.

Here is my morning routine: I get up, I meditate if I do not oversleep, I make coffee, I drive to the gym in the morning and head to work.  Because the commute is an hour long, I listen to podcasts after podcasts about finding happiness or protocols for self-improvement. I am forever excited by the prospect of improving myself, but seldom carry out the practices recommended by so-called experts of life.

At the end of the day, I do the same.  I drive to the gym on my way home, if I have not gone in the morning, then head back home, make dinner occasionally  or eat fried eggs on most nights (very healthy).  Because right now is in the middle of winter, I don’t feel like getting out in the evening again. By the time I get home, the world has already turned dark, weather plummeted to marrow-freezing cold.  So, I stay inside. I work some more if work demands it, or else I read, do some writings, binge on TV series, and a lot of internet-ing. Maybe, I might meditate a few minutes before bed if my mind is cluttered with stressful things.  In the morning, I start all over again. Sounds fun, right?

With no kids  suddenly I have so much time on my hand. And yet, I feel as if I never had enough time to do everything I need to do.  In other words, I feel as though I am trashing my most precious commodity i.e. time as if it were garbage.

Here’s a topic I am wondering today: Unlived life or if I want to be fancy, I’ll call it “yet-to-be-manifested potential”. As the author Steven Pressfield says, “Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.”

Meaning, what is it in me that I have not yet let out to make it real because of some form of resistance/fear or another? I am middle-aged now. As they say, days are long but years are short.  Considering my father died at 63 or 65 (I can’t remember), I could very well be near the end of life. Or if I take after my mother who is 86, I could very well have a good 30 years or more ahead of me.

What I am trying to say is that time is precious now.  What  I do with my time, whether a day left or decades left, I should spend it doing what I love, what I treasure, exploring what will bring a deep sense of gratification in the end.  Right now, I am recognizing the fact that there is a yearning in me. In fact, it has been slowly festering for a number of years now.  I want to be healthier, happier, more fulfilled. A person whose values are aligned with actions. I want to be happy for no reason.  I want to be fit as a fiddle, being able to feel good about my body and mind.  I want to be a true artist, devoting my time and nurturing my Muse so she will always offer a hand to pull me out of a rut.

There are a lot of wants, and not a lot of dos, in the above mentions.   I know me. I am more excited by the thought of the destination and the to-do lists for the journey, then the destination itself. After all, over the years, I have indeed started many new things but rarely seen to completion. My Facebook newsfeed will remind me every day in January with declarations I made 2 years ago, 3 years go, 5 years ago, that “Finally back to the gym!” only to see March came and no more gym-clarations on my wall because by then I am sitting at home eating cookies and cakes.

So then, I ask myself.  How do I make sure I don’t fizzle out of my intentions this year?  How do I know I won’t get bored or become lazy when faced with the tedious but much necessary steps I need to do consistently to achieve my goals?

For one, I feel different this year, which gives me hope.  For the first time in my life, I see this me who always seeks validation and acceptance, who flits from one thing to the next like a humming bird because one thought will lead to another and I will follow them all. This perspective reminds me to pause my brain from thinking, step back, fly above the earth to get a better view. I  have now learned to zoom out in certain moments instead of always pulling out my metaphorical magnifying glass. I am learning to say “pause” whenever I feel the urge to answer a text promptly, or chase one new thing to the next.

It’s really quite simple. The rule of bringing out the hidden part of me is this: “Focus” and “consistency.”

Focus on single tasks. Do it every day.

  1. If I want to be a poet, read a poem every day. (I am reading more Mary Oliver this week. She saves me). Write or edit poems every day.  No matter what. Even if I am writing crap poems, write it anyway. Treat it like a job and not like a hobby. Go pro!
  2. If I want to be a fitness goddess (kidding, a fit person)  I need to hit the gym every day. I need to train hard, learn harder, (this channel Athlean-X is Xtra X-cellent!) know body’s limits and push myself. No pain no gain.  Eat better. Plan meals ahead of time. No 2 pm vending machine visits at work just because I am bored.
  3. If I want to have a calm mind, an aligned life, then meditate. Be mindful of my emotions. Notice more. Judge others less, judge myself the least. Practice this every day. I use this app (Headspace) this week and it really helps me.
  4. If I want to be more knowledgable, learn. Devote time each day to learn something new. Data visualization or woodworking, just read, practice, ask.

Do more. Think less. Let the body leads me. Not the incessant thinking mind which quibbles and argues and rationalizes the volumes of reasons why I should not do the things I know I should do.

This is how one brings out unlived -life into a life living.  This is how I intend to turn “pro” as the author Steven Pressfield puts it.

“What happens when we turn pro is, we finally listen to that still, small voice inside our heads. At last we find the courage to identify the secret dream or love or bliss that we have known all along was our passion, our calling, our destiny.”
― Steven Pressfield, Turning Pro

I’ll check back in February. And let you know how unlived-me is living.



Screen Shot 2018-01-26 at 2.51.47 PM

Gym Days in January



You can see the dip in PBF (Percent Body Fat) in December 2017, which is a couple of weeks after I started strength training.

Posted in Friday Futuring, post of the day | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Current mood



The color of crushed
grapes planted in spring, five years ago.
No one remembers the weather
when the vines were born
and their fruits squeezed

into the oak barrels
shipped from somewhere in France

where I had walked alone
in the unlit streets, followed only
by my birthday shadow

And a handful of pickpocketers
seeing a prey, their easy picking
for the week.


Posted in poem, poetry | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment


“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.


Posted in givingtuesday, post of the day | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment