reminiscences

I feel numb. I’m having one of those escapism spells again, and now spend every waking hour either reading time-travel novels or listening to audio books. Only when I have to use my brain for something else, such as having a conversation with another human being, my mind would very briefly visit the reality. Even when I was eating, or brushing my teeth, I still had my iPad in front of me so I could continue with the story. I guess that’s why I like bath more than shower!

But then I laugh. Haven’t I always been like that? When I was in my 8th grade, I was multitasking one day, cooking rice and reading a novel at the same time. The electronic rice cooker did not exist then, and I had perfected the skill of making rice by overfilling the pot with water and filtering out the excess water after some boiling. That day I was happily stirring the rice with one hand, while holding a book on the other hand, cooking my famous rice dish. To get rid of the excess water, I had to put the book down on the counter. The book turned on its spine and opened itself up to occupy more of the counter space while I was lifting the pot and trying to put the pot on the counter. In order not to get the book dirty, I used one of my hands to push the book away. I certainly overestimated my strength, and the pot was too heavy for me to hold on with just one hand. So the accident happened. I dropped the pot and dumped the boiling rice mixture on my legs.

I remembered my parents’ anguish over my months of hospital stay, but I don’t remember the pain anymore. The reminiscence of the hospital days were more sweet than bitter, as I spent weeks doing nothing but eating, sleeping and reading. My new skin from waist to toe was raw pink for a long time, and I was able to skip all gym classes even though I was well enough to do anything.

When I was younger, I thought that all kids read non-textbooks under the quilt with a flashlight. And my first year college dormitory living proved me right. All of my 6 roommates did the same thing after the lights-out. But I don’t think anyone went as far as I did in order to read novels in the classroom. During elementary and junior/senior high school, the seating were determined in the beginning of each semester. For as far as I could remember, I always deliberately picked the wooden desk that had a gap or a hole in the middle. It wasn’t too hard to do, though sometimes I had to help the size or position of the opening with a small knife. During the class, I would pretend to listen to the instructors, but my hands would be flipping pages under the gap and my mind would be completely immersed in a novel. I don’t know how I was able to keep good grades. Just imagine what I could have become if I didn’t waste all my time in my dreamy fantasy land…~OT158AI001F

Anyway, I just found this picture of my elementary school class. No, unfortunately I am not the pretty girl in red with braids, smiling sweetly like a princess. I am the out-of-focus one on the right with glasses.

At least I’m adult now and I don’t need to hide under the quilt or dig a hole in a desk. If I want to stay up and read all night and can live with the panda eyes the next morning, it is my prerogative entirely.

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so bored

There are three assistants whom I work with on a daily basis. One of them is a young and beautiful woman from Brazil. I’ve heard, before starting to work with her, that she is cold to everyone, and sure enough, she keeps her distance from me as well. I don’t blame her, being a good looking woman working in a male dominated world, I wouldn’t show too much zealousness either. Anyway, she forgot to tell me some procedures, and it triggered one of those emails that copied everyone and their mother.

Adopting the LIFO method (last in first out) with my emails, I dutifully did a “reply all” when I saw the accusatory message. After playing ping-pong via emails a few times, I finally realized that I was being an office politics fool. It is the administrative manager’s responsibility to train the administrative assistants, and the oversight of my assistant would ultimately point back to them, either by way of inadequate training or mismanagement. Why did I insert myself in the email threads at all?

Anyway, when the administrative manager sent a separate email just to me and requested to talk offline, I stopped my “reply all”. I promptly forgot about the incident for 4~5 hours, until I walked pass the administrative manager’s office. Cheerfully, I walked in and asked whether she wanted to talk. To my amusement, she scolded me for not knowing the procedure and demanded me to take responsibility. Although I don’t play the office politics game, it doesn’t mean I don’t know the rules. I realized that she needed to perform a “slap on the wrist” in order to bury the issue under the rug.

I began to list the facts, then I felt some extreme boredom came over me. It was like I left my body to observe two adult wasting time playing a monotonous game in the sand. So instead, I smiled, and said that we would do better next time and left her office. No wonder “running interference with management” is a defined role in some teams. I’m glad that I don’t have to do a lot of that.

On the bright side, the assistant from Columbia, who is older but also attractive and very elegant, had always treated me as if I was her little sister. She even told me where to park to kill sometime between my meetings. And here is a picture from her recommended parking spot.

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are we too busy to draw?

IMG_2070-001Flipping through art books and looking at the paintings and drawings from the 1800s, my eyes are drawn toward the floral print on women’s dresses or the patterned wallpaper in the background. I’m enthralled by the details shown in these artworks. It must have taken the artists weeks or months to paint or draw all that detail.

Although it could be a meditating activity, I cannot picture myself doing this type of work. I would like to be able to draw free-handed without the aid of a camera, but the thought of spending a whole afternoon or a whole day on drawing wallpaper patterns seemed daunting. It also seemed not to warrant the time and effort, especially in this digital world where duplicating a complex image takes virtually no time whatsoever.

But where do we draw the line as to whether an activity is worthy or not? How do we evaluate whether time is well spent? I don’t have the answer. All I know is this, I don’t currently possess a heart that is quiet enough to draw ornate ornaments 3 hours at a time.

My instructor inspired me last night, as he often does. He had achieved pinnacle academically, having a MFA from Yale. Although not in Arts professionally, in other words he holds a normal job, he still paints and draws regularly. My guess is that he is one of those traditional artists, who put his artistic integrity above material needs and who’s never satisfied with his own work, that he would probably be famous one day after his death when the world finally have a chance to view his art. He told us that these days he draws more than he paints, because drawing takes less time. He only gets half an hour lunch break at his work, and he would use that time to draw, sometimes in his car. I routinely waste half a day either in mindless novels / TV episodes or in bare idleness. And I’m the one who always complain about having no time.

Ashamed, but I still read till 1:30am nonetheless. How can I transition out of these passive activities and into some more productive ones?

Alex and the young Asian pianist

11.Bolshoi_Theatre_1I went to a piano recital last night, hoping to see Alex. Alex is a 70 some years old man, whom I met in the last recital. I’m usually not a big fan of the classics, but Alex played with such joy that I couldn’t help being affected by his mood. He played Beethoven’s Pathetique 1st Movement. I didn’t know I was fond of Beethoven before that night!

Interestingly, another performer that night, a young Asian woman, also performed that exact piece. So I had the rare opportunity of comparing different playing styles on the same piece of music. You’d think they ought to be quite similar if not identical, as it is classical music. But they were blatantly different. The young Asian woman was a better pianist. Her strokes were clean and her techniques were impeccable. But I didn’t feel it. I didn’t feel the joy and the passion in her play. I only heard perfection.

It reminded me of my visit to Bolshoi Theater Moscow to see Swan Lake. The dance was flawless, the lead male dancer’s technique was beyond reproach, and all in all it was an excellent show. But, yes I know, there is always a “But”. After each piece of music, the dancers would stop to bow and curtsy to the audience and to receive applause. Don’t get me wrong. I’m more than willing to give applauses. It’s just these pauses broke up the story flow, and you couldn’t get as emotionally involved with the show as you would otherwise do.

I chatted with Alex after the performance, and I asked him when he started to play piano. He smiled and said that he started when he was already in his adulthood in his 20s. I could see that he really enjoys playing and I could picture him playing hours and hours for fun at home. Then I realized, I don’t envy perfection. I envy passion. I want to be just like Alex.

the 99th birthday

IMG_1383Maybe posting each morning is a bad idea, as I obviously is a night person. Yesterday morning I wrote a long post but hated it instantly, so I left for lunch without publishing it. The lunch was 3 1/2 hours long, and I was exhausted after I got back. I took a nap, got up and ate dinner, watched a bit TV and surfed around a bit on the net. And it was 10pm already. I was finally wide awake and feeling energized to write about my day. Of course I then wrote something entirely different from what was in my mind in the morning.

In any case there were many small and irritable things as usual during the day that were too tedious to describe here, so let’s skip them and go to something good. The above mentioned long luncheon was an alumni event, where I was almost always the youngest member. I’m really popular there, as my attendance brings down the average age of the group significantly. There are two ladies in the group, one has just reached 99 this past Monday, and the other one is about to reach 99 in a couple of weeks. Amazingly, both of them are still mentally sharp.

I cannot imagine a long life without healthy mental capacity. Honestly, if my mind goes, I would rather die. I like The Matrix the movie, and the Indian concept of Maya. If you tell me to run on the treadmill for an hour in order to extend my life for an hour, I would definitely refuse to do it. Even the exercise to longevity ratio goes to 200%, I’m still not sure whether I would want to waste 5 years on a treadmill in exchange for 10 more years of life. Especially if I don’t know what qualify of life the prolonged 10 years would be like. But if you tell me to cut down sugar because it would build a crust on the surface of the brain like the torched crème brûlée, I would definitely listen to you earnestly. It is no fun to be a zombie.

my board of directors

IMG_0221Per Ms. Wikipedia, “a board of directors is a body of elected or appointed members who jointly oversee the activities of a company or organization.”

Can I run my life as if I’m running a company? If so, won’t it be nice to have a board? “But that’s a preposterous idea. It would be hard enough to find one person, whom you admire, and who is willing to commit time to get to know you, and to guide you through life as your life coach or mentor, never mind a whole group of people to be on your board. Who do you think you are?” I thought to myself. Frankly, I’d be lucky to find someone just to bounce ideas off from time to time.

But surely I can create an imaginary board. The meetings would all be in my head. I would picture myself having coffee or walking alongside of a board member, and asking him or her: “What would you do given the same situation?” I would then put myself in his or her shoes, and answer the question in his or her perspective. I would play the role seriously, taking their background, upbringing, field of excellence and their perceived political and social values into consideration, even their clothing and talking habits, and answer the question the way they would if they were really there.

I plan to start with 5 imaginary board members. You always want an odd number of people so you have a tiebreaker. Initially, I wanted all dead people. This way, I don’t have to worry about running into one of them on the street and feel that I know the person intimately since I’ve had countless imaginary conversations with him or her already. It would be embarrassing and somewhat creepy. But then I thought that the chance of running into one of them is very remote and I don’t want to miss out on opinions of my contemporaries, so I decided to include living board members as well.

Having these living board members made me unsure about sharing their names here on this blog. But then, what is an anonymous blog for? Plus, it’s not like I have many visitors. So here are my current imaginary board members in the order of their birthday:

  • Peter the Great
  • My Great-Grandma
  • Louis Cha (Jin Yong)
  • Malcolm Gladwell
  • Gwyneth Paltrow

Now if I have a problem to address or a critical decision to make, I can consult with my board. I would meet up with each one separately to get their thoughts, then present my case to the entire group. Then I would accept and implement whatever the outcome of the meeting. Since it is ultimately ME in the voice and experience of these people, the decision is ultimately my own decision. And if it is a wrong one, at least it would be a well-thought-out one, and I can live with the consequences.

reaching perfection

IMG_0967Oh my emotions were like 50 foot ocean waves yesterday, but when it came to writing today’s post, I got nothing.

It’s not that I don’t want to share. It’s just that I myself have absolutely no idea as to why I had such stormy moods, what triggered it, and what it meant to me.

At least it gave me a good release of tears, which I heard was tremendously good for one’s health.

When I finally got home and had dinner last night, I went under the cover immediately afterwards. My mind first went into obliviousness because I fell asleep, then my mind went on to visit the fantasy land of the early 1700s through yet another novel.

Therefore, to this moment, I still have no idea as to why I was upset. One thing I do know is that I’m the ultimate escape artist and my skills of dodging any real life issues are reaching perfection. When the Chinese Taoists making pills to prolong lives, they believed that if and when the fire in the stove turned into pure green, they would have achieved their alchemistic success. Therefore the Chinese saying for “reaching perfection” is Lu Huo Chun Qing (炉火纯青), literally means “the stove fire has turned pure green”. And my stove fire is reaching the color of green.

Looking at the unfinished nearly half glass of wine next to my computer and the uncharged phone laying dead on the desk, I had to own up to the fact that I had crashed and rebooted last night. I think it started in the morning when for no reason whatsoever there were so many cars honking at me, which utterly confused me, as I thought I had a broken light or something. Then there were the meetings where I did the work but everyone else took the credit. After that was the emotional socking story of M.E. which stirred me into tears and made me aware of my own lacking. But I knew it was not any of those things. Those were little things that served as reminders that I had been hiding from problems, and that I’m still hiding from problems today.

I know that I have a pretty smooth life, and I treat any small bumps in the road like it was the end of the world. But I don’t believe I need to toughen up. Because to do that is to say that there will be more and bigger bumps in the future. And I refuse to believe that. I rather think that any setbacks are small and transient, and in the future there will not be any bigger challenges for me to face. Hence there should be no need to prepare my heart and mind for hardships. Why does one have to suffer first before rising up? I determine to go back to my fantasy land. And if the real world is not sunny and bright, I simple won’t bother to come out.