new resolve

IMG_2181-001This morning I was still wide awake at 1 am, when I checked my email and saw an exuberant and long note from a friend. She had bought a rural property in March, and was in high spirits about working on cleaning up the land, learning the agriculture codes and renovating the various sized cottages. What struck me most was the tone of her email. She seemed SO happy, and her happiness and love for life seemed to jump out of the screen. It was infectious. I felt happy and exuberant too for a moment. But I was also ashamed. For I have been in this gloomy mood lately. The point is – I have the free will to be happy, as happy as my friend working in her new farm. I have allowed myself to give up, to pity myself and to find excuses, so I could continue to stay melancholy. I should feel happy by working on my painting or my novel. Or if I choose to goof off and do nothing, I should be HAPPILY doing nothing.

The end of the month is near, and I promised my friend AK that I will email her each week chapter(s) of my book, so she will have the entire book by the year end. Let me start on preparing that now. And I will try not to treat it like a task, like I treat almost everything else in my life. I must remember that it was I who wanted to do this, and it will be fun. I’m picturing my friend cleaning out her land with a big smile on her face. And I will be just like her, very soon.

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the second piece

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This was the second piece I finished yesterday. I felt relieved and light-hearted because it was finally out of me.

I also had a fun evening last night, a girls’ night out with four other women. We laughed so much, on stupid topics, which were mostly provided by me. I had a great time. It was a dose of female camaraderie that I desperately needed. But as soon as I was in the car driving home alone, I was back to my solitude melancholic self.

A friend of mine told me today that she thought I was very productive with my time. I guess people do perceive me as energetic, funny and productive, so totally opposite from how I see myself. I remember another good friend of mine used to tell me that he was always “happy but unsatisfied”. I think I now can finally appreciate and understand his sentiment. I am happy. I am very content with my life as a whole. But there is something missing. I don’t know what that is. And therefore I’m not quite satisfied, and I’m continuously searching for it. Even after I exhausted myself on multitude of activities, I’m still searching.

writing for the sake of writing

I don’t need an audience, I’m not seeking friends, I’m writing because my thoughts are scattered, and I don’t know what’s in my mind. Somehow fingers and keyboard together translate thoughts into words, not perfectly, sometimes not even correctly, but at lease I can peek into my own mind briefly, like opening up a random chapter of a book. How wonderful it is to get some clarity, even if the clarity is only the emptiness after dumping massy thoughts out to the world.

Oh, but you don’t understand, I could have been so happy, if the mind can quiet down, and let life be. Others look at me, at my life, envy the simplicity and easiness of it. And I cannot complain. I am grateful. I should not be greedy.

But in the middle of the night, I lie awake, wanting to grab my iPad to write down my thoughts. For what? I do not know. As thoughts I have in abundance, and I need not to accumulate more. Could it be that I’m writing just for the sake of writing?

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just say no

IMG_1197Sunday is usually a Yoga day for me, but two yoga instructors alternate for the Sunday class. I only like instructor H, not L. After only 5 1/2 hours of sleep, as I read till 3 am again, I called the yoga studio this morning in bed and asked, “Who is teaching today?” After getting assurance that it would be H, I dragged myself out of bed and showed up at the class, only to find L there.

The reason I did not like L was that she was nagging too much. If I needed someone to push me, I would get a personal trainer or sign up for a Pilates class. Yoga should be calm and serene. Therefore, I had been deliberately avoiding instructor L.

But I had already stepped into the studio, and it would be too obvious and embarrassing to leave, so I stayed for the class.

Today L had a series of poses for us, targeting shoulder muscles. One particular pose was Dhanurasana (Bow Pose). L came over behind me and lifted my shoulders, and my body was off the ground a lot and formed a “full bow”. “Look at how high you are getting! Hold there!!!” L enthused at me while releasing her hands. My body sank back towards the floor as soon as she let go.

A few minutes later, L said: “Let me tell you a funny story when you all rest a bit. As you get older, you don’t listen to instructions well. As you get further away from adolescence, where you still get instructions and follow instructions all the time, you start to forget how to listen to instructions.” So far it was not funny, and none of us laughed. L then walked to a young woman, and did the same thing to her like what she had done to me a few minutes earlier. Then she said, “Hold!” Amazingly, that young woman was able to hold the high / full bow position. The whole class laughed and probably thought it was funny, even though I doubt any of them had seen my failed attempt earlier and made the comparison.

S?x%! L was calling me “old” and “not able to listen”.

L and I tried the same thing for the second time. My body still fell down like a rock after L released her hands, despite my mental effort of trying to listen to her instruction.

Therefore, when she asked the class to do a chair shoulder stand later on, I didn’t even bother asking permission to skip it. Instead, I happily put my legs up the wall and opened and closed at the same rhythm as the others. If you were to look at the students in the class one by one, you would see tall, tall, tall, tall, short, tall, tall, but moving in synchronization. Quite funny, actually.

L asked: “Are you not doing the chair shoulder stand?”

“No.” I happily replied.

Indeed, L was not that bad of an instructor. Maybe I would not avoid her from now on.

lifetime vacation (day 2 of 9)

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China Trip – Day 2 of 9

Even after all these years, I still marvel at any non-native-Chinese who can speak Chinese well, albeit the fact that half of the world have learned to speak English as a second language. So when my friend N.P. picked up the phone and said in Chinese, “你好討厭喔” (the literal translation would be “you are such an annoyance”, but used here as an intimate whine between friends), I was utterly impressed.  She and her husband had been in China for about 3 years, living in my favorite building in the chic Former French Concession district of Shanghai.  We went yoga together a couple of days later.  While I was traveling in Berlin last September, I also went for a “yoga in English” session.  I personally think that is the best trick up my sleeve in peeking into real local life as a tourist.  It did not disappoint me.

Later that day, I also met up with another friend of mine, J.Y., who had come to Shanghai only 6 months earlier with her husband and two kids as expats. It seemed to me that everyone treats their time in China as a chapter of their life experience, as something transitory. Somewhere else, their home awaits. Hence, they explore and get a taste of the culture and local life as an outsider, and they cherish the moments, even some unpleasant ones, as if their stay was a long and extended vacation, and they are dealing with the pleasures and irritations of a common excursion.

It’s quite different for most overseas Chinese, as we uprooted from China, and planted roots abroad. It was no vacation but real and serious life. But would it be such a bad idea to treat life as a long extended vacation anyway? One might stay in luxury hotels or backpack and camp-out due to economic differences, but the experiences would be all real and true, and it would be all yours to have and no one can take them away from you. And at the very least, it would be fun!

30 years river east, 30 years river west (day 1 of 9)

IMG_1253China Trip – Day 1 of 9

The journey was long but surprisingly pleasant. The entertainment options were abundant on board, rendering some of my own preparations useless. When the plane was lifting off from LAX, I finally breathed in deeply and started to feel that I was on vacation.

As I was traveling alone, somehow I had struck up several conversations with strangers. Naturally, one common theme was the comparison between today’s Chinese living with that of the overseas-Chinese’s. For instance, one guy told me the friend he visited in the U.S. was not happy, complaining that he had worked so hard for a better life for all these years, but he would have been better off if he hadn’t left China at all, evidenced by the people with lesser social standings when he left China were having more success than him in the present days.

I said to him that “ten years river east, ten years river west”, the Chinese proverb for the Western equivalent of “the pendulum swings both ways”. It literally means the world sometimes behaves like a river that flows east for 30 years and then west for the next 30. Due to my rusty Chinese, I had shortened the years from 30 to 10, but he got my points nevertheless.

“If he chooses not to be happy, he would find reasons to be unhappy under different circumstances.” I said to my follow passenger, “Does fresh air or the joy of learning a different culture and language count for something?”

He agreed wholeheartedly.

These type of “what if” complains I have heard often, and I myself had wondered the same in the back of my mind. Only after I had given the above consultation to the stranger, I realized the change that had occurred within me. As my advice was not only true to my ears, it was also true to my heart. And I know now that I have chosen well, for I chose to be happy.

Arthur’s Note: Written on 03/13/13, posted on 03/23/13.

do, thus appreciate

IMG_2092Countless examples I have, but too trivial to share. Putting my hands on the keyboard, tiny happy memories from just the past few days trickling into my mind, like raindrops falling off a leaf.

Aren’t lives made from the collage of memories?

Even the best daydreamers, and I can attest to the validity myself, would be better off “do” rather than “think”. Just as imagined fresh air, the smell of the vegetation on the mountain after the rain and the lightness of the body benefited from healthy blood circulation of physical activities, are no way in comparison to the real thing. To that, I thank hubby for dragging me out of bed to hike the Cowles Mountain this morning, making my experience real and not an illusion.

I wouldn’t have enjoyed a delicious dish with a perfect concoction of richness and freshness if I hadn’t ordered that unfamiliar item on the menu at lunch.

I wouldn’t be reading and appreciating my follow blogger’s insights, writing and visual art skills if I hadn’t dabbled in some of those things myself.

I wouldn’t be pleasantly surprised at every corner, noticing and appreciating some of the most obscure things in life, if I hadn’t tried to “do” something with my time.

Oh, how I love this feeling…