Archive for August, 2008

In honor of Junko

Junko has been one of the great lights in my life and one of my great teachers. She was there from the very start of my adventure in Japan: I remember her at the party thrown for new English teachers in August 1992, 16 years ago, in what now seems like a different Japan and a different world. I was 21 and she was 20; I have known her for nearly half my life.

Junko taught me Japanese and the ways of Japan. She saw me go from someone who spoke nary a word to a top advertising/PR translator, and she supported me all the way. She has helped me find jobs three times in Japan and is a person without whom my career as it exists today simply wouldn’t exist.

Such help, however, pales in comparison with what she has meant to me on a much more personal level. Despite being from a different culture, she understands me to a degree perhaps higher than anyone else in the world. We have been married since 2000, and in 2005 she gave birth to our daughter, Eleanor, the world’s greatest child. She is an absolutely wonderful mother to our daughter, allowing her to be free and joyful even while instilling in her excellent manners and an altruistic perspective.

I wonder: How many meals has Junko cooked for me? How many times has she taken care of me when I was sick? How many times have we sat watching TV together? How many times has she worried about me? How many times has cleaned the toilet and done other housework?

There is no way to honor her enough for all she has done for me or repay the debt. Sometimes all we can do is be grateful for what we are given. I am immensely grateful for all that she has done for me and our child and for my family and friends in general. I offer her the highest honor and appreciation and celebrate and validate her being. I wish that there were an easier concordance between her happiness and mine; I wish I had the wisdom required to think, feel, and act in such a way as to give her everything she wants and needs in life.

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Happy Birthday, Eleanor Rouge!

You are the world’s greatest child and give me strength every day. Happy third birthday, Ellie-chama!

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That’s the motto my friend and I came up with yesterday for his breakup.

He may have the power to avoid the slow, agonizing crash and burn I have endured for the past eight months. He perhaps can borrow my foolishness, transmute it into wisdom like a soul alchemist, and walk away without the debilitating pain.

If you are getting over the ending of a relationship, here is some homemade pop psychology that might be of use to you.

We get hurt because we don’t get what we want.

The pain of a breakup comes not from what SOs have done to us but simply because they go away and we don’t want them to do so. It is not a matter of justice or fairness; it is a matter of our desires not matching the external world.

This sounds simple; it’s a no-brainer, isn’t it? Yet how often people talk about a person’s leaving as though it was something done to them.

In almost every case, of course, there are matters of justice and fairness thrown into the breakup mix: the SO cheated, was abusive, broke promises, etc. These complaints may all be legitimate. If a person makes a promise, as in marriage, to stay forever and be loyal, it is indeed not fair and not right when that promise is not kept.

I was given such promises in January of this year. Emphatic, repeated, believable promises. She was my soul mate; she was going to take care of me, just as I was going to take care of her; I was set for life. The promises, and the promiser herself, evaporated practically overnight, after two months of a relationship that I had considered the best and most important of my life. Over the next several months, I experienced the greatest emotional pain of my life.

Since the day of that breakup, there have been other SOs and other breakups, but none affected me in that way because I did not want the SOs to the same degree (in actuality, I have remained friends with all of them and rooted for them in their new relationships).

True soul mates keep their promises, don’t leave, and don’t make you miserable. They are not brick walls against which you bash your head in futility. They don’t allow themselves to make you hungry for love and affection; instead, they anticipate your need and fill you up before you reach a bad place.

Regardless of whether your SO has promised to be your soul mate or not, if you are bashing your head or hungering, then they are not, and the bashing and hungering are, in effect, your responsibility. If your SO has left and you are in misery because he or she is gone, then that pain is your responsibility.

All of the above thoughts underpin the concept of “skipping the devastation.” I am not so naive as to think that sheer force of will can deliver the desired result of a breakup without pain. I failed to do so myself for three reasons: I didn’t have the concept of skipping the devastation, I hadn’t yet worked out the thoughts I have outlined above, and, lacking these two, I lacked the focus by which willpower could have been useful in the first place.

I do believe, however, that the above thoughts can be of use, for, if we recognize that the causes of breakup pain are internal, then we can attend to them without needlessly and inefficiently mulling over externalities.

Thus, with the above thoughts in place, my friend has a fair chance of getting through this breakup without crippling pain and a very good chance indeed of reducing his pain level by an amount that makes a difference. I also need to keep these thoughts in mind should I once again have high hopes in a relationship.

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How to lack wisdom in style

I think it is human nature to fill in the blanks. If one reads the writings of ancient Rome, or China or anywhere for that matter, one does not get the impression they felt lacking in knowledge of how things work: on the physical level, psychological level, spiritual level–they seem to have felt they knew it all. Millenia later, so do we.

How often we get up in the morning and subsist on style. We don’t really know what effect our proposal, if implemented, will have on the company, but we have our suit on and a certain manner of presenting and speaking. We talk about the motives of people and predict their actions based upon a variety of templates. After the election or latest economic report, we talk with erudition about why things happened precisely the way they did, and it feels right because it’s on TV and in blogs and in whatever medium gives us confidence and comfort. I have myths about myself that make sense to me, and who can forcibly change my mind regarding what is interior to me?

But so often what we have is phlogiston and calx, a model of things that is not completely wrong but nevertheless very far from the truth. How many papers are there in the world, written by great minds in lucid prose, arguing for things now proved wrong or recognized as irrelevant?

Peering beneath the gauze of myth, of the comforting style of life, is both disorienting and frightening. To do so is to move away from the things that make life safe and ordinary. All the while, the media are pulling you back, even blogs like this one are calling you back to the false home, for the MSM is corn-fed choice beef and blogs like this are a spritz of lemon on your grouper, if not the fish itself.

We do know a lot. We know a lot more than we used to know. But our hearts are going to beat despite the universe of ignorance that remains for us, and our brains are going to fill in the blanks to make stepping out into the streets of NYC in 08 as “of course” in feeling as was strolling the Roman forum in 08.

The soul of knowing, therefore, is to realize I do not know. I lack wisdom. I have a fraction of the answer but not the answer itself.

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Lincoln, Nebraska

I drove out to Lincoln on Saturday to help a person who may accurately be described, I suppose, as my ex-girlfriend, although it has been a relationship that has altered my life in ways far beyond what that meager title implies.

It was about an 11-hour drive from Indianapolis. Illinois is wide enough, but let me tell you, Iowa has even greater girth to offer a driver. You just drive and drive, and all you see are fields and flat land. Nebraska would seem to be more of the same, but Omaha is right across the river from Iowa, and Lincoln is only 45 minutes or so further into the state.

The funny thing is that, if you drive enough, you eventually reach your destination: something obvious but surprising in its truth. In February, two of my friends and I took a road trip to New York City, driving all night through a blizzard so as to arrive on time to see my play performed the next day. Drive 15 hours (when the weather is rotten) and reach NYC; drive 11 hours (when the weather is beautiful) and reach Lincoln. I have been back and forth on airplanes to Japan; it is strange that one can conquer that distance by renting a seat and waiting. But the autonomy that the automobile offers can be stranger still: pick a destination, pony up for gas, drive safely, and there you are.

I listened to The Look by Roxette and string quartets by Franck and Brahms. I stopped four times. Then I was in Lincoln. Then I was in the coffee shop where she was, hugging her after more than seven months of not seeing her. It felt like a miracle to be in her presence again. Is a phone call going to do this? Is an email going to be this? No.

Lincoln has several things to say. The houses of the grid talk about a day when this city had to be here. I am ignorant of how the population has changed over the years, of how the economy is doing here; but, as in every city, there are the supermarkets and restaurants; it’s a college town, so there are students for whom this city and its school and the red of the football team are just a given. You must visit the capitol building if you go there: beautiful architecture and amazing art inside, lots of it. The use of yield signs instead of stop signs on the residential streets struck me as unusual. Also, the numbered streets (e.g., 27th St.) go north-south, and there are streets named after the letters of the alphabet (e.g., O St.) that go east-west.

The most important thing in this city, however, is my former soul mate and her struggle. I don’t know if the help I offered will have any long-term benefit; I don’t know if I have bent the world’s karma for the better by traveling there. I have no knowledge, no wisdom. I can only think, “I love you, Great Spirit, and wish you could see beyond the struggle and love me as I love you.”

I drove back Monday, seeing that she wanted to focus on her struggle and not on anything the two of us could be together.

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Munchies or just one munchie?

For my many international readers, allow me to explain (hello, Buenos Aires!). Getting the munchies is when suddenly the hunger just overcomes you. Now it’s not like major hunger you get when you haven’t eaten for a few days (or, Heaven forbid, a few months!). No, it’s a craving in the tum-tum you get (for my international readers, let me explain: your tum-tum is your belly, the stomachy part), usually for “junk food,” that starts a-bugging you. Your eyes shift from side to side: where is food? Is there a bag of junk food in the house?

You see, it wouldn’t be the munchies if the craving weren’t for crunchies: salty snacks like potato chips, Fritos, or good ol’ American pork rinds (in LA they are called chicharrones, which sounds to me like cucarachas, but whatever). Your eyes shift from side to side like the dissatisfied peepers of the cicada, searching like an insect for sustenance! Suddenly you rip open a bag of Fritos in front of the TV and douse your mouth with the chips, as if to put out a fire.

I think it’s of greater than theoretical importance to ask whether you can get just one munchie instead of a whole pack, and I think the answer is… yes! In such a case, your tum-tum fillips your awareness just once, one of your eyes shifts just once, and you eat just one chip. It’s a small need, easily satisfied. Can you imagine, then, a bag labeled “Frito” with just one Frito in it? Go eat some snacks!

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A new day dawns

Today is better, though not without sadness. My friend helped heal me, and it brought about a very great transformation, which let me be able to do what I must do. I defied the gods recently, and they have prescribed a penance for me and given me a mission: to serve the person I love more than any other without expecting anything in return.

My intention is to show her the unconditional love that she, I believe, has rarely received in her life.

The one I love probably will never love me as I love her, but I at least can serve her. A one-way street can still sometimes get you where you need to go, and sometimes asymmetrical  love is the best that the world can offer. I know that I shall one day be with my true soul mate, but that day is far. In the meantime, the world has given me work to do, and I shall perform it with my whole heart for the good of the one I love, expecting nothing but basic gratitude in return. (Gratitude is an expectation, I suppose, a hope of mine, but not a condition of this service.)

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A bad two days

Soul crushed. Five pounds lost. Loss, devastation, disillusionment. For the first time in my life walking around feeling as though I would pass out. Understanding that the person I love is incapable of loving me back. Seeing her incapable of saving herself, even with my help.

Anger, anger at self for feeling anger, for not being able to be all light, all love.

No means to quell the pain but through time.

Knowing that I will always love her, despite her willful contribution to soul crushed, five pounds lost, etc.

Goodbye, great spirit. If only you could truly understand the love I have for you.

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Financial reports

The heart is not a very good accountant.

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August 6, 2008: my mental calendar is marked forever

Beauty and harmony are back again. Importance has returned!

I vow to cherish and protect this meaning so long as it will accept me in its service. It is the most important thing in my life.

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