Friday, February 24, 2006
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
Personal Story tomorrow
Thanks for the kind thoughts and prayers last week. I went to McDonald's and got food poisoning. I told the manager that it happened, that I wasn't trying to sue, but wanted him to be aware of the time, the burger (Big Mac) and the result. He was defensive, but got the message.
I'm taking tonight off. As you may have guessed, I'm too easily wound up. It's time to slow down. So I'll write up the personal story about my friend tomorrow - yet another person who managed to find his dream job, give back to the world and keep his head up during an ugly divorce. He is a great inspiration to me, and hopefully to you too. - Cheers.
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
Sick as a dog, I am
Tuesday, February 07, 2006
Getting Use To A New Rhythm: Another Personal Story
No doubt, it's a challenge that many of us share. And just to make things a little more interesting, one thing you can count on, if you live long enough, is that life will throw you some curve balls. The question is, will we have what it takes to re-orient ourselves? How can we best prepare our children to pass through these unpleasant phases in life with wisdom and with grace? And, are we creating an environment for our children (and ourselves) that allows them to connect with themselves, and the world around them? I want LO to come into his own, to be grateful and kind, to know that the world is bigger than what he can see, and to know that his deeds and intellect have power in changing the world for the better. It will only fall into place from the inside out, not the other way around. This story reminds me of how important it is to learn that lesson earlier rather than later.
My mom grew up in Taiwan in a small village called Yang-mei. Yang-mei had 200 or so people, and as far as I know her village was very primitive. Her family had to go to the river to wash and grow their own food. As the youngest of seven, my mother was treated like the baby girl. Her father would spoil her by giving her the best food at the dinner table, almost like a grandparent because there was such an age difference. She only finished elementary school because the cost of paper and pencil was prohibitive, and the benefit of further education for a girl wasn’t evident. Later, when my mother was 20 or 21, she moved to Taipei as a bus attendant. When I went to Thailand [as an adult], I realized what my mom did. Bus attendants make sure that everyone has paid, everyone sits down. They give out drinks and snacks. She did that for three or four years until she met my dad.
My dad is the oldest of seven. He grew up in Illinois in a small farm town. He didn’t get his PhD, but he got his masters at Illinois University. I know his side of my family better than my mom’s because I visited them every year. From what I have heard from my uncles and aunts, my dad was the bully of the family. He had an attitude of superiority that matched his brilliance. My grandmother had seven kids. I think she was exhausted by the whole thing. She would tell me, “We didn’t even know about birth control. Birth control was another kid.” Her kids ranged in years. From my dad to my youngest aunt, there was about a 15-year difference.
A lot of my mother’s expectations of me were things she learned socially and in the community surrounding her in Taiwan. I grew up American, watching television. In America, if you say something that’s that. My dad was a very exact professional. He didn’t say much, but what he did say was clear. If my mother verbally said something and you didn’t pick up on the other clues, you would still get into trouble. What was said verbally wasn’t the most important thing. I was the un-thoughtful daughter. I had to figure out this stuff on my own.
I have two older brothers. One is eight years older and one is five years older. My parents would always tell us, “Be independent.” “Study hard.” “Don’t rock the boat.” “Always keep your word.” “Be number one.” They would always point out how trustworthy they were and how the kids weren’t. If you were number one, of course, they’d praise you. If you weren’t, you would get lecture upon lecture of how you could improve. During a period of two years, I discovered my curiosity. I tried to challenge the boundaries. I just got stomped on. Once I asked my mother, “What do you mean I’m not a thoughtful daughter?” She started crying and said “You think I’m not a good mom. How can you say that when I sacrificed all of this for you?” I’d say, “Why can’t I spend time with my friends?” She would respond, “Why can’t you spend time with me?” It was weird, almost possessive. She didn’t want me away from her side. I wanted to hang out with my friends. I wanted to become more social. By the end of high school, I was socially retarded. It was such a bad experience that even if friends would invite me over, I wouldn’t bring it up to my parents. I ended up only talking about things that didn’t bring up much conflict.
My dad is a brilliant man. My brothers are also geniuses, especially in dealing with technology and computers. One brother worked for IBM at 16 and went to MIT on a full scholarship. My other brother is a rocket scientist. My mother would say that my brothers got their smarts from my dad. My mother thought she wasn’t smart and wasn’t beautiful. She thought she was so lucky to be with my dad.
I went to college when I was 21. I placed out of the first two years of college. I got married at age 21 or 22. When I got married, I got a stepdaughter too. At the time, she was eight. I had joined the Air Force. Right after I separated from the military, I went straight into college at a North Carolina private school of about 5000 students. I did a lot that year (got married, went to school full-time, joined the cross country track team.) I just wanted to do everything that I could do. I grew up as a very type A personality.
It wasn’t a well thought out decision to get married and my marriage wasn’t going so well. I was becoming disconnected with myself. I was filling my life with so much stuff and trying to be the best. Then my body broke down. Every part of me broke down. It was the middle of graduate school. I was studying exercise physiology. I had a panic attack and ended up in the hospital. I went from being an ultra endurance athlete to not being able to walk across the street without hyperventilating. That was my first wake up call and I woke up just a little bit. I learned what my limitations were. I’m still recovering, and that was eight years ago.
I couldn’t live such an extremist lifestyle and still function. I dropped out of my graduate program and switched to an outdoor education program. I never finished my master’s degree. Then I realized I had an eating disorder so I had to get therapy for that. That was a big thing. That developed as soon as I got married. I would wake up every morning. I hated to get up out of bed and exercise for hours, and then there was the question, “What was I going to eat?” I didn’t know what I wanted to do in life but I knew that wasn’t it. I went to therapy. I got more into yoga. We moved to New York. I decided to study massage therapy. That helped to balance me out quite of bit. It was very calming. It was about nurturing and self care. I was married for six or seven years. There was a reason why my eating disorder started when I got married. We tried working on the problems and I realized my husband wasn’t willing to work on them with me. When my stepdaughter went to live with her mom, I left too. I wanted to learn about Chinese culture. I became really interested in learning Chinese. I went to an intensive summer language program at Cornell. That was my separation from my husband. Then I decided to go overseas to China to learn about Chinese language and culture.
I actually haven’t gone to China yet. I spent one year in Thailand and this is my second month in India. In Thailand, I got a divorce. Now, I’m studying yoga. When I was in Thailand I was doing body work in Chiang Mai. I was meeting a friend there. I met her in New York at a job. A lot of woman transitioning in their lives ended up in Chiang Mai. I went to five different schools for studying body work with blind Thai massage therapists. They were the best. First, you sample their massages. I went to get massages over and over again and liked their style. I went and did everything I could possibly do. I went to classes to learn the Thai language. I spent over two months learning about meditation at the Wat Kow Tahm monastery on an island called Koh Phangan.
I also studied a form of massage called Breema. What we learn is that the massage is not really about you, but about me. It is about touching another person with nine different principals that you end of integrating into your body and carrying out into your life. One of the principals is full participation. When I’m talking to you, I’m not talking on the internet. Another one is mutual support. Whenever I am giving to you, I am also receiving. Whenever I am receiving, I am also giving. Another one is single moment, single activity which is huge for me. I’m always doing so many different things. I am now narrowing down what I want to do and starting to do it. Another principal is body comfort. Inevitably, if I am not comfortable with my body, then the recipient is not comfortable. It makes a big difference in the quality of the massage and how I live my life. It is about being conscious of what my body is feeling at the moment. The way I can most serve another person is when I am present and comfortable. Chiang Mai was such a nurturing place for me. I planned to stay there for two weeks and I ended up staying there for a year. I learned to connect through the body, so that what I am doing is what I want to be doing. It is getting me ready for China.
If I could, I would tell young people to stop what they are doing and really connect to themselves. If it means going out into the woods for months, if it means mediation or yoga or a sport or listening, that’s fine. Generally, the fastest way to do that is to totally isolate yourself. When you have so many stimuli around you, your mind can’t be clear. You are thinking about other things and can’t hear the small voice inside yourself. You latch onto the thing that seems important. I would say take cues in life. Take notice of what you do in life and how your body reacts to it. When you are completely relaxed, you feel comfortable. Sometimes when your body gets restricted, you are doing something you weren’t meant to do. Your body is showing you the way. Another way to connect with yourself is to start paying attention to your breath and the sensations in your body. These are like vision quests. Not many people make the opportunity. Stop paying attention to what you think you are supposed to be doing. You just might spend your whole life pleasing an unknown source and you won’t be happy.
I would tell parents not to overburden their kids with so many activities. I’d tell them to understand their priorities in life and live according to those. Most households do so much the kids just learn that that lifestyle is important. They get use to the rhythm. They go out to see a movie then come home and say “Its boring, let’s watch TV. It is from stimulation to stimulation. They stimulate themselves so much they can’t hear their inner voice.
Saturday, February 04, 2006
Friday, February 03, 2006
African American Lives
I watched African American Lives Part I this week on PBS - mesmerizing! This clearly is the latest brainchild of Henry Louis Gates Jr., and is a fresh new perspective of African American history.
The documentary profiles the family histories of Oprah (media mogul and who doesn't know it), Chris Tucker (comedian), Dr. Ben Carson (Director of the Division of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital), Quincy Jones (musician - extraordinaire), Dr. Mae Jemison (Astronaut), Pastor T.D. Jakes (well known founding pastor of a mega church in Texas), Dr. Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot (Professor of education at Harvard) and Dr. Henry Louis 'Skip' Gates Jr.(Chair of the Department African and African American Studies).
Gates is not really an interviewer, but he makes you want to find out what the participants discover about their family tree. I believe Part II comes on next week on the 8th. But on PBS, they play the same documentaries over and over, so chances are you can catch part I again if you missed it the first time.
I did make a personal discovery. I noticed that the participants kept talking about education as the 'key' to make lives better and less difficult. So much emphasis was placed on education, and it wasn't about being arrogant or being status conscious. It was one of the things that African Americans have historically clung too post slavery and segregation, and education has held that kind of power in the African American community ever since. Obviously, there are African American folks who don't value education as much as others. But those that do, give education this mythic status of being the ticket to a better life. I don't mean a shiny Ph.D. necessarily, but a degree. And my interviews reflect that as well. I started to get the feeling that this view of education was cultural when I noticed the feedback from others about my interviews and about my blog in general. But I think the documentary really helped cement that for me. Many African Americans appreciate education because decent education was denied for generations and that's the mentality that many were brought up with. It was in my family. Something to think about...