Perhaps it’s the OCD…

I keep wanting to write about my experience with having OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder).  However, I continue not doing it, although a portion of almost every day goes to thinking about what I might write for it.

Perhaps it is part of the OCD’s influence on me, and perhaps it is something else entirely, but I tend to get trapped in the details with things.  If you read what I write on here (here being this website), then you likely already have a sense of how I do this.  When I am telling about something, I really have to focus on what the listener (in this case, the reader) actually needs to hear (read).  For me, the topic is incomplete if details are left out, or potentially construed in such as way, such that they might be misinterpreted to be different than they truly were… even if it is regarding details that are seemingly irrelevant to the story.

So, that’s why I haven’t yet written about a day in my life of OCD.  I can’t decide on what to focus, nor on which details to give and which to leave out of the sharing of my experience. I’m hoping to get to writing about it in the next couple weeks (at long last), which is why I’m writing about the idea tonight in the first place – I was already thinking about it more than usual.


As a side note, this reminds me of two things in particular right now:
1) How my mom’s side of the family always wants to know all the details about things, including the details for which most families would never even think to ask
2) Perhaps this details thing is part of why my mom and I are so good at having conversations that go to a million different topics (before finishing the previous topic), but in which we always go back through and finish out every topic started in the conversation. (My cousin once pointed this out to us, and I have since noticed how rarely people do this sort of thing; they talk and talk, and leave so many topics unfinished, because they went on a tangent, but never came back.)


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Dancing is a global language

Tonight, I was reminded of a speech I recently wrote for a speech contest.  No, I was not even a finalist in the contest (Speculation has informed me that previous years’ finalists had all tied in somewhere, somehow, that Japan is amazing and totally the best place ever.  Seeing as mine has none of that in it, guess I had no chance at all, if that actually is a factor in the contest.), and I’m okay with that.  It wasn’t my best work, though it was a decent run for a rushed 45 minutes (including editing with a friend) around 10:30 on a Wednesday night, and on a topic I felt could have been significantly better stated (“Anything that deepens global understanding, other than political, religious, or commercial themes”).

I’ve put the speech below, however, let me say why I thought of the speech.  I ended up going dancing tonight, as a follow-up to a bizarre sending off for a friend (literally ran up to the friend on the street, walked the three minutes to the station, and parted ways), because I didn’t want to have spent $15 and an hour and a half for only four minutes of moderate enjoyment, and I neither had other plans for the evening nor work in the morning.

While at this dance thing, I delighted in the constant flow of English-to-French-to-Japanese-to-Frech, the forever exchanging of dance partners, and the true enjoyment of our unity and opportunity for us all to be together and at such ease.  As a group, we have little else in common when you remove the dancing.  But it is something we each learned in our home towns and cultures, which has now brought us together from many places around the world (really, I think we almost all were from different places, although some were just from different parts of Japan).  And, even though we might never have come to know one another in any other part of life, we still ended up spending time together as though we were some of the best of friends.

I had met most of these people only once or twice, but that is the power of partner dancing.  We work together in an intimate yet comfortable setting, one-on-one, to create something beautiful.  We help each other learn, and we share what we have learned with one another.  It’s like the best kind of school, in dance form.

Anyway, that’s all I have to say about that for now, so I leave you with my speech here:

My name is Hannah, and I do partner dancing.  Every dance competition, I am terrified walking out onto that dance floor – “I am going to mess up!  And in front of all of these people!” I cry inside my head.  But, every time, I dance anyway.  I give it my best, knowing that I will make mistakes (which I do), and I have an amazing time.  Not to mention, I regularly place and even win the contests.  Every single time I am grateful that I danced, even though I was terrified, but especially because I made loads of mistakes.  Why?  Because that is who I am.  I am a beautiful, confident dancer who makes mistakes all the time.  And every time I do make mistakes, I work with my partner to use them, and to transform them into something beautiful and intentional.  We do the same when my partner makes mistakes, too.  We work together to turn something accidental and potentially dangerous into something intentional, unique, and beneficial to the overall dance.  When we do this, we each learn how the other responds to errors, as well as how to adapt ourselves to work with those responses.  By the end of our three-to-four minutes together, we move flawlessly – any onlooker might think we had been partners for years.  Why?  Because we worked together on something difficult, ever listening to one another.

Marianne Williamson, an American writer, said that ‘our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate’, but that ‘we are powerful beyond measure.’  When we allow ourselves to make mistakes, we are opening up the doors that have been holding us back in life, and we give ourselves the chance to become greater than we ever expected, by learning something new about ourselves and about those around us.  When I make a mistake dancing, I not only learn how I respond to error, but also how my partner responds to my making the error.  Plus, my partner learns how I respond to error.  Then, when we both work together to resolve the issue, we learn new ideas from each other, and we grow together, becoming more efficient and more powerful as individuals and as a couple.

So, what does this have to do with deepening global understanding?  Every time I travel, I feel a sense of solitude and of being completely lost in this new world around me.  And every time I go dancing in this new place, I not only feel at ease, but part of this new world around me.  Every time it is terrifying.  Not because I suspect it to go poorly, but because I know that there is no limit to how amazing an experience it can turn out to be.  I have lived in various countries these past several years, and every time some of my best friends have come out of dancing.  Why?  Because not only do we love dancing, but we regularly make mistakes together, and we always work together to solve them.  And, in the process of making these friends, I have learned through them more about their culture than any class or book could have taught me.

In conclusion, if you want to deepen your understanding of the world, and better it through understanding one another, and learning from mistakes together, I invite you all to dance.  Thank you.



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Music creates life

You know, music really can make life feel worth living.

These past few weeks have been really odd for me, and this week, especially, has been quite filled (to partial explosion) with stress, and an odd kind at that.  This afternoon, as I had still two hours to fill, after what had felt like a day’s worth of work and several hours of painful efforts to sleep, I put on my jacket and rushed out into the hallways to get myself moving around, and in hopes of finding something to help pass the time, preferably involving movement (thus my vague plan of aiming for the gymnasium).

The music students are currently preparing solos (with piano accompaniment), and so I came across one of my lovelies (the Bass player) rehearsing in the hallway/student entrance area (there’s a piano there) with her accompanist.  They welcomed me joyfully, and so I watched and hopped around (it was filthy cold) with semi-frozen delight for a bit.

They finished after not quite ten minutes, and so I wandered on my way toward the gym again.  As I was making the final turn, I was caught by a trumpet and a couple clarinets (which was fine by me).  One of them had told me that she wants to play with me, but our scheduled time for today had to be canceled, because she had to go home after rehearsal.  But she was here now, and practicing…, so she dragged me in and got me to play a bit (though not together, since we only had one trumpet).

Then, when I thought they were all leaving, they told me to come with them upstairs to what turned out to be a brief a capella singing rehearsal.  They were sopranos, so I got to stand with them and learn the soprano part to a very pretty Japanese song.  It was almost spooky how cool it sounded and felt to be in the group, making such beautiful music.

Afterward, we established that one girl is crazy, and I declared my similar mental state.  She and I, and others off and on, proceeded to dance around to the music of others rehearsing… we high fived as I was about to leave, as a sign of joint craziness and joy, and I said my goodbyes to the room, with lots of love in reply.  I truly felt myself at home with this goofy group of musicians.

As I rushed out the door, and put back on my shoes, a flautist was in the hallway, next to my shoes.  He excused himself, and I said, “Play!”  Instantly, and with a smile and an “Okay,” he played part of his solo piece for me.  It was beautiful.

And it was standing there in that freeing hallway, listening to this boy play flute, that the thought crossed my mind, unbitten, “Music really can make life worth living.”

As I have struggled with life lately, – and no, I don’t mean in the sense of giving up on life as a whole, but just on giving up on this part of life, living here and doing this job and all of that – what has gotten me through every time has been music.  Sometimes it has been live music from these kids at school, or from the guitar I got as an early Christmas present last week.  Sometimes it has been from Spotify or my music collection.  And sometimes even just a single song that a friend sent me from YouTube.

Whatever the case, the source of my survival, my strength, my belief that this life is worth continuing and working at, despite its near-overwhelming hardships, has been music.  I finally understand a bit what a friend of mine meant, when she said she felt like she had died, when she lost her hearing and, thereby, music.  When I don’t have the music, I just get used to the solemn melancholy, the deafening silence of a lifestyle I don’t love – I grow accustomed to not living, and I despise the existence (but that all just becomes the norm).  And when I do have the music, I am excited for today, for right now, and for what tomorrow might bring – I feel the life inside me and all around me, and I yearn to spread myself around and live to the fullest.

Music really does give life and make life worth living, even when it feels like you have nothing else for you.

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Oops: Thank You, Teacher

As I showered just now, I somehow recalled a video meme I recently saw via a friend on Facebook.  I didn’t much like it, and found it a poor use of such a great clip, but I’ve remembered it nonetheless.  The words were along the lines of “when you just barely make your paper deadline”.  The clip was Captain Jack Sparrow gliding perfectly onto the dock, as his ship disappeared under the water, sunk.

For whatever reason, this reminded me of the time in college when I did not make a sort of deadline.

It was my second year, in the Fall semester, and for one of my French classes.  I think I had planned out studying for the test, and things had come up rather last-minute, completely destroying my study plan.  It was probably a combination of that and the usual heart’s tug of ‘Let’s get distracted by everything other than studying.’

So, I found myself cramming desperately the night before and the morning of this test.  I eventually just looked at myself, called it all ridiculous, and checked my teacher’s office hours.  She would be in her office the half hour before class, which was not long from now.  I kept studying, though in a completely different mood.  Either I would get what I was dearly hoping to get, or I’d likely fail the test.  And I could handle either (though I certainly had a preference).

I arrived at her office with an inner nervous, sweaty hands kid residing in my stomach, and a true sense of ease at what I was about to do.

I told her quite openly that I, by full fault of my own, was utterly unprepared to take the test today.  Yes, I could come to class and take it, but it would create a waste of her time in grading it, as it would be filled with various levels of nonsense.  I requested that she allow me to take the test later in the week instead, and asserted that I accepted any removal of points from my grade, should she see it necessary.

And she agreed.  She asked – seeing as how I went to a fabulous school, where teachers actually get to know you as a person, and their care for you shows unfailingly – about whether something specific had happened, if I were all right, or if it were just a standard ‘Oh. My. Gosh. I messed up!” (Yes, I did make it clear that my situation was of the not-so-proud “Oops” category when she initially asked.), and then accepted my request to take the test later.  I believe we agreed upon Friday, so that she still could grade it and give it back with the others on Monday… something like that, anyway.  (I then rushed back home and resumed studying for the next two-ish days.)

I think that experience – although I’m not sure I’ve thought this until now – had a strong impact on how I handled students as a teacher.  I remembered always that students have lives outside of the classroom, and that my class was not always the most important part of life for my students (and not simply by the students’ decision, but by global agreement), which sometimes meant that assignments went forgotten one night.

Essentially, I always expected the best of my students, and I remembered that they were only human.  And, so far as the grading went, if they cared enough to admit their error and to make the request for an extension or redo, as I had done in college, then, so long as the situation were doable, I was willing to accept (or negotiate for acceptable terms).  My students all knew this.  They also knew that I accepted humanness, not laziness, and that I am an expert at distinguishing the two (slash knowing when they’re totally full of it).  🙂

Yeah, I love teaching.  It’s like being a parent, but you get to kick them out whenever they’re driving you nuts.  (I was about to say ‘And the spending money on them and feeding them part,’ but then I remembered that we actually constantly spend money on students, and I almost daily, if not hourly, shared my food with kids.  One student regularly popped into my room throughout the day one year, asking for food.  Good times.  Good times.)

I feel like this went a little tangent-to-tangent (whatever that means), but that’s okay.  So rolls my brain, eh?*  😀


*I’m not even Canadian.  I just like the sound of that

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Phone Privacy

Sitting on the floor in front of the heater just now, I watched another teacher rush into the sort of locker room to take a phone call.  I wondered if the call were something private and embarrassing, like a doctor’s visit for a splotch on his bum or something.  And then I remembered that this is Japan, and everyone is always super private about their phone calls, so there was no telling what the call was about… probably just a friend moving dinner to 8 tonight or something benign.

But it had me think of exactly the opposite situation, and how different things are in my own culture.

In college, I tested into the highest level allowed for foreign language my freshman year.  So my first college language class had seniors in it (kind of fun, right?).

One day, waiting in the hallway for the previous class to end, so we could go in for our own class, one of those seniors was sitting across from me.  With casual ease, she calls her doctor’s office, and schedules an appointment for going in to renew her birth control.  No, she did not lower her voice for the call. No, she did not seem the least bit uncomfortable (nor overly confident nor proud).  It was just a regular conversation, and anyone around could hear it.  No biggie.

I remember at first being shocked, and then asking myself, “Well, why should I be shocked?” So I got over that rather quickly (while she was still in the phone, actually), because she can be comfortable with and confident in 1) her own body, 2) her own actions, and 3) her own reasons for using birth control, and have no reason to be ashamed or embarrassed if others know.  It’s just who and how she is, which is completely separate from the next person.

Anyway, I then found myself on the path of openness and confidence, no matter the topic (and I’m still working on different areas of that for myself).  So I find it odd that people are on the exact opposite path here.  No, I can’t let anyone know anything about any part of my life!

But then, everyone talks worse than our teenage gossip whenever they are told something.  Nonetheless, why would anyone need to care, if we’re all comfortable in who we are?
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Rainbows of life

Some days, I think we just have to experience a rainbow of emotions. Perhaps it is to remind us that, despite our struggles and troubles, everything is alright, because we are still here – feeling, breathing, thinking, living -, alive and well, and able to get through it all, whatever it happens to be.  We always think of the beauty of rainbows as something that we experience from a distance. However, we cannot do this with our personal rainbows of life, because we are right in the middle of the rainbow, exuding our colors outward so far as we can reach, enlightening, empowering, and bringing bliss to all those within range.

Something like that, anyway… I really like the image of being in the middle of our own rainbows, thus being unable to see it in all its glory.  🙂
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It’s just not Christmas

It just doesn’t feel like Christmas without family and friends with whom to be jolly.  Even when the weather is all chilly slash freezing (literally), it just feels like a cold front. And, watching Christmas films just feels out of season when watching them solo… not like it’s Christmastime.

I guess I never fully realized how much Christmas is a shared event. It has never felt so non-Christmas-y, than it has here, in a world where Christ has no role, general jollity, candy canes, and mistletoe are nonexistent, and family and friends are far away.
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