Just breathe

“I’m proud of you… everything that you do… Remember that.”

As far back as I can remember, it has been a bit difficult for me to be around very old people. If they are old and alone, that hurts me already, but , once they have reached a point that their bodies are beginning to fail them openly, it is as though a switch flips in my mind, and I suddenly struggle to breathe, to function, to focus.

My grandfather is at this point. Actually, he is much beyond it. As we talked today, I had to clear myself continuously in order to remain present with him. I have begun missing him more and more in recent years, as there has been less and less of him to see, with whom to speak and interact. I have seen him grow more and more frustrated with his own brain, his own body as a whole, as he has lost ability after ability… ones which he had is such intense abundance. Indeed, he was one of the smartest and most learned people I have ever known. And he didn’t even attend college. Nonetheless, he was the best resource we had growing up – even better than our teachers on most subjects, and more efficient and detailed in his answers than an encyclopedia. He was one of my greatest inspirations as a child and young adult, and I think so much of me longed to be most like he was. And he always made it so clear that we were loved by him. In almost very action, every phrase or look, every article or comic strip he saved for us or television program or clip he recorded for us, it was clear that he loved us.

He, every so often, would call me “Honah Lee” (from “Puff, the Magic Dragon”), and still does. He’s always played around with pronunciations of words, both of English nature and foreign (e.g. jalapeños with a hard j and firm n). So, it was an easy step to get to calling me Honah Lee. After I had learned German, and we had long since begun to use it with one another (college and onward for me), he called me one day, and said that he wanted to share what he’d figured out so far. He then sang to me “Puff, the Magin Dragon”… in German. He had done his best to translate the lyrics. I think I might actually have cried while he sang to me over the phone. There was just something about it, I was quite overwhelmed with the expression of pure delight and love in that act. Indeed, any time he used German, I always noticed how he sparked to life, as though becoming, just for a few moments or minutes, a young child, excited for the unexpected adventure that life could and would unfold. He hadn’t been allowed to use German in school as a boy – it was forbidden by the school. It was his language of home, fun, love, and self-expression. But he hadn’t used it much beyond his childhood. And, by the time I was born he had almost never used German at all; not until I had begun learning and using it with him. And so, every time we used German together, it was like I got to know him as a child, free from the many pressures and stresses that naturally arise from adulthood, from aging. I just got to be with him. And I reveled in that.

And I still do.

However, talking with him today, discussing how, though he is to turn 91 years old in a few months, he hopes yet is not sure he will make it there, it was somewhat terrifying how easy it was to be with him. He was 100% present as we spoke about that, though is isn’t always these days. He said that he has lived a wonderful life, that he is grateful, and that he is not afraid of dying (despite the fact, as he said, that people say not to say that). I merely nodded, and cried as I said that we very much would miss having him here with us. I held his hand for a bit, and we shared multiple kisses on the cheeks and I love yous and Hab’ dich lieb’s before I had to leave.

And then, just before I had to leave, he said to me, slowly and intentionally, looking me directly in the eyes, – something he has struggled to do lately – “I’m proud of you… everything that you do… Remember that.”

And I will.

And I would not be surprised if today was the last time the two of us see one another in his life. We might see one another again, but it is not very likely. He cannot seem to eat almost anything anymore, and his body is, frankly, falling apart and shutting down on him. A could be causing B, and B could be causing A, but both are contributing to the other, and the result is the same: he does not have much likelihood of living in his physical body on this Earth for much longer.

And it’s terrifying for me.

My paternal grandfather died when I was in middle school. It was expected and not. And it was difficult yet not. The same was true of my paternal grandmother. I was in college when she died, but I was still very much in the child mentality, much more so than the adult mentality. Now, I am very much more on the adult side of life than I am on the child side, and it is an entirely different kind of experience to have this happening now. I suppose that, since my maternal grandparents had survived my childhood, something in me had felt that they would be forever present in this life. They had made it to adulthood with me, so to speak, so they were here to stay.

But they aren’t. No one is, really. But they are more obviously likely not to be here for that much longer. A small part of me had felt disappointed in myself for not providing them with what feels like would have been some of the greatest gifts I could have given them. I do not have a stable career. I do not have a partner in life. I have no children. I don’t even have a pet. I know they do not need those things for me. But that is why they would be gifts.

However, when Opa said that to me today, that he is proud of me… of everything I do…, it reminded me of why those other things have always seemed to matter. They are most often expression of success in living one’s life fully. At least, they are mostly seen that way. But, when the ultimate goal is that we live life fully… that we be true to ourselves and fully self-expressed…, I cannot say that I have failed my grandparents or that I have let them down. Indeed, I have fulfilled every wish they could have for me in relation to success in my life. All the other stuff – the marriage, the children, the house, the career – are tiny details by comparison.

I do not say this lightly nor boastingly when I say that I am one of the most loving people I know. I do not do well with keeping people at the standard ‘comfortable distance’ in life. I do not chat about the weather easily. Either I do not know you at all, or I want to know you, embrace you fully. Like Ender Wiggin said, the moment I get to know you, I get to love you. And I love loving people. It is terribly difficult and stressful for me to ‘try to get to know someone’. Just be yourself with me, let go of whatever you are hiding, let me see you, be with you…. let me love you. That’s all I want from the people around me. And that’s how I want them to see me, too – see all of me now, so that you can love me for me. Let us not waste time on pleasantries and weather. Let us dive right in, and have an absolute blast together. Indeed, that is exactly why dating is so difficult for me, why I cannot seem to ‘figure out’ how to interact with this guy with whom I went on a date recently. I don’t do surface level. I do the real you, the real me. And when people avoid that, turn or step away from it, usually in fear, it is so hard for me… it only makes me want to come even closer, that I might love you even deeper. And though this might sound like I am socially awkward, I truly am not. I can be quite quiet in certain circumstances, but I probably am the only person at the party who will know everyone else by the end of it.

And I am grateful for that. So much of who I am is love. And I have no idea what comes next for me in life. (Like… genuinely, I have no idea… please, grasp that for a moment…) But I know exactly who I am stepping forward into that unknown. And I love her and I am grateful every moment for her and for all that she is and for all that she is not. And I learned today that, more than I ever saw, my Opa feels the same way about her. He knows I’m not married, not settled in any way, not career-stable or financially stable. But he knows that I am stable, and that I am ready for whatever is through that next threshold as I step forward into it. And he is proud of that, and all that it involves. He is proud of me, of who I am, of all that he knows I will create out of who I am in this life, even though he will not be here in person to see most of it with me.

I pray only that his love, his support, his guidance help me to move forward confidently and comfortably throughout the rest of my life. I am grateful for him always. And I love him dearly, deeply, truly. Thank you, God, for allowing us the opportunity to spend so much wonderful time together in this life.

In the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Danke, Gott.

Post-a-day 2021

P.S. Frohe Ostern, folks!! Happy Easter, allen!! (Not to deny the weight of all of that ^, but it was because of Easter that I was able to spend the time with my Opa today at all. And I am grateful for that. And the Easter Egg Hunt in which I got to partake. Today really was a great day, filled with silliness and love and fun. But it also was very real one, in which, I believe, God was helping me to prepare for part of what comes next.)

An unexpected day of… casual chaos?

Okay, so the song-writing got held off until tomorrow. That’s okay. I had a lovely day nonetheless, filled with all sorts of oddities that turned out to be just fine in the end.

My lunch with my dad got all messed up, and we didn’t go to any of the places we were considering, and it wasn’t just the two of us. We didn’t talk about almost any of what we would have discussed as just the two of us. I didn’t get the amazing seasonal meal I had been anticipating. And we still enjoyed having lunch together and talking on he phone a bit afterward, and I enjoyed my dish, despite its having not been strictly with my diet (diet as in ‘regime,’ not as in ‘on a diet’). It was brisket and barbecue sauce with fresh purple cabbage on a baked sweet potato. Baller, though the sauce was a bit too sweet for my taste. That would be the sugar.

Then I was supposed to pick up something from my mom. She got distracted on her way in to work, and so wasn’t there. I waited around half an hour, but had no word in response from her, so continued on to Costco to buy groceries. (Yes, I get my fruits and veggies from Costco usually, because I go through them so quickly, preparing most of my food and beverage at home all the time. Today, I was mostly getting frozen fruits and fresh greens to use for smoothies. Yumm!) Turns out that my mom actually forgot her phone at home today, but she called me when she had arrived at the office, in order to let me know that I could come meet her now.

In my morning research today, I had found that Walmart would print passport photos, if we submit them online. Through doing my morning research, I didn’t put together my new shelving unit from Ikea, as had been the plan. But I had found a much more affordable way to get my passport photos than by going to CVS or Walgreens, and was grateful for that.

I was going to have my friend photo me when she came for the songwriting, and then was going to have my dad do it instead at lunch. Then that fell through, and I figured my mom could do it when we met up (because my friend had canceled at this point). But that was not too likely, since I couldn’t reach my mom at all now.

What to do? What to do?

When entering Costco, I glanced to the photo department – I had been surprised that they didn’t have passport photos as an option online during my research, so wanted to verify casually – and saw a massive sign reading, “Passport Photos”. I did an about-face, walked up to the photo counter and asked if they did passport photos (because doing them is different from just printing them, mind you). She said, “Yeah! I’ll just meet you down at the end past the last counter. There’s a white screen there.”

Okay, great! Thanks!

I ditched my jacket, used a mirror, fixed my hair and scarf – which was surprisingly little effort, actually – and posed happily for a photo. And then another, because I didn’t love it.

The second photo I accepted, acknowledging that it did look as I look – it was true to me as a representation – and then went about my fruit and veggie shopping before picking up the four photos for less than even the Walmart price had been(!!!), and then heading back to the office to meet my mom (she had called me at this point).

I had a lovely visit on top of the little parking area with her, then headed home to find the same old lady with the same old little dog crapping in the yard as was crapping in the yard when I had left earlier for lunch.

I unpacked, organized the freezer stuff, finished a pumpkin pie smoothie from yesterday (It was heavy and intense, like drinking pie, really.), did a double handful of deadlifts as I passed the barbell, did a load of laundry, tutored out of nowhere, worked on and shared photos I recently did, made another smoothie, listened to Matthew McConaughey read more of his book, showered, and then put together the shelving unit.

Now, I am about to pass out with exhaustion in my eyes and back and neck, ready to get up early for the workout class. I even reached out to my workout buddy friend this morning to verify that he’d be st class in the morning. I can’t get up and attend a 5:15am class without him, now! 😛

So, the day went nothing as anticipated, but I still accomplished almost everything that I had intended, plus much more. By doing the shelving unit, I ended up with a good surface space to do my kakizome tomorrow. So, though I didn’t do the kakizome today, I not have a better space and more of the right kind of paper for practice (it was between the shelves in the box!)!

Before I further my rambling, I bid you all a lovely, rest-filled night!

Post-a-day 2021

^I almost got it wrong, but I caught myself just before typing it out!

Huzzah!

Well, the food and the film were a total success. AND I loved them both, and also the company.

I made fried wild rice, butternut squash noodle lo mein, and orange chicken (optional) and veggies – Chinese take-out, but homemade and paleo. The fried rice could have even been enough for any of us for the whole meal, but I wanted a spread. However, I am always very delighted and even a touch proud of myself for making the eggs the right way for the fried rice. It still blows my mind whenever I think about how to do it, and I am yet again grateful for my acrobat friend for showing me how to do it back on the train that one day. **gratitude**

Anyway, the food was amazing and bourgie, and we all loved it and managed no photos, despite the fact that it all was beautiful food. Everything was colorful and lovely to see, but also delicious to smell and eat.

And then we all really enjoyed the film. Sure, there were parts all over the place that were poorly done (e.g. animation, sequencing, transitions…), but it overall was really great, the setting was bea-utiful, and the music was very nicely managed. Also, the accents were all quite reassuring – yes, the primary audience is an American English one, but that doesn’t mean the characters have to sound like they live here. I am glad they had genuine Chinese-based accents, and names were still pronounced properly, even though everyone was speaking English. Just because the language spoken is changed doesn’t mean the culture has to disappear. Good job, Disney. We all enjoyed it tonight, and we all are grateful for your efforts. Thank you.

P.S. Links to the recipes for the lo mein and the orange chicken sauces I made 😉

Post-a-day 2020

Oh, dear…

I overhear a girl complaining… I look up.

It is to her friends that she complains… it seems she went to the cafeteria to get food for all of them.

She is complaining that she is hot and tired… a girl commented at her in the cafeteria, “That looks like a lot of food…”

“Yeah…,” she responded, slightly ironically, but in agreement.

It seems she did not say it was for multiple people… for three people…, and she felt extreme embarrassment at being considered someone who would be eating it all herself…

“Can you imagine what it must be like… standing there with all this food?.. like…”

I reevaluate what she holds in her hand, as she fans her face with the free hand.

She holds three small paper trays, each with two medium-sized egg rolls and a sweet and sour sauce container in it – any pair of the egg rolls could fit in the palm of my hand at once, with no concern of being dropped.

I probably could hold all six in one hand, if I curled my fingers upward only slightly.

It is not a lot of food.

It is three servings of an appetizer.

And it is to be lunch for three high school girls.

I guess the sauce has loads of calories, but how can they possibly survive on such a meal?

I am hungry just watching them, and I already had lunch.

The worst part for me, though, is how they are embarrassed at the amount of food – all three were embarrassed for the one who bought it all and was seen carrying them solo – and that they consider it to be “a lot” of food for one person.

It makes me gag just thinking about the eating disorder tendency…

::sigh

😦

And then, what’s worse, they didn’t even finish eating all of it…

Post-a-day 2020

Monotony on the brain

As I flossed my teeth tonight, the idea hit me at one of the monotonous, repetitive things in life that, in a certain sense, just don’t make sense.  I occasionally have this happen with eating – actually, it’s rather often in recent months.  It suddenly occurs to me that, even after eating to satisfaction, at most, it will be only a few hours before we have to eat again.  It is this never-ending chain of requirement called food.  If we didn’t have to do that, imagine the time and mental energy (and physical energy) we could put to other things.  How much energy goes into managing eating in a single day?  In life as a whole?  How wasteful that is with our time…  Plus, it all just comes right back out of us anyway, and we’re burning energy to digest it all.  There’s got to be a better way to handle this need that we have for energy and nutrition…

And, of course, I simultaneously wonder if I’m just bat-sh** crazy and need brain shock therapy to rearrange the nonsense connections in my brain (and then wonder, yet again, if I’m crazy even more, since I just suggested shock therapy).  Eventually, I find myself having a delightful meal, and cannot fully comprehend how I was genuinely considering a lifestyle without food – as if it were possible right now, anyway – only days or moments before the current meal.

I think the real link is how stressed I can get about figuring out what to eat.  Because it really is that: figuring out.  There is no easy, obvious answer to the average What’s for lunch? question.  And, especially with my current setup, where I have almost zero fridge and kitchen usage, the question is even more difficult to answer.  I can’t even plan ahead, really, because I can’t store almost any food of any kind, room temperature or cold.  And I can’t really cook much either, because of the limited use situation.  So, I hit this phase of meal distaste often these days.  This is not to say that I didn’t hit it often in the past, because I totally did.  But that was mostly because I would be exhausted by the time I got home at the end of the day (or late at night), and didn’t feel like cooking anything.  Not because I had no options.  I had loads of options there.  But anyway…

So, tonight, flossing hit me the same way.  Why bother flossing, when food will just be right back at the very next meal?  And if we’re flossing now, why do we not floss after everything we eat?  (And then I remember how I regularly floss throughout the day, whenever I become aware of anything stuck or sticking in my teeth.)  And it’s not like monkeys floss, and they get along just fine with their teeth.  (Yes, I know they don’t have the crap diets we have, but I wish we could be more like them in both of those senses – not having to floss and not having crap diets that require us to brush and floss constantly.)  And so went the thoughts for a few seconds, before I required myself to get off the topic.  I knew it could turn disastrous if I didn’t stop asap.  (I’ve had some extreme bouts of stress and depression combined, when it comes to the whole food conversation I mentioned briefly here.)

So, yeah… that’s that topic.

Post-a-day 2018

Food

So much of my food here is selected based mainly on it’s ability to satisfy hunger while leaving the wallet as heavy as possible.  The sandwich I had today, my dinner tonight – I hardly want to eat either one, ever.  And yet, I’ve had the same sandwich thing multiple times this past year.  Why?  Because it fills me without voiding my wallet.

I can hardly wait never to have to eat like this again.  At least, as part of my daily life, I mean.  It’s exhausting, figuring out what to eat, when I really don’t like – and even rather dislike – the foods around and available to me.  I’ve never eaten in so many restaurants, and had to take deep breaths and just ‘deal with it’ in my entire life before moving here as I have this past year.  I’m tired of it all.  Clearly Japanese food is just not my style.  I leave it to others to enjoy, therefore.

Bring on the green smoothies, salads, and everything not Japanese, Houston.  I’m ready.

Post-a-day 2017