Flow mode

Flow mode

It’s only been a dozen days since my family made the decision to do all we can to help flatten the curve. It started with keeping our almost two year old home from tumble and music class. It felt overly cautious to me because I couldn’t imagine or process the reality of what an overloaded medical system actually looks like.

I proceeded with social distancing but denial had a firm hold on me.

In many ways I’m still in denial. It feels like armor against all the uncertainty. I understand why high school and college students flooded the beaches for spring break—they wanted to surround themselves with normalcy. It’s the same reason why color coded home schooling schedules are circulating the internet (looking for order!), followed by memes making fun and criticizing them (looking for a laugh!).

It recently occurred to me that it’s time to shift into flow mode. It’s way less comfortable than denial, but I think it’ll help me get to a better place once this storm is over.

For me, so far flow mode has included making a mental health TO DO list (you know I love my lists).

Flow mode means letting go of the two trips I was really, really, really looking forward to this month and finding an alternative “thing” to be excited about and grateful for. It means accepting that we may not have milk in the house for the next month and trusting that our toddler will be okay. In some ways flow mode is easier with a young one, because it just means practicing being 100% present with them and adjusting to their pace. Flow mode forces me to focus on all the things I still have rather than 401K savings I don’t.

Flow mode reminds me that my partner in life and I may have very different ways of processing things, like, oh say, a PANDEMIC, yet we are still in this together.

Flow mode requires I name WTAF is going on in the world. Even though it’s a scary, complex, overwhelming THING. Denying the existence of WTAF is going on in the world right now makes it 100 times more likely to destroy me.

Holding hope

hope

I was recently asked who I most love working with. “What kind of client just lights you up?” I struggled at first, because I tried to visualize a type, and anyone who knows me knows I resist playing nice with stereotypes and archetypes and the like. After my brain was done battling with itself for defaulting to type casting my clients, I came up with the attribute I admire most in clients. I answered the question with:

I love working with people who recognize that the type of values and identity work we do together is hard, but is up for the challenge. That’s brave to me, and that really makes me excited to see, because it gives me hope that positive change is possible.

I’m grateful to be asked that question, because it redirected my attention, which has unfortunately been directed toward the complex problems in the world that feel beyond my control. The question helped me feel this:

You are not a drop in the ocean.

You are the entire ocean, in a drop.

~ Rumi ~

  

Since significantly lightening my client load since my daughter was born, I’ve found myself asking, “Am I making a difference?” For whatever reason, a lot of which may have to do with the last weeks of winter being a particularly dreary drag, I felt like a drop in the ocean. I love the Rumi quote because it reminds me of the interconnectedness of everything, which has the immediate effect of reminding me that every small action matters. It is so easy to feel overwhelmed and hopeless about the events and policies covered by mainstream news sources and so important not to lose hope, because no action comes when there is no hope.

I wonder, what sparks hope in you?

Unforeseen consequences

FrontCoverimageThe payoff since publishing my book has been more rewarding than I was able to imagine it would be. I’m not talking royalties, I’m talking connection with readers and other writers.

Even though I knew I wanted my book to find its way into the hands of teen and emerging adult transracial adoptees, I blocked out thinking about readers the entire time I was writing, because I had to focus on what I wanted to say, not what I thought they might want to hear. I wrote about my experiences, thinking some of them might resonate with adoptees and hoping my words might bring comfort to any adoptee feeling isolated or alone in their own adoption story. After one friend read The Struggle for Soy, they told me their daughter who’s in high school asked if she could read it, and share it with her best friend, who is a Chinese adoptee. She thought it would help her. Hearing this brought such joy to me and filled my heart. If what I wrote is able to help just one teen, I’m honored. I hope the book reaches many more adoptees— at the very least, as evidence that our stories matter and sharing them positively adds to the diversity of narratives out there in the world.

A gift from another writer popped up in my message box a couple weeks ago, it read:

From the “unforeseen consequences” department: Seeing you have the courage to publish your book made me finally stop the endlessssss tinkering with mine, stop being a sissy, and just push it out of the nest. AND made me sign up for a writing retreat in Puget Sound (well, on dry land) to start developing a more personal body of work. See how that all works? Thanks so much.

I really appreciate her sharing this with me because although people influence and inspire each other on a daily basis, so much of the time we don’t pause to tell each other. Hearing how my action gave momentum to hers was soul nourishing. Of course I ordered and read her book, and am so glad I did, because it is full of the type of prompts that will help keep me stretching myself to grow and explore what a better version of my personal consulting business looks like.

I urge you to pause for a moment and think, “Is there someone who’s positively impacted me who I can reach out to an tell?” If there is, I encourage you to do so. It’s these connections that spread joy and hope, refreshing relief in the world we live in.

This is your wake up call

I was shocked, but now that’s worn off and the pain is settling in. I’m seeing a lot of status updates from parents who question how they will tell their kids that love did not win. That hate won. I’m not sure I’m down with that binary thinking.

The people who voted for Trump are flesh and blood. They are capable of love. If we choose to talk about them within the same us vs them framework that got us into this nightmare, we’ll be chasing our own tails forever.

This election is our wake up call. Do you hear it? Are you listening? Because those two things aren’t exactly the same. It’s time to wake up. To really open our eyes and see each other, to dismiss the distractions that divide us—it’s time to connect. To organize.

Symbolically, this election is a flamboyant F YOU to marginalized groups of people. But it’s also evidence that there’s another large group of people in this country who are feeling unheard and othered. I read this great article about people who live in rural America. I recommend it.

If we focus on the root of the problem, we can direct our energy to solutions. It’s tempting to want to move to Canada, but I really like my life here so I’m ready to put work in and make the political better, starting with the personal. The people who voted for Trump cast their cries for help. I’m not going to count on Trump or any of the other politicians in Washington to do what’s in the best interest of the people. The whole system is so dysfunctional, yet so embedded and seemingly impossible to dismantle, I’m going to do what’s within my ability and capacity to make America one that is great for me to live in. And that starts with listening, really listening, and understanding the struggle of the people, my fellow Americans.

Connecting the dots with Dalí

IMG_3255
Of course there are eggs on the roof and bread on walls

My appreciation for Salvador Dalí drastically increased during my recent visit to the Dalí Theatre-Museum in Figueres—Dalí’s birthplace in Catalonia, Spain. I knew little about him before my visit, besides that he painted those iconic melting clocks.

 

The Theatre-Museum is one giant installation by Dalí. Walking through it feels like your experience is being curated by Dalí himself; which means that every single individual has a unique experience based on their literal perspective and the way their mind processes and interprets the vast amount of stimuli. When the tour guide talked about how Dalí connected ideas and objects in his art I felt like I’d discovered a kindred spirit in what on the surface appeared to be just another egotistical artist (he is noted as saying, “I don’t do drugs. I am drugs.”; “Each morning when I awake, I experience again a supreme pleasure-that of being Salvador Dali.”). Connections. I love connections, which is evidenced by the theme I chose for my 36th year: Connecting the dots.

 

IMG_3260
Capturing the capturer

During my visit I got a better sense of how Dalí thought, how he approached life, and how he shattered social conventions. Although I question his affinity for flies (apparently he’d put honey on his mustache to attract them and then capture them in his mouth and let them fly around in there for a bit), I admire how he constantly challenged people to question what is fixed reality. The works of Dalí’s that I viewed contained layers and layers of meaning, each one a playground for my mind to jump from one idea to the next.

Dalí is buried under the center of the stage at the Dalí Theatre-Museum, which means that every visitor who walks over his body becomes a character in his story, and he in theirs. He has ensured that he is at the center of all the individuals who bring their own narratives to the space. I like to imagine him watching the show of life go on in the Theatre-Museum that he created—seeing connections of all our lives, even from the afterlife.

 

 

The edge

IMG_31061,000 foot drops terrify me. I’ve always been afraid of edges, but the recent hike I went on with K and his sister reminded me of just how powerful fear can be.

The ascent wasn’t scary at all. It even felt spiritual at moments; wind blowing through the trees; clear mind, full heart, can’t lose (thanks Friday Night Lights).

The descent was another story. The view looked different going down, I could see the height at which we were hiking and the lack of any barriers between us and an extinguishing fall. My mind began playing a moving picture in my imagination of me slipping and falling off the edge. Thoughts of my friend who died falling off a rock wall in Zion National Park this spring crossed  my mind and made my fear feel real and relevant. My body was seized by terror and the only reason why I didn’t freeze was because my sole goal was to get down to level ground as soon as possible. My body went into autopilot and wouldn’t stop until I reached the trailhead.

Looking back on the experience from the safety of stable ground, I realize how fortunate I am that I don’t experience that feeling of fear on a daily basis. Whether it be from PTSD or crippling anxiety, I feel more empathy for people who must manage how fear takes control of their bodies. I’ve taken peace of mind for granted since I stopped having those childhood bad dreams that feel so real. Hiking this week reminded me that fear is real and has the power to make people behave in atypical ways.

What’s your loyalty worth?

I was on the phone with a Canon customer service agent, who began the call telling me, “We can definitely help you with the error you’re receiving,” and ended the call by telling me my printer had a hardware malfunction and I’d need to get a new one.

The agent informed me of the Canon loyalty program, that offers a discount to current Canon customers, to apply to a new purchase to replace whatever item they’re getting rid of. This got me excited. I love discounts.

“How much of a discount do you give to your loyal customers?” I asked.

“10%,” he replied.

I gasped. 10%? If I saw a sale advertising 10% off, I’d laugh. I felt insulted. Between the low ball discount for loyal customers and the shipping delay of 5-7 days, I decided to take a trip to Office Depot.

I bought a Hewlett Packard product, because my loyalty is worth more than a measly 10%.

FullSizeRender 4
Lookin’ good, HP!

Joyful living

How do we allow more joy into our lives? Is there armor to dismantle? Are there relationships to renew? Is it time to stop turning to the news to be entertained? Can we let go of judgement; both doing it and fearing others are judging us?

The beauty of joy is that it’s accessible to everyone. And although it may be tempting to feel guilty about experiencing joy, when it feels like humanity has lost its collective mind, it’s times like these when harnessing joy in our lives is so important. Joy is pure, and can be found in the most ordinary of moments. When’s the last time you experienced joy?

20071104_1143

Summertime

When I listen to Bryan Adams my ego screams, “Guilty pleasure!” at best and “Shame!” at worst. Sometimes when I’m in the car and “Summer of 69” comes on the radio, the inside of me rocks out and feels it, while to drivers around me who may be (but are probably not) looking at me, I’m totally cool—this song is nbd. Clearly I’m still in the process of embracing my love for mainstream music. I’ll get there.

So yeah, summer is here. The solstice earlier this week makes it official. This is the part of the year I love, so much that I wish I could slow down time. I see evidence of life emerging everywhere; the blooming cherry tree in front of my home; the

IMG_2778
Cherries

community garden on my block; blooming flowers everywhere. With friends too, we emerge from winter hibernation and enjoy summer together, in parks and on patios. SUMMER IS MY FAVORITE.

Surprisingly, I find staying in the moment during this season challenging. When I am enjoying something quintessentially summer, my brain cuts in with, “The days are only getting shorter from here on out!” What a buzz kill, right?

I decided to make an 80’s summer songs playlist. It emulates the feeling summer gives me and will help me practice owning the absolute love I have for some of the songs of my childhood. Neither childhood nor summer is meant to last forever, so I’ve resolved to savor the season and let it go when it’s time.

IMG_2782
Garden

Compassion is the answer

I know trauma has been normalized because I don’t remember the moment—excuse me—moments, when I heard about Sandy Hook, Aurora, and Virginia Tech. In a few years, I probably won’t remember that I heard about Orlando upon returning from a camping trip. However, I can remember the morning of September 11, 2001 like it was yesterday. Mass trauma was harder to come by back then. Even though it had only been about two years since Columbine, I remember experiencing shock when I heard what happened to the Twin Towers. I was in college and I remember going to class and everyone on campus was moving through space in a dreamlike state. My professor recapped what had happened in New York City and dismissed us early. I wandered around, not knowing exactly how to process what was happening in our country.

15 years later and I still struggle with processing the news of such violent acts. Unfortunately, I no longer experience shock when I hear about mass killings. This is a big deal. We are living in a state of ongoing trauma. And when there is trauma, there tends to be fear. And fear has the exquisite ability to disguise itself as anger and hate, begetting more violent acts. We are stuck in a cycle. It’s like we’re on the playground wheel that spins around; we want to get off because we’re starting to feel sick, but the thought of releasing our grasp from the bar summons a scary sensation.

On the wheel, we think in “us vs. them” terms; we are paralyzed by fear and stop going out; we don’t feel safe at our workplace or schools; we are filled with righteous indignation; the blame game is prevalent. So,why do we insist on staying on the wheel? Is it because the wheel is what we know? As nauseating as it may be, it’s familiar to us.

Getting everyone to jump off the wheel at once is probably impossible, so here’s what I propose: one by one, we muster up the courage to take the leap. For me, this means continuing to go out to public events, even though the possibility of a mass shooting exists. It means embracing the compassion that rises up in me after an event like Orlando and carrying it forward with me. Sogyal Rinpoche talks about what we can do when we are exposed to the suffering of the world through news outlets. I feel his advice is very much relevant to us now:

Any one of these sights could open the eyes of your heart to the fact of vast suffering in the world. Let it. Don’t waste the love and grief it arouses; in the moment you feel compassion welling up in you, don’t brush it aside, don’t shrug it off and try quickly to return to “normal,” don’t be afraid of your feeling or embarrassed by it, don’t allow yourself to be distracted from it or let it run aground in apathy. Be vulnerable: use that quick, bright uprush of compassion; focus on it, go deep into your heart and meditate on it, develop it, enhance, and deepen it. By doing this you will realize how blind you have been to suffering, how the pain that you are experiencing or seeing now is only a tiny fraction of the pain of the world. All beings, everywhere, suffer; let your heart go out to them all in spontaneous and immeasurable compassion, and direct that compassion, along with the blessing of all the Buddhas, to the alleviation of suffering everywhere. Compassion is a far greater and nobler thing than pity.

Compassion is not easy, but it’s necessary. And I think that paired with courage, it’s our ticket off this nightmare of a spinning wheel we’re on.