Skimming Deep

Searching, traveling, talking, reflecting, and exploring. Read along with me as I continue on my journey through life.

Category: Life

#10: Memory

Two nights ago, nine African American individuals were shot and killed in cold blood while in prayer at Emmanuel A.M.E Church in Charleston, South Carolina. The killer has been apprehended. This tragedy has left me stunned, angry, sad, frustrated, and questioning.

Our country’s collective memory is short, especially when it comes to racism and the oppression of people of color. And then something like this shooting happens, jogs our memory for a short moment, gets us talking and acting, and then the 24-hour news cycles ends and moves us on to the next big movie or celebrity gaffe.

The memories this moment jogged for me were other awful events from the past few years:

  • the killings of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and the many other black lives whose soul and breath were taken unjustly and unceremoniously by police violence
  • the shooting in Newtown at Sandy Hook Elementary School
  • other mass shootings perpetrated by white men who were often written off as mentally unstable with no recognition of the larger system and society that has created these killers

President Obama gave a speech after the shooting. Some of his statements really resonated with me as I try to stay hopeful and optimistic that maybe THIS time there will be more action taken to control the rampant presence of and access to guns in our country.  He said, “At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries. It doesn’t happen in other places with this kind of frequency. And it is in our power to do something about it. I say that recognizing the politics in this town foreclose a lot of those avenues right now. But it would be wrong for us not to acknowledge it. And at some point it’s going to be important for the American people to come to grips with it, and for us to be able to shift how we think about the issue of gun violence collectively.”

He also quoted Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. from a speech he gave in response to the killing of four African American girls when a church in Birmingham, Alabama was bombed by Klan members. I went to read the full speech and it’s amazing, beautifully written (and I’m sure spoken), and inspiring. Here are a few excerpts, but I encourage you to read and re-read the whole thing:

And yet they [the four girls] died nobly. They are the martyred heroines of a holy crusade for freedom and human dignity. And so this afternoon in a real sense they have something to say to each of us in their death… They have something to say to every politician who has fed his constituents with the stale bread of hatred and the spoiled meat of racism. They have something to say to a federal government that has compromised with the undemocratic practices of southern Dixiecrats and the blatant hypocrisy of right-wing northern Republicans. They have something to say to every Negro who has passively accepted the evil system of segregation and who has stood on the sidelines in a mighty struggle for justice. They say to each of us, black and white alike, that we must substitute courage for caution. They say to us that we must be concerned not merely about who murdered them, but about the system, the way of life, the philosophy which produced the murderers. Their death says to us that we must work passionately and unrelentingly for the realization of the American dream.

and then there’s this:

Now I say to you in conclusion, life is hard, at times as hard as crucible steel. It has its bleak and difficult moments. Like the ever-flowing waters of the river, life has its moments of drought and its moments of flood. Like the ever-changing cycle of the seasons, life has the soothing warmth of its summers and the piercing chill of its winters. And if one will hold on, he will discover that God walks with him, and that God is able to lift you from the fatigue of despair to the buoyancy of hope, and transform dark and desolate valleys into sunlit paths of inner peace.

Let our memories not be so short at all the injustice people of color, especially black people and communities, have endured. When will Dr. King’s dream be realized?

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#9: Laughter

There’s nothing like the laughter of a child.

I was skyping with one of my nieces, and for some reason she just got tickled with my saying, “Night, night!” to get her to pretend-sleep. And she’d crack up and roll around in her blanket and then get up. And we’d repeat the ritual, “Night, night!” “Heeheeheehee!!!”

Children’s laughter is so free of any artifice. It bubbles up and shakes their whole body. It’s contagious. It’s pure. What happens when we get older?

I love being with people who make me laugh. Laughter and vulnerability go hand in hand. Making someone laugh, you have to crack jokes, be silly, and open yourself up to uncertainty, “Will they laugh or not?” And when laughing, you open yourself up both physically and emotionally.

What an energizing feeling to laugh full from the belly! Laughing so hard your abs hurt and your cheeks are stretched beyond their capacity. Tears roll down your face, and you can barely breathe. Laughing in the company of another person causes an unending feedback cycle where you laugh and they laugh harder making you laugh even harder and on and on until you can’t remember what you were laughing about in the first place!

I laugh at a good joke.

At the great lines in Modern Family, especially those lines by Phil and Cameron.

At my nieces and nephew saying and doing funny and cute things.

At talking stuffed animals.

When being silly with loved ones.

What makes you laugh?

#8: History

I get a daily reflection from this site called Daily Om. They’re nice short nuggets of wisdom and truth that I ponder for the day, and often they relate to something I’m thinking or dealing with. It’s nice to read them and then delete them. Kind of like these ancestor cards.

So today’s Daily Om was titled “Knowing Your History,” amazingly enough coinciding with today’s ancestor card HISTORY. The reflection talked about the importance of knowing where you come from in order to better understand yourself. How true.

I recently heard about research that shows that a family’s history can be written into the genes. There is growing research that says, for example, that trauma is genetic, passed down through the generations. So if one generation went through a traumatic time like war or genocide, that experience gets transmitted, not only through the stories told (if they are told at all) but also through family members’ biology.

I’ve learned about my family’s history only as an adult. I knew that both my parents were children in the Korean War (mainly because I put 2 and 2 together – knowing their birth years and the years of the war), but we never heard the stories of those experiences when we were young. It wasn’t until I went to Korea after college and spent time with my relatives that I started getting snippets of what happened during that time. And I started asking more questions of both my parents, and slowly they shared the traumatic experiences they endured during that 3 year war.

At one point, I wanted to become a history teacher, to uncover the Lies My Teacher Told Me and to teach A People’s History of the United States. I wanted to teach what wasn’t usually taught – Asian American history, ethnic studies, the social movements – and connect that to what we typically learn in U.S. history – slavery, Manifest Destiny, the Industrial Revolution, the Civil Rights Movement and women’s movement. I wanted to connect the dots of all the facts, dates, and historical people we learn about to a larger framework of how this country came to be and why it looks the way it does today. I was especially interested in better understanding and teaching about systems of oppression – racism, sexism, heterosexism, classism – and about capitalism’s role in perpetuating oppression in U.S. society throughout its history.

I didn’t end up going that route, but I am still a lover of history and of connecting those dots. History is about interconnected stories which bring together characters who influence each other for better or worse. So while I try to understand those stories in my own past, both individual and collective, I also have been learning to let go of any hold that history has over me. Some history wants to keep us in its clutches, never to move forward. Other history is fleeting and passes through us (or us through it). When does history become an oppressive force? And how do we let go of that force when it seems to weigh us down?

#7: Intimacy

I’ve been sitting on this card for a few days, thinking about the word, what it means to me and what I feel comfortable sharing. And isn’t that the very essence of intimacy? What are we willing to share about ourselves with others?

Since I’ve started blogging, the limit of what I share is always present in my mind. If this blog were completely anonymous, I think I’d be more open in some ways, knowing that my identity would never be revealed. However, since I started this blog partly to share about my travels (so my mom knew I was still alive and kicking in New Zealand!) and partly to hold myself to more public accountability for some of my own aspirations and goals, I knew that I wasn’t going to be completely anonymous. And therefore, I don’t share as willingly and openly.

Outside of the blogging world, intimacy is also something I reflect on. How much do I share myself with others? I’m a very private person and have never been the type to volunteer information about myself first. I’m the one to ask questions, waiting for the other party to ask me questions, which often doesn’t happen. So because of this skill (defense mechanism?) I’ve developed, of asking lots of questions to pull the insides of a person out, I am able to know a person’s intimate details to a greater degree than that person knows mine. Interestingly, then, one might think, can you become intimate with a person in a one-sided way?

There are very few people who know me intimately. I don’t allow many people into my innermost thoughts and space.

As an example, it took a good three months or so for me to share that I was engaged to D with my colleagues at work. Although I’m not very close with most of my co-workers, I would say we generally have the level of relationship where we share aspects of our personal lives with each other. I’m not sure what it was that prevented/ disallowed me from sharing my good news, but that’s an example at a surface level of how little of myself I share with others.

Intimacy is about vulnerability, about trust, about surrender. And at the same time that I don’t have a desire to open myself in that way to a lot of people, I also wonder what it takes to create more space internally to allow myself to be known more intimately by more people. There is something to be said for privacy and having boundaries to protect oneself. But opening the windows a little more allows in more fresh air and sunlight. What creates the conditions to allow for that?

#6: Passage

Rite of passage

Passenger on a train, on a journey

Passage of time

Passenger pigeon

Some days it seems life passes so slowly. Each day trudges on. The routine repetitive. Wake up, shower, brush teeth, dress, eat breakfast, walk to the train station, get to work, turn on the computer, type and talk on the phone for 8 hours, get back on the train, get home, make and eat dinner, relax a bit, go to bed. And then the cycle repeats. Groundhog’s Day over and over.

And other days it passes at lightning speed, with each day bringing changes, which land you at the end of the week in a very different place than where you were at the beginning.

This past week was a combination of both. I started the week with a big uncertainty looming – where will I live after my lease is up at the end of the month? D and I have been looking for an apartment for weeks now, liking some, disliking more. We applied to a few and got rejected. We thought we’d apply to another few and then decided not to. We wondered if we were being too picky. We wondered if our dream place was just a myth in this crazy Peninsula rental market where apartments get swept up in a matter of days or even hours and where the rents are mind-bogglingly high.

While that uncertainty loomed, work has been in a lull, and I’ve been feeling a little disinterested. The work is not as engaging. I’m a little antsy. And my mind has been on other things. So the week went by slowly on the work-front. I got to Wednesday and just wondered if the week was ever going to end.

Then Thursday into Friday and Saturday came and just like that – we have a place to live! Amazingly, this place meets all our criteria and then some. It’s a house, first of all, which we just dreamed that we could get but didn’t really think it would happen. It’s within our price range. It’s got everything we want! Plus, it’s got a few fruit trees, a sizeable back yard, and it’s a 12 minute walk from the train station!!!  Wow, a week ago, nay, a few days ago, we didn’t have a place to live. And now we do, lease signed, sealed, and delivered.

I look at this past two years that I’ve been living in the Bay Area and it’s amazing how much has changed and happened. The passage of time has been indeed swift and dynamic. At the same time, I’m ready to settle and let the days pass more mundanely, in a loving home with travel and new experiences to plan for.

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