Skimming Deep

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

#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.

#5: Order

Use ORDER in a sentence to show that you know what the word means.

I am using the internet quite a lot these days to ORDER things that are cheaper than in the stores. Cases in point:

  • Found a wonderful dress at Nordstrom for a big event coming up (thanks to the eagle eye of a caring cousin-in-law) but balked because it was way beyond my budget. Came home and found the exact dress (size, color, new) at eBay. So I ordered it, held my breath that what I received would be right, and was thrilled when it arrived and indeed it was. At an almost 50% discount!!
  • Found some shoes for D. that were a perfect fit and match for his suit (which we got on sale also!). Came home and found the shoes at Amazon. So I ordered them and we saved 30%!

I am obsessed with establishing ORDER out of chaos. This happens at work and at home. At work, I’m constantly editing, streamlining, and making systems more efficient. Luckily that’s a big part of my job, so it’s a good fit. But I can’t help myself. When I see systems that are inefficient or disorderly, I feel compelled to make them better! At home, I’m constantly dusting, sweeping, straightening the blanket on my bed. After a big move, I need to unpack right away. I cannot live in a messy space.

I don’t like to give ORDERS. I prefer to just do things myself if they need to get done. Or I hope that people will just do what they should without being ordered to. Or that they can read my mind and know what I want them to do. This doesn’t really work in real life, though. We are not a clairvoyant species, unfortunately. And I am constantly learning how to communicate my needs and wants verbally, not making assumption that another person can read my mind or my body language. How much do we hope that our minds can be read, especially in relationships?

Things don’t always happen in the ORDER that you would think. For example, love to marriage to house to children. Or lower level job to middle level job to upper level job. Or from A to Z. Life happens in all kinds of ways, out of order. And if you let it, great things can happen when you least expect. I didn’t expect that I would be where I am now at this age. And I’ve been able to let go of some of my ORDER-FOCUSED tendencies to let things happen more organically. It’s not always comfortable to go that route, but I’ve surrendered bit by bit. And here I am.

#4: Surrender

This is a tough one for me: SURRENDER.

I’m a control freak. I’m a Virgo. I’m analytical, always thinking, always organizing, always trying to make sense of things and bring order out of chaos. So surrendering in any way is very, very challenging. But it is something I am working on (see, even in trying to surrender, I am controlling!).

This act of surrender is something I practice in yoga. Giving in to a pose and whatever it brings. Giving in to a practice wherever it takes me. Observing, noticing, not getting attached to pain or discomfort or the urgent desire to relax and come out of a pose because it’s too challenging. Surrender is easy when a pose is relaxing (like child’s pose or shavasana), but surrendering when a pose is challenging is where the practice really becomes practice. How do you just let something go and be without effort? At what point does trying to be become just being?

So I practice surrender in yoga. And then I practice surrender in real life. What’s the difference between giving up and surrendering? In some ways, they can be seen as the same thing. However, I think surrender has a bit more intentionality, discipline, and purpose than just giving up.

We’ve been searching for an apartment for the last month or so. It’s quite a feat, looking for an apartment that fits all our wants and needs, within a price range that is affordable for two non-tech-salaried people, in the Peninsula – the heart of Silicon Valley. It’s almost impossible. We’re competing with Google and Facebook employees, transplants to the area, who are making easily twice our salaries (combined). It’s discouraging. It’s frustrating. It’s infuriating seeing how much landlords will charge for a tiny one or two bedroom apartment, knowing that someone will take it at that price because they can and they have to! And yet, we try. So giving up would be literally just giving up and not putting in the legwork, the effort, and the research. I think surrendering means doing what we can and then leaving the rest up to the universe. Having hope, having a positive attitude, putting worry and anxiety aside, and thinking knowing that the universe will provide.

What comes to mind is the serenity prayer:


Serenity in surrender. Peaceful acceptance. Giving it up to the universe to provide.

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