Breakfast in bed on a weekday: A gloriously sloth gesture. Unabashed hedonism at its finest. Be it only a slice of toast and hot coffee, no matter. Simplicity is preferred. Makes the mundane seductive. Overindulgent.
“I’m afraid of being made fun of.”
How many times have my students confided this fear in me? Ashamed to struggle, flustered at their mistakes, looking like they want to disappear.
I wonder, What’s the big deal?
Since when do strangers’ opinions matter? Why are we so ready to give away our confidence to imaginary people who fictionally criticize us?
This mentality seems to speak to the greater idea that unless you’re going to be great at something, it’s not worth trying. Anything less than excellence is insufficient. You run the risk of entering the annals of history as a Failure.
Is our sense of self-importance that inflated, that our failures, never mind our very existences, will be remembered for more than 5 nanoseconds?
Push the logic a bit further, and it falls to pieces.
I screw up, forget things, commit acts of thoughtlessness.
I have a funny accent when I speak foreign languages.
I’m sure my lipstick is never smooth and flawless.
I trip over my feet, my skirts ride up, I get parsley in my teeth.
At times, I have no idea what to say. I get testy on occasion.
I ruin recipes and often write what I think is garbage.
So what? We all do.
Criticism from one person is fleeting. As is the embarrassment of screwing up.
More than fictional criticism that hasn’t happened yet, we should be afraid of leaving this world with regret in our hearts, at not having tried.
Let’s get over ourselves, and just do it.
I love when sound feels good.
At an eye exam, the hair salon, the spa. Personal attention, gentle speaking right into my ear. Certain tones of music, a beautiful visual stimulus, a soothing voice may spark an ASMR experience. Otherwise known as “brain tingles,” ASMR is a feeling I’ve known and loved, but never realized that not everyone could experience it.
ASMR is Autonomous, in that everyone’s “trigger” is uniquely individual. ASMR is Sensory, referring to the fusion of 2 or more senses, or another form of synaesthesia. ASMR is Meridian, as it culminates in a peak of euphoria. ASMR is a Response triggered by a particular sound.
What does it feel like?
A fuzzy, effervescent feeling that blooms at the base of my brain and rushes down my spine. A warm euphoric sensation that tingles like goosebumps inside my body. My backbone conducts an energizing current that stimulates feelings of relaxation. It culminates in a serene, revitalized state.
Whatever it is, science has yet to fully explain. No matter. Enjoying this sensory experience is enough to put me into a good mood, and it contributes to my self-care routine. Bring on the tingles!
Self-care: Doing something just because it makes you happy, and for no other reason. Give yourself the privilege of finding joy in a simple moment. Recharge the spirit. Go for a walk, listen to a podcast. Take a hot shower and wash your hair. Wear a pair of comfy socks. Hug an animal. Write a letter to someone you love. Drink a glass of water. Enjoy a cup of coffee that’s JUST how you like it. Take a deep breath.
Me, I cook.
I love preparing fresh herbs and spices. Crushing red peppercorns for a shallot cream sauce to be served over fish. Grinding fresh nutmeg into buttery mushrooms. Grating cinnamon into an Indian-inspired simmering dish. Plucking a fresh bay leaf, snipping sprigs of thyme for a hearty chicken soup. Cutting the ends off a bunch of fresh cilantro for THE essential Puerto Rican seasoning, sofrito. Infusing annato seeds in warm oil to extract their vibrant color: the rich saffron red swirling into the yellow oil is a lovely sight. Adding a teaspoon of this rich orange-colored infusion will keep your pasteles from sticking to the parchment (or, if you’re going traditional, your banana leaf). I feel like an alchemist of flavor in my laboratory. This is my moment of bliss.
Yesterday’s act: bake cookies and share them with friends.
Gool ol’ peanut butter cookies: signature criss-cross top, crisp buttery exterior, soft inside. It’s very satisfying to stir into the smooth butter, and hear the gentle grinding of the sugar as you swirl through the complementary colors. The sound is what makes this experience so sensually authentic. Crack in an egg, and watch it resist incorporation into the gritty butter mixture. Oh, you little scamp, you… Coax it in with a sprinkle of flour. Roll bits of cookie dough around in your hands to make a small ball, the size of a king marble. Tines of a fork imprint the cookie to form a hashtag. Cookies bake until they puff slightly in the middle, and turn golden brown on the sides. 10 whole minutes of anticipation and mouthwatering. Cool until mouthburn can safely be avoided. Devour. Share. Enjoy. Repeat.
I wake with a start; something’s not right. I look at my clock. 7:50. Shit, my train leaves at 8:08. At once, my body is electric and I jet out of bed. Wake F. Brush teeth. Clothes. Clean? Close enough. Breathe. There’s always time for mascara. Shoes. Door. Engine revs. Have a good day, darling. Slam door. Get to platform. Orange letters glow: RETARD ENVIRON 15 MIN.
Well, I’ll be. Train’s delayed 15 minutes. I’m going to be late for work.
I could stamp the pavement and act all outraged. But why should I? Fortune was kind enough to me today, why stress on what’s out of my control? Here, now, in this moment, I am in control of myself.
I take a deep breath.
The sky above is a deep dusty blue and the pavement smells like rain. I look beyond and down the tracks, where they bend to the left and disappear into the trees. A station employee unearths a rusty bicycle from somewhere, swings his leg around to mount up, and rides down-track. His orange reflective jacket billows behind him as he rides off.
A guy with grungy dreadlocks is playing music off his phone. He sets down a plastic Coke bottle filled with water, and lights a doobie. Funky hip-hop. Globby, throaty wow-wows of brass yield to punctuated syncopation of rapping. I tap my foot to the rhythm of his music. This makes way better company than the usual moldy office workers with their horrid morning breath, tapping their feet in disapproval. No, this train platform is where I can have a peaceful moment to myself today.
Just another Tuesday morning.
I land in Japan. I’m 20 years old and it’s my first time outside the United States. I’m nervous, lonely, and feeling out of place. Realizing that I’m not sure who I am.
In due time, I am to learn that this uncomfortable feeling is what leads to growth. Unfamiliarity is exciting. I meet new sensory experiences, and a glimpse of my true self. I learn to welcome them.
Japan is where I discover the joy of solitude. I can experience inner calm, the joy of independence, and the freedom to follow my own rules. It has become one of the core values of my life.
Things feel stagnant. Unmoving. Static. Gray. My life feels like short bursts of excitement that punctuate my cycle of reality: home, work, home, work…
I scan the coming months in the calendar, biting my thumbnail. What do I have to look forward to? I live from crescendo to crescendo; I ride the upward crests, and feel exhilarated when I get a peek at what’s to come. I feel aimless when I don’t have that joyful anticipation.
I crave something different.
Oh, I recognize this feeling. Wanderlust. I don’t need to do anything drastic; I just need to shake off the dust and move.
Walking is moving meditation.
Time spent alone is truly free.
It’s okay to get lost, I know I’ll always find my way in the end.
Time to find a new notebook and book a train ticket. I’m already feeling more alive at the thought.
8:00 a.m. Wake up, open eyes, lift the shutters a few inches. Let the day slowly come into focus. Deep green-gray morning light comes into the bedroom. The light is the same as it was in summer back home; the heavy greenness of the trees coupled with the muggy grayness was hypnotizing and almost narcotic. The sky was a thick gray comforter that cocooned and muffled the world. It inspired a contented lethargy that made me relate to Rip Van Winkle.
Then came the rain. First in fat heavy drops that smacked your face. You would hear the rush of rain hit the tree leaves a split second before the downpour hit you. The burst of fresh rain cut into your doziness and woke you right up.
I would run to put on some scrappy play clothes and run around in the rain. I’d dance, stomp around on the sidewalk, and bask in the glorious shower. Mom would greet me at the door with a towel, and there was nothing like the contented feeling of changing into dry clothes. I can almost still feel it.
But it’s not going to rain today, in France, in 2016. It will be a seasonably warm, sunny day. This moment will pass soon enough. I’m a bit let down that nature has played this trick on me. Nostalgia has struck again.
Nostalgia in French has a negative connotation. La nostalgie is associated with regret, yearning, and melancholy. Sadness. I think it’s a pity, because Nostalgia is that old friend that connects me with the sentimentality that gives a hankering for a certain dish, or to draw, to write: in other words, the endless, untapped creativity inspired by my childhood.
Nostalgia connects me with the wonder I had at the world that I want to hold on to. It reminds me of the way the seasons have passed around and through me; man, I can still feel them all in my guts.
The smell of the ground and dry grass; the color of the early-morning sun mixed with dew on a summer morning; the smell of snow with its diamond luster.
The torrential downpours typical of the rainy season in Korea, when it was almost hard to breathe.
The crisp fall air, surrounded by brilliant tree leaves while hiking Gwanak Mountain (and how damn delicious a hard-boiled egg tastes when you reach the top and your body is aching for energy).
The cold days at the end of fall, when warm toffee-colored sunlight hit you while a cold breeze shook the last few crisp leaves off the trees.
Nostalgia is the resonance of these visceral memories. It’s not the melancholy in knowing that these experiences are long gone; it’s the joy in remembering that they happened.