Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Different Angle

I made a New Year's Resolution a few years ago to Be Less Negative.  A friend promptly pointed out that my first step in keeping my resolution should be to rephrase my resolution from Be Less Negative to Be More Positive. I laughed, agreed and then proceeded to tell this very story every time the topic of negativity or resolutions came up.

What I didn't realize at the time was that Be Less Negative and Be More Positive were two entirely different resolutions.  When I was less negative, it didn't automatically mean I became more positive.  Just because I was focusing less on what I didn't like about my job didn't mean that I was thinking about what I liked about it instead.  I didn't replace my negative thoughts with positive ones.  While it would be nice if positivity and negativity were a nice, neat sliding scale of -50 to 50, sometimes the parts just don't quite add up to 100.

Similarly, sometimes an event or milestone doesn't quite live up to all of the hype leading up to it.  As a result, the actual event or milestone that you'd been so eagerly looking forward to for so many months ends up being disappointing.  My solution has always been to lower my expectations.  If you're not expecting something to be amazing, then you can't be as disappointed if it's not and you'll be pleasantly surprised if it is.  But then I had a thought: why am I trying to Be Less Negative when I could be trying to Be More Positive?

Instead of lowering expectations to avoid disappointment, why not accept that the whole may actually be less than the sum of its parts and enjoy both sides of the equation?   It is possible to enjoy the means, the process, the anticipation, the hype, the expectation, the build-up just as much as the end itself.  In some ways, the process is the very fun itself.  It's like a road trip - it isn't the destination that matters so much as the journey itself.

Monday, November 29, 2010


My family had a rather untraditional Thanksgiving this year, complete with a Sumatran elephant ride, a Hawaiian turkey bake, fresh coconut water, a Balinese massage and a rainy rice paddy walk.

But the day began most unusually, with a visit to a healer.  A healer not unlike Elizabeth Gilbert's Ketut in Eat, Pray, Love.

I don't know that I really buy into the whole spiritual healing thing but there's something about knowing that these practices and beliefs have been around for thousands of years that makes me inclined to be less skeptical than usual, even if I do still find some things rather hokey.

With my parents, the healer prodded at their temples with his fingers and poked at pressure points on their feet with a stick, sometimes eliciting small (or big) yelps of pain. And each time there was a yelp, the healer would nod and say, "That was your lower back" or "That was your left knee."  Then he'd make a few motions ("Moving around your blocked energy," my yogi cousin explained) and voila!  He'd poke the same spot, and this time, no more yelping would occur.  When my brother's turn came, the healer looked him up and down and sighed.  "What do you need me for? So young!"  But still, he poked and prodded.  No yelping occurred, much to my (and, I suspect, my parents') disappointment.

Then it was my turn.  The healer didn't even bother to feel my temples.  "I already know she is fine," he explained.  Instead, he went straight for my toes.  Poke, nothing, poke, nothing, poke, nothing.  "Liver, lungs, kidneys.  All fine."  Then he took a look at me and poked the corner of my fourth toe.  "Ow." It felt a bit like he had taken a pair of tongs and pinched my toe.  He poked again.  And then, noticing the look on my parents' faces, he turned back to me again and gave his diagnosis.  "You are fine, but maybe.  Maybe you are asking questions.  Asking 'Why?'  Looking for answers.  Questioning."

You'd only have to take a look at the books I'd brought with me on my trip to figure that out.  Apart from a novel I'd been trying to finish for the past year (now complete), I had with me The Happiness Project and Mere Christianity.  How's that for soul-searching reading material?

I hoped the healer would move my energy around and make my questioning toe go away, just as he had with my dad's achy back.  Instead, he just looked at me and said, "You must look inside yourself."

And that was that.  He made it sound so simple.

Monday, November 15, 2010


I have a bit of a crush on someone whom I've never met - it's based purely on the sound of his voice.

I've never been much of a phone person, probably because when you have very nosy parents, you never want to have private phone conversations with your high school boyfriend that can be easily overheard by your entire family.  And so, I've always placed a lot of importance on a guy's command with the English language, whether via email, instant messages or texts.  Besides, what could be more romantic than a handwritten love letter?

The phone may be a touch less wistfully romantic, but still, there is something so comforting about hearing a familiar voice answer the phone.  It's the knowledge that at that very moment, the person on the other end is there.  He's awake and he's listening to what you are saying at that very moment.  With email, you never really know quite when your words will reach the person to whom they're addressed.   Then there's the a monopolistic quality to phone calls that's lacking in electronic situations.  With the phone, I love knowing that I am the sole person being spoken to out loud.   Sure he could be multi-tasking, but for the most part, I can tell whether I have his undivided attention.

And to top it all off, a voice - particularly a man's voice - can be sexy in a way that the written word just can't.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Daily Reminders

Almost nine years ago, my three best friends from home and I were sitting at a cafe (okay, it was a Starbucks) catching up, analyzing each other's lives.   Eventually we decided to memorialize our conversation and jot down a few reminders/resolutions for each other on the back of Starbucks napkins.  I vaguely recall one of my reminders had something to do with not making out with random boys.  I guess I still need to work on that one.  What stuck with me a little more though, was their reminder to enjoy what's going on around me, right now, in that very moment.  I have always had a bit of a tendency to forget to enjoy my current surroundings because I am already looking forward to what lies ahead.  There always seems to be a new chapter in life to look forward to - a new school, an exciting trip, an interesting internship, a new city.  And when each of those new adventures begins, it never takes long for me to get caught up in planning my next one.   It's like asking what's for dinner before you've even finished your lunch.

I've been acutely aware of this trait of mine for all these years and was reminded of it more recently on account of an impending visit from 'C'.  I emailed him - breaking our almost two-year silence - and he emailed back to say he would be in New York in December.

His visit didn't come as much of a surprise to me but still, my reaction was rather mixed - a cocktail of hope, apprehension, excitement, doubt and confusion.

What I knew I needed to avoid though, was viewing his visit as something to look forward to.  I hate the idea of spending the next month thinking about what, if anything, will happen when he visits.  But more than that, I hate the idea of secretly wishing November was over and done with so December could be here already.  Life is short enough as it is.  I have actively tried not to become someone who lives from weekend to weekend or from vacation to vacation for precisely that reason.  It's too easy to forget to enjoy the random pleasures of a weekday when you're counting down the days till Friday.

And so I am reminded yet again to enjoy what's going on around me, right now, at this very moment.