Averting Death

IG PSP
Poolside: MLK weekend getaway before a brief scare on the return flight.

I was taking off in a plane last month on a windy morning from Palm Springs, and before the critical 30 seconds when the aircraft would have reached a safe level, it started to bounce violently like a puppet being willfully pulled by invisible strings. Obviously, I survived, however, the event nudged me to think how final moments are never shared after the fact because, well, one would not have lived to tell them. Once we disembarked, my travel companions and I reunited and immediately debriefed to comfort each other. Later, I also texted my siblings.

I was seated in the last row, where one could feel every bump and disturbing noise expressed from a plane’s gut, when it started rocking in a not so pleasant manner. I turned toward my sole row mate, and he looked about to lose it, including all his saliva, judging how he was cupping his mouth. With little assurance there, I took hold of the arms of my seat, curling mine around them, imagining I would have some kind of protection if separated from the plane in a hard, vertical fall.

img_6886-1

My nephews are babies no more but still raison d’etre.

Then my phone popped out of the pocket in front me. When I had a chance to grab and pick it up, the top screensaver of my two nephews around two or three at the time, lit up, as most phones sensitive to any touch or movement are want to do, and glowed in the gray well of my row. I locked into their angelic faces that were increasingly coming into sharp focus, as I brought my phone closer to me. I thought if this is my final moment, then I am at peace and good with whatever follows because these boys, whom I consider at times my own, were the last images I would have seen.

But I dodged the grim reaper again, and well, I guess, at this juncture, the directive is more or less the same as time immemorial–live like there’s no tomorrow–but also speak of what’s in my heart, especially when without any notice, it may suddenly be on its last tick.

Even-Keeled

Self-Portrait

A portrait composed by my coworkers on the whiteboard of my office.

I just thought it’s the perfect moment to plant a flag on something I’ve often wondered–whether my own plan would at some point coincide with reality. Office desk

Here it is–I have a job I’ve come to appreciate because it supports a life I love. By the same token, I approach my job situation in similar fashion as my personal life: It’s how I feel about the job not the company that’s primary. Therefore, it’s about my partner not marriage that’s foremost. I am hopeful on both fronts as I navigate my next move. 

Another Leg of the Journey

I don’t often have my days to myself so it’s nice to have at least this week to sit back and consider things so far.  It almost seems like a few months ago that I wrote about starting a new job, and comes September, it’s now a year. It was quite a mountain to climb because it was a learning curve only as steep as the workplace I’ve had to maneuver. And I declare I’ve come to a comfortable point.

I’ve said how seeing the forest from the trees magnifies the real estate I’ve covered that translates in the abundance given to me. And that’s where I find myself now–proud of where I am and how I got here.

I used to disabuse myself of expectations since they’ve proven to disappoint, however, I’ve learned course corrections and resets are always available when plans go awry, as they most often do.

A year does go by in a blink of an eye, so why not continue to believe in unicorns despite conventional wisdom. There’s nothing to lose but for the possibility of anything and everything, and that would be tragic, a failure of imagination.

The Zen in Food & Design

Pictures tell the story best how comforting food, art and architecture are in these even more chaotic days when what’s required is at times not so easy, that is, to embrace, if not rise above, uncertainty.   

Back to the Future

 

Three months after starting a new job, it is already quite an odyssey. I am in the other side of the bay, however, I am no stranger to Oakland, where I worked previously before being laid off in 2009. It is pretty much picking up where I left off when I thought I was forging a path forward with a nonprofit whose mission is to end homelessness.
Now I have reinvented myself this time in a contracts management role with an architectural firm. How funny my father can’t even keep up with my career–he tells people I’m now an architect, my journalism aspirations effectively upended.
If the last nine years have taught me anything, it’s openness, forgiveness, kindness and joy. The universe will often respond in kind, if I change the energy inside me away from frustration, anxiety and sorrow.
So here’s to another year, and this time taking things to the next level, playing more offense than defense, and, dare I say, believing in unicorns.

 

On Golden Pond

IMG_5704

I am wrapping up a month-long sabbatical of self-reflection fitted in with two quick nature-filled trips to Tahoe and Point Reyes. At this point, I must first reference a New York Times article, “The Meaningfulness of Lives,” I alluded to six years ago. I want to do the things I used to love so passionately, like tennis, dancing and even writing (well, maybe not all at the same time) that seemed so superfluous when preoccupied with other stuff. I literally felt I couldn’t afford to invest in them because of self-preservation until I realize I couldn’t justify it anymore. My self-worth and a worthwhile life hang in the balance.
I’ve come to know that it’s not a matter of being morally superior or even over-the-moon happy. Rather, it is whether I am thoroughly engaging in something, and it may not always be so pleasant as I spent some of the month healing the wounds of past unfairness and indiscretions and confronting such basic impulses as the inability to relax and unplug. My sojourns to Tahoe, which I hadn’t visited in 17 years, and Point Reyes, where I had never been, put me in touch with some emotions I had ignored and wasn’t aware of–this was the time to push those to the surface and tackle them for as much as I could tolerate it, fully understanding they may crop up again. I am human after all.
As my friend Angela had eloquently chimed in when rain and later hail descended on the lake, “Sometimes rain is best because people scatter, and you can enjoy a moment of solitude in beautiful nature.” Driving in a canopy of firs, cruising on a riverboat from Zephyr Cove to Emerald Bay, hiking street level toward the edge of Lake Tahoe, my mind was empty in a Zen-like state I may have never known existed. It was that deep.
On the eve of a new job and chapter and the cusp of Autumn, my favorite season of the year when things come into fine focus, I am of this mindset: There will be parts of my journey that remind me it’s so much bigger than me; but I have an active role to carve out space and bring meaning to bear on my life that I promised will be one well lived. 

At Last

Michael and Hope Steadman: Bend but never break.

There’s a scene in the series finale of “thirtysomething,” one of my touchstone TV shows growing up, with tortured yuppie family man Michael Steadman, upon quitting his stressful corporate job, flinging the windows of his unfinished breakfast nook wide open to let the air in and an evening breeze brush up against his relieved face. It spells a burden being lifted from his shoulders and most of all freedom.

Liberation is a strange yet wonderful thing, especially when feeling chained by circumstances that can no longer be sustained. It eluded me until now with some unexpected yet welcomed time off. I was thinking “transactionally” for so long, and now I’m returning to being human again. Living in this society, I try to balance both. But my true nature wins out. To paraphrase a biblical verse, what good is a person who gains the world but loses her soul?

A Summer Break

DSC01801

The theme in June continues in July, with creative-writing taking a backseat in favor of business writing for work. But I am where I should be, so I’m giving myself one of those lazy beach moments. And let summer be summer. I’ll be sure to have some books for leisure reading.

Hometown Revisited

IMG_3638

Pittsburgh, PA from East Ohio Street

Every time I go back to my hometown whether physically there or in my mind’s eye, I increasingly see what it is, maybe a little more graceful and forgiving and focusing less about the humdrum routine of family life. It’s a feeling of home, a history that is a part of me because I made it my own. Wherever I land, it is right here with me. I think of my parents and what had become of them–older, even crotchety with some glimpses of youth. Then I think of me and how I’ve grown and the space I now inhabit. I don’t have many questions anymore.

The cul de sac where my siblings and I used to play is so much smaller, and it is now more the street where I would pull into or out of when driving to another destination. I only dreamed of a life beyond this comfortable bubble, one not exactly what I expected but nevertheless it is on my own terms.

It turns out June is ending rather bumpy with unanticipated changes, and I have to pivot toward another position. But that is part of my journey. To be alive is not to be static and stuck but to move with the flow the train will take me.

 

The Richness of Weekends

If there’s anything these last two years have taught me, it is this return to me and being comfortable with the things I love and a weekly routine inculcated when I was small. It brings me to this notion of how precious weekends are, especially when a birthday lands on them. This long holiday weekend, I’m discovering the music between the notes of an open road and a small-town charm with which I was first acquainted five years ago with a dear friend. While city-dwellers have now altogether swarmed Pescadero in California, at least for this weekend, I am still quite determined to hear those musical strains in the present in a newer context, with a little more bravado.