This Happiness is My Own

Tonight. We sat across the lake to live music. The sun set to rock classics. I dangled my toes over the brick wall, occasionally dipping them in cold lake water. Look! I’d exclaim. And I leaned back, prickly grass against my elbows. Rock and roll!

Can you bring me a beer? He did. I finished the IPA he brought me. By the end of it, I was tipsy dipsy. Still sturdy. But loopy. I wiggled my way over the brick wall.

The band played classics from the 80’s. And it all just felt so summer quintessential. Light and muggy. Grass on your thighs, and you’re swatting at bugs, filled with heavy heady happiness. That presentness feels like what the movies look like. Being here, in the now, swaddled in music, oldie tunes, beer, cool breeze of summer.

Has summer always been so beautiful? My memories of summer are scorching hot. Beads of sweat within seconds. It was “fry an egg on the sidewalk” type heat, where I wouldn’t step foot outside unless I had to. Has summer changed? Or have I? Have I discovered, for the first time in my life, the blissful coolness of post 8 PM summers?

This happiness is my own. There were moments I found myself lost in the music. I watched each wave. Patterns of white reflection blinded me. As the sun lowered, the neon signs by the lake glittered louder than ever.

No-Screen Sunday

I opted for no-screen sunday yesterday.

That meant no phone, no laptop, no television. For 24 hours. And for the first time in a long time, I noticed the world around me. I hadn’t noticed the way nature sounded: birds chirping, swaying branches, whispering wind. I hadn’t noticed the way green looked, the way the trees expanded on the streets ahead, how light fell across all hours of day. I hadn’t paused to smelled the air, the actual air, to inhale a space fragrant with garlic, seasoning, the outdoors. I hadn’t remembered what something other than my greasy keyboard had felt like. Feathery pages of a book, soft fur of my pigs, linen cloth.

And like a millennial monk, draped in privilege, I meditated throughout the day. This is the present, I repeated to myself. This is the present. Shoo, thoughts. I repeated it to myself until it registered: that all there was to this existence was this very moment. That we accumulate musings of the past, trauma, become lost in waves of yesterday, when it is all in the mind. When all our anxieties, worries, concerns–engulfed towards the unforeseen future–are of the mind. That even as we mire ourselves in thought and feeling, which feel real, and are, all that there truly is is the now. And it’s something I had a hard, hard time wrapping my mind around until one day, while meditating, it registered.

I still get lost in thought, tangled in musings, hamster-wheel running on the cycle of news, news, bad news. But meditating, even if it’s only for a few minutes, bowls me over in brief realization.

A Guided Meditation

 

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relax. in this moment.
breathe in
breathe out

let your thoughts drift
they'll come
let them go

milk honey
book lies
oil order

let them go

listen to the chirp of birds
and feel the present engulf you
here here
always here

don't be swept away by the
media
by the internet
by things
you can't
see

focus only
on the here
and now

the way your toes
tingle
the way the trees
sway

relax your mind
relax your mind
relax your mind

right now, there is only the present
the way the air swells
faint buzz of cicadas

in this moment
you are at peace with where
you are 

the present is all that here
truly is
everything else
is in
the mind

listen to the sound of the
leaves
watch them
sway--
they don't contemplate the past
they don't worry about the future

be not consumed by yesterday
or tomorrow

--the maybe's
the what if's--

bask in the right now
and just
relax

Accidental Date

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In the evening, we visited the bar x bookstore x coffeeshop with the fat bright bulbs in the back and edgy writer Meetups behind us. This was an accidental-date. Hours earlier in the grocery line, I had remarked that I was officially tired of dates, having gone to a fancy French restaurant three days ago. Despite it, here we were.

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He grabbed an overpriced bear. I spent a good 20 minutes taking photos on my 3 cameras. He dreamt about the cross-country road trip he would one day take. I eavesdropped on the writers behind me. He mused about sailing through cities, passing by mountains, and seeing grand lakes. I told him to plan it.

Tipsy on coffee-flavored beer, we ducked out onto the streets where people swam the streets and danced to live jazz and strays eyed us lazily, warily.

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We walked from one side of the street to the other, weighing out the available food options, and after I, indecisive, chose 2 twice (“Choose a number between 1 and 3.” “There is only one number between 1 and 3.”) we went to the burger joint. The chipotle sauce dripped down my chin and I used up 8 wads of napkins.

After the burgers, we got a scoop of cookies and cream ice cream on a waffle cone and sat outside on the swing set. We had come in the summer and spring before. We swung back and forth on the rocking chair and people-watched, taking turns to finish the waffle cone.

Silly Musings

I accidentally broke my 50mm camera lens last Fall while setting my tripod on bricks. Two mini-shoots later, I decided to buy another one, but not the Canon one for $120. Despite the price, it’s still the cheapest of the Canon family, and I end up breaking one every 3 years from overuse or clumsiness. So I got this one for $50, a knock-off brand made of, seemingly, the exact same parts, and so far, it’s performed beautifully. We’ll see how long it lasts. To be honest, I rarely pick up my digital cameras. But after last weekend’s shoot, I’m itching to get back into it.

At the moment, I feel weirdly paralyzed by all the creative outlets I have but can’t choose between. I am most indecisive about the things that matter least, and at the moment, I cannot decide among film photography, digital photography, archiving photography, or sketchbooking. But it makes no sense. I am simultaneously bored, weeks ahead on grad school assignments because I am bored, and also paralyzed between these creative options. Technically, I could divert my boredom onto one of these, but I can’t. These are the silly musings of a silly girl.

Speaking of creative projects, I’ve been continuing my Project 365, polaroid style. I’m posting one post with 6 images every 6 days and plastering it onto my Stories. It’s an easy way to manage and share my project without overloading myself with tasks and reminders. When I first attempted a Project 365 about 10 years ago, there were no iPhones and apps and what-have-you’s. We had our digital cameras, yes, but also our USB cords and digital time stamps we right-clicked to check. It was a lot harder to keep track of photos, especially when I took them on 3 different cameras at once, and there were no filters to beautify the lazy ones. I appreciate the photo-technology we have nowadays.

Also, I ended up getting rid of Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom because somehow my little brain forgot that I was paying over $10 a month for those–$120 a year. Not worth it. They are purely recreational. But for a few days I felt weird without them, even though I barely use them. I felt as though I could do nothing at all anymore, when in reality, I could do plenty with VSCO. I don’t know: I need to figure out my editing workflow. I can do it with free technology.

So that’s what’s been on my mind, aside from some menial grad school tasks and homework assignments. I heard back from an old student this morning and it warmed my heart. I said a few goodbyes to students last week. I feel particularly fond of some students, because we just jibe. I said, “how are you feeling now?” And they said they were sad. We wouldn’t see each other any more. Isn’t that sweet?

Dear diary,

I am at a boba shop, curled into the corner, taro boba and book by my side. I am reading Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras and finding comfort in the italicized Spanish and descriptions of Colombia. It reminds me of the books I read by Dominican writers, when they’d mix two cultures with the ladle of immigration.

This taro is too sweet.

Last night we made a whole slew of good food. I was tiny master chef. Le beau was my sous chef. He chopped. He peeled. He cut. His cherry tomatoes and Yukon gold potatoes were even, small. He minced the garlic, peeled the onions.

I remembered when, not too long ago, I was him, and my best friend was me. She’d instruct me to peel the potatoes. Wash the salad. Peel the shrimp. And I, who had always been averse to food preparation, who’d long seen food as something I had to eat rather than experience, learned a thing or two.

I learned that romaine came in fat stalks and if you let butter sit on the pan, garlic would add deep fragrance. I learned that shrimp skins were like shrimp jackets you’d have to dig to rip off their backs. I learned that Vietnamese soups had a deep umami back flavor, and to achieve it, you boiled bones overnight. And I learned that making food was part following steps, part intuition.

I never liked baking because I hate following instructions: I’ve grown to love cooking because I can, as I declare loudly over questionable couscous, follow my heart.

:-)

IMG_1306.PNGHe took me to see a play. An interactive play, a wild play, a play where audience-goers could munch on fudge sundaes and toss popcorn whenever. Wherever! At whomever.

In all the time I’ve been here, I never knew such a scene existed. Plays were overpriced, heavy, weighty, nursed in fat auditoriums of Friday night old city life. But this–this was spunky, young, fresh and vintage, a place where theatre-lovers, high school thespians, people who’d loved the stage–maybe just not enough to run off to Broadway–performed. The topic at hand: zombies in the heart of Louisiana.

We arrived an hour and a half early, ordered our dinners and a pitcher of cider. I was, of course, tipsy one cup in. After lots of head-swiveling and peering around and letting the scene soak in, the play started. We watched the scenes unfold in three parts, two intermissions, during one of which we ordered a cup of hot fudge sundae with caramel and nuts.

I remembered the first play I’d gone to in college that’d been similar. My best friend had brought me. There was an element of high school theatre, too, except cranked up with older, more dramatic, more seasoned actors, and more expensive props, and stranger plots. It was also interactive. In that play, we’d gotten up to visit rooms of the crime scene, the home, the actors’ spaces.

We finished the pitcher by the third act. The detective’s children paddled onto stage as the lights dimmed and we finished clapping. I felt happy.

Briefly

jan 11 second

Another year, another decade, another planetary spin: another mark of survival.

The past decade had its moments. There’s been a lot of education: in 2010, I started to care about school. Over the next few years, I graduated Valedictorian, went to the dream school Ivy with the magazine photos I’d quietly tacked onto construction paper, pursued what I really loved and began graduate school in Psychology.

I found my best friend. I found my boyfriend. Friends came in and out of my life.

I learned to feel after I stopped feeling. I let myself feel. That was halfway through the decade. And that, for me, was momentous. There was that seemingly never-ending vat of emotional capacity I was too terrified to touch. And then it filled, filled, filled. Spilled over. Humanity. That’s what we carry with us.

There was love. There was loss. There was indifference. There was, to be frank, a lot.

 

It was a good decade. It was a really good decade. It was rich and filled with happy moments, realistic lows, healthy grapplings, and good people.

There is, and always has been, so much to be grateful for.

Paradoxical

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It’s weird. It’s almost 2020, but 2010 feels like yesterday. And why do I look the exact same? I look as old as I was in 2010.

I thought about making a video with snippets from the past decade, but it’d just be filled with people who aren’t in my life anymore. And it’d be kind of weird to make a video filled with people who fluttered in and out of my life. Fluttered is too light of a word. Many of these people were good friends, best friends. Most of these relationships ended quietly. But these relationships were too close, too intense, at times, to have truly faded away. The memories were good, but a 2020 video wouldn’t be right.

The most lasting people in my life thus far have been my best friend and my boyfriend. The longest consistent friend has been my best friend, since 2014. My boyfriend and I have wavered in our closeness over the years. I think only one or two people from 2010 have stuck around until now, in the sense that we’ve had a consistent relationship in the past decade. Those types of friendships are usually medium-level, where there isn’t a huge amount of personal, mutual sharing. Most of the time, I feel like an incredibly hard nut to crack, even for myself, because I can’t even crack myself open when I want to. And those one or two friends are people I seldom truly crack open for, but whose company I still enjoy. There’s not much intensity, which can be a good thing.

I mean, I don’t know. I want to pay homage to the past decade in some way, but I’m not entirely sure how. I think I’ll finally get around to that 2010-2020 photo album I started back in the summer. I don’t know why I’m so drawn to archiving these minute details of my life. Project 365s. Videos. Little DVDs. Photo albums. Photo books. Silly, silly. And yet they mean so much to me.

On the car ride home, I realized how paradoxical it was, to feel as though this life was so paramount, so fixed, and yet to realize that it is, in the grand scheme of things, just another dust speck. One life in the sea of many. But it’s all part of a bigger picture, isn’t it? Just one piece of the puzzle. But it’s insane: we carry this puzzle piece as though it means the world, because to us, it does. Oh, but these 10 years of my life have been nothing. And yet they have been something. I’m still reflecting on it.

Freshen

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birds, 35mm film

Little poetic nuggets don’t spew out of me anymore. I feel like they used to tumble out. Or not. Sometimes I’d pull at them, clogged hair from a drain, and force their way up. Up, up, up. Onto my blog. So they’d splatter onto here. Splat.

The holidays are almost over; Christmas cheer is still ablaze; New Year’s tinkers at the edge, 2020 waiting to spill over. 2019 went by too quickly. It was a good year, a really good year, but mostly in the sense that time flew. I’ll reflect in approximately 4 days.

A part of me feels like this blog needs a makeover. An overhaul. A change in layout, theme, or something. Something’s missing. Maybe a lot. Maybe a little. I can’t put my finger on it. It just feels jumbled to me, like there’s a distinct lack of cohesion. Meaning.

I forget the purpose of this blog. It used to be here to house those nuggets of thought, but those thoughts don’t come to me anymore. I guess I’ll figure out where I’ll go with this blog. But a makeover might be a good place to start.

Christmas Eve dinner

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Kansas barbecue ribs, the ready-to-bake ones, the ones with the meat that falls right off the bone, as le beau often says.  Mashed potatoes, mashed by hand, mashed by the glass bottom of a coffee cup, stirred in with a cup of milk and a dollop of butter: easily the best mashed I’ve ever had. Mediocre vegetables: I plan to roast them tomorrow. And then pecan pie, already made, a classic, always delicious. With dinner, I had a small glass of red wine. Delicious, light, with a slight hint of ginger.

Happy Christmas Eve, to those who celebrate.

Cleaning

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Cleaning and organizing are deeply satisfying. Addicting, even. I faintly recall being a mild cleaner when I was little, but mostly not minding grime or mess. It wasn’t until college that something went off in my brain because of Marie Kondo, who’s since shot to fame. I read her book in 2015, followed it to the last letter, and started an addictive clean-purge-sort spiral that’s continued ever since. I no longer toss the things that don’t bring me joy, which Kondo suggests–I just toss items. If they’re useless, I toss. If they’re unused, I toss. If they’re of little value, I toss. After all the tossing, I’m left with the remaining objects to sort. Later, I clean. On a weekly basis. It’s like clockwork.

Getting rid of dust and grime is indescribably addictive. On the one hand, I’m repulsed by the dirt and dust. On the other, I’m driven to get rid of it. It’s the strangest thing. I wake up first thing in the morning and clean, because otherwise, my head hurts and I’m on edge. I go to bed thinking of deep cleaning steam vacuums for carpets. I dream of having floors so clutterless that a small automatic vacuum can constantly run. I’m constantly peering at people’s corners and windows and furniture, on the lookout for missed spots. It’s somewhat of an obsession. I say somewhat because I have given up on maintaining entirely clean spaces, but I still try and keep up with decent, regular tidying. Grime must go. Dust must go. Dirt must go. Mold must go. Must go. Must go. Must go.

I am, which you can probably tell already, very germaphobic. People notice this pretty quickly. My grad cohort friends tease me about it. My friend said I was hygienic when I rushed off to wash my hands in the bathroom before eating a bagel in New York. The notion of viruses floating in the air just makes me nauseous. Somehow I’ve managed to evade illness (KNOCK ON WOOD) for the past year, but not without lots of luck and ducking. When I hear people cough, I either physically move or shield my eyes, nose and mouth. That is how illness spreads: through droplets landing in or on those entrances. And don’t even get me started on doorknobs. Or, better yet, bathroom handles that require you to touch them after you’ve washed your hands and don’t provide paper towels.

In other words, it’s a lot of mental gymnastics to dodge the unseen filth in this world–and yet, no matter how hard I try, I’ll always be swimming in a sea of dust mites. It’s not for naught: I still feel satisfied after each weekly cleaning spree. And that makes it worth it.

Upshore

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The past Thanksgiving week with le beau has been well-spent. Our professors were–what’s the word, even? ridiculous? silly? naïve?–fill-in-the-blank to give us due dates on the day we returned from break. I turned in whatever I had the day before our last day, not really caring if I got 0’s or 100’s or 50’s, and then skipped the next day of class to begin my break early. I went shopping, rested, hung out with my boyfriend, and packed for our mini-vacation.

On the drive there, we stopped by a quaint peaches shop. It was filled with peach-everything. Peach salsas, peach pies, peach cobblers, peach ice cream, peach jerky–you name it. Candies of my childhood decked the aisles. A customer laughed as I photographed the chocolates. The man at the cash register gave off negative energy. I wondered: was he tired, was it personal, or was there something off about him? I stared.

When we arrived, the home was bustling with company. Family and friends filled the home. Dogs yapped at us. A new dog: Bear. A buff little black French bull. His cousins and nephew were in the garage, drinking beer. I tuckered on to bed because the ice cream left me feeling woozy. Later I found out that le beau had gone off electric scootering throughout the neighborhood.

Thanksgiving was the next day. I came woefully unprepared with my winter sweaters and long pants. I have worn the same black shorts for the past few days. On Thanksgiving Day, we walked the dog, and met up with the rest of the cousins, who were all on wheels. Bikes, scooters, a skateboard. We took turns scootin’ around the block. Dinner was turkey and sliced ham and cornbread muffins and light pink citrus shots and more. It was wobbly cheers and a heavy head, too heavy to carry, and Jhene Aiko on the speakers. The next day, we cleaned out his cousin’s room.

At the moment, I am reading two books: one on spiritual matters, and another on film photography.

This weekend

Friday was mulled wine night. We sat and drank spiced rum-infused red wine and talked the night away to trap Christmas and a digital fireplace blazing away on the TV. I forget what we talked about but I had four cups of wine and the room span for the most part.

Saturday was date night, my treat. We went to his favorite European restaurant with the schnitzels and potatoes and ordered the usual, laden with carbs and smoked protein. I sipped the foam off his beer until he protested. Later we watched another episode of Marianne, the French horror. When things become too wild, less plausible, they lose their power, I think–the witch embodying Mrs. Doperon was scarier.

Tonight was boba night, welcome back to town night. I got the mango fruit tea and the bubbles were of decent consistency, which was refreshing, because I’ve had some ass boba the last four times I got it. It was either too sweet or too bitter or the bubbles were shit and if you’re going to be serving boba at the korean square, you best believe you’re not fooling anyone with ass boba. Anyways. It was nice catching up and seeing her and spending some time together.

Despite this week being one of the busiest in grad school–I still don’t know what hierarchical linear regression is, but I did a project off of it–I managed to squeeze in some quality time with some quality people.