Sunday, May 27, 2012

Looking Back

“Don't look back -- you're not going that way.” - Mary Engelbreit (excerpted from her poem).

I’ve seen this quote popping up all over facebook recently, probably because it’s right around graduation. I’m sure there are a lot of people looking back because they have no idea what’s coming next and sometimes it’s easier to look back than it is to face the fear of the unknown.

I must admit I’ve been doing a lot of looking back myself because I’m not happy where I am. I recognize there’s a benevolent force in my life, guiding me, but that doesn’t always mean I like where I’m going even if it’s in my best interest. Like how even at this moment I’m hearing the pulse of music blaring downstairs. I am extremely grateful it should stop by 10 p.m. but I’m realizing I don’t want to hear music playing ever. That if given a choice I would choose silence at all hours of the day. So I’m looking back. I’m reminiscing about when I stayed in a converted monastery in Italy, or visited my parents in Seattle, or any of the countless times I’ve stayed someplace quiet, wishing I could be back there.

It’s a whole lot easier to think about the “good ole days” than it is to sit with the discomfort of the here and now. So I look back. At the same time I recognize the futility of looking back because being wistful accomplishes nothing. There is a reason I’m not living in Italy, or Seattle, or someplace else in San Francisco. There’s a reason I am where I am. And if I’m forever looking back I’m missing out on the here and now. The rest of Engelbreit’s poem, which is quoted less often, is this:
 When you travel though life there are always those times when decisions just have to be made And the choices are hard and solutions are scarce and the rain seems to soak your parade!

There are some situations where all you can do is simply let go and move on Gather courage together and choose a direction that carries you toward a new dawn. So pack up your troubles and take a step forward the process of change can be tough

But think about all the excitement ahead if you can be stalwart enough! There could be adventures you never imagined just waiting around the next bend And wishes and dreams just about to come true in ways you can't yet comprehend!

Perhaps you'll find friendships that spring from new interests as you challenge your status quo And learn there are so many options in life and so many ways you can grow! Perhaps you'll go places you never expected and see things that you've never seen

Or travel to fabulous faraway worlds and wonderful spots in between! Perhaps you'll find warmth and affection and caring a "somebody special" who's there To help you stay centered and listen with interest to stories and feelings you share. Perhaps you'll find comfort in knowing your friends are supportive of all that you do

And believe that whatever decisions you make they'll be the right choices for you! So keep putting one foot in front of the other and taking life day by day There's a brighter tomorrow that's just down the road Don't look back — you're not going that way!
  Yes, it’s a little cheesy, but it’s also true. I have no idea what’s ahead so if I keep looking back I might miss out on what’s ahead. And who knows, maybe the temporary discomfort will pass and things will get loads better. I’m not going back. I’m charging ahead.

I dream of a world where we don’t look back, we look ahead. A world where we open ourselves up to what’s before us and understand pain and discomfort is only temporary. A world where we know there are no “good ole days,” because there’s a reason things aren’t that way anymore.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Makers: Natural and Manmade

Today I went to the Maker Faire. From their website:

Part science fair, part county fair, and part something entirely new, Maker Faire is an all-ages gathering of tech enthusiasts, crafters, educators, tinkerers, hobbyists, engineers, science clubs, authors, artists, students, and commercial exhibitors. All of these "makers" come to Maker Faire to show what they have made and to share what they have learned.

The faire was very cool and also very overwhelming because of the sheer amount of people and inventions. One such invention is the 3D printer. (Full disclosure, my friend works for MakerBot.)

In essence, you tell the printer, “I’d like to print a dragon,” and THEN YOU CAN. IN 3D. That wasn’t even the coolest thing at Maker Faire. I’m not sure what the coolest thing was because so many cool things were vying for my attention. Like dye that’s activated by the sun. And a replication of the Viper, a starship from Battlestar Galactica:

PEOPLE ARE SO INVENTIVE AND INGENIOUS. I love it. It’s amazing. What’s funny is today was also an annular solar eclipse! Look at these pictures some friends of mine took:

When there's a solar eclipse shadows are cast differently. Notice the crescent-moon shapes as opposed to normal blocks of light. Photo by Amy White.
The sun is so bright here even looking at the photo almost hurts my eyes. Photo by Annie Sexton. 

What I find interesting is today in particular natural and manmade makers collided. I am in awe of both what human beings are capable of making and also what nature has made. It’s something I can’t quite put into words because both are astounding. Both show me how special this world is that we live in because we do get to experience duality. At the same time we’re running around inventing things, we also get to soak up what nature has made. We live in a time where both are possible. And that is really cool.

I dream of a world where human inventiveness continues to be celebrated. A world where we continue to dream something and then manifest it. A world where we not only appreciate our own creations but those of the natural world as well. A world where we stop for a moment and realize how special the world can be.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Invisible Hand

I know “the invisible hand” usually refers to Adam Smith’s notion of self-regulation in the economic marketplace, but in this sense I mean an invisible hand in terms of a guiding presence, a benevolent force.

As many of you know, I moved out of my beloved apartment in January because I wasn’t able to sleep at night. Months later I’ve still been upset by it because like I said, I really loved that place. I knew why I moved out on a practical level (no sleep, raucous neighbors, a pulsing noise), but I wanted to know the metaphysical reason. I wanted to know why the universe constructed it so I had to leave.

I finally found out.

I’m a part of Alerts SF, which is a municipal alert system that texts me when there are road closures or gas leaks, that sort of thing. Several days ago they texted me saying there was a road closure on Post two blocks down from where I lived due to police activity. According to this news article, police shot and killed a suspect who opened fire on police officers during a standoff. The suspect was contacted because he had a connection to a homicide investigation and then he shot at the police when they arrived. Nearly two dozen shots were fired.

The manager of my old building said our street had gotten rougher and this news report confirmed it. This event happened literally two blocks down from where I used to live. You may have noticed, but I’m very sensitive. I am not able to tolerate lower vibrations, especially where I live. So I can’t help thinking, that’s why I moved. I moved because the invisible hand that guides my life saw all this coming and pushed me out for my safety and happiness.

Now? I pass by trees on my walk home from BART or the bus. There is no graffiti on the main walkways. There is no one accosting me. There is only peace and quiet. And nature. That’s the other thing.

Today I went for a hike on Mount Tamalpais with a friend of mine.

This is a close approximation of what we saw today.
Coming back to the city was rough. For the first time, maybe ever, I realized I want to live near more greenery. That I wasn’t quite ready to come back to civilization. What struck me is that’s exactly where I’m living now. The other day I meditated on pine needles while surrounded by fennel, birds chirping, and shrubs. The invisible hand guided me to where I live now, which I didn’t even know I’d want because like I said, until today I didn’t know how much I missed trees. Often I don’t understand why things happen the way they do, but eventually I find out. And when I do, I’m always struck by how there’s a benevolent force in my life. How I may not like what’s happening in my life but it’s always in my best interest. I’m touched by how someone, somewhere, is looking out for me.

I dream of a world where we all have an invisible hand guiding our lives. A world where we are pushed to better places, people, and things. A world where we know we are being taken care of each and every day. A world where we understand everything really does happen for a reason.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Things Pop When They're Ready

Normally I blog on Sundays but things have been so crazy I’ve been unable to do so until now. I moved into a new place about a week ago and then I had guests stay with me so it’s been quite a whirlwind!

All this week though I’ve noticed how things pop when they’re ready. As mentioned, I moved into a new place that’s a studio plus an office. In order to separate my bedroom from my living room, I bought a Japanese screen from Craigslist.

Japanese Screen
The night before I picked up the screen I checked my wallet and all I had was $44. (The screen cost $45.) My new location is not as commercial as my other one, so I’m not near an ATM, nor is an ATM on my way to public transportation, so I wanted to avoid a special trip if at all possible. I dumped all the coins in my wallet on the floor and came up $0.26 short. I searched my whole apartment looking for the extra change. I scoured the bottom of every bag and backpack I own trying to come up with the money, running through scenarios in my head. Perhaps she would be fine with $44.74.

It struck me I should check my foreign money because, hey, you never know, right? I just got back from Italy, so maybe my American money would be mixed in. I searched my euros, nope, nothing. Then I pulled out my money from Costa Rica, a country I visited 11 year ago. Mixed in with all the coins was a $1 American coin. I kid you not. That coin was sitting in a bag at the bottom of my dresser for ELEVEN YEARS waiting for this very purpose it seemed.

I laughed out loud when I saw it and I think I said, “You have to be kidding me.” Things pop when they’re ready.

What’s also interesting to me is I’ve known someone for 10 years – we run in the same circles, have similar friends – and yet up until recently we’ve been acquaintances. Familiar acquaintances, yes, but I didn’t really consider him a friend. More like in between a friend and an acquaintance. Then in August he started dating his partner and things changed. We started hanging out more and became real friends. So much so that I visited him in the hospital yesterday after he fractured his jaw while breaking up a fight. I didn’t know I felt that way until his partner sent out a mass message on facebook detailing what happened. Somehow I didn’t even question whether I would visit him, it was a given.

While at the hospital he was a pathetic sight – bandages strapped to his head, immobilizing his jaw, not able to talk. All communication was through paper. He wrote down on a piece of paper, “Thanks for visiting me,” and I said, “Of course! That’s what you do for friends and family!” And I meant it. Because somehow we crossed the line of acquaintance and into friendship even though I’ve known him for a long time. Things pop when they’re ready.

I’m going to circle this post back to the last one I wrote “Starburst,” because I think the same principle applies. Matt Damon and Julia Roberts “popped,” they became famous when they were ready, or the universe was ready, or whatever “it” is that had to be ready. The exciting thing is we never know when the pop will happen.

I dream of a world where we understand all things in due time. A world where we know there’s no need to feel impatient because things pop when they’re ready. A world where we live each day in joy, feeling present, and alive because there is nothing more exciting than being on planet Earth when at any moment things can pop.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.