May 6, 2007


I've been living a little more, blogging a little less.

But feeling the urge to write more, in a calm way that doesn't scream "do it right now!!" and make me feel like I'm slagging off on everything. So that's a positive thing. If only I could write in a way that wouldn't give me a headache, and yet still have the effectiveness of typing. But I've pulled out the good ol' composition book for my train rides once more. I'm anticipating (hopefully) a long train ride to work this summer, so that will be a good excuse to attempt some focused writing. So many interests and topics, so many shadows and light. So much to reflect on, without getting lost only in consideration. I have infinite admiration for people who can write in a concise period and then move on to the next thing. I'm not like that at all - I mean, if I think something is important enough to write and think about in any non-stream-of-consciousness way, the process is agonizing - almost working around the actual writing until I finally have to sit down and crank it out. That's how it is for me right now with this final paper that I have to slog through before I get to freedom on the other side.

Heck, even fun writing takes me a long time sometimes - that piece I wrote about I for India took me a very long time, because I was trying to delve deeper into my personal history, and to think more about the topic - but I didn't give myself the quiet time to do that thinking that I need. I guess it's a matter of compromise, and learning that at a certain point, just putting something together and getting it off your chest quickly is cathartic, and this act of writing, particularly in a blog, which is supposed to be two part entertainment (if at least for self) and one part reflection should come more easily. Ah whatever! Thanks for reading, y'all. I've been very thankful for the past week or so, getting through my semester's end frenzy with more grace than I've mustered over the past 3. The road back to community seems shorter than it did at the beginning of this trip, and my step grows lighter with each passing day.

On that note... more things I'm grateful for in May:

Long walks. Our lives have been hectic, and I've not walked as much as I used to. Our neighborhood offers small and large sights, and taking advantage of the scene and the company are part of what makes the weekends special, no matter how often I say that I don't want to live just for them. Rather than try to cram everything we have to do into those two precious days, stretching out a bit and spending some quiet time walking has been a new habit. And I'm starting to recognize faces along the way/ flower buds bloom mark time passing rather than our calendars, and it's all right.

Mangoes. Hell yeah - it's mango season again. I wasn't really a mango freak until I lived close enough to an Indian market (i.e. Jackson Heights) to get a box whenever I was nearby. There's nothing like a good mango to change your mood. My mom ends up buying a couple of extra boxes in Jersey City to give to her friends near home. I'm carrying that tradition on - they may not be from my own garden, but I want to give people mangoes. All food metaphors aside, gotta share them while they're good. And ain't nothing like a fresh mango shake on a warm day.

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. This sounds brutally banal, like one of those idiots who blogs on-and-on about how wonderful their lives, their yoga classes, and their "deep thoughts" about "community" are, but this is honest reflection. I love my community. I love that I have spaces where I feel comfortable, even though I didn't grow up there, and I don't try to front like I'm an insider. Chinatown is more like home because I feel comfortable there, just like Asian American arts spaces feel like places where I can relate to people. We all have friends and family, but being able to connect in this way really means something to me, spiritually. I know that we can imagine resonance with others in our lives, based in some part on what we hope this world to be, and that inner need for most of us to be able to relate to people takes over and distorts reality... but I don't think I'm imagining this connection. I feel peace. That grounded sense where the chaos of the moment fades to the order that lies beneath - the echoes of people whose lives were difficult before, and the struggles that people are fighting every day now. But if we can't celebrate that, if we can't see this as some great big canvas upon which the good and the bad are pieces of a whole, then our work will not matter, our efforts will be wasted, and their stories will be forgotten.

Connections. I've been extraordinarily blessed by the friendships I've made over the years. I meet incredible people who don't forget what friendship means or how to connect even when I'm often caught up in something in "life" that keeps me from being consistent for them. The possibility of drifting from people, especially when you don't see them regularly, is so great - in our lives, we take on new roles, meet new people, evolve in our thinking and relations (or don't). How we can keep our relationships dynamic and fresh really depends on how much we're willing to keep working at them, I guess.

I had a history teacher in my little town who gave me two things, among others. First, he'd hand out photocopied chapters from Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States to supplement our textbook reading - a wonderfully eye-opening thing for a high school teacher to do. But I didn't read any of them. I read Zinn in the weeks after I graduated from college, picking it up from the bookstore in Bard College where I worked as a resident/teaching assistant for a Bank Street program with high school seniors. It was an odd choice for summer reading, but it was perfect, and I remember pouring over the pages and realizing what I'd missed - it took me two graduations to get there. But the other thing he gave me was a thought about how he wanted his friendships to be - he would tell me that he had friends who he would see from his younger days, but all they would do is talk about the good ol' days. But they didn't have much else to discuss, and he wondered about how and when to cut off those friendships - if it's not growing with you - if you're not able to talk about your lives now, no matter how different you may have become, well, does the friendship still really exist? Or is it the corporal equivalent of pulling your yearbook off the shelf and flipping through the pages?

I have so far to travel along this path I've only gently begun in community-based work, and that's what excites me still. As soon as that excitement wanes, it's time to move on. But some of my dearest friends are from my life before I started this way, and I fear that they think more about my choices than I do - as if we can measure our worth and what we contribute by the jobs we hold, the roads we've traveled. The measure of a person must be what's in their hearts, and I know that I have friends who sometimes think that they've "sold out" or they aren't living the life they want to live. And I feel helpless sometimes, because I can't figure out the words to assure them that our roles are all important, and that it's okay if they feel like they are in a rut, or that folks have obligations that have led them to the paths they have had to take (if they don't enjoy them). More than anything, I just realize that with my deep engagement with work and now school, I sometimes falter in my connections, but I have been reminded time and again of how fortunate I am to have met so many of the people who make up my memories.

I only hope that physical proximity is not what we need to keep those vital and formative friendships dynamic and alive.

Anyway - this post has meandered quite a bit. Sorry for that - Sunday evening when you have a lot to do, but a heart and stomach full of good things - and this is what you get. Listening to Explosions in the Sky/Aphex Twin's ambient work gives me this hopeful, lifted feeling. So does some of the soul that I've been picking up from Oliver Wang's excellent Soul Sides music blog.

I promise I'll listen to some aggressive shit and remember how messed up the world out there is, and live back up to my rage moniker. After all, I'm not blogging from California, there's a lot of fucked up stuff going on, and this is not the time to bliss out. We have work to do.

No comments: