Thursday, February 27, 2014

69 Happy painting

Around Christmas, like a magic, all of a sudden I was able to start painting again.

Besides all the things I appreciate nowadays, this Christmas gift has been the most grateful one so far. It took me so many years to get to this point, although it is just a beginning.

I don't know why, but I'd been feeling guilty or worthless if I could not paint. 
I was always wishing I could find a breakthrough and start painting like maniac day and night, filled with ideas all the time.

But in reality, there was always too much thinking, too much stress, fixed idea that I should paint better or in particular style which should be different from anyone...etc. to be in the way.

I never liked any of my paintings especially the ones that I put for my show in Tokyo. I was under condition, and couldn't open up to paint what I truly was.

Always doubt, ambivalence, uncertainty filtered my color, expression, brush strokes, and dulled down everything.

Now I enjoy painting, and paint because I want to, not because I should. 

I still got to loosen up much more, because I often catch myself getting caught in too much details when I hear a little voice saying, "no, the color should be this way, and the shape should be more that way..." in fear of making "mistakes". 

I want to paint the way it makes me happy, and the way it frees me more. It's like a therapy. I got to keep reminding myself to ENJOY!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

68 Opened for music

The next two months after the short trip to San Francisco Bay Area, our life opened up for music.

It started out with the rock concert I made reservation months before as a Christmas present for my daughter. Until then I hadn't given permission to myself for going to concerts because it's too expensive, but I broke it finally to allow ourselves to have fun. 

How I used to love going to concerts! I gave up so many things I loved to do just because of the "story" that convinces me that I cannot afford them or that I shouldn't prioritize my own fun. 

And of course we both enjoyed the concert 120%! I even dug out my concert outfit from 20 years ago and dared to put it on for fun. 

This "pure fun" for music led us to more music. 

I used to play guitar in a band for fun, but I didn't have a guitar with me any longer. I couldn't afford to add my Les Paul in a soft case to the minimum baggage for my new life, when leaving the old house. And ever since, a guitar was never in the higher chart on my wish list.

But one day at work, I overheard a guy sitting across from me saying that he was going to sell his Les Paul for an affordable price. Before I knew it, I asked him if I could buy it. It came in a hard case, too!

Coincidentally, a Fender Stratocaster was sent to my daughter after a few weeks from her father as a gift. He knew she was interested and decided to give one of his away to her. All of a sudden we got 2 guitars in our humble apartment! 

So we went to a music store to get an amp and small parts for our guitars, and besides all the rock stuff,  my daughter was also interested in the violin, so she tried it out while at the store.

This developed into a whole new ado about "violin/viola lesson." She tried both violin and viola lesson, and even attracted a couple of chances to be invited to strings concerts without asking.

These coincidences really explain how easily life unfolds depending where we point our noses at!

Friday, February 14, 2014

67 Memorial Tour in the Bay Area

All I was told from the bereaved family then was the memorial service would take place at San Francisco Bay in sea burial style sometime during the weekend of mid November. 

I was able to make this 3-day 5-night trip to the Bay Area (that's all I could afford to)  in my favorite "let-it-happen" style without car or hotel arrangements, but it turned out the best anyway.

I arrived in freezing SFO at night, picked up by my long lost friend from the art college. I felt like home seeing her, as her place was always my home every time I visited the Bay Area. 

The ceremony took place in the next morning, departing from a harbor in Sausalito. There were some old familiar faces as well as some new ones but mostly already familiar by Facebook. 

It was intimate and beautiful, with heartfelt saxophone performance by our old friend. Returning him to the ocean was the brilliant idea by his little sister, as he loved the ocean, always diving and fishing. 

The young lady who made this ceremony happen also flew in to join, and among the bereaved family and close friends, she was also crying on the boat, as well as at the memorial lunch which followed, where everyone shared memory of our dear departed. She said in tears, "It's so amazing how he touched my life so deeply when I only met him for a few minutes." 
After the beautiful ceremony, I decided to stay with my new friend who was close to the dear late friend in his last years and found out about his death first. She gave me a ride to her home in Nevada City. What an adventurous trip it was! 

She is a social worker, helping homeless people. And she told me that our dear late friend also helped so many lives and inspired people by his music performance on the streets and at local cafes.

She also is vegan by the way, and it was perfect to adjust my slack diet back to what I first started, since California is vegan friendly.

I had no idea but Nevada City had interesting culture, artistic galleries reminiscent of Berkeley, music performance everywhere, organic grown vegetables, and unpaved roads, full of something I had not experienced in daily life.

After paying a visit to his friends and given hugs from them the next day, I headed back to the Bay Area by Amtrak, then picked up again by my old school mate to take the memorial tour in our old school, my old neighborhood, and our favorite cafe in Berkeley. We had so much fun!

During the whole trip, I felt my dear late friend's presence and could sense him laughing, much happier than what he had been for the last few years. I bet he set me up to reunite with old friends and also new precious friends. 

Thank you, my dear old friend! I enjoyed every moment of the trip...and I know it's leading to something even more wonderful.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

66 Amazing episode of how the memorial service was made possible

Through this sad incident I became close to 2 lady friends of his who joined me to investigate where his body was and what really happened to him. According to the Social Security Index, he was supposed to be in CA, however one of the ladies did talk to him on the phone 3 days prior to his last day when he was staying at a motel in WA, on his way to Seattle. This did not make sense and we wanted to help solve this puzzle.

We contacted his family and stayed patient until they made action against their sorrow and confusion.

It turned out that one day in October, this young lady, working at the motel near Seattle where he last stayed and found dead due to his heart failure, kindly searched him in Facebook and contacted one of the ladies who originally posted the Social Security Death Index data to let people know about his death.

Her message was forwarded to his family right away, and they could stop the funeral in the last minute and arranged delivery of his urn to his family in San Francisco.

She only briefly met him when she checked him in, but somehow even the minimum communication with him gave a huge impression on her. So she was greatly saddened when she learned that he passed away the next morning and that the police had not found his family yet, although he wasn't the first who died in the hotel in her career.

After 3 months she learned by the local newspaper that his body was still kept at the local coroner's office but finally going to be cremated and buried with other 2 without family. Though she strongly wished to attend the funeral, she was not allowed to take a leave from work that day, so instead she decided to pay her visit to his grave. On her way, she learned that his burial was postponed until the next few days due to the maintenance issue of the vault. So she went home and made the search on internet.

Purely amazing. That's how this memorial service was made possible.

65 The Bay Area Calling

Around those days, I became so homesick for the Bay Area for no reason. 

Oakland was the first city I came to live in the USA to learn illustration at an art college in the late '80s. It was the biggest change and challenge in my life especially because I never left my family in Tokyo until then.

I only spent a year there since I transferred to a bigger school in L.A., but the first year I spent in the Bay Area left a strong impression on me, so I ended up visiting there once a year at least, and I enjoyed the travel by driving each time.

It only seemed yesterday the first day I arrived with my suitcase to SFO, to Rockridge station by BART, to the school apartment with mixed feelings of hope and fear. There I found that I had to buy my own beddings, and one of my roommates took me to shopping and showed me what I had to buy. (I had no idea how each bedding item was called, the size system, etc.) Everything was new to me and there were full of surprises everyday.

It all came back fresh to me how the school cafeteria smelled like and what I first ordered there, my favorite cafes to do homework with friends at night, the night view of the Bay Bridge from our apartment...

I would usually think of L.A. to visit, but that time nostalgia to the Bay Area was prevailing. Soon I reconnected with my old school mates from the era on Facebook, and I was hoping to find company for my nostalgic trip which I was aiming in winter break.

Soon enough, I knew why I was attracted to the Bay Area. I found this shocking news on FB that my dear old friend from that time had been dead since early June.

He was a senior at the art school and was like a big brother to me, a local but born in Japan therefore bi-lingual and bi-cultural, just perfect for me to learn a lot from. He seemed to be friends with everybody on campus, and was friendly to anyone he came across, even to a street person asking for a drag. Most of all, he was the first-ever spiritual person whom I encountered, and inspired me all along the line. 

For me he always played a pivotal role in my life, to introduce me to new career opportunities or important people, which and who always took me to the next level.

He was such a free soul, and nobody knew where he'd gone to or what he'd been up to until a good friend of his found his death by Social Security Death Index 3 months later, although at that point nobody knew where he was last or how he died, etc. 

This news saddened so many people, as he'd touched so many lives. I was just one of them but fortunate enough to be invited by his family to his memorial service at San Francisco Bay.

This was how my dream came true in November. And naturally, I reunited with long-lost local friend who was also a mutual friend of his, and I got to take the memorial tour together with her in Oakland and Berkeley.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

64 Physical symptoms of stress

Once I got emptied, I felt like starting anything new, like I was sitting in front of a white canvas. I used to think it's too late to start anything i.e. career and relationship when I was in the late 20s and 30s seemed so laughable. I was only condition-minded.

Right after I tuned into the state, I was told by my boss not to work overtime. 
Less income, but more productive time at home! I assumed that must be the next path to follow for my next goal, whatever that might be.

Often physical manifestation takes time for me, and especially physical reaction comes in delay. I had melena a couple of weeks later after I pulled myself together, so I took my diet more seriously, and took care of my body as much as possible. Maybe the extra time was given for me to rest.

This was in summer, and within a month, I heard from the group home that there would be a room available for my father. By his care manager's advice, we had applied to a group home near his place where they put him on the waiting list, and his turn came unexpectedly sooner. He would not have survived the summer otherwise.

I and my siblings decided to make a move ASAP. He lived alone in a place without air-condition, gradually going senile, even though he tried not to show us. 

Since our parents divorced, I was the only child who kept in touch with him once in a while. Cynically enough, on my operation day, I received a call from my uncle, his younger brother, telling me that he needed special attention. It took me a while to come to take care of him finally, and I asked my brothers to help him move, sorted things out and cleaned up his place in the apartment without air-condition in the severe heat of mid August.

Gosh, he did keep a lot of things!

So he finally made it to comfortable home where everything be taken care of and safe. Only he complained that he'd miss his freedom. 

This move was physically and mentally tough, but I dared to make our mother's 70th birthday trip to our old resort town in the mountains with nice hot spa, to get away from it all. It was so nice and  refreshing. I loved the smell of the deep green forest and the crisp clean air, enjoyed the little chilly morning in mid August. 

However, at the end of the trip I found something no-good was happening to my body. It seemed like rash, then it slowly grew to extreme dryness. I will refer more to this later.

Monday, February 10, 2014

63 Happy empty-handed, full of hope

Around the same time in June 2013, several incidents happened to me, all related to paternal or male relationships. 

It started with a call from my father's care manager, telling me about aggravation of his symptoms, which meant I needed to make some decisions soon.

The next day, instead of apathy as I always had, this voice/feeling came out for no reasons: "I am so happy to be your daughter!" I was crying on the morning train. 

The following day, my dear old friend passed away on his long journey. Actually I had no idea until I finally learned about that months later, which was another pivotal event for me and it also led me to a new phase of life. (Life is so interesting, isn't it?) 

Also on the same day, someone unforgettable from the past came to contact me to remind me that I still had unresolved feelings. That opened my eyes and made me realize that I was inviting the similar situation again with someone else, and I was actually falling into the same rut. It was very tricky because it seemed so rational and positive, but the truth is it's slowly hurting and killing myself.

I suffered from uncontrollable anger that day. I was scared of letting go of what I thought as "safety net", and having to start all over again. But I wanted to be truly happy eventually, and I knew I had to correct my direction for that.

Meanwhile, there were also good things going on. The family issue from the previous months were taken care of and much improving, and some happy events were taking place on the surface. I focused on whatever was happening to enjoy every moment and handle anything with maximum care, giving no chance for negative "thinking" to sneak in. 

I embraced the grateful and sad feelings together as a whole, and to lift my spirit, I used "Effective Questions" to break through to the brighter side effortlessly. 

And finally, after emptying myself out by dropping everything, no vague expectations or safety nets to hold onto, I felt so LIGHT!

For the first time in my life, I knew how it felt like to feel happy empty-handed but full of hope, ready to grab all the new goodies.

How I was full-handed, afraid of dropping anything.