Of all the things I struggled with in Japan, by far the most confusing, sensitive, and shrouded topic is love. I'm still trying to understand it but I am beginning to get the hang of things. Much more on that later.
For now, here's a list of things I NEVER BELIEVED I WOULD BELIEVE OR DO before I came to this country:
- try, much less enjoy and repeatedly attend, a public bath. I never, ever would have considered even the possibility of doing this before Japan.
- want to eat sticky white rice and gooey fermented soybeans for breakfast
- spend 3 dollars on one peach
- teach (Hah! Believe it or not! But sometimes I REALLY love it)
- see any value or merit in an arranged marriage. Now I think I GET it, and simply understanding those values is scary.
- prefer to sit on the floor
- dream in broken Japanese with an albeit very limited vocabulary
- meditate in a temple under the rule of a man with a giant stick
- be so fascinated by bugs and plants I've never seen before
Also, I want to revisit two old posts and re-think the way I see Japan in light of my own views. Or perhaps, the way I see myself in light of Japan. Everything is basically summarized by this poem (so the second post will come later):
By the time you swear you're his,
Shivering and sighing
And he swears his passion is
Infinite, undying --
Lady, make a note of this:
One of you is lying.
And don't give me any of that boo hoo, isn't she cynical. The truth is I am quite the romantic. It's just that my timeline is different. I don't believe in anything fiery lasting. That doesn't mean it wasn't beautiful and completely real. But in order to keep the whole universe going, everything with energy has a life span. If you burn brighter then most likely you will burn out faster, simple as that. I mean this about all things, like when my brother and I stood in my bedroom, doubled over in hysterics because of the crazy way our dog was running circles on my bed. I never thought an animal could bring so much pure joy into a home. And when I stepped back from that picture and looked at my brother with tears in our eyes from laughing so hard, my insides felt a little reverent, because I thought, "Anything this amazing is not going to last. This little thing is going to use up her energy and leave us sooner than we want." And sadly, that is what happened. I was overcome with grief when she prematurely passed away, but I couldn't ignore the fact that I had sensed it would be that way all along.
Yet you don't have to stop there and be cynical. You have to see everything in terms of your own big picture. It's not cynical to say that the most beautiful things have the shortest life spans. (In fact, it's very Japanese. It's why the cherry blossoms, which last only about one week, are so loved and celebrated.) Instead, you have to look at the good things and tell youself, "Look what I got to experience. Look what happened in my lifetime. Look how lucky I am to have had that at one point."
It doesn't MATTER that it's gone, because you HAD it. In reality you can't own or control or keep or protect anything. So when people ask themselves, or ask others, "What happened? Where did it go wrong? How did you lose it? Why did it stop? What screwed it up??," and they struggle to understand why they couldn't hold on to something, the real question should be, "Why on earth did you think it would last?"
And that, my friends, is very romantic.