Photo by Author, La Jolla Cove in California
In this unprecedentedly turbulent world, how do you keep your sanity and perspective in the right place? We need to be grounded because this is “real”; things are taking place not elsewhere but here, in America.
Perhaps the word “unprecedentedly” may be a misused term after this year of COVID. The roots of what’s happening “here and now” have been with us for a long time, after all. But we’ve neglected it and prioritized something else in our consciousness.
But again, if you feel threatened by what’s happening or driven to fix it, how do you first put your thoughts and emotions into perspective? How do you see, feel, and contemplate things around us? Do you call and talk to your friends, post your thoughts on social media; listen to podcasts; engage in quiet reflections; write them in a Moleskine notebook or computer?
Like you, I write.
Writing has always been an important life navigator for me. Before becoming a dentist thirty-plus years ago, I long wanted to be a writer. Since my childhood, my mind has worked at high speed, filled with words—almost like a river with occasional floods. I’ve always known my land and its geography, but I never journaled or kept a diary for years. I started with writing some notes, essays, and poems around thirteen. While undergoing difficulties in my family, writing became my important partner—a vent, a way to talk to my best friend, who was me and clear the clouds out of my mind.
Later, painful life events led me to take another professional path: dentistry. (I share the details of this part of my story in my forthcoming book, Finding Home: A Japanese Immigrant Woman’s Life and Transformation.) Soon after those events, I stopped writing as if I was punishing myself.
For those born and educated in this country, you may not believe this, but it wasn’t only because of me—it was also because of my culture. Back then in Japan, my life was secure with a good education, profession, marriage, lifestyle, and hobbies, but it was formed of collections of achievements; I lacked purpose and agency. As a young woman of Japanese heritage and as the survivor of prolonged childhood emotional abuse, I’d given way to compromise and didn’t believe in my agency or potential. I’d had strong voices since I was little, but I’d tried to hide them for so long that I had only profound emptiness.
When I arrived in the States in February 1990, I had nothing but two suitcases in my hands and my lifelong imaginary debts in my pocket. Hope—enduring, aching hope—was my torch to carry in this new country. I began to live a practical life, literally building my vocabulary one word at a time and my life one experience at a time. My eyes and heart were only my tools for seeing and feeling truths in whatever I experienced, my chisels. I carved my core, chisel mark by chisel mark, out of a stone and found my life.
My late husband, Patrick, was a beautiful person. He had become my oasis and helped me to heal from the wounds I’d had before. Together with him, we experienced a wonderful, humble, bodhisattva (altruistic Buddhist’s) life.
While sculpting my Self, I returned to my once-broken family. I asked my father, Papa, from whom I had been estranged in my mind for so long, to financially help me rebuild my path in dentistry and become a pediatric dentist here in the States. I thanked my life in America and wept for the fact that I’d been able to change myself that far, to a point where I could accept Papa’s help. At that moment, I knew the debts I’d carried from my life in Japan had vanished.
My American friends also helped me with warm hands at each decision junction I encountered. Without their support, I would have lost light and been stranded, in despair, in the wilderness.
Since Patrick’s passing and during my grieving, I’ve returned to writing. Writing has become part of my spiritual practice; it makes me feel like I’m truly carving the essence of my Self out of my life. Sculping my core agency, trust, and strength out in my life through writing has become a rhythmic daily act for me.
In my spiritual path, memoir writing has specially made life-changing impacts on me. Excavating and living in the moment of the past makes us live those moments all over again. It is no longer the moment of the past but the here and now. Through memoir writing, I have emerged out of the past and merged into the present moment. I feel so grounded and in tune with my Self and able to lead my life forward to the future. I thank you, Brooke and Linda Joy, for these special, life-lasting opportunities.
Now I have this sculpture, the ownership of my life. The past, the present, and the future have been connected and integrated into One. And through this act of carving my core, I have found the worlds that are all interconnected with me. As I’ve found myself, my family, friends, and you have all become part of my world.