Day 154: The Man and the Home for the Holidays; ‘Missing’

Christmas Spirit.gifI bet you were expecting some melancholy story about the holidays weren’t you? You were wondering to yourself why the WP powers that be would choose such a heavily negatively charged word would be the prompt so close to the holidays. Maybe we miss our family or friends because of circumstances this year. Maybe we miss love and loved ones.

You might even be tempted to write about the inherent gloominess of the holidays, irreverent contrarian that you are. But you should take hope in knowing that contrary to popular belief, suicides do not increase over the holidays. Yes, it is common for some people to feel a bit depressed over the holidays, with whatever emotional or psychological baggage distance, or forced closeness, or extra glasses of eggnog, may bring up. Holiday stress is a very real thing. There are increasingly unrealistic and seemingly insurmountable pressures to make each holiday perfect and better than the last. The perfect holiday party. The perfect presents. The perfect way to avoid ‘holiday’ vs ‘Christmas’ talk. This year especially I imagine many families will have to be extra careful when dealing with politics or beliefs, as we continue to divide ourselves more and more each day. The holidays can also be a shock to our system, a severe departure from the norm. We suddenly have relatives popping in from all over the world and they may even be sleeping in your guest room already. There’s increasing amounts of socialization that can cause anxiety in some and the opposite, having to be away from familiar faces during the holidays, can cause feelings of loneliness. Either way, once you start hearing those Christmas songs on the radio, you know you’re entering a completely different world for the next four weeks.

its-a-wonderful-life

If you’ve seen It’s a Wonderful Life, I wouldn’t blame you for wondering how others are handling the yuletide season and assuming (though incorrectly) that others must feel miserable and dejected. After all, if it isn’t A Christmas Story on television you’re usually stuck with It’s a Wonderful Life. You may see George Bailey contemplating suicide in the beginning of the movie and imagine there must be plenty of others who feel the same way. But don’t forget that in the end he ultimately chooses not to end his life, realizing how good he actually has it. Somehow I fear that message gets lost in the cynicism that some of us arm ourselves with to counter the overly festive mood.

I have to admit, I am one who used to believe the myth that suicides and depression increase over the holidays. The truth is, and we should all work to spread this around, is that according to the Center for Disease Control, November and December have the least amount of suicides and/or suicide attempts. I do get a bit depressed usually around the holidays, often because of failed relationships and missing love. Between Christmas, New Year’s, my birthday, and Valentine’s Day, it seems that there is some romantic occasion I am missing out on every other week. I admit to feeling lonely, sometimes unfulfilled, and my mind wanders to who isn’t thinking of me at the time. It’s a terrible way to be, and I’m working on that through this experiment after all. I’m also a bit of a contrary bastard, and sometimes I feel while everyone is jumping off the deep end on merry I need to you know, inject a bit of melancholy. We all have the right, even during the holidays, to feel a little down, to feel like something’s missing, but we do no one any favors by perpetuating and strengthening the idea that everyone feels like this right now and that everyone is contemplating something as serious and as heavy as suicide. Just take a deep breath, take a walk around the block when your relatives get on your nerves, either have that extra glass of eggnog or be a teetotaler completely, and you should be fine. We’ll all get through this together.

Christmas Tree.jpgI will tell you more about what I did miss while I was in Mexico though. Home for the holidays. I don’t think I could ever celebrate the holidays away from home. The resort had Christmas trees up with big fake presents wrapped up in giant gold bows, the staff at the resort and the casino and anywhere we went shopping were all wearing Santa hats, and they even played some Christmas music in the airport while we were waiting for our flight. But nothing really made me feel like ‘oh wow, it’s Christmas, I’m so excited’. I needed to be back home to really feel it. No matter where I am in the world, I don’t think anything would bring me into the holiday mood more than decorating our Christmas tree. We usually put it up on Thanksgiving, while we’re going crazy in the kitchen cooking we start the process of bringing the tree down from the attic and taking out all the decorations and lights. Aside from all the standard decorations we put up we have our own personal ornaments that we like to hide around the tree. I have a martini glass and a TARDIS. My brother has a shiny car and a Spongebob Squarepants ornament. My mother hides a Snoopy ornament and a Hershey Kiss. My father has a poker table and a golf set. That makes it our tree.

Every year we also put out a grand christmas-village-1Christmas Village display with pieces from Department
56 that we’ve collected over the years. You know we only started this because my brother fell in love with the displays back when they used to have actual retail shops. My brother was always very quiet and very reserved, but whenever we were at the mall doing Christmas shopping and we’d pass by the Christmas Village display his eyes would light up and he’d excitedly point at all the different houses and shops and the moving pieces. My mother wanted to give my brother something to look forward to every Christmas, so we started building our own. We had the moving track christmas-village-2with cars running in circles around town, a Santa flying over the village with his reindeer, and ice skaters moving gracefully over a frozen pond. We bought as many of the pieces as we could find. Toy stores, donut shops, houses, town squares. We had so many figures too and each year we love putting together different stories hidden throughout the village. We get to imagine where the carolers might go to, or who might be sneaking presents back home, and we even have a man we like to imagine has forgotten to tie down his tree to his car and is struggling to get it back!

Letter Hanger.jpgIt’s the little things that add up to creating the environment of home. Watching the decorations we have up all year-round transform to seasonal Christmas decorations. The stuffed bear we have on a rocking chair in the living room becomes a jolly old Santa. The tapestry we hang on the wall in the hall becomes a card hanger that we get to fill as the days go by with Christmas cards from friends and family. We’ve long since decided to be ‘that family’ who never takes down their Christmas lights outside so really I see the wires all the time but at least now we actually plug them in, which is nice.

Yes, it’s bitingly cold outside, but I like that. It’s part of Christmas. And everyone is extra cheerful because it really is a wonderful time of year, when we try our best to reach beyond that which divides us and focus on what makes us all one community. And for every person who might not be thinking of me anymore, I am surrounded by two more who are. I guess what I’m trying to say is, don’t force the issue. That makes no one happy. We’re all allowed a few gloomy days. We are all allowed to feel like something’s missing. But the holidays are about home, and you just need to find whatever it is that makes you feel most like that. I just got back from a lovely warm beach vacation, but I could never Christmas there, away from friends and family and hopefully snow (yeah that’s right, I want buckets and buckets of it; let’s see who prays the hardest this winter). The holidays are an emotional rollercoaster, but at least I have my anchor in the storm.

Day 154

Man: 126 Loneliness: 28

Day 153: The Man and the Way Back Home

It’s…good…to be back…I guess? Hahah.

Well actually I got back yesterday, but spent most of the day resting and bringing my BAC back to a reasonable and livable level.

Cold Winter.jpgThere are a few things I definitely missed though. I missed the biting cold. It was hard to register that it was December and only two weeks before Christmas when it was so warm in Cancun. Everywhere we went there were Christmas decorations and the staff even wore Santa hats and I couldn’t quite understand why until someone had to remind me it was Christmas season. I guess I’m just too accustomed to cold, wintry Christmases. And honestly, I wouldn’t have them any other way. So while my family lamented the weather, I was glad to be back where I could bundle up.

I also feel as though nothing really brings you back home like a warm shower in your own bathroom. As soon as I was unpacked the first thing I did was jump into the shower and savor the sensations. Mind you, I wasn’t exactly wanting for a nice shower either. The hotel had a rainfall shower which was just, oh man, so luxurious. But there’s just something about a shower you know how to use, settings you’re familiar with, just the right amount of water pressure, your own soap and shampoo, and the comfort of your own bathrobe and towel that just reminds you you’re home.

The flight to Cancun was uneventful, which is kind of what you want out of you know, flying 35,000 feet in the air. There’s really no love lost between myself and United. I don’t have much to say about whatever it is they do with themselves. But just about the only Stroopwafel.jpgthing I look forward to when it comes to early morning flights with United is that I get to have a delicious, chewy, sweet, stroopwafel. If you haven’t had these yet, just order them from Amazon or ask your friendly neighborhood Dutchman. It’s much easier to get than to fly United for it. They’re wonderful thin waffles with a spread of caramel sandwiched in between. At room temp they’re chewy and sweet but if you place it over your coffee or tea mug for a bit, the caramel melts and softens and the waffles become warm. About the only thing to do besides sleep is snack on a stroopwafel for the four hours until we landed in Cancun.

The Resort

beach-view

The resort itself was fantastic. Absolutely gorgeous. In the center of the main building was a Japanese style garden with koi ponds. This is where Toji, their sake bar, and Bana, their Japanese restaurant, are located. A beautiful and fitting centerpiece to their resort. The other restaurants surround Bana, with Market Grill outdoors. They have three pools: a quieter adults-only pool, a family pool that is shallower, and a long sprawling main pool with a swim-up bar and little islets with water jets. They have a long sprawling expanse of beach right outside the resort.

pool-and-swim-up

I’d wake up in the morning and then either order room service or stop by the breakfast buffet. A sausage, mushroom, and mozzarella omelet on my balcony overlooking the ocean. Or maybe mimosas at the breakfast buffet while I loaded up on waffles, smoked salmon, freshly made omelets, cheeses, bacon, and fruits. Then I’d spend the day taking a paddleboard or kayak out onto the water and riding the waves. The Caribbean Sea picks up a bit of temper by the time it hits Mexico so there was definitely some action in the water. Lunchtime I’d go to the poolside grill and grab my body weight in guacamole and pico de gallo, seafood ceviche, burgers, hot dogs, and chicken wings. Then I’d laze the afternoon away in the pool, swimming up to the bar and shamelessly sipping on Miami Vice after Miami Vice.

day-view

Dinners we were spoiled for choice. Our first night we went to the Market Grill which is styled like a Brazilian rodizio, with skewers of meat traveling from table to table. Sirloin, filet, chicken thigh, beef short ribs, picanha, round after round as they brought it to our table fresh from the grill and sliced it in front of us. For meat, Scotch is best, so Blood and Sands were the drink of order.

sashimi-and-sushi

On the second night we went to Bana, their Japanese restaurant in the center of the resort. Best location, excellent food, terrible lighting and hot. Still. Dock and avocado eggrolls. Seafood shumai. So many pieces of sushi and sashimi. Octopus, scallop, tuna, salmon, soft shell crab, eel. And lychee martinis! They also had the best dessert, fried banana tempura with a chocolate sauce and green tea ice cream and black tea ice cream.

blue-corn-sopes-with-shrimpOn the third night we went to Mole, which to be honest with you I had the least hopes for. It was Mexican modern, and I’m not a big fan of Mexican so  I wasn’t too sure I would enjoy it. But man was I wrong! For appetizer I ordered these little blue corn sopes with shrimp and spicy sauce and mixed greens. Wonderful bite sized amuse bouches. I went all out for the entree. Entrees actually! All-inclusive after all. I had a goat canneloni with a cream sauce. The goat was tender and flavorful with the earthy spices of Mexican cuisine goat-cannelonibut stuffed into wondefully al dente pasta sheets and served with a rich creamy sauce. I also had the pulpo (octopus) roasted with garlic. Just the right level of toothsomeness and char. Dessert was a tres leches cake that they finished table side by pouring a tiny pitcher of condensed milk over and watching the cake absorb it all was definitely entertaining before digging in. I definitely wanted an appropriate drink but wasn’t feeling like margaritas so instead had caipirinhas. The lime was refreshing and helped me power through all those courses!

roasted-garlic-octopus

Our final night we ate at Fuego, which is the Paradisus’s Peruvian inspired restaurant. I had the highest hopes for this. I love Peruvian food. Of course I had to start with a ceviche of crab and shrimp. Then a bowl of mixed grilled seafood including squid, octopus, shrimp, and scallops. Followed by the thickest, richest, creamiest version of lobster bisque I have ever had. Then a pan fried sirloin with mushroom risotto and a parmesan tuile and then a roast breast of duck with sweet potato puree. Still room for dessert and drinks! I had plenty of Pisco Sours to keep me company and finished with a coconut creme brulee served with almond liquer ice cream.

The food was great but the luxury of eating whenever and whatever was just so freeing. I still feel new and fresh to the all-inclusive experience so any opportunity to order a drink at a bar or some food was always taken. Late night my brother and I would order room service. Buffalo wings, omelets, cheesecake, nachos, burgers, hot dogs, our poor hotel staff having to keep lugging everything! Because of my connections with the travel company they placed us on the highest floor with the best view so they really had a trek each time.

paradisus-cancun-room

Of course we couldn’t spend the entire time eating! On our second day we took an ATV tour of the jungle and got to ride them on Maroma Beach, one of the world’s best beaches. The ATV tour was fun but not as thrilling or challenging as the ATV tour I did in Cabo where we were riding on and over sand dunes and drifting in the dessert and going up cliffs. But it was just challenging enough for my family and the rest of our group apparently! There was one couple who were riding together. We hadn’t even left the parking lot, just going single line heading out, when you see them riding top speed streaking across the line turning wide. I think the boyfriend didn’t know how much kick these machines had. They ran straight. Into. A palm tree. Knocked it right over and they got stuck over its dead body. Luckily it was a young tree whose roots weren’t so deep yet. Then, as we were riding along the road heading into the jungle, my parents missed the turn and were headed into the highway. Our guide races in front of them and tries to signal them to stop and turn but my mother, riding as passenger, thought he was just being friendly and told my father to smile and keep waving back.

night-view

We also visited Dubai Palace, Cancun’s largest and newest casino. Cancun just recently legalized casinos so the selection is pretty sparse, unlike Aruba or the Dominican Republic. Still we had a good time, and in fact my father and I won around $1200 Mexican pesos playing some card games. It’s not much, around $50USD, but to them it sure was a big deal!

It was a great trip, with just the right amount of relaxation and activity. Most of all it was great to spend some time with my family. We haven’t had a vacation all four of us in a long while. My brother and I had the VIP room since it was under my name and my parents stayed in another room a few floors below. Still we were always together, either at the beach or by the pool, and we always ate together, though my brother and I would also have our late night snacks! We would even play cards in our room and play penalty games to punish the losers. I think I most cherish though the ability to just go bar hopping with my brother and drinking together.

It was a fun time and I think my family is hooked on the all-inclusive now. I still have a few more free rewards nights to use so I anticipate we’ll be back next year! Maybe a different place in the Caribbean though.

Honestly I needed this after finishing NaNoWriMo, and it was a refreshing restart. Ready to get back into things though! Missed writing, missed this community, and ready to start up again!

Day 153

Man: 125 Loneliness: 28

 

 

 

Day 66: The Man and the Brudah

Happy Birthday.png

It is customary in my family that on birthdays after our prayer (Filipino Catholics represent y’all) I say a few special words reserved for the celebrant. Yeah big surprise, wonder how I ended up with that responsibility.

Today is my brother’s 22nd birthday. Twenty-two years ago I got a little brother and a best friend. Though I guarantee you there were times where I wasn’t sure we were gonna make it together. We had a nice dinner at a family-owned Italian restaurant in town, exchanged gifts, and we are now off to the movies. But before I go, I wanted to share with you the words I decided to dedicate to my dear younger brother from his Kuya (big brother).


 

Boobalah, Munch, Tikboy, Bruuudah. Happy birthday. Today you are 22. I want you to know I am tremendously, immeasurably proud of you. I see a wealth of possibility and potential and I commend you for staying true to yourself your entire life. I’ve never worried about the man you would become. I never questioned your decisions or the path you chose to take because you have never struck me as less than completely genuine. It’s okay that our paths and choices have led us to different destinations. It’s alright that we don’t always see eye to eye. You have been steadfast and firm with me and I know you’ve been that way with everything else.

Birthday Cat.gifYou face some immense responsibility now. You are out of school and the world is going to call on you to use your skills and talents. Remember to use them for the betterment of yourself, your family, and your world. You have a responsibility to fulfill the role you were always meant to have and it is on you to discover what that is. You will take on more responsibility, as I have, to take care of Mama and Papa and you will have to contribute more to the family. This you should take on with pride and enthusiasm.

You know the world is very different now. The expectations and the rewards are grossly unbalanced. There are a lot of people who would want to take advantage of your skills and use you rather than help you. Be aware, be smart. I am not worried because I have never promised you anything that I did not believe I or the world could guarantee you. You are clever enough to see the world for what it is and still find joy and happiness and satisfaction.

You are no longer a kid. You have always been my best friend but now you are also my Sugar.gifequal. I respect you and I admire you and I work to make you as proud of me as I am of you. I will always be there to be your guide, your mentor, your confidant, and your number one fan. Make us all proud. Make yourself proud. You are my brother, my blood, and I love you.

 

Day 66

Man: 49 Loneliness: 17

Day 54: The Man and the Most Painful Relaxation P.2; The Liver and Gallbladder

Today in part two we will discuss the liver (yin) and the gallbladder (yang) meridian lines. The liver and gall bladder correspond to the wood element in Chinese medicine and it is said that people with a strong wood element have clear vision when setting goals, an ability to plan and execute decisions, and a clarity and decisiveness when arguing. I also want to discuss a bit more on the mental aspect of Yin Yoga to balance out the physical. Once you are comfortable with achieving the poses and can rest comfortably for some time in them it is time to extend the practice beyond just what your body is doing and feeling and begin to take mental inventory of the thoughts and emotions that arise.

What should I be thinking about while practicing Yin Yoga?

Nothing. Which is the hardest thing to focus on, to be honest. There is a very significant difference between empty thoughts and and empty mind. In meditation, empty thoughts are the distractions. The sound of traffic passing by. Self-consciousness. Impatience. Groceries. The ambient noise in our minds that we have become much too accustomed to. An empty mind is one that is void of thought and 100% present. This is a very difficult concept for many to think about.

For example, if I said to you right now to close your eyes and think about nothing for even a minute, could you? Try this experiment and see how long it takes before the first errant thought enters your mind. It might even be the thought of ‘is this nothing?’ which, unfortunately, isn’t. Yin Yoga is often also considered an exercise in practicing and developing patience because it requires us to hold these poses and try and maintain empty minds much longer.

The difficulty is human nature wants to classify and define every experience. We cannot simply let things be, which is the goal of meditation. We want to quantify and judge, when the goal of meditation is to pass no judgements.

Aside from the regular thoughts that bombard our mind, there will be more specific to your experience with Yin Yoga. More than just thinking about work or relationships or dinner, you will find that Yin Yoga, because of its structure and the way it stimulates certain body parts and emotions, adds a whole other set of thoughts to wrestle yourself free from.

First there are the physical thoughts. You will be tempted if in a group to look around. You will think about others and their poses. Why are some in deeper poses than you. Do you look silly or foolish. Should the pose be like x or y. This pose hurts. How much time is left. How much time has passed. Etc.

Do not judge what others do or look like when practicing and meditating. It is not your concern. Some are naturally more open or closed and so the bodies reflect that. Pass no judgements. Take the time in the beginning of each pose to be mindful and purposeful in setting up your pose and make no judgement of what you are able to do. Understand that Yin Yoga is about deep relaxation and gradual opening. If it hurts, back off. But do not be lazy. Keep mindful of the 80% rule. 80% of your edge to promote growth and progress but remain comfortable.

Then there are the mental obstacles. Insecurity. Frustration. As you try to think of nothing, which is an entirely new experience for you, you will get frustrated as thoughts enter your mind. Then you are not only trying to free yourself from the original thought, you are now also trying to free yourself from the thought about the thought! This can become a vicious cycle that spins out of control and completely uproots your practice.

You must allow your thoughts to be like clouds on the breeze. When practicing your meditation think of your mind as a large empty field. As a thought enters, do not focus or linger on it. Do not judge yourself for thinking. Like a cloud, do not concern yourself with where it came from or where it goes. Let it touch you briefly and do not attach yourself to the thought. Let it blow by. Attach no value to your thoughts. Eventually the thought will leave, like a breeze crossing over a field.

The Liver

The liver is central to blood regulation and storage. Because it is the primary factory of the body, with its wide reaching functions, it is especially important to keep it balanced and working well. The liver is responsible for the distribution and regulation of chi. When the wood element is weak, people can feel indecisive and stuck. They may become more angry, arrogant, and/or short-tempered. Depression or long-term frustration can hinder the liver’s ability to distribute vital chi to the body, resulting in lethargy, exhaustion, and forgetfulness.

When the liver chi is stagnant, symptoms like paranoia, insomnia, nightmares, pale complexion, dizziness, and pale lips and nails may appear.

The Gallbladder

The gallbladder aids in digestion and absorption of nutrients and neutralizing of fats and acids. With gallbladder imbalance there is a tendency to be emotionally frustrated, resentful, and irritable. You may also have digestive problems and experience bloating or gas. A strong liver and gallbladder can prevent cramps, headaches, and migraines.

The liver and gallbladder are associated with spring, wind from the East, and the color green.

Frog PoseFrog Pose: Start in child’s pose and, while leaning forward, spread the legs apart while still sitting on your heels. Aids in digestion and opens up the hips, especially the abductors.

 

Sphinx PoseSphinx Pose: Unlike in other forms of yoga, in Yin Yoga the legs are completely relaxed in the Sphinx pose and there is a natural, comfortable arch in the back from being completely held up by the arms alone.

Swan PoseSwan Pose: Provides stretching for the quadriceps and hip flexors along with a moderate backbend for compression. You should have one knee against your chest with the foot between the hands and the other leg extended straight back with the bottom of the foot facing to the ceiling. Note that you are NOT resting your back leg on the knee but rather right above it on the thigh.

Shoelace PoseShoelace Pose: Also known as zipper. Great for opening the hips and decompressing the back if leaning forward is possible. Begin on all fours and then cross one leg in front of the other. Sit back in that position and try to keep the legs in their place. Knees should be directly on top of another and you should be flat on both sit bones, not leaning to one side. If necessary, use a prop to elevate the top leg and keep it parallel to ground.

Dragonfly PoseDragonfly Pose: From the top resembles a dragonfly with its long body and two sets of wings represented by the arms and legs. From a seated position spread your legs out to your sides and fall forward. Spread your arms out as much as you can and try to lean forward and lie flat. If needed, prop either your hips up to help the legs or your elbows up to help your arms.

Banana PoseBananasana Pose: Lying flat with your buttocks firmly planted on the ground, begin to slowly move your arms and legs to the right. Do not twist or roll or allow any sit bone to rise up unevenly. As you approach your first limit and surpass it, slowly continue to reach further up and out to the right. Switch sides.

 

 

Reclining TwistReclining Twist Pose: Start by lying on your back. Roll to your right side and keep your right leg straight in line with you. Take the left leg and raise your thigh perpendicular to your spine and place it over your right leg. Your left arm will extend straight to your left side, twisting the body. Do this on both sides. Modified version as shown where both legs are thighs perpendicular to spine.

Corpse PoseCorpse Pose: Lie flat on your back, with legs slightly apart, arms at your side, with palms up and fingers spread. Use this time to relax, focus on breath, and take a mental inventory of your body and mind. Reflect on any sensations that came up during yoga. What body parts responded well, what rebelled. What emotions are you stirring up in this long and mindful practice. Make no judgements. Allow everything to be.

Day 54

Man: 38 Loneliness: 16

 

Day 53 Supplemental: The Man and Daily Prompt; ‘ Miniature’

Koi.jpg

One of the hardest parts of transitioning from being in a relationship to being single again is realizing how much bigger your world has become.

When you are single your world is only as big as you know it to be. It comprises of your experiences, emotions, lessons, people, places, etc. With nothing else to put into perspective you find that you fit within your world in a comfortable way. You are not a big fish or a small fish and your pond is neither big nor small. You are simply a fish in what you believe is the only pond and you fit. Your proportions are equal to everyone else and you are contented to simply swim from one border to the next with plenty enough to discover and explore.

But when you find someone and embark on a relationship, you have to realize that you are not only dating that person and learning more about them, but you are also dating and learning about their world. See she is not just another fish in your pond. She is a fish from a whole different pond, and now your waters flow directly together. In the blink of an eye, you are exposed to double the amount of space.

This is okay, however, because as a part of a pair you are now also double the entity, and therefore able to handle it all and remain in the same proportion. She brings with her her own set of realities, expectations, experiences, and stories. You contribute yours. Her interests can become yours and yours can become hers. You are suddenly exposed to brand new people, places, and things. Your pond has gotten wider and deeper and the two of you exhaust your little fins racing from one end to the other.

Keep Swimming.gif

Unfortunately not all relationships last forever, and sometimes two fish who seem to have swum together forever may find at one point that their streams will lead to different waters. The problem here is that, while she may be gone, the world she left behind isn’t. Your pond has permanently been touched by her presence. You will always now be aware of how much deeper and wider everything has become. Whereas before we may have been comfortable in our world and our size within it, we now find ourselves feeling much smaller in a world that feels much bigger.

I never knew about bouldering before I started dating Beautiful again. I never considered skydiving or hiking or any of the other many things she introduced me to. And I know I did the same for her, introducing my own interests and worlds. I find myself now realizing just how much more there is than what I knew. She may not be here anymore to be by my side as I learn and grow and experience but I don’t need her. We don’t need another to feel equal enough to the world we inhabit. Beyond simply just continuing to explore the things she introduced me to I find I am now more curious and inquisitive and exploring things neither she nor I had done before. Archery for one. More travel another. Even relationships have become new things for me as I deepen my relationships with my friends and family on a level I only once ever thought to reserve for someone I was dating.

Pond.gifSee there is only so much we as individuals can ever hope to explore and accomplish in one given life. The most inquisitive and explorative of us will find frustration at our limits and resent the infinity we cannot be a part of. The complacent and comfortable will become resigned to their borders and never develop their own incentive to grow beyond. The only way to really experience as much of the world as we can is to allow others to come and make their ponds part of ours. Whether or not they remain with us to explore it is an entirely different matter. Even heartbreak and loss needs to be experienced in our lives.

We can spend our time angry at those who left us. Allow ourselves to be consumed with anger and disappointment at those who have left us behind with this vast and violent rapid. We can dwell on those who built up false promises and hopes and threw us in unfamiliar waters.

Or we could recoil in insecurity and self-doubt. We could continue to feel small and insignificant in the face of the new world, the world of being alone where you once were not. Find a comfortable reef to hide away in as the world continues on without us because we feel incomplete or not large enough to take on the new challenges and stories that await our fish.

MiniatureOr we could grow bigger on our own. Consume. If our world has become larger than we must grow to meet it. Consume everything. Experiences. Stories. Knowledge. Love. If you ever played that computer game where you start off as a tiny fish and as you eat more and more you grow larger and larger until you can take over the entire pond you know exactly what I mean. Our worlds need to grow and we need to grow with it. People come and pour more water and we cannot just content ourselves to be small or hope to find someone else to make us bigger. We must do it ourselves. We must consume with energy and enthusiasm and the most powerful feeling of being entitled to grow.

You have to remember, have to realize, your pond can always get bigger. There will always be ways whether you choose to or not to have the borders of your world stretched and reshaped. You can always get bigger. You can consume and meet the same pace as your world. But even when the person who made your world bigger leaves and you feel less than equal to the world, you have to remember, you never actually shrunk. You have always been the size you are. You don’t get smaller. You get bigger. When you are left alone, you are not smaller than the person you were before. Your world is bigger, and at the very least, you are the same size fish you were before you met her. Which means you better get out there and consume everything you can. No one deserves to feel like a miniature of themselves in a life-size model of their world.

Day 53: The Man and the Most Painful Relaxation P.1; The Kidney and Bladder

As mentioned before one of the main focus of my weekend retreat was to learn a new form of relaxation and meditation known as Yin Yoga.

I’d like to share what I learned and the poses associated as I begin a 30 day reflective yoga practice. I hope you find you can take some benefit from this sharing of knowledge. Regardless of what your belief system is I think a healthy mind and body is important and whether you agree or believe the concept of energy, or chi, the poses are still a great way to increase flexibility, sensitivity, and longevity. We are all on a continual pursuit to better our minds and bodies and I hope you find this to be a new opportunity to walk together towards that goal.

So what is Yin Yoga?

Unlike other forms of yoga, yin yoga emphasizes four things. 1) Holding poses for a longer duration of time 2) A deeper form of relaxation with less stress on the muscles and more focus on flexibility 3) A more meditative nature with slow, purposeful movements to create inner peace and silence and 4) A purposeful objective to stimulate or inhibit certain emotions, mentalities, energies, and/or physical characteristics.

How does Yin Yoga aim to do these things? How does one practice Yin Yoga?

The poses, or asanas, in Yin Yoga are much more relaxed and the movements from each are much slower and more meditative. There is less strain on the muscles as we work on slowly increasing flexibility and reaching and then slowly surpassing mental and physical ‘gates’ or limitations. With less physical exertion you are able to hold the poses longer, which allows for more gradual and consistent growth and improvement and also, as your mind is not so preoccupied with strain and exercise per se, you are able to spend more time in a meditative and reflective state. So the key in Yin Yoga is to understand that you are not supposed to be at 100% of your exertion as you will easily and quickly burn out before the end. Stay at a comfortable but consistent 80% and pay attention to your body and mind. Feel your body gradually begin to open up to the pose and sink even deeper than if you had exerted yourself outright. Pay attention to the calm of the mind and make no judgements as thoughts enter and then leave. Let them go as you focus on silence and peace. Use any necessary props to adjust poses to be more comfortable and to be able to hold them for longer. Props are not signs of weakness or inability. They are tools to help you attain your goals and hopefully one day you will find you will need them less and less, if at all. Again, no judgements.

Another aspect of Yin Yoga is how it can target specific body parts for specific purposes, whether mental or physical. You can pick and choose based on your needs each day on what you will want to improve and as you are in your pose, focus on stimulating that particular body part to induce that specific effect.

Today we will discuss the Kidney (Yin) and Bladder (Yang) Meridians of the body.

The Kidney

The Kidney is considered the ‘Root of Life’ because it houses the force that we are given at birth, chi. In Chinese medicine the kidney system also includes the ‘external kidneys’ (testicles in men and ovaries in women). The ‘external kidneys’ are important for sexual vitality and reproductive health. Kidneys are the seat of power, courage, and willfulness. When the kidney chi is full, we are centered, fearless, rational, and clear headed. We are gentle and understanding, filled with compassion for ourselves and others. But when the kidney chi is lacking, there is fear (possibly explaining why when we are frightened there is a tendency to urinate), paranoia, anxiety, jealousy, suspicion, and a loose morality.

Physical symptoms of a weak kidney chi are dark circles under the eyes, imbalanced hormones, genital and sexual disorders such as poor libido, impotence, and weak limbs.

The Bladder

While the kidney is considered the ‘Root of Life’ as it houses all of our essential energy, the bladder is called the ‘Minister of the Resevoir’ as it serves as the gatekeeper, keeping essential energy from the kidney in and filtering out bad energy to leave the body in the form of waste. Stress and tension play a key part when bladder chi is weak. Signs of problems with the bladder are backaches, headaches, and pain in the lower limbs. This is negative chi being housed and unable to leave, so staying and festering within the body.

The Poses

These poses in Yin Yoga are meant specifically to stimulate the kidney and bladder. Hold each as comfortably as you can, starting with one minute each and gradually over time increasing to around five minutes each.

Sphinx Pose

Sphinx Pose: Unlike in other forms of yoga, in Yin Yoga the legs are completely relaxed in the Sphinx pose and there is a natural, comfortable arch in the back from being completely held up by the arms alone.

Saddle Pose.jpgSaddle Pose: This pose stretches the feet, ankles, thighs, and arches the lumbar. Start by sitting on the top part of your foot and feel the stretch. If it’s okay, sit fully back and feel the stretch in your thighs. If still comfortable, go ahead and lean fully back and either support yourself on your hands or go fully back to your elbows.

Butterfly Pose.jpgButterfly Pose: A nice, relaxing way to stretch the back. From seated position, bring the feet together and lean forward, careful not to bend the spine but to stray straight and bend from the waist, stretching the back forward. Hands at feet in the beginning but when possible walk them further out, with the goal of being flat on the floor with head between your legs.

 

Dragonfly Pose.jpgDragonfly Pose: From the top resembles a dragonfly with its long body and two sets of wings represented by the arms and legs. From a seated position spread your legs out to your sides and fall forward. Spread your arms out as much as you can and try to lean forward and lie flat. If needed, prop either your hips up to help the legs or your elbows up to help your arms.

Caterpillar Pose.jpgCaterpillar Pose: With both legs out in front of you, fold forward and now allow the back to round. Try to hold the legs to stretch forward or, if it is too much, use a prop to sit on and elevate your hips.

 

Reclining TwistReclining Twist Pose: Start by lying on your back. Roll to your right side and keep your right leg straight in line with you. Take the left leg and raise your thigh perpendicular to your spine and place it over your right leg. Your left arm will extend straight to your left side, twisting the body. Do this on both sides. Modified version as shown where both legs are thighs perpendicular to spine.

Corpse Pose.jpgCorpse Pose: Lie flat on your back, with legs slightly apart, arms at your side, with palms up and fingers spread. Use this time to relax, focus on breath, and take a mental inventory of your body and mind. Reflect on any sensations that came up during yoga. What body parts responded well, what rebelled. What emotions are you stirring up in this long and mindful practice. Make no judgements. Allow everything to be.

 

Well that’s it! Part 1 of sharing my Yin Yoga experiences with everyone. I hope you enjoyed the read and hope you can try it out. If you do I would love to know how you felt and if you noticed any changes or sensations.

Day 53

Man: 37 Loneliness: 16

Day 52: The Man and the Triumphant Return, Post-Retreat

It is a strange feeling to be back. I actually got home late last night and with no real time to transition from the retreat world to the real world, I find myself on the road again already, traveling in eastern PA for the week. I am writing as much for the benefit of the blog and my own personal reflection as I am to record the immense amount of knowledge and wisdom I have gained over the past three days for future reference. I hope also that what I have experienced and learned I can share with others who might also benefit from it.

Eagle Village.jpgThe shift in mentality, physicality, activity, and awareness is almost jarring. For the past three days I’ve been completely unplugged. Not isolated or removed, just unplugged. The location was actually gorgeous. In Southbury, CT the school rented a couple cabins. We still had shelter and light and running water but we consciously chose to leave all our technology in our cars, locked away, to use sparingly if at all. I personally chose to go on a complete withdrawal from it all to ground myself again. There is a purposefulness that is wonderfully fulfilling and totally absorbing when you choose to focus your entire day on only a few certain tasks. Not that there aren’t ways to capture that sensation in our everyday lives, but imagine having a full day devoted to only the things you choose to do. To get up early because you want to feel the sun rising on your face during morning meditation. To fill your lungs with cool air and feel the wet morning dew on the grass as you begin your practice. Sharing a breakfast with people who are fully committed to the same goals and values and motivations as you are. Feeding off of that energy, that vitality. To rush back to the hot sun and be completely oblivious to how the hours melt away as you practice. We would take sporadic little breaks to cool down, drink some water, have some fruit, and we’d be back immediately, wanting to learn more, enjoying and valuing every moment as an opportunity to learn and improve and grow. A full day of personal, physical, and mental growth. We practiced until the sun would set and then, as a group, would find a local restaurant to have dinner together. At the school back home, there is a protocol of Interiorinstructors, assistants, and students. And even within the students, there is of course a ranking of seniority among the higher and lower belts. But on a retreat we wear no uniforms, bear no distinctions, and within respectable reason of course, honor no separation. It is only here that I can have a beer with an instructor or play pool with some of the assistants. It is here, learning something completely different and unique to the retreat experience, that seniors and juniors find themselves on equal footing and able to learn, practice, and spar on equal grounds. At night those of us who have not yet tired of the day’s lessons will find some private secluded areas to continue our practice, share knowledge and advice, and prepare for the next day.

I did not once think of Beautiful or of relationships or loneliness when I felt at all times surrounded by such engaging company. My body was too busy to feel lethargic and sad. My mind was too excited to wander into distracting thoughts. I find the first day back too numbing. It is busy but it is unfulfilling. I think a retreat is always a wonderful idea and it doesn’t necessarily need to be for martial arts. You can retreat within your own home to write, to sing, to draw, to feel, or to not feel. What I have come to realize is that the effectiveness of a retreat is not measured during its own time, but in the time after. Can you capture that feeling of peaceful and serene purpose and carry it with you back in the real world. Can each retreat slowly find its way into your daily heart until you feel it in every waking moment. That is the Zen. So the first goal, above retaining what was learned and practicing it physically, is to retain what was felt mentally and recreate it in every new morning. That is where I start my post-retreat journey.

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This week will be dedicated to sharing the lessons I learned from my weekend. During the retreat we focused on two new aspects of the martial arts practice that are not normally taught in the regular curriculum of the school. The first was Yin Meditation, a form of deep relaxation and stretching meditation much like yoga that focuses on benefitting the internal organs, emotions, health, flexibility, and relaxation. We learned and practiced various poses meant to stimulate certain organs and emotions and I will share the poses, how to do them, and how they relate to the very deep and complex world of Chinese philosophy and meditation. I am currently beginning a 100 day challenge of Yin meditation to see how my body and mind change from the regular practice of these poses for specific purposes. I will also share the martial aspect of the retreat, where I am very happy to say I was able to learn a new skill that has always been on my ‘must-learn’ list. I am a huge weapons enthusiast and I love being able to practice as many of the traditional Chinese weapons as I can and over this weekend we learned the double broadsword. Oh yes, that’s right you martial arts fans and nerds out there, we learned how to wield not one but two of the Chinese daos, considered among the family of traditional weapons of kung fu as the ‘General of All Weapons’. I am particularly keen to share my experience and insight into this practice not as it pertains directly, as I do not think I am neither qualified nor equipped to even begin to explain or illustrate the principles, but I am excited to share my insight as to how weapons apply to martial arts philosophy and how that can apply to the nature of relationships as well.

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Oh yes, I’m back, I’m energized, I’m inspired, I have a goal and a reason and a purpose, and I cannot wait to share.

Day 52

Man: 36 Loneliness: 16

Day 48: The Man and the Retreat

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I’m going to have to go on a very brief hiatus over the weekend and will be back on Tuesday.

If I could I would type and write until I wore my fingers down to the knuckle. Writing in this blog daily has done incredible things to help me sort my emotions, move beyond the initial hurt, and remain hopeful for growth and change.

Recently I have not really thought much about the events and people involved that brought me to this point. I have been too busy looking forward and enjoying this new creative drive. It has been amazing to witness the ease with which so many words now pour from my fingers. When I started I was so out of practice that simply trying to find a message was difficult enough!

But this journey is two-fold. I have been working on taking care of my mind and sharpening the sense of my writing, observation, and reflection. It is equally important to take care of my body. To remind myself that a little sweat and a little struggle can do a whole lot of good. To feel the sun on my skin and feel the natural breeze, not the one from the office vents.

It has definitely been difficult to find a way to adapt and negotiate my way around the craziness of my work schedule. Being on the road 90% of the time nowadays I do not have the luxury of familiar surroundings and routines to keep me balanced and in check. When I am finally back home on the weekends I am so consumed with the desire to spend time with family and friends, share stories, catch up, indulge, that I lack the incentive and motivation to do otherwise.

At least Pokemon Go has me walking to hatch those eggs. And I am fortunate that almost every hotel I stay at during my travels has some form of make-do minimalistic ‘fitness center’ that I can spend an hour in each night. But it does not replace where my body craves to spend its energy and effort. An elliptical does not speak to the blood that flows through me. For that, it has been, and will always be, my martial arts.

I have been studying and practicing martial arts for the past 19 years. I spent 12 of them at one school studying ba gua zhang and I’ve spent the past three at the school I am currently in learning a system that teaches a combination of eight traditional styles (kung fu, kung soo, ba gua, yudo, tai chi, aikido, the eight fundamental weapons, and kendo separately).

Jackie Chan.gifLike many Asian kids, I grew up watching Jackie Chan films. He was the one who inspired me to start learning kung fu. My father, who studied in the Philippines, was happy to help me find an authentic school that would teach me true martial arts, vetted by practicality, philosophy, and authenticity. I was ecstatic when we found my first school, then a small group that simply rented a space from a dance studio and taught authentic ba gua zhang, an internal style of kung fu (a la Avatar: The Last Airbender). I studied there for 16 years, progressing from the children’s classes to the adult, only stopping when I had to go to college and could no longer attend regularly.Aang.gif
During my 4 year hiatus I continued to practice what forms I could remember if just to retain the muscle memory and the flexibility and strength. After college I went through a particularly difficult time relationship and identity-wise, and what helped bring me back to center was my martial arts. I sought a new school and a new teacher and found the school where I am currently. My background helped me to rise fast and my hunger after being starved for so long of new material and techniques propelled me forward.

Before I began this new job I was attending practice four nights a week and every Sunday. I would then go with a friend I made at the school into the city and continue with more practitioners in Chinatown.

BodyMind.jpg

This is in fact a picture of the school where I now practice.

Martial arts has provided me with more than just a more dynamic and useful way of keeping in shape. Yes I have had to use it on occasion in the past and yes it has prepared me to be able to protect myself and those around me. But more so than that it has always provided me with a moral and philosophical foundation to living. True martial arts begins in the mind. It begins in the way you think. It has provided me with discipline, sincerity, benevolence, and bravery. Through my studies I began regularly practicing meditation. Developed a more level head. A keener sense of awareness. I admit my old school was a bit too traditionalist and isolationist. My new school is much more open and interested in other styles and schools. Through them I have been able to become a more active member of a community I did not know even existed. A community of truly dedicated and committed martial artists practicing mindful, authentic kung fu. I have been able to meet and practice with some incredibly gifted martial artists. I have developed friendships and relationships that center around one key fundamental interest and it has allowed all of us to improve with our continued interactions.

Both schools have had a regular tradition of taking one long weekend in the summer to take a retreat and focus solely on practice. It has been a yearly occurrence I have made sure never to miss, negotiating work, play, family, friends, and relationships around four days in August.

That is where I will be this weekend until Tuesday. That is what I am currently, in between paragraphs, packing for. Just the essentials. A toothbrush, toothpaste, contact case and solution, soap and shampoo, and clothes for changing out of each day. No cell phone, no laptop, and therefore, no blogging.

This retreat is as much about the physical aspect of martial arts as it is about the mental. We will spend time meditating, practicing, practicing, and then meditating. It is a true retreat from over-stimulation and indulgence. The most authentic and traditional form of practice we can recreate. A temporary but all-encompassing immersion in the art. I don’t know yet what we will be focusing on but I am excited to learn and spend more time with my kung fu brothers and sisters.

I am looking forward to this yearly opportunity once more. I cannot wait for us to hire more people in my department so that I can spend less time on the road and therefore more time at home and at my second home, the school. My body has sorely missed the sensation of struggle and growth. My body and mind are ready, eager, and willing.

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Too bad DailyPost doesn’t give previews of the next days’ prompts though. I hope I don’t miss anything good!

See you all on the other side of the weekend. Until then, take care, and don’t forget about me!

Day 48

Man: 32 Loneliness: 16

Day 47: The Man and the Fortuitous Madness; ‘Moon’

I’m not kidding, I sent this email to my friends two days ago. When I saw that the prompt was ‘moon’ I thought, how fortuitous, I could show you all what madness you would be in for if you were ever unfortunate enough to have to take a vacation with me.

Please note, this is just what I write for a simple, TWO NIGHT THREE DAY trip to the POCONOS. Last year we did five days in Vegas and I wrote a novel. 

But I’ll tell you what, no one can argue that my friends aren’t prepared when we go on trips together.

So without further ado, the email I sent my friends to prepare them for our vacation next week.

Linq.jpg

Hello lovely people,

In a little more than a week we will be on our second annual Little ‘Un. Congratulations on achieving this milestone in consistency and travel.

As a reminder, we will be away from Saturday, August 27th, to Monday, August 29th in the beautiful Poconos Mountain area in eastern Pennsylvania.

Prepare for a weekend of excitement! Intrigue! And perhaps even….MURDER! Or maybe just some good food, good drinks, and good company. You know, whatevs.

Of course before we embark on this most epic of journeys, it would be most prudent to prepare properly, please.

Proposed Itinerary

Saturday, August 27th

We shall all congregate at the house of [name removed] on Saturday no later than 10am. This will provide us with ample time to go to Total Wine to procure our alcoholic purchases and, I recommend, have lunch together at Green Papaya to discuss preparations.

Upon completion we will begin our trek to East Stroudsburg, PA. Estimated travel time will be an hour and a half with a cruising altitude of…zero feet. We anticipate good weather and a smooth ride but your captain does advise that you have your seat belt on at all times.

We will unload our noble vessel of all our earthly belongings and begin claiming rooms at the house. We will also take inventory of the supplies provided by the house kitchen (as all meals will be prepared in-house) and once we are comfortable and confident in our selection, we will begin the task of grocery shopping for the duration of our stay.

Dinner on the first night will be expertly prepared and provided by none other than our dynamic duo, [name removed]!

Our nightly entertainment for the first night will be a visit to Mount Airy Casino Resort, a lively, upscale casino resort 11 miles from Camelback Mountain on the Pocono Plateau. May the odds be ever in your favor!

Sunday, August 28th

A hearty and filling breakfast will be provided by the Korean Culinary Conquistador, [name removed]!

I would recommend that breakfast be scheduled and provided at 10am.

Sunday is our day of outdoor adventure and fun!

I would direct you to this site, which lists all of the outdoor activities at our disposal at the Skytop Lodge, the premier family and conference resort in the Poconos. Located only half an hour away from our temporary palace activities INCLUDE, but are NOT LIMITED TO, archery tag, a treetop course, lawn bowling, hiking, paintball, and clay shooting! Spots fill up fast so I recommend we discuss and book as soon as possible. Our gated community also has its own park and canoe/kayak lake as well.

This is the most transient of elements in our trip, completely open to customization and recommendations. Please let your server provider know if you have any requests.

After a full day of physical activity what better way to relax and reenergize than with an overly complicated and prepared meal by your very own humble author.

Night’s activities will include games, drinking, drinking games, and games of drinking, and when drunk enough, completely violating the community’s ridiculous ‘quiet time’ rules and howling drunkenly at the moon.

Monday, August 29th

We will prepare for the long road home with a meal by Iron Chef Taiwanese, [name removed]!

Afterwards I think a visit to the Pocono Bazaar on the way home would be a fun side-trip. Who knows what strange and unique wares we’ll find and ultimately not buy?!

Is what I’d say if it weren’t for the fact that Pocono Bazaar is closed on Mondays! So…iono…we’ll figure it out. We will endure. We will remain calm and carry on. God we better do something though. Maybe local back home? Get on this, guys.

What to Bring

Now that you have all been made aware of the activities and itinerary, let’s discuss provisions!

Please remember that the house DOES NOT PROVIDE LINEN SERVICE. Therefore you will be required to bring your own linens, towels, etc.

Apart from daily attire, please bring something for our casino night and active wear for our day of adventure.

Along that note, for those of you so inclined, please remember to bring bug spray and sunscreen. Brown don’t burn, baby.

For our game night, I will bring a deck of cards and Spot It. If you request any other board games from me, please let me know. Otherwise if you would like to bring any, please feel free to do so.

Money

The cost of the accommodations is $726 to be divided by five, which is $145/person. I have already charged this amount to my card so you would need to pay that to me either in cash or, if you prefer by check, I would need it asap, to make sure it is in my account before this month’s billing statement.

At the beginning of the trip I will have a full tank of gas, and at the end when I refuel we will split the cost of fuel plus any tolls incurred.

Aside from this, please bring enough in your budget to account for casino night, any activities we decide to book on Sunday, and the cost of your groceries as well as any provisions we purchase as a group (such as water).

Speaking of which…

Food

As you know, one of the more interesting and exciting twists to this year’s trip is that all of our meals will be in-house. You are free to do whatever you choose for your allotted meal, picking any dishes from any cuisine or preparation. We will have a full kitchen and outdoor grill at our disposal. Please bear in mind that while we will go grocery shopping in PA, if your dishes require any unique or particularly difficult to find or highly specific ingredients or instruments, you will need to bring these along with you. Or if you need only a specific amount of an ingredient that you happen to already have, by all means to help you control cost feel free to bring it. There’s plenty of space in the car to accommodate for Kitchen Stadium.

Weather

It is still summer and therefore hot weather wear is highly recommended. However we are in the mountains and in very shaded wood areas so bring layers.

Additional Information

Attached you will also find the house rules provided by our lovely hosts.

Well there you have it. The wild ramblings of a man with too much time on his hands and too many things to concern himself with when traveling. I hope you found it as amusing and useful as I did, and not just overbearing. Hahah. 

I really am excited for this trip though. It’ll be great to be out in the woods to clear my head, spend some time with friends, and I love the opportunity to cook and gamble and drink and everything else we’ll be doing. 

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Day 47

Man: 31 Loneliness: 16

Day 39 Supplemental: The Man and the Daily Prompt: Joke

Two hunters are out in the woods when one of them suddenly collapses. He doesn’t seem to be breathing and his eyes are glazed. The other guy whips out his phone and frantically dials 911.

‘Help,’ he gasped, ‘I think my friend is dead! What do I do?!’

The operator says ‘Calm down, I can help. But first, I need you to make sure he’s dead.’

There is a silence, and then a gunshot. Back on the phone the guy says, ‘Ok, now what do I do?’

I was 12 when I first heard this joke. It was in my father’s Reader’s Digest along with an article about a British psychologist on a quest to find out what makes something funny across cultures, races, and sexes. This was, his studies found, the funniest joke in the world.Doctor Who.gif

I didn’t have very many friends when I was 12. That was the first year of middle school, when all the elementary schools in the area would combine for the very first time. I was a small fish in a large pond and I didn’t acclimate very well. Most lunches I spent hiding in the library, reading books or drawing cartoons. There was however usually one other person in the library with me aside from the librarian. A bookish girl with black rimmed glasses, barrettes in her hair, and a red jacket in winter. One day I decided to try out the science behind the joke and see what would happen. She was at another table, reading another book, when I came over, sat myself down, and just started.

‘Twohuntersareoutinthewoodswhenoneofthemsuddenlycollapses,’ I said it in one burst of frantic breath.

She was more startled than amused. I had failed to consider that she was so invested in her book that my sudden and unannounced appearance and frenzied speech would, understandably, scare her more than anything else.

‘Oh, sorry, I forgot the rest of the joke,’ I weakly apologized and excused myself. But in my hurried retreat I misjudged the position of my chair and tripped over myself.

FarSide.jpgAfter an initial shock and seeing that the only thing really hurt was my pride, she actually started laughing.

Suddenly I wasn’t mortified or embarrassed. I was funny. I was interesting. I was in!

She became my first ever girlfriend. And I became an inadvertent comedian. The day I finally mustered up the courage to attempt to kiss her, I was so nervous I closed my eyes when I got close to her. My heart was racing, my palms were sweaty, I thought the world was gonna end, and then I noticed how…pointy(?!) her lips were?

Oh my god, I had kissed her nose.

And not even a gentle peck. I had misjudged the distance and speed of my trajectory that I full on mouth-butted her cute pointy little nose.

And she couldn’t stop laughing. This was the funniest thing in the world that she had ever seen. I had aggressively made out with her nose.

As most childhood romances go, the girl with the barrettes in her hair is now a woman with a career in a state across the country with a man she met somewhere other than a middle school library. I’m a bit better at aiming my kisses but what hasn’t changed has been the power of humor in my life.

If you can’t be tall, dark, and handsome, try to be tall, dark, and funny. If you can make a person laugh, you’re already in. I’ve never gotten along with anyone who didn’t find me funny. One of the first things I did when I started my new job was try to make my boss laugh. See this was a new position for both of us. She used to be the area leader where my store was located and she had a reputation for being a real hard case on most consultants, and you were on her radar if either a) you made a lot or b) you made nothing. I was perilously close to b. But now she was in charge of this brand new department and I was the only person under her supervision. She needed me as much as I needed her to like me. The first time I got her to laugh I knew we were going to be okay, and the work environment’s been great. She finds my cockiness at how good I am at what I do and my obsession with food to be hilarious. She tells me where stores need help and where I’m headed and I tell her I’ll be done with them by the afternoon and where I’ll be going for dinner. I’ve used humor as an icebreaker with almost every girl I’ve ever dated.

That's So Funny.gifI have no game, no swagger, no animal magnetism. I’m witty and silly and ridiculous. I make bad puns. I argue with ridiculously stupid logic. I elicit equal amounts of chortles, chuckles, and groans. I enjoy being entertaining and humorous. I can distinctly recall the laughter of all the people in my life. How my mother gasps and shrieks for air between uncontrollable laughter. How my father laughs with his eyes and his hands more than his mouth. How one friend would cover his mouth when he laughs, the other would shake his head as though in disbelief that he could find something so silly and stupid so funny, and how yet another friend would laugh so hard she always teared up. Most of all I remember the laughter of the women I’ve been with. Some were high-pitched and fast. Other had full on chest heaves with each chuckle. Beautiful laughed with every part of her body; her hands would go up and down, her hair would wave crazily in the air, her stomach would shake, and her eyes would light up. All different, all unique, but all genuine and honest, open laughter. Laughter that meant the happiness I gave them they felt in the very core of their being.

I think humor speaks to a very core essence of our humanity. See the best jokes build on shared context. The jokes that can cross all these demographics and still be universally funny are the ones that appeal to a very primal, ancestral identity that we all share. When you laugh at something and the person across from you laughs too, you are acknowledging some shared experience, a connection that supersedes race, gender, ethnicity, and prejudice. A laugh and a smile disarms negativity and fear. It allays pain and loss. In the greatest and worst moments of our lives there is usually some laughter to be found to either lift us up further or, when we feel like we are at rock bottom, to lift the floor a little bit so the bottom isn’t so far down. We laugh when we graduate, get the job, get married, have kids. We laugh when we remember the best of people when they’ve left us. When we go through heartbreak or loss, we laugh to remember we can move on, and that happiness is still always possible. And when others laugh at heartbreak with you, it can only be because they know the pain you feel and are reaching out to connect with you.

If everything else fails, we can at least always trust that a good joke reminds us that we are connected to other people. May you never have to laugh at your own jokes alone.

via Daily Prompt: Joke
Joke